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"
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.
NYRB Classics also publishes Krzhizhanovsky’s Memories of the Future and The Letter Killers Club.
—Osip Mandelstam, written from exile in Voronezh, and available in The Collected Poems of Osip Mandelstam.
[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
NYRB Classics also publishes Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary, Unforgiving Years, Conquered City, and the forthcoming Midnight in the Century, available this December.
Hey, Book City, Yonge Street, we like what you’ve done with our logo (and that book display is pretty snazzy too)! Thanks for making us look good to the people of Toronto.
We’re saddened by the death this week of Alastair Reid, a poet, translator, traveler, and children’s book author. Born in Scotland, he came to the United States in the early 1950s, began publishing his poems in The New Yorker in 1951, and for the next fifty-odd years was a traveling correspondent for that magazine. He translated Borges and Neruda and published more than forty books, among them a wordbook for children, Ounce Dice Trice (with drawings by Ben Shahn), published by The New York Review Children’s Collection. Reid died on Sunday, September 21, at age eighty-eight.
The image above is from Reid’s splendidly weird book of speculations, Supposing (with illustrations by his sometime collaborator Bob Gill).
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]
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’s Happy 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.
We thought we’d check in with our old friend Wee Gillis to see where he stood on the vote. It seems that, as usual, he’s stuck between the viewpoints of his Highland Uncle and his Lowland Uncle:
Either way the vote comes down, you can be sure Wee Gillis (as written by Munro Leaf and drawn by Robert Lawson) will content himself by playing his bagpipes as contentedly as ever.
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, Totempole at 7 p.m. at the Bureau of General Services – Queer Division, 83A Hester Street, New York. We hope to see you there!
A preview of the table of contents from our forthcoming collection of poems (translated by Jason Weiss) by the Argentinian fabulist Silvina Ocampo, coming this January.
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.