Scandinavia House, 58 Park Avenue, New York, NY 6:30 p.m.
Join NYRB Classics and Scandinavia House in celebrating the publication of The Woman Who Borrowed Memories: Selected Stories of Tove Jansson. Novelists Philip Teir and Kathryn Davis will discuss the life and work of writer and artist Tove Jansson, creator of the beloved Moomin cartoons, and her influence on their own fiction. Actor Tuomas Hiltunen will read passages from the new story collection and journalist Anu Partanen will moderate the evening. This is a free event with a reception to follow.
[It] is about Emily, a forty-year-old single woman who lives in an English village, and Edmund, a famous writer who lives in Rome. The two have maintained a frequent and intimate correspondence for ten years but have never met in person. When Edmund decides to visit Emily, she worries that face-to-face interaction will spoil their friendship.
After the reading, Theroux and The New Yorker's Deborah Triesman discuss its inspiration.
"Intelligent novels on the subject of composers … rarely come along"
Alex Ross, in the most recent issue of The New Yorker, praises Sanford Friedman’s Conversations with Beethoven, for restoring “Beethoven’s primal weirdness”—and for lots of other things too. Read the rest of the article here.
Vvedensky is a marvel: a poet too little known in Russia, and not known at all in the English-speaking world, is revealed as a major 20th-century world poet—wonderful, wonderfully strange, and haunting. The alchemical translation, with its shifty rhymes and non-rhymes, intense images and absent logic, knits and unknits reality before the reader’s eyes, walking not a line so much as a live wire.
—The judges of the National Translation Award, announcing the 2014 shortlist
An Invitation for Me to Think, edited and translated from the Russian by Eugene Ostashevsky, additional translation by Matvei Yankelevich, is one of five books shortlisted for this years’ National Translation Award, given by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA).
Celebrating "the ineffable richness of life" with Antal Szerb
Journey by Moonlight is still with us, a wonderfully strange and surprising book, haunted by death and yet full of improbable humor—a work of fiction that cuts like a beacon through Szerb’s dark times and now illuminates our own. On every page we feel, as Dostoyevsky would have it, the author’s grasp of the ineffable richness of life.
—from Julie Orringer’s intro to Antal Szerb’s Journey by Moonlight, which goes on sale today. You can read the introduction in its entirety over at The Millions.
On Tuesday, Nov 18, at 7 pm, join me [Liesl Schillinger] as I moderate a conversation with Ruth Rendell, Honor Moore and Daniel Mendelsohn about the belated, London-led literary apotheosis of Stoner—John Williams’s 1965 novel about a farmboy who falls under the spell of Shakespeare and becomes an English professor. The event will take place at the Brooklyn Public Library, Dweck Auditorium. Tickets are free but reservations are encouraged. Please note that seating is first-come, first-served.
Pure Politics: A discussion of Weil’s On the Abolition of All Political Parties
…the essential tendency of all political parties is towards totalitarianism, first on the national scale and then on the global scale. And it is precisely because the notion of the public interest which each party invokes is itself a fiction, an empty shell devoid of all reality, that the quest for total power becomes an absolute need. Every reality necessarily implies a limit—but what is utterly devoid of existence cannot possibly encounter any form of limitation. It is for this reason that there is a natural affinity between totalitarianism and mendacity.
—Simone Weil, On the Abolition of All Political Parties
In time for election season, join us at 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday, October 8, at The Commons for a panel discussion on Simone Weil and On the Abolition of All Political Parties. Panelists are Simon Critchley, Lisabeth During, and Natasha Lennard; Will Heyward will moderate.
For more information, and to register for this event, visit the Commons website.
“I’ll admit it: until 4th grade, I wasn’t a reader. There simply weren’t many books in my house, and my parents didn’t encourage reading or read to us much. I had not sought books out. In my defense, I was often busy doing a paper route or screening phone calls from creditors or shoveling snow. But Mr. Horan changed everything. There were books all over the classroom. Piles and piles. Whenever we finished homework early, we were made to read books. We had to read. It was not a choice. And Mr. H. had great books. Classics. During free time, we were encouraged to hit the comic book stacks or visit the school library. Mr. H. read us entire books throughout the school year. The Door in the Wall. A Wrinkle in Time. Finn Family Moomintroll. The Hobbit. Also a book called Krabat by Otfried Preußler.”—
In The Rumpus, Chris Kubica talks about how an inspired teacher and a creepy book made him love books.
But the scroll of his life contained all too many letters of another kind: letters unwritten—although it had been his sacred duty to write them. Silence—when it had been his sacred duty to speak; a telephone number it was imperative to ring, and that he had not rung; visits it was sinful not to pay, and that he had not paid; telegrams never sent; money never sent. Many, many things were missing from the scroll of his life
Robert Chandler, who translated Everything Flows and is an acknowledged expert on Grossman, remarks of this passage: “Grossman is alluding to a line from a short poem by Pushkin, ‘Memory’ (1828): ‘Memory silently unrolls before me its long scroll.’”
But anyone who has attended a Yom Kippur service will find some heavy resonances with the injunction of the day: to look back at the year and reckon it in preparation for making amends for the inevitable wrongs done. So, on the eve of Yom Kippur, we leave you with this. To all observing, may you be inscribed for good in the Book of Life.
“Carlos was known to the pushcart peddlers as the most skillful carton-flattener in the Lower East Side section of New York City. Carlos’ business was to go around to small stores that had clean cardboard cartons which they wished to be rid of. With two or three deft motions, Carlos would flatten the cartons and carefully stack them on his pushcart. Carlos was the only flattener in the business who could stack to a height of twelve feet without the cartons slipping off.”
“Translations are creative acts that don’t come from the self, at least not in the usual sense: In the translator’s creativity, the generative seed isn’t planted in quite the same way. There’s a third party involved, a God or Gabriel, an author who’s both the originator and totally absent from the actual formation of the translated work, or at least invisible in it.”
City Lights in San Francisco is an independent bookstore and publisher that was founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, and we’re honored that one of their staff picks is Pierre Reverdy:
"This is a well-organized book of translations of French cubist poet, Pierre Reverdy. This collection has some of the usual suspects of Reverdy translations such as Kenneth Rexroth and Ron Padgett, but also some exciting translations by John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara, which are worth the price alone. Reverdy’s poems are stripped down, with lines often simply containing objects of a still-life with touches of far-reaching magical energy. Picked by Jackson"
Autobiography of a Corpse, once 'unrecognized and suppressed', wins the 2014 PEN Translation Prize
Fantastical, hallucinatory, and wildly imaginative, the book is rich in linguistic playfulness—part metafiction, part exploration into the farthest reaches and minutest details of reality…Joanne Turnbull, in collaboration with Nikolai Formozov, has produced a compellingly readable translation that is also inventive, that improvises when necessary and consistently insinuates a strangeness and beauty of other worlds, both literary and real…With her notes and her translation, [Turnbull] effectively offers us Krzhizanovsky’s genius—unrecognized and suppressed during his lifetime—rather than drawing attention to herself and her own considerable resourcefulness and artistry. This is a rare and welcome conjunction of a literary text that allows the art of translation to shine and a translator who has brilliantly met the challenge.
—Excerpted from the 2014 PEN Translation Prize Judges’ Citation
In honor of International Translation Day and Banned Books week 2014, we’re saluting Joanne Turnbull and Nikolai Formozov, who have brought Autobiography of a Corpse to English readers for the first time. To read the rest of the judges’ citation, visit the PEN website.
Susan Sontag on Russian writer, anarchist, and revolutionary Victor Serge
[Serge’s] was the literary voice of a righteous political militancy, a narrowing prism through which to view a body of work that has other, nondidactic claims on our attention. During the late 1920s and the 1930s, he had been a much-published writer, at least in France, with an ardent if small constituency—a political constituency, of course, mainly of the Trotskyist persuasion. But in the last years, after Serge had been excommunicated by Trotsky, that constituency had abandoned him to the predictable calumnies of the pro-Soviet Popular Front press. And the socialist positions Serge espoused after arriving in Mexico in 1941, a year after Trotsky was axed by the executioner sent by Stalin, seemed to his remaining supporters to be indistinguishable from those of the social democrats. More isolated than ever, boycotted by both the right and the left back in postwar Western Europe, the ex-Bolshevik, ex-Trotskyist, anti-Communist Serge continued to write—mostly for the drawer. He did publish a short book, Hitler versus Stalin, collaborate with a Spanish comrade in exile on a political magazine (Mundo), and contribute regularly to a few magazines abroad, but—despite the efforts of admirers as influential as Dwight Macdonald in New York and Orwell in London to find him a publisher—two of Serge’s last three novels, the late stories and poems, and the memoirs remained unpublished in any language until after, mostly decades after, his death.
—Susan Sontag on Victor Serge, from her essay “Unextinguished (The Case for Victor Serge),” which is the introduction to the NYRB Classics edition of Serge’s The Case of Comrade Tulayev
"They are punished, but they do not die": Real Art, Banned Poets, and Pussy Riot
They had felt the nerve of their epoch. Thus art rose to the level of history…The dissidents and the poets of OBERIU are thought to be dead, but they are alive. They are punished, but they do not die.
—Pussy Riot [Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s closing statement at their trial in August 2014]
As members of OBERIU (a modified acronym for “Association of Real Art”), Alexander Vvedensky and his colleagues were hounded to their end for their “meaningless” and “irrational” literary work. During the 1920s and 30s, the Soviet Union made it nearly impossible for OBERIU members to publish their poetry anywhere. As a result, most of Vvedensky’s writing vanished and the first edition of what did survive was not smuggled out of the U.S.S.R. until the early 1980s. Now, several decades Vvedensky’s death, his story and the story of OBERIU has become a rallying cry of contemporary Russian dissidents like Pussy Riot.
An Invitation for Me to Think, translated by Eugene Ostashevsky and Matvei Yankelevich, is the first collection of Vvedensky’s poetry in the English language.
It’s the third day of Banned Books Week, so go read something irrational and meaningless.
[Photo: Alexander Vvedesnky, prison photograph, Kharkov, 1941]
Here's to the books that outrage: Banned Books Week 2014
September 21–27 is Banned Books Week, and this year NYRB Classics will continue to pay tribute to our books that were once censored or banned. Last year we wrote about Gabriel Chevallier’s Fear, Andrey Platonov’sHappy Moscow, and Alberto Moravia’s Agostino. This year, we’ll begin with Curzio Malaparte’s The Skin.
As Rachel Kushner writes in the introduction to The Skin, Malaparte’s novel about the horrors of war was first published in France in 1949, causing “outrage and derision,” and was then banned by the Catholic Church and the city of Naples. The NYRB Classics edition is the first unexpurgated English translation of The Skin, a novel which has proved timeless. As Rachel Kushner writes:
The more time has passed, the more precise and accurate The Skin has come to seem. It uncovers truths, no matter how ugly—concerning war, the dissolution of Europe, the condition of life under foreign occupation, the nature of the American occupiers, and in some predictive way, a new and hegemonic world that Malaparte’s stark vision seems almost to anticipate: a ruthless global marketplace. Yet while The Skin traverses a complex historical moment and has much to say about it, this work, Malaparte’s very finest, comes to reside ultimately in the realm not of history or politics but purely of art. It is a work of blacker-than-black comedy, in a category of its own. A new kind of novel, to reflect a new reality.
Check the blog this week for more of our challenged, censored, and banned books.
New York Review Books and The New York Review of Books will be at the Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday, September 21, from 10–6. Come visit us at booths 428–429, where we’ll have books at discounted prices, free copies of the latest issue of The New York Review of Books, and more.
From 2–2:50 p.m., hear NYRB author and contributor Darryl Pinckney speak about African-American voting rights on the “Voting Rights from Reconstruction to Obama” Brooklyn Book Festival panel, along with University of Baltimore law professor F. Michael Higginbotham (Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America),The Nation contributing writer Ari Berman, and panel moderator Erika L. Wood, Associate Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Voting Rights and Civil Participation Project at New York Law School. The panel will be held in the Brooklyn Law School Moot Courtroom, 250 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn.
TONIGHT: Peter Cameron and Benjamin Taylor discuss Totempole at BGSQD
TONIGHT: Peter Cameron, author of The City of Your Final Destination, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You, and, most recently, Coral Glynn, will be in discussion with Benjamin Taylor, author of Naples Declared, about Sanford Friedman’s radical coming-of-age novel, Totempoleat 7 p.m. at the Bureau of General Services – Queer Division, 83A Hester Street, New York. We hope to see you there!
“I sometimes think that the meanest slave has had more freedom than we women have known.”
I do not wish to marry, and I shall not regret not having done so, even when I am old. That which we call our world of marriage is, as you know, a world of necessary bondage; and I sometimes think that the meanest slave has had more freedom than we women have known.
—Octavia, writing to her brother Augustus, after her divorce from Mark Antony, in John Williams’s Augustus
Photo: Giovanni Dall’Orto Busts of Augustus, Lucius Caesar, and Octavia, at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
Diana punctually observes all kinds of birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s, Grandfather’s, and whatever other Day occurs to the calendar or to whoever runs these things, so that she doesn’t tolerate any neglect of those matters. If the forgotten date would have been her own birthday or my father-in-law, Don Martín Irala’s, or the anniversary of our marriage, I would do better to exile myself from the alley, because for me there would be no pardon.
—from Adolfo Bioy Casares’ novel, Asleep in the Sun. Today is the 100th anniversary of Bioy Casares’ birth and in the spirit of Diana, we didn’t want it to pass unnoticed.
Lucky for you North Texas residents out there, The Wild Detectives in Dallas is hosting a reading of Bioy Casares’ The Invention of Morel tonight at 7pm in honor of the centennial. For more information, visit the Art & Seek page for the event here or go straight to the Facebook event page here.
[Photo, R-L: Bioy Casares, Victoria Ocampo, and Jorge Luis Borges. Found at Wikimedia Commons.]