1. What Moscow Chestnova Wanted…

    What Moscow Chestnova wanted was not so much to experience this life as to safeguard it; she wanted to stand day and night by the brake lever of a locomotive taking people to meet one another; she wanted to repair water mains, to weigh out on pharmaceutical scales medicines for patients, to be a lamp that goes out just at the right moment, as others kiss, taking into itself the warmth that a moment before had been light.

    —from Andrey Platonov’s novel, Happy Moscow, which was banned from publication in Platonov’s lifetime and did not even appear in print in Russia until 1991. Happy Moscow follows the life of one girl, yes, named Moscow (in honor of the Red Army no less), who has a passion for parachuting (there’s a great scene where she parachutes into a storm and attempts to smoke a cigarette on the descent) and who struggles to find happiness in Stalin’s Russia.

    Due to the politically incendiary nature of his work, Platonov published very little while alive—and what he did publish was “only marginally more acceptable to authorities.” Stalin allegedly penned the word “scum” in the margin of Platonov’s story, “For Future Use,” and ordered the authorities to “give [Platonov] a good belting—for future use.” Now that’s some black comedy.

    Andrey Platonov’s haunting novel, The Foundation Pit, and the story collection, Soul, are both available as NYRB Classics.

  2. "Men are sheep.": On Banned Books

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    Every year around this time, we salute Banned Books Week with a list of NYRB authors who had to face censorship in the United States and all around the world. We’ll share about these authors again over the course of the week (Vasily Grossman, Vladimir Sorokin, Alberto Moravia, and more), but today we are especially excited about a book on our Spring 2014 list—Gabriel Chevallier’s WWI novel, Fear, which was prosecuted as an act of sedition upon first publication.

    Fear is the harrowing account of one man’s experience on the front lines and his decision to resist thoughtless violence simply by telling the truth about that experience—that he was not brave, but afraid. The narrator’s words on war are sharp and biting. “Men are sheep,” he says, “This fact makes armies and wars possible.” 

    The novel, translated from the French by Imrie Malcolm and introduced by John Berger, won the 2013 Scott Moncrieff Prize for Translation and its publication next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the first world war. 

    Here’s part of the chilling opening, describing the beginnings of what was not yet known as WWI in rather unromantic terms:

    It starts just like a festival.

    Only the cafés stay open.

    And you can still smell the scent of iced absinthe, the scent of peacetime.

    Women are crying. Why? A foreboding? Or just nerves?

    War!

    It’s not up on our website yet, but you can look at a full description of the book here for now.

  3. Kingsley Amis Celebration @ McNally Jackson: Sunday, September 22nd, 6PM

                                

    After you’ve sated yourself on the literary richness that is the Brooklyn Book Festival, you should really top of your day by attending the launch celebration for Kingsley Amis’ Girl, 20 and One Fat Englishman at NYC’s  McNally Jackson Books. Discussing Amis and these books will be NYRB Classics editor, Edwin Frank, Katie Roiphe, author of In Praise of Messy Lives, Lucas Wittman, literary editor of The Daily Beast, Christian Lorentzen, editor at the London Review of Books, and Michael Moynihan, reporter at Newsweek/The Daily Beast.

    Need we mention that alcohol will be served? No. We didn’t think so.

    The party and discussion begins at 6PM. Visit the event page here for more info.

  4. NYRB at the Brooklyn Book Festival  →

    Who loves the Brooklyn Book Festival?! WE DO. And we’ll be there this Sunday, September 22nd, all day at booths 31 and 32, right by the central fountain. Come by, say ‘hi,’ browse the Classics, and snag a free copy of the Review. Your cup will runneth over.

  5. Elisabeth Sifton and Fritz Stern: In person!

    Everyone! We have some great events planned around No Ordinary Men by Elisabeth Sifton and Fritz Stern. The authors themselves will be discussing the heroic legacies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi at each event, which is a pretty big deal. Here’s a quick rundown for you lucky DCers and NYC residents:

    September 23, 7PM @ Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC. Visit the event page here for more info.

    September 24, 6:30PM @ The Goethe Institut in Washington, DC. Event page here.

    October 24, 6PM @ The Leo Baeck Institute in NYC. Event page here.

    The story these two are telling is remarkable. You won’t regret going to any of these.

  6. Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

    Yep. You read that right. Today is National Talk Like a Pirate Day. To celebrate, school yourself in the linguistic ways of swarthy sea criminals with Richard Hughes’ novel A High Wind in Jamaica. Things go awry—and get a little weird—when a bunch of schoolchildren are captured by Captain Jonsen and his crew in the Caribbean. The little ones befriend pigs and alligators, hold impromptu religious revivals on deck, and a few “turn pirate” themselves.

    So, argh, argh, and all that!

  7. elanormcinerney:

Sylvia Townsend Warner | Summer Will Show

A page from your favorite “lesbian Marxist masterpiece.”

    elanormcinerney:

    Sylvia Townsend Warner | Summer Will Show

    A page from your favorite “lesbian Marxist masterpiece.

  8. "Alfred Hayes, dark, Dantean, witty, conscious to imperiousness that he personified a new sort of ‘young generation.’ "

    These books [In Love and My Face for the World to See] bridge the gap between the dark, Dantean Hayes, the writer of sketches that bite into memory, and the Hayes who, in 1982, said about writing for movies and TV that ‘you learn not to suffer. You’re manufacturing a product and they tailor it for all the different customers.’

    The writer-protagonists in both books confront the world with no illusions about themselves, and strip their romances of fantasy, leaving behind an intense aura of fracture and loss. Both novels are existential, isolated, wounding and wounded in the style of hard-boiled American fiction or Georges Simenon, or of Bogart movies. In Love recalls Ray’s In a Lonely Place; My Face for the World to See is a Schwab’s counter Barefoot Contessa.

    Paisan and an excellent film Hayes wrote for Fritz Lang in 1954, Human Desire, will show at BAMcinematék on Wednesday, September 18, and Thursday, September 19, as part of the Brooklyn Book Festival. I will introduce the screening of Paisan and discuss it afterward in a Q&A with film critic Tag Gallagher, author of The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini.

    —from A. S. Hamrah’s post in The Criterion Collection’s blog. Details are all in the paragraph above, but just in case, Paisan is playing tonight at BAM at 7:30, Human Desire tomorrow at 7 and 9. Hayes helped write the scripts for both You should come (if you can).

  9. 
One morning, after my early morning chhota hazri of the usual—the salted quinine tonic and soda, tea, toast, (and downing half a rotten egg)—like l’après midi d’un faunwallah—I was dilly-dallying in bed: having an easy laze, umpteen stretches.

This entry of The Classics and Coffee club features All About H. Hatterr by G.V. Desani and “a cup of chai and two Bourbon biscuits.” A scrumptious chota hazri indeed.
Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea (hot or iced)? Send it to this address and we’ll post them here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).

    One morning, after my early morning chhota hazri of the usual—the salted quinine tonic and soda, tea, toast, (and downing half a rotten egg)—like l’après midi d’un faunwallah—I was dilly-dallying in bed: having an easy laze, umpteen stretches.

    This entry of The Classics and Coffee club features All About H. Hatterr by G.V. Desani and “a cup of chai and two Bourbon biscuits.” A scrumptious chota hazri indeed.

    Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea (hot or iced)? Send it to this address and we’ll post them here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).

  10. Talking Cassandra at the Wedding at The Toast

    Emily - Cassandra! What a weirdo! She’s a really glamorous weirdo, though

    Nicole - YES. With her brandy. And her eggs frothed into more brandy. And obviously looking totally gorgeous 24/7

    Emily - I’m trying to think if there is any other female narrator pre-70s outside of pulpier things who is this complex, glamorous, fucked up and self-possessed. Anyway, that’s what the book is about for me. A heroine who is chic and interesting and slightly nuts and not at all about to be rescued by a man–sort of like the Elaine Dundy narrators except they all get rescued by men.

    Nicole – She will be rescued by her own awesomeness, and rescued only in the sense she will just kick a shoe off the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Emily - goodbye, shoe!

    As part of The Toast’s Emily Books Book Club, Emily Gould and Nicole Cliffe chat about Dorothy Baker’s Cassandra at the Wedding. Read the entire chat here and make sure to read the comments (which are as smart and funny as the discussion itself).

  11. "The whole bane of writing is that you don’t know what is that word that you are looking for. So the search for the right word, is really what all writing is about."

    —Arvind Krishna Mehrotra on his translation of Songs of Kabir

  12. "An unforgettable hymn to the resilience and power of women."

    Simone Schwarz-Bart

    Simone Schwarz-Bart’s The Bridge of Beyond (originally titled Pluie et vent sur Télumée miracle) is a seminal work of literature that cannot be contained within the usual confines of ‘the novel’ or ‘a work of fiction.’ It arises, as Rilke says a true work of art must, out of necessity, telling the story of a little-known island and the long-lasting effects of slavery through the eyes of a woman. It is profoundly original. It is exceptionally good. That a book so radical in style, in form, and in content is not widely known in this country, and its influence not deeply felt, is one of those unfortunate mysteries of Time and Place. Literature like this does not offer the comfort of an already digested plot. It seeks out the truth of history, which turns out to be most powerfully and effectively conveyed through fiction.”

    —Jamaica Kincaid, from her introduction to Simone Schwarz-Bart’s The Bridge of Beyond

    Jamaica Kincaid

  13. Alfred Hayes, Screenwriter

    Next Sunday is the Brooklyn Book Fest and all week leading up to it is the BBF Bookends series. Our own, very limited, contribution to it will be the screening of two movie with screenplays co-written by Alfred Hayes at the Brooklyn Academy of Music: the first is Roberto Rosselini’s Paisan on  Wednesday, Sept. 18th and the second is Fritz Lang’s Human Desire on Thursday, Sept. 19th. Rossellini scholar Tag Gallagher and N1FR editor A. S. Hamrah will do a post-screening discussion after Paisan

    Both movies are amazing. Alfred Hayes’s novels (In Love and My Face for the World to See) are amazing. Come see both and read both too. 

  14. awesomepeoplereading:

Dr. Sara Josephine Baker reads.

This is how doctors should dress. David Mendel would approve.

    awesomepeoplereading:

    Dr. Sara Josephine Baker reads.

    This is how doctors should dress. David Mendel would approve.

  15. “The weight of all her unhappy years seemed for a moment to weigh her bosom down to the earth; she trembled, understanding for the first time how miserable she had been; and in another moment she was released. It was all gone, it could never be again, and never had been. Tears of thankfulness ran down her face. With every breath she drew, the scent of the cowslips flowed in and absolved her.”

    — Sylvia Townsend Warner, Lolly Willowes (via backfromthedeadred)