Month: March 2016

Albert Camus and the Limits of Absurdity

Robert Zaretsky writes about the existentialist philosopher and writer’s one and only trip to the United States
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eventy years ago this month, Albert Camus arrived in New York City. It was the first, and last, visit the author of The Stranger made to the United States. Camus spent most of his time in New York — a city, he confessed, that defeated his understanding. His experience was, in a word, absurd. To mark the visit’s anniversary, the literary estate of Albert Camus has organized a series of readings, performances, and discussions across the city. The actor Viggo Mortensen, singer and songwriter Patti Smith, folk singer Eric Andersen, and scholars Morris Dickstein and Alice Kaplan are among the artists and writers who will participate. One of the events will be at the Midtown branch of the New York City Library, where at 6:30 p.m., April 14, LARB’s history editor, Robert Zaretsky, will join New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik for a public conversation on the place of Camus’s life and work in the 21st century.
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George Steiner on Thomas Bernhard

An extract from one of Steiner’s literary reviews
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‘ve been poring over a collection of George Steiner’s articles from The New Yorker magazine. It’s a fascinating selection that includes shrewd reflections on an impressive range of writers and thinkers. Among them are essays on Graham Greene, George Orwell, Jorge Luis Borges and Samuel Beckett. But for now, Steiner’s remarks on the work of Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard are catching my eye. Steiner was one of the first critics writing in America to recognize the significance of Bernhard’s work, and his 1986 essay for The New Yorker offers an insightful and enthusiastic appraisal…
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Joseph Conrad and Contemporary Terrorism

From Matthew Feldman (Fair Observer)
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Joseph Conrad

The modernist author Joseph Conrad “can be read,” British philosopher John Gray provocatively argued, “as the first great political novelist of the twenty-first century.”

The case set out for this agonistic view in his 2002 “Joseph Conrad: Our Contemporary” departs from Conrad’s 1907 novel The Secret Agent, which is based upon an “actual terrorist attempt on the Royal Observatory in 1894, when a French anarchist accidentally blew himself up in Greenwich Park before reaching his target.” This is given a “darkly ironic vision” by Conrad, “whereby the symbols of trade and new technology have come under terrorist attack.”Read More

Is That Kafka? 99 Finds

Joseph Schreiber (Rough Ghosts) reviews a new book from Kafka’s definitive German biographer
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Reiner Stach, Is That Kafka? 99 Finds

Is That Kafka?, a collection of 99 fragments, letters, reminisces and insights offers an image of a man who was warm, friendly and well liked by those who knew him. He comes alive here as anything but a soul tortured and crushed by life.

Newly released from New Directions, this entertaining, illustrated compendium of facts and photographs, texts and testimonies represents a selection of fascinating finds uncovered by Rainer Stach in the course of researching his acclaimed three volume biography of Kafka. These are exactly the sort of glimpses into Kafka, the man, that rightfully inform a sensitive biographical study but can easily get lost in the retelling. An affectionately curated collection such as this volume offers a chance to slip back in time and glimpse the human, humorous man behind a body of work that has acquired mythic dimensions that would likely have embarrassed, if not horrified, its creator. Translated by Kurt Beals, this richly illustrated volume is ideal for anyone who has found themselves drawn to Kafka’s work, a book best enjoyed at leisure, a few entries at a time. [Read More]