Just received James E. Montgomery’s Loss Sings in the mail, the thirty-second volume to be published in the excellent Cahiers Series by Sylph Editions:
“In this deeply personal cahier James E. Montgomery contemplates memory, loss and the consolatory power of words through the prism of his personal circumstances. His thoughts are refracted by his own translations of the dirges of the 6th-century poetess al-Khansa’, lamenting the battlefield death of her two brothers. Each section of Montgomery’s text is dated and spans over a period of two weeks with the final entry strangely ending on 11 September 2017, exactly 16 years after he himself witnessed, from his Greenwich Village window, the haunting and ‘strange beauty’ of the day’s portentous spectacle. Still, throughout the text Montgomery never loses touch with his vocation as a literary translator. He considers the practice more akin to trauma than it is to memory: ‘Translation is also mourning for what we want to retain, what we value and cherish; it is, equally, mourning for what we know we must lose’, all of which is relayed by Alison Watt’s wondrous images that accompany the cahier.”
“The stories here, including everything not in Penguin’s Metamorphosis and Other Stories, have been arranged chronologically, or as near chronologically as possible, for Kafka often interrupted one story to write another. They are often incomplete, fragmentary or even, so to speak, radically unfinished: you can’t imagine them working any better if they had continued to a conclusion. The very lack of conclusion seems often to be the point.”
A new short story collection from NYRB celebrates what is enigmatic about everyday minutiae
Feuilleton. Traditionally, a ‘feuilleton’ is a portion at the bottom of a French newspaper that is kept free for light literature, criticism, and commentary. It derives from the word ‘feuille’, meaning ‘leaf’. By its very nature, the feuilleton is marginal and fragmentary. For the early twentieth-century author Robert Walser, this became an ideal medium for his wandering and ephemeral style.
The NYRB’s wonderful new collection of the Swiss writer’s short texts, entitled Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories, allows us to leaf through a life of extraordinary writing. The German writer and academic W. G. Sebald, using Walser’s own words, described him as a ‘clairvoyant of the small’, a writer of prose ‘at odds with the demands of high culture’. Tom Whalen’s afterword to the NYRB volume echoes this sentiment, recognizing in Walser a sensibility of ‘sovereign insignificance’. Whalen continues: ‘For the fueilletonist anything can be an occasion for a prose piece: a walk in the mountains, a new hairstyle, an old fountain, shopwindows, a kitten, a carousel, a Parisian newspaper’. As Walser drifts aimlessly through the modern European city, we share his curiosity and wonder at the small details of this strange and peculiar life. (more…)
Christopher John Müller on his new book and his English translation of Günther Anders, a contemporary of Adorno, Benjamin, and Arendt
How did you come to discover the work of Günther Anders?
I was alerted to a translated essay from the 1930s called the ‘Pathology of Freedom’, whilst writing my PhD thesis in 2012. I had never heard of its author, Günther Stern, and was captivated by the work, a brilliant existential analysis of the experience of freedom.
When looking up the author, I was surprised to learn that he was connected to canonical authors and thinkers I liked to study – Stern (who assumed the pseudonym Anders) was the first husband of Hannah Arendt, a cousin of Walter Benjamin, a student of Husserl and Heidegger, friends with Ernst Bloch and Herbert Marcuse, and connected to Berthold Brecht, Georg Lukács, Literary Modernists, the Frankfurt School thinkers – the list goes on and on and on. (more…)
A call for papers for a panel at the upcoming ACLA conference in Utrecht, July 2017
Neil Doshi and James McNaughton are putting together a panel entitled ‘International Beckett’ for next year’s ACLA conference at Universiteit Utrecht, Netherlands. The seminar will comprise 8-12 participants, meeting for 2 hours on each of the conference’s 3 days. You will present a 20 minute paper, and then have an opportunity to discuss your work with likeminded scholars and enthusiasts. (more…)
Christopher Carroll (The Wall Street Journal) traces Seamus Heaney’s connection to Book VI of the “Aeneid”, in light of his father’s death:
“[…] Heaney’s own translation of Book VI of the “Aeneid,” which he completed in July 2013, one month before he died. It is his last published poem, a poignant rendition of Aeneas’ arrival in Italy and journey into the underworld to see his dead father. And though it is beautiful in its own right, this portion of the “Aeneid” had a special significance for Heaney—one that began in his school days in the 1950s and lasted his entire life.”
“Vasily Grossman‘s Life and Fate (New York Review Books Classics) was deemed so dangerous in the Soviet Union that not only was the manuscript confiscated – the typewriter ribbons used to type it were taken as well. As Book Haven readers know, I’ve been ploughing through the 880-page epic tale of World War II, which eloquently, powerfully, unforgettably describes the dark forces that shaped the 20th century. […] The author had witnessed the Battle of Stalingrad as a war correspondent, and provided the first eyewitness accounts of an extermination camp, from Treblinka.”