Sunday, February 01, 2009

Links "too intellectual, too obscure, too foreign"

Thomas McGonigle offers some advice on how to sift through the "avalanche of shit" scheduled for publication this year, an avalanche set in motion by "a large core of six figure salaried pencil pushers who have to be wined and dined to suit their personae as wise leaders who know what is good for the reading public." We need help like this all of the time. In the second part of his blog, he recommends books by publishers who have "never forgotten what their job really is". As blogs seem to be the main way to promote and discuss such publications, here are a few additional forthcomings behind the avalanche:

Alma Books' Bloggerel takes delivery of its new edition of Dante's Rime and posts a sample from the book. They reckon it's a disgrace that this volume - "compared, in many ways, to that of Shakespeare’s Sonnets" - is the only mainstream edition available in the English market. I concur, though do wonder why have they not sent a review copy to Britain's most prominent litblogging Dante fan or even included him on the flippin' blogroll.

Continuing with poetry, for some time Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet was a touchstone for literary bloggers. Now Shearsman Books is to publish the Collected Poems of Álvaro de Campos Vol. 2 : 1928–1935. De Campos "along with Ricardo Reis and Alberto Caeiro is one of Pessoa's most important poetic heteronyms". With uplifting eccentricity, volume one follows next year.

In the same month, and turning to fiction, Schocken publishes Aharon Appelfeld's Laish: "A caravan of Jews wanders through Eastern Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. [...] Among them is Laish, a fifteen-year-old orphan, through whose eyes we observe the interactions within this ragtag group of dreamers, holy men, misfits, and thieves as they battle with one another."

Not in English yet, but Gwilym Williams reports on Suhrkamp Verlag's presentation of Thomas Bernhard's Meine Preise, featuring readings from Burgtheater actor Gert Voss. See also Bureaucratic Imagination's link to a scholarly paper on American Writers Reading Thomas Bernhard.

Enough news for now. In the ancient past, newspapers' book pages were our only means of protection from the avalanche. Some, such as the recent edition of the TLS that, in its fiction pages, ran reviews of untranslated non-English language novels only, still warm frozen hope. However, McGonigle's anecdote, of writing for the Washington Post's Book World, suggests the mountain of Purgatory awaits for those relying on print:
The last book I reviewed for them in 2002, commissioned by Michael Dirda, was Maurice Blanchot’s Aminadab. I never reviewed for them again and when I asked I was told that Marie Arana and the younger editors at the paper decided that my review of this novel by the most influential French critic of the 20th century was exactly the sort of book they never wanted reviewed in the paper. It was too intellectual, too obscure, too foreign. It sent the wrong message as to what they were really interested in.


  1. Steve, I recently found out Knopf has acquired Bernhard's Meine Preise, and Carol Brown Janeway will probably translate it. Also found out: Surkhamp nixed a book project I was working on with Ross Benjamin (and with help from Thomas Cousineau): an English-language collection of Bernhard's nonfiction and interviews. Damn! Mittermayer and even Dr. Peter Fabjan had seemed to give their blessing to the project. At least I tried...

  2. Many thanks Will - I'm not sure if the good news outweighs the bad. For a long time I've wanted a collection of his nonfiction and interviews. There's also a French translation of his shorter fiction called "Amras & autre recits". There's much in it that hasn't been translated into English - "Ungenach" for example.

  3. Anonymous10:17 pm

    The excerpt and the link to reviewer's experience at the Washington Post is strangely reassuring, as if someone else sees a dark age a 'comin'. It's very sad, not to mention strange. And Blanchot right there, at Politics and Prose, a DC institution.


  4. Last night I saw Bernhard's 'Monologe auf Mallorca' on Bayern Alpha but I couldn't understand half of it; unfortunately it was a poor quality film, perhaps made on a video camera (c. 1981) in a noisy street-side cafe´, a seaside bar terrace, and other such locations with many background vehicle noises and other distractions. Anyway it started off, in typical Bernhard style, despite the title, so:
    BERNHARD (lounging a cafe´ bar chair overlooking the sea, the sun is shining, there are two cups of coffee on the small white table, he has a cold, and is wearing a cardigan, a scarf and a jacket, in the background people are in t-shirts and shorts:
    I am not in Majorca, I'm in Palma. Majorca doesn't interest me...

    It went on for 45 minutes and not once was there a glimpse of the interviewer Krista Fleischman. He spoke about how he had no ideas in his head but was confident that in Palma something would come to him, about religion, about how death was his constant companion, about politics, about philospohy, about music. He came across as the kind of person I would find it wonderful to know. There was always that half-hidden almost innocent smile hovering, coming and going. It was a fine performance.

  5. Many thanks for this report. I could listen for hours if someone would add subtitles!

    He must have been inspired by Palma eventually because that's where a good deal of Concrete (Beton) is set.



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