Tonight at 7PM, author Ruchama King Feuerman will be be discussing her novel, In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist (the first book from the NYRB Lit imprint to make it into paperback form!) at Barnes & Noble in the Upper West Side (Broadway + 82nd St).
On Monday at 7:30PM, Feuerman will be reading and (BONUS!) discussing the novel with Brooklyn author Beth Bosworth at Greenlight Bookstore.
For more info on tonight’s event visit the B&N page here, and for info on the Greenlight Bookstore event visit the bookstore page here.
"Unpredictability has always been Russia’s calling card"—Vladimir Sorokin on Russia Today
In my view, this fifteen-year journey back to the USSR under the leadership of a former KGB lieutenant colonel has shown the world the vicious nature and archaic underpinnings of the Russian state’s ‘vertical power’ structure, more than any ‘great and terrible’ Putin. With a monarchical structure such as this, the country automatically becomes hostage to the psychosomatic quirks of its leader. All of his fears, passions, weaknesses, and complexes become state policy. If he is paranoid, the whole country must fear enemies and spies; if he has insomnia, all the ministries must work at night; if he’s a teetotaler, everyone must stop drinking; if he’s a drunk—everyone should booze it up; if he doesn’t like America, which his beloved KGB fought against, the whole population must dislike the United States. A country such as this cannot have a predictable, stable future; gradual development is extraordinarily difficult.
Unpredictability has always been Russia’s calling card, but since the Ukrainian events, it has grown to unprecedented levels: no one knows what will happen to our country in a month, in a week, or the day after tomorrow.
If you live in the Boston area come to Harvard Book Store tonight at 7 pm to hear renowned scholar Stephen Greenblatt discuss Montaigne’s influence on the works of Shakespeare’s, in particular through the John Florio translation of Montaigne published in 1603 (but probably floating around before then). It’s a pretty amazing connection, and a great way to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday.
One thing that is not mentioned very often about this book: there are drawings inside! Norah Borges, sister of Jorge Luis Borges, provided several illustrations to go along with the story. Here’s one, a map of the island where “summer came ahead of time”:
Today, Publishers Weekly posted their Best Summer Books 2014 rundown, and two NYRB Classic translations found their way onto the list: Jean-Patrick Manchette’s The Mad and the Bad, which is translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith and introduced by James Sallis, and Alberto Moravia’s Agostino, translated by Michael F. Moore. Of Moravia’s novel, PW’s Louisa Ermelino writes:
You’ll wish you were on that Mediterranean beach, and then again, maybe not, but you will never forget Agostino’s summer.
The Colombian novelist Alvaro Mutis used to tell a story about his close friend and compatriot Gabriel García Márquez, who has died aged 87. In the mid-Sixties, when the latter was writing One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), they met every evening for a drink. García Márquez would tell Mutis about the scenes he’d written that day, and Mutis would listen, waiting avidly for the next installment. He started telling their friends that “Gabo” – as García Márquez was affectionately known – was writing a book in which a man called X did Y, and so on. When the novel was published, however, it bore no relation to the story García Márquez had told over tequila – not the characters or the plot or any aspect at all. Mutis was left with the feeling of having been brilliantly duped, and he mourned the unwritten novel of the bar, that ephemeral fiction no one else would ever hear.
You might think that a watchmaker’s shop would be the most gleaming, precise, orderly, and agreeable shop in the world. Quite the reverse is true. You go in and not a single watch or clock marks the same beat or rhythm. Some maintain a stately, solemn pace. Others proceed at an anxious, agitated rate, as if they are in a hurry and want to catch up and pass all the rest. In a watchmaker’s shop the awful superimposed layers of tick-tocks, confused rhythms, stressing out-of-sync pulsations create a din that provokes an absurd sensation of anguish. This is no place for anyone with a nervous condition: it is not a good place at all. On the other hand, I can imagine a watchmaker’s shop where watches and clocks have all stopped and … have even been turned to face the wall, because nothing induces calm like a clock that has come to a halt—a watch that has fallen asleep.
—from the April 12, 1918 entry of Josep Pla’s The Gray Notebook, which hit shelves last week. The stellar Peter Bush translated Pla’s edited diaries and Valentí Puig wrote the intro.
Celebrate Kingsley Amis's Birthday by Contemplating Your Own Death
It’s what he would want.
With reasonable care and a hell of a lot of luck you might last another ten years, or five years, or two years, or six months, but then of course again on the other hand as I’m sure you’ll appreciate trying to be completely objective about the matter you might not. So in future, if there is any, every birthday is going to have a lot of things about it that make it feel like your last one, and the same with every evening out, and after four of your five years or five of your six months the same with most things, up to and including getting into bed and waking up and the rest of it. So whichever way it turns out…it’s going to be difficult to feel you’ve won, and I don’t know which is worse, but I do know there’s enough about either of them to make you wish you could switch to the other for a bit. And it’s knowing that every day it’s more and more likely that one or the other of them will start tomorrow morning that makes the whole business so riveting.
"When I felt the wind on my face and saw that the tide was in it seemed all at once that I didn’t need answers to anything. The tide and the moon, the beacon on the headland and the wind were so here, so this, so now that nothing else was required. I felt free of myself, unlumbered. Where the moon ended and I began and which was which was of no consequence, Everything was what it was and the awareness of it was part of it.”
Tonight, Labyrinth Books Princeton will host a celebration of Balzac, particularly his shorter fiction, and the publication of The Human Comedy: The Selected Stories with a reading and discussion by the book’s editor, esteemed scholar and writer Peter Brooks, and one of its (award-winning) translators, Linda Asher. The event starts at 6 pm at 122 Nassau St., Princeton
So the Best Translated Book Awards, organized by the University of Rochester, are especially sweet for the people who translate and publish such works. The 20 finalists include multiple works published by New Directions, the Brooklyn-based nonprofit publisher Archipelago Books, and Zephyr Press of Brookline, Mass.
One early spring evening when Celia was fourteen and the rest of us girls thirteen or nearly so, Uncle Dan came home, carrying a sack of groceries Aunt Libby had ordered over the phone, and saw a troop of boys sprawled around on the porch or hanging from the railings and balustrades. He stopped and asked them if there was a problem, had their mothers forgotten something at the market. They slunk off sideways and kicked the porch steps. But when Celia walked through the front door they came alive and in a fevered sprint backed away, running and hollering, to the far road, their speeding eyes in retreat still fastened on Celia, who smiled vaguely with a certain regal privilege. For a moment Uncle Dan’s face was strange to us, unshielded by his bright mocking ironies. Then he recovered. Knew what was what. He appraised her long bare legs, asked if she had take to going about half naked because of internal or external heat. She huffed, “Oh, Daddy! Don’t be so old-fashioned,” her face golden-lighted in the sun’s reflection off her apricot hair, and she went inside tossing that mane, her legs slightly rigid at the knee, like a leggy colt. Uncle Dan flicked his gray, dust-colored eyes over the rest of us, who were dark-haired with sallow complexions, or altogether too high-colored; he smiled outright, also an expression rare for him, and he seemed newly primed for the changed direction life was taking.
“Came to sentence that was clear, made pencil mark in margin. Mark indicated understanding, indicated forward progress in book. Lifted eyes from Foucault, looked at other passengers. Took out notebook and pen to make note about passengers, made accidental mark with pencil in margin of Foucault, put down notebook, erased mark.”—
Lydia Davis, A Collection of Stories
Lydia Davis is just one of many speakers at this years PEN America’s World Voices Festivals! You’re invited!
As the clouds clear on a drizzly, chilly day here in New York, let’s turn to Labé as a reminder that spring, despite all appearances, is nigh. The above poem is included in Love Sonnets and Elegies, which hits shelves today and is translated by Richard Sieburth, with a preface by Karin Lessing.
The notion that parenting is something that could be, and ought to be, taught is rooted in the history of progressivism. This idea serves as the centerpiece of “Fighting for Life, ” the memoir of S. Josephine Baker, first published in 1939 and recently reissued by the New York Review of Books. Dr. Baker was an early feminist, a graduate of Vassar and the Women’s Medical College in Manhattan who in 1908 began to run the city’s new Bureau of Child Hygiene.
At The New York Times, Ginia Bellafante looks at the history of early-child healthcare in the US and wonders if the current push for pre-kindergarten gets to the neediest children early enough. She suggests that New York City’s new mayor take a page out of S. Josephine Baker’s memoir Fighting for Life:
It is easy to envision someone like Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made compassion so thematic in his campaign, spearheading parenting initiatives that might find national resonance (as Dr. Baker’s did) — prompting mothers and fathers to read to their children as babies, to use everyday experiences to teach small children new words, new ideas, addition and subtraction and so on.
April 2014 Events: from Blue Gass to Shakespeare's Montaigne
On Being Blue, Still Wednesday, April 9, 7 pm The New York Institute for the Humanities, New York Writers and critics reconsider William H. Gass’s sex- and sadness-imbued On Being Blue and discuss its relevance today.
Sōseki’s Diversity: A Conference Friday, April 18 – Sunday, April 20 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan Scholars will gather at the University of Michigan to reflect on the legacy of Japan’s most widely read modern novelist, author of The Gate.
Literature of the Great War Wednesday, April 30, 7 pm PEN World Voices Festival, New York Authors highlight recently re-discovered classics, including Gabriel Chevallier’s Fear, and explore the influence of WWI literature.
An Excerpt from Last Words from Montmartre by Qiu Miaojin
Letter Twenty June 17 Bunny was tiny, maybe only fifteen centimeters long. Although Bunny’s coat was pure white, the fur on Bunny’s body, feet, paws, nose, ears, and tail was flecked with gray. Xu spotted Bunny immediately as we strolled past the row of pet shops along the Seine near Pont Neuf. We looked in several other shops and laughed at the horrifying sight of rabbits so big that on their hind legs they reached our waist. We spun joking tales of what would happen if we tried to keep one of these rabbits in Clichy, how they might put on bibs and sit with us at the dinner table, or how they could leap across the thirty five-square-meter apartment from kitchen to bedroom in a single bound, crash through the dividing wall….
“It’s shameful that such an influential writer is still largely unknown. Penelope Mortimer deserves to be a household name. On top of her contributions to fiction and journalism, the memoirs are a chronicle of a woman struggling, above all, to create.”—"The Neglected Penelope Mortimer Was a Novelist Ahead of Her Time" by Jessica Ferri at The Daily Beast
Tonight, New York resident, come to McNally Jackson at 7pm, where The Bridge is putting on a night of Catalan literature (in translation). Speaking will be Mary Ann Newman, Director of the Catalan Center at NYU and translator of Quim Monzó, published by Open Letter Books; poet, essayist and critic Rowan Ricardo Phillips who translated Salvador Espiru’s Ariadne in the Grotesque Landscape(Dalkey Archive); and Peter Bush who has translated the upcoming The Gray Notebook by Josep Pla. Should be fun for the Catalan experts or amateurs, and after Barcelona’s amazing victory over arch-rivals Real Madrid, one may want to explore more of what that city has to offer, at least in words. And Lionel Messi wants you to read more Catalan literature.
On the following day, when the first ranger patrols, their hair singed, their faces blackened by smoke, cautiously stepped over the warm ashes in the charred forest and reached the lakeshore, a horrible and amazing sight met their eyes. The lake looked like a vast sheet of white marble on which rested hundreds upon hundreds of horses’ heads. They appeared to have been chopped off cleanly with an ax. Only the heads stuck out of the crust of ice. And they were all facing the shore. The white flame of terror still burnt in their wide-open eyes. Close to the shore a tangle of wildly rearing horses rose from the prison of ice.
—the infamous horses-frozen-in-a-lake scene from Curzio Malaparte’s novel,Kaputt.
This week, Radiolab posted a short feature on the probability of this exact event happening—and they made a video of a tiny (plastic) horse freezing to boot!
(Malaparte’s novel The Skin is also available as an NYRB Classic.)
“Death has a look for everyone.
Death will come and will have your eyes.
It will be like renouncing a vice,
like seeing a dead face reappear in the mirror,
like listening to a lip that’s shut.
We’ll go down into the maelstrom mute.”—
This month marks the US publication of a travel memoir that some have awaited for decades. The author, Patrick Leigh Fermor, died in 2011 at the age of 96, but as a young man he walked across Europe, roaming from the English Channel all the way to what was then known as Constantinople. As a middle-aged man he recounted the beginning and middle parts of that trip in two legendary books, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, and at last the final leg concludes in the posthumous The Broken Road. Fermor was an amazing man (if you don’t believe me, just read his biography; his military exploits alone will astonish you) and his final book deserves your attention. Few people want just the third volume of a trilogy, of course, so maybe we can work out a deal. Anyone who purchases The Broken Road from Island Books before the end of March will be entered in a drawing to win free copies of the first two books. Assuming that NYRB agrees that this is a good idea.