We had not eaten since the breakfast of cold coffee so the unexpected sight of a brightly lit restaurant was like an apparition, and even more so when we found it filled with seagulls that entered over the cliffs from the sea. I had never seen so many and had never seen them rising out of the darkness, swooping over the impassive customers, flying as though blind, stunned, crashing about like a band of drunken pirates boarding a ship.
—from Clandestine in Chile, Gabriel García Márquez’s re-telling of Miguel Littín’s undercover journey back to his native Chilé during the reign of Pinochet. The story is Littín’s, for sure, but Márquez—whose birthday is today!—gives scenes like this a special glow.
He had bet he could drink 15 absinthes in succession while eating a kilo of beef. After the ninth, Théophile Papin, of Ivry, collapsed.
In a dive in Versailles, the ex-priest Rouslot obtained with his eleventh absinthe the attack of delirium tremens that did him in.
—from Novels in Three Lines, by Félix Fénéon, in honor of National Absinthe Day. Obviously, these are examples of less-than-responsible consumptions of absinthe, and seeing as all of Fénéon’s three-line novels end in death, serious injury, or other forms of destruction, we don’t exactly encourage enjoying any day ‘the Fénéon way’ beyond reading the book.
[The image above is a drawing of Fénéon by Felix Vallottone taken from from Le Livre des masques (vol. II, 1898) by Remy de Gourmont (1858-1916).]
If you’re in or around Seattle—for AWP or for other reasons—stop by Elliott Bay Books for their Indie Press Mingle at 4 PM tomorrow afternoon. Publicists, editors, and other staff members from Archipelago Books, New Directions, and New York Review Books will be on site and ready to gush about upcoming titles to anyone interested. It’s a rare opportunity, and sure to be lots of fun. Drinks + eats guaranteed.
For more information about the mingle, visit the Elliott Bay books page here and/or RSVP at the NYRB Classics Facebook event page here.
The slightest word or gesture was enough to send us off into fresh paroxysms until we fought for breath and our cheeks were wet with tears. Bulgaria, it appeared, was one of the richest natural hashish gardens in the world. Cannabis indica thrives in embarrassing abundance. Its cultivation, which is scarcely necessary, and its smoking, my companions explained between puffs, were strictly forbidden: “Mnogo zabraneno. Ha! Ha! Ha!’ But the ban seemed about as effective as legislation against cow parsley or nettles. Regular smokers were few. It only came into play as an occasional lark. I longed for the opportunity to say ‘the party went with a bhang!’ The lack of opportunity to say so, however, didn’t stop me saying it, and dissolving in transports of hilarity at my own wit.
—Patrick Leigh Fermor on smoking Bulgarian hashish in The Broken Road. This third and final volume chronicling Leigh Fermor’s youthful walk across Europe comes out IN FIVE DAYS. Get excited.
Also, this passage confirms two things: (1) Leigh Fermor could be a total (but still charming) cheeseball at times (‘the party went with a bhang’?) and (2) he rarely turned down the opportunity to partake in the “occasional” local “lark” throughout his travels.
Tonight, NYPL Live's Paul Holdengräber will be speaking to Wes Anderson about that new flick of his, The Grand Budapest Hotel—and, we expect, a little bit about one of the main inspirations for the film, Stefan Zweig. Just a guess, but a good guess.
The event itself is sold out, but you can watch the live stream tonight from 7-8pm and learn more about the event here.
“There are a number of difficulties with dirty words, the first of which is that there aren’t nearly enough of them; the second is that the people who use them are normally numskulls and prudes; the third is that in general they’re not at all sexy, and the main reason for this is that no one loves them enough.”—
“There was a feeling almost of knowing, or being on the edge of knowing, what had been hidden from you, a deceptive simplification, and later, when I thought about it, I realized it was just a feeling, and that whatever it was that was on the verge of being understood disappeared as soon as you turned away..”—Alfred Hayes In Love, (via inwonderment)
Look! Archipelago’s edition of Norwegian author Karl O. Knausgaard’s A Time for Everything provides yet another reason to read Sir Thomas Browne’s beautiful Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall: Knausgaard’s fictional hero, Antinous Bellori, is speculated to be one of the inspirations for Thomas Browne’s Urn Buriall—speculated, at least, by Knausgaard’s narrator. How’s that for alternative history?!
(The above image was modified on our handy computers; no copies of A Time for Everything were maimed in the making of this post. The paper’s too nice to mark up!)
Please come support international literature and celebrate with us as we enter our tenth year of life! This year’s auction will be held on Wednesday, March 12th, at the beautiful Maccarone Gallery in the West Village. Wine, beer, and refreshments will be served! Entertainment will be provided by the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. Tickets are $20 in advance / $25 at the door.
They publish great books and need your help to keep on doing it.
We were very sad to hear of the passing of short-story writer Mavis Gallant yesterday. Her spirit will be missed.
We’ve pulled together some of our favorite pieces on Gallant from the last two days (as well as one oldie) below:
Mavis Gallant’s Art of Fiction interview in The Paris Review
Kirkus’ lovely tribute to Gallant’s life—and that photo! “She lived ‘on bread, wine, and mortadella’…”
The Leonard Lopate Show’s tribute reprise of their 2006 interview with the author and a celebration of her as “one of the few who did succeed” in finding fame when she moved to Paris as a young writer.
Though you need to be a subscriber to read all but one, The New Yorker's list of stories by Gallant from the magazine is nonetheless a wonderful reminder that, though she led a somewhat quiet career, she was a force to be reckoned with.
“It is only for a week or two that a broken chair or a door off its hinges is recognised for such. Soon, imperceptibly, it changes its character, and becomes the chair which is always left in the corner, the door which does not shut. A pin, fastening a torn valance, rusts itself into the texture of the stuff, is irremovable; the cracked dessert place and the stewpan with a hole in it, set aside until the man who rivets and solders should chance to come that way, become part of the dresser, are taken down and dusted and put back, and when the man arrives no one remembers them as things in need of repair. Five large keys rest inside the best soup-tureen, scrupulously preserved though no one knows what it was they once opened, and the pastry-cutter is there too, little missed, for the teacup without a handle has taken its place.”—Sylvia Townsend Warner, “The Salutation” (sequel to Mr. Fortune’s Maggot)
A Marriage of True Minds: Voltaire and Émilie du Châtelet
Portrait of Émilie du Châtelet, by Nicolas de Largillière c. 1740. (Louvre)
The pairing [of Voltaire and Émilie du Châtelet] was dynamic and productive — together, they would achieve some of the most important Enlightenment writing on science, physics, and philosophy. But as Nancy Mitford explains in her fantastic 1957 biography of the intellectual power couple, Voltaire in Love, they were devoted not just as intellectuals, but as lovers as well as friends. It was an extraordinary bond that lasted for nearly fifteen years.
“Fräulein Benjamenta said to me: ‘Jakob, I am dying, because I have found no love. The heart which no deserving person deserved to possess and to wound, it is dying now. Adieu, Jakob, it’s already time to say adieu. You boys, Kraus, you, and the others, you will sing a song by the bed in which I shall lie. You will mourn for me, softly. And each of you will lay a flower, perhaps still moist with nature’s dew, upon my shroud. I want to take your young human heart into my sisterly and smiling confidence now. Yes, Jakob, to confide in you is so natural, for when you look as you are looking now, it’s as if you must have ears, a hearing heart, and eyes, a soul, a compassionate understanding and fellow-feeling for everything and for each particular thing, even for what cannot be said and cannot be heard. I am dying of the incomprehension of those who could have seen me and held me, dying of the emptiness of cautious and clever people, and of the lovelessness of hesitancy and not-much-liking. Someone thought he would love me one day, thought he wanted to have me, but he hesitated, left me waiting, and I hesitated too, but then I’m a girl, I had to be hesitant, it was allowed and expected of me.’”—Our Valentine’s Day coverage continues with this excerpt from Robert Walser’s Jakob von Gunten, soon to be available as an ebook!
“‘I can’t believe it,’ people said, almost with a passion. It was that year’s version of hello. ‘I can’t believe it,’ people said, on the beach, on the slopes, in hotel lobbies, in cells, at parties. Apparently incredulous, astounded, people met. Sometimes the rejoinder was, ‘For God’s sake,’ as in ‘Harry! Maude! I can’t believe it.’ ‘Marilyn! Well, for God’s sake.’ Sometimes people changed it slightly. When we had just come back to the office, a middle-aged couple, he with the heartiness of another era, she with a certain trembly superstition, met in the elevator only yesterday. ‘Well, as I live and breathe,’ he shouted. ‘Touch wood,’ she replied.”—Renata Adler, Speedboat (via hazel cills)
“Courage, Love, Illusion (or dream, if you will) — he who possesses all three, or two, or at least one of these things wins whatever there is to win; those who lack all three are the failures.”—Edward Lewis Wallant, The Tenants of Moonbloom (via monamade)
“(Discussing in print once Sydney Smith’s conception of heaven as eating pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets, I have described my own as bowling across Castile in my Rolls-Royce of the day, with the roof open, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto on the radio, and my Abyssinian cat beside me on the front seat. A reader of different impulses wrote to say that he agreed with the car, the place, and even the music, but as a companion would want something a damned sight more interesting than a cat.)”—Jan Morris, Conundrum (Via marginalutility)
In honor of Dump Your Significant Jerk Day (today!), we offer you this picture of Kingsley Amis, asleep by the shore and ably punked by a clever beach-goer/very disgruntled lover his wife, Hilly—in lipstick, no less.
There is almost an eternity of epic break-ups across the NYRB Classics series, but Amis penned some of the most dumpable jerks ever—jerks like Maurice Allington of The Green Man (cheating on his adoring wife Joyce with Diana; angling for a threesome with Diana and Joyce; left by both women for each other) and vain Sir Roy Vandervane of Girl, 20 (who to his latest youthful infatuation poetically intones, “What makes you such a howling bitch?”). And those are just two of the major dumpable jerks in Amis’ novels…don’t even get us started about Roger Micheldene from One Fat Englishman.
According to Rachel Donadio and others covering the Berlinale opening night screening of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson is a major Stefan Zweig fan—so much so, the director jokes, that his newest film is "more or less plagiarism." Does this mean we might see Bill Murray playing the role of the moody, Austro-Hungarian hero and cavalry officer, Hofmiller, from Zweig’s Beware of Pity one day? One can dream…
“What happens, though, when it is all unsaid, is that you wake up one morning, no, it’s more like late one afternoon, and it’s not just unsaid, it’s gone. That’s all. Just gone. I remember this word, that look, that small inflection, after all this time. I used to hold them, trust them, read them like a rune. Like a sign that there was a house, a billet, a civilization where we were. I look back and I think I was just there all alone. Collecting wisps and signs. Like a spinster who did know a young man once and who imagines ever since that she lost a fiancé in the war.”—
Now the tragedy and evil of buying a ready-made suit is this—that it ends, just like that, in “Yes. . . .” You think it would be a good idea if you bought a suit; you delightedly resolve to buy a suit; you work yourself up into a heavenly climax about a suit—and then suddenly it is all over and you are merely saying “Yes. . . .” You stare at it. You pat the pockets; you turn round and look at yourself sideways; you see what it would look like if it wasn’t buttoned. But whatever you do, there is nothing else to be said. “Yes. . . .” You look at the cuffs—but they’re no help to you—they’re excellent. You examine the lining—it couldn’t be better. Perhaps it is too tight under the arms. But it is not. It is no good. You are faced by the depressing fact that you are going to buy it.
“I’d recommend Turtle Diary to anyone who thinks zoos are depressing, those who like to plan imaginary crimes, and people interested in a good book who maybe don’t have a lot of reading time available.”—Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban, review at Outgoing Signals