1. FALL PREVIEW—PART II
    Here’s the second half of NYRB’s fall list, with books from our Classics, Children’s Collection, Poets, and non-Classics imprints, and our newest series, Calligrams, with writings on and about China.

    Midnight in the Century by Victor Serge, translated from the French and with an introduction by Richard Greeman

    A searching novel about a group of revolutionaries—true believers in a cause that no longer exists—living in unlikely exile among Russian Orthodox Old Believers, also suffering for their faith. “Like Koestler in ‘Darkness at Noon,’ Serge seems to be saying that man, the particular, is more important than mankind, the abstraction.”—John Leonard, The New York Times

    The Door by Magda Szabó, a new translation from the Hungarian by Len Rix

    In a prizewinning translation by Len Rix, Magda Szabó’s unsettling and beautiful novel about friendship and tragedy marks Szabó as a major modern European author and formidable writer of female characters. “Clever, moving, frightening, [The Door] deserves to be a bestseller.” —The Telegraph

    Thus Were Their Faces: Selected Stories by Silvina Ocampo, introduction by Helen Oyeyemi, a new translation from the Spanish by Daniel Balderston, preface by Jorge Luis Borges

    Dark, gothic, fantastic, and grotesque, Ocampo’s stories stand alongside those of her collaborators and countrymen Borges, Cortázar, and Bioy Casares. “Few writers have an eye for the small horrors of everyday life; fewer still see the everyday marvelous. Other than Ocampo, I cannot think of a single writer who … has chronicled both with such wise and elegant humor.” —Alberto Manguel

    Zama by Antonio di Benedetto, translated from the Spanish and with an introduction by Esther Allen

    First published in 1956, this novel set in colonial Paraguay is now universally recognized as one of the masterpieces of modern Argentinean and Spanish-language literature. “Scattered in various corners of Latin America and Spain, [Zama] had a few, fervent readers, almost all of them friends or unwarranted enemies…. [It is written with] the steady pulse of a neurosurgeon.”—Roberto Bolaño, from his story “Sensini”

    Primitive Man As Philosopher by Paul Radin, introduction by Neni Panourgiá

    Considered “a minor masterpiece of the Americanist tradition,” Paul Radin’s landmark anthropological study examines thought and religion in an array of aboriginal cultures through first hand accounts and a veritable anthology of poems and songs from the varied traditions. Readers both in and outside of the field will appreciate the rich and varied insights of this classic of anthropology.

    Ending Up by Kingsley Amis

    “I finished Kingsley Amis’s Ending Up with…a conviction, confirmed in work after work, that he is one of the few living novelists totally incapable of boring me. Ending Up is a sardonic little masterpiece which, with incredible economy and stylistic restraint, shows what old age is really like, and also—far, far better than any other writer I know—what contemporary England is like.” —Anthony Burgess

    Take a Girl Like You by Kingsley Amis

    Kingsley Amis’s most ambitious reckoning with his central theme—the degradation of modern life—Take a Girl Like You introduces one of the rare unqualified good guys in Amis’s rogue-ridden world: Jenny Bunn, a girl from the North English country has come south to teach school in a small smug town where she hopes to find love and fortune.

    Cat Town: Selected Poems by Sakutarō Hagiwara, translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

    “Sakutarō Hagiwara is the ultimate modern Japanese poet. He first perfected the use of the colloquial language as a medium for modern poetic expression. Using that language, he reveals a sensibility that can be tough, neurotic, ironic, touching, and profound, sometimes all in the same poem. Always rhythmic and occasionally obscure, poem after poem can represent a scintillating verbal and spiritual adventure, particularly in the lucid and elegant translations created by Hiroaki Sato.”—J. Thomas Rimer

    Silvina Ocampo, selected poems in a new translation from the Spanish by Jason Weiss

    Ocampo studied with de Chirico and collaborated with Borges and Bioy Casares. Her poems were celebrated in Argentina but, until now, have been nearly unavailable in English. This selection spans her full career—from early nature sonnets to a late metaphysical turn—and shows her to be adept at “captur[ing] the magic inside everyday rituals” (Italo Calvino).

    Lives of the New York Intellectuals: A Group Portrait by Edward Mendelson

    One of contemporary America’s leading critics and scholars offers a provocative reassessment of the lives and work of eight influential twentieth-century American writers: Lionel Trilling, Dwight Macdonald, W.H. Auden, William Maxwell, Saul Bellow, Alfred Kazin, Norman Mailer, and Frank O’Hara.

    The Three Leaps of Wang Lun: A Chinese Novel by Alfred Döblin, translated from the German by C.D. Godwin

    Alfred Döblin’s debut work of fiction, the first in western literature to depict Chinese history in great detail and considered by many the first modern German novel, is a dazzling expressionist epic about imperial court life, outcasts, martial arts, religion, and revolution. “I consider Döblin’s 1915 novel, The Three Leaps of Wang Lun, the best contemporary novel by far. It exhibits an entirely superior, most rare, talent. It is true art.” —Max Horkheimer

    Chinese Rhyme-Prose translated from the Chinese by Burton Watson

    Burton Watson’s monumental compilation of fu—or, rhyme-prose poetry—is considered one of the most important anthologies of Chinese literature available in English and, until now, has been out of print for decades. The poems, full of abandoned cities, mountainscapes, owls and goddesses, are rendered here in Watson’s masterful English translation for a new generation of readers to enjoy.

    The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons by Liu Hsieh, translated from the Chinese and annotated by Vincent Yu-chung Shih

    The first comprehensive work of literary criticism in Chinese, The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons was written some 1,500 years ago by critic Liu Hsieh whose encyclopedic knowledge of Chinese literature is organized here according to the I Ching. A dazzling, elegant compendium of literary concepts both alien and familiar, Hsieh’s book is indispensable for anyone interested in Chinese literature or in the art of writing itself.

    The Complete Bostock and Harris by Leon Garfield

    The Complete Bostock and Harris combines two delightful, suspenseful, and madly funny tales of Harris and the not-so-bright Bostock, a rollicking best-friend duo who’ve been through thick and thin together in eighteenth-century Brighton. “A delicious literary concoction bubbling along with the author’s perfect sense of dramatic timing and with his mixture of earthy humor and effervescent wit.”—The Horn Book Magazine

  2. It’s May Day. Stop working and read.

  3. 
My first great experience of hunger dates from a little later, at the age of eleven…. We spent a hard winter at Liège, in a mining district. Below our lodging a café proprietor used to work: Mussels and Chips! exotic odors … He gave us a little credit, but not enough, for my brother and I were never satisfied. His son would steal sugar to trade with us for bits of string, Russian postage stamps, and various odd and ends. I became accustomed to finding exquisite delicacy in the bread we soaked in black coffee (which was well-sugared, thanks to this trade), and it was evidently good enough for me to survive on. 
—Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary


Photo sent in from North Vancouver, Canada.
Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea? Send it to this address and we’ll post it here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).

    My first great experience of hunger dates from a little later, at the age of eleven…. We spent a hard winter at Liège, in a mining district. Below our lodging a café proprietor used to work: Mussels and Chips! exotic odors … He gave us a little credit, but not enough, for my brother and I were never satisfied. His son would steal sugar to trade with us for bits of string, Russian postage stamps, and various odd and ends. I became accustomed to finding exquisite delicacy in the bread we soaked in black coffee (which was well-sugared, thanks to this trade), and it was evidently good enough for me to survive on.

    —Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary

    Photo sent in from North Vancouver, Canada.

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

  4. The Daphne Awards (for the best books published 50 years ago)

    An award that a classics series can finally stand up tall and participate in!
    Read why Bookslut wants to award a prize for the best book of 1963 here. And they’re accepting nominations.

    Let’s see, what have we got from 1963?

    FICTION
    One Fat Englishman by Kingsley Amis
    The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes
    The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy (copyright 1963, 1964—but apparently published in ’64)
    The Tenants of Moonbloom by Edward Lewis Wallant
    The Day of the Owl by Leonardo Sciascia*
    Chaos and Night by Henry de Montherlant

    NONFICTION
    Memoirs of a Revolutionary by Victor Serge*
    Miserable Miracle: Mescaline by Henri Michaux*
    Born Under Saturn: The Character and Conduct of Artists by Rudolph and Margot Wittkover

    KIDS
    Three Ladies Beside the Sea Rhoda Levine, illustrated by Edward Gorey

    *First translated into English in 1963

  5. Fiery Friday

    image

    The fact that quite a few NYRB Classics sport rather “inflammatory” covers recently became a topic of interest around here. We got to wondering if we’re all repressed pyromaniacs. Or if some mad marketing employee here decided that “fire sells.” Not that anyone buys a book for its cover or anything.

    Underneath the sizzling exteriors of each of the above titles, however, is a really great story. Clockwise from the top-left:

    Unforgiving Years, Victor Serge’s harrowing depiction of World War II, told from the streets of Paris, Leningrad, a destroyed city in Germany, and, in the aftermath, Mexico.

    Memed, My Hawk, a novel by Yashar Kemal about a young boy growing up in a desperately poor village in Turkey. He attempts escape, fails, tries again and … you’ll have to read the book.

    Hav, a one-of-a-kind novel in which Jan Morris wields her legendary travel writing skills to bring to life a completely fictional and utterly beautiful city. After reading this book, it’s hard to believe that Hav doesn’t exist in our world.

    Blood on the Forge, by William Attaway. A devastating vision of the African-American Great Migration that follows the fictional Moss brothers’ escape from the rural South, only to find themselves in the inferno of the Northern steel mills. (The cover is, aptly, a photograph of molten steel. Youch.)

    Fiery photo credits/descriptions in the same order: Antony Gormley, Waste Man, 2006; Waves of fire near cattle pens, Chase County, Kansas, 1990 © Larry Schwarm; Hav cover image © Lee Gibbons; Molten steel, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania © Nathan Benn/Corbis.

  6. Happy 10th Birthday London Review Bookshop!

    image

    Our friends at London Review Bookshop compiled a list of their Top Ten Most Popular Fiction Books to commemorate turning ten, and guess what?!  The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (in a lovely edition from Jansson’s UK publisher, Sort Of Books) and The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge top the list.

    Congratulations, London Review Bookshop, and thank you for being such great supporters!

  7. “I can’t help it, I admire you, your malicious idiocies really reach the point of genius!”

    — 

    The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge

    I need to say this to someone. Maybe a sex work abolitionist or a drug war hawk.

    (via marginalutilite)

  8. “D. found a chauffeurs’ bar where he was served a good, unpretentious coffee and two hot croissants, reminding him of that young condemned man whose sole last request was for croissants, which he could not have, because it was too early. “Just my luck!” said the pale young man, and he was right, for in fact the only thing he ever succeeded in was his own death by decapitation…”

    — 

    Victor SergeUnforgiving Years

    Life’s not Yeezy

    (via hardcorefornerds)

  9. The ship that saved Anna Seghers, Victor Serge, and others from the Nazis

    image

    “The Paul Lemerle is probably going to sail this month. I’ve just been at the Transports Maritimes,” the doctor said.
    “Listen, love,” Marie suddenly said in a light-hearted, clear voice—(she’d probably had three glasses of rosé by then) “if you knew for sure that I would never get a visa, would you leave on the Paul Lemerle?”
    “Yes, my dear,” he said. He hadn’t yet touched his first glass of wine. “This time if I knew that, I would leave.”

    —Anna Seghers, Transit

    In 1940, the collapse of France imminent, Anna Seghers sailed from Marseilles to Martinique aboard the converted cargo ship the Paul Lemerle, with the help of the American Varian Fry.  Fry, a writer working for the recently established Emergency Relief Committee, helped save hundreds of intellectuals, artists, writers, and musicians from the clutches of the advancing Nazis.  Seghers fellow passengers on board the Paul Lemerle included the author and revolutionary Victor Serge, and the famed anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, who years later described the scene at the docks:

    "Helmeted gardes-mobiles, with automatic pistols at the ready, severed all contact between passengers and the relatives or friends who had come to see them off.  Good-byes were cut short by a blow or a curse…. it was … like the departure of a convict ship.” (quoted in Villa Air-Bel: World War II, Escape, and a House in Marseille by Rosemary Sullivan)

    In Transit, the ship is repurposed as one of several that the nameless hero of the story does not board.

    image

    A group of refugees aboard the Paul Lemerle, via the U.S. Holocaust Museum, which says of the image: “Among those pictured are: Ernst Rossmann, Karl Heidenreich, Dyno Lowenstein, Katrin Kirschmann, Emil Kirschmann, and Peter Grassmann.

  10. Dear Best Made Co.,
Thank you for putting together this Spring Reading Collection. We’re not sure what Victor Serge would have made of your artisanal ax(e)s, but we’re certain Patrick Leigh Fermor would have looked great in your Chitina Guide Sweater.
Warm regards,NYRB Classics

    Dear Best Made Co.,

    Thank you for putting together this Spring Reading Collection. We’re not sure what Victor Serge would have made of your artisanal ax(e)s, but we’re certain Patrick Leigh Fermor would have looked great in your Chitina Guide Sweater.

    Warm regards,
    NYRB Classics

  11. February is Victor Serge month at the Brecht Forum.

    February is Victor Serge month at the Brecht Forum.

  12. John Berger drawing Tilda Swinton, on top of a copy of Victor Serge’s Unforgiving Years. (Apologies if the video isn’t working, it was having problems earlier).

  13. Memoirs of a Revolutionary in The Guardian, again.

    When I first read these memoirs, as a young would-be Soviet historian at the time of their first publication in English, the paragraph that struck me most poignantly and remained imprinted was Serge’s confession that ‘the feeling of having so many dead men at my back, many of them my betters in energy, talent, and historical character, has often overwhelmed me, and that this feeling has been for me the source of a certain courage, if that is the right word for it.’ This remains one of the great lines in the annals of revolutionary memoir. On rereading, however, I found myself equally moved by Serge’s rueful meditations on the uses of human reason. ‘Many times,’ he writes, ‘I have felt myself on the brink of a pessimistic conclusion as to the function of thinking, of intelligence, in society’, even to the point of wondering whether ‘the role of critical intelligence’, which he had exercised so often and at such costs to himself, might not be ‘dangerous, and very nearly useless’. He banishes such thoughts rather lamely with the remark that societies need critical thinking and ‘better times will come’—but then adds, with more conviction, that in any case, the use of the critical faculty is ‘a source of immense satisfactions’ to the thinker. Perhaps, after all, we can regard the life of Victor Serge, perennial critic and dissenter, as, in a certain sense, a happy one.

    —Sheila Fitzpatrick, reviewing Memoirs of a Revolutionary in The Guardian. Fitzpatrick was one of the leading figures of the second generation of “revisionist” historians working on the U.S.S.R. in the 1980s. Her early work focused on the social mobility of the early Soviet era, emphasizing that, though bloody, Stalinist purges enabled educated people from the lower classes to move upward in Soviet society, and therefore fulfilled some of the purposes of a democratic revolution. Serge himself, as Fitzpatrick points out in her review, was both a witness of the intolerance of criticism towards the Soviet regime (and the brutal suppression of it) and a critic of its undemocratic governance, but ultimately continued to believe in the Bolshevik revolution as a necessary movement towards (Serge’s words) “total transformation.”

  14. Victor Serge’s son, Vladimir (or Vlady) Kibalchich grew up to be an accomplished artist. His murals decorate the reading room of the Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada in Mexico City. 
Susan Wiseman’s memorial essay on Vlady describes his career and recounts some of his exploits—including that time he peed on Lenin.
(See Vlady’s sketch of his father’s hands here, and also note that our edition of Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary includes quite a few of young Vlady’s drawings.)
ismaelfotografo:

Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada on Flickr.

    Victor Serge’s son, Vladimir (or Vlady) Kibalchich grew up to be an accomplished artist. His murals decorate the reading room of the Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada in Mexico City.

    Susan Wiseman’s memorial essay on Vlady describes his career and recounts some of his exploits—including that time he peed on Lenin.

    (See Vlady’s sketch of his father’s hands here, and also note that our edition of Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary includes quite a few of young Vlady’s drawings.)

    ismaelfotografo:

    Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada on Flickr.

  15. Victor Serge’s Political Testament

    By Richard Greeman

    Was Victor Serge moving to the right at the time of his death, as some have contended? Richard Greeman of the International Victor Serge Foundation addresses the question on the occasion of the publication of Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary.


    "My Father’s Hands" by Serge’s son, Vladimir Kibalchich

    “What would be Victor Serge’s political position if he were alive today?” During the sixty-odd years since Serge’s untimely death, this question—a priori unanswerable—has been asked (and answered) many times—on occasion, as we shall see, by self-interested politicos and pundits. The consensus among these postmortem prophets is that this hypothetical posthumous Serge would have moved to the right, along with ex-Communists like Arthur Koestler and the so-called “New York intellectuals” around the Partisan Review. It is of course impossible to prove otherwise. Yet the fact remains that throughout the Cold War neither the CIA-sponsored Congress for Cultural Freedom nor any other conservative anti-Communist group ever attempted to exploit Serge’s writings, which continued to speak far too revolutionary a language and remained largely out of print. Nonetheless, the specter of an undead right-wing Serge continues to haunt the critics, and there are reasons why.

    Read More