Long-forgotten works by Anthony Burgess (born 25 February 1917, died 22 November 1993), the author of A Clockwork Orange, of course, will be published in new editions from Manchester University Press to mark the centenary of his birth.
The novel A Vision of Battlements, never reprinted since its first appearance in 1965, is the first result of a major international project led by two Manchester Metropolitan University academics to recover ‘lost’ novels by the prolific Mancunian writer.
Each new release will also feature previously unseen documents from the Burgess archives, including extracts from the writer’s notebooks and private correspondence.
The Irwell Edition of the Works of Anthony Burgess is the brainchild of two literature scholars from Manchester Metropolitan: Andrew Biswell, Professor of Modern Literature, and his colleague Dr Paul Wake, Reader in English.
Biswell has edited a new version of A Vision of Battlements, annotated the text and written a fresh introduction explaining the history of the novel. The Irwell Edition is an international project which involves a large team of Burgess experts in North America, Europe and the UK. The series will include stage plays, musical libretti, letters and essays written by the author. Biswell and Wake are working with archives based as far afield as Texas, Missouri, Normandy and Ontario.
A Vision of Battlements is a twentieth-century retelling of Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid, set in Gibraltar during the Second World War. Musical references are scattered throughout the text, as they were in much of Burgess’ work.
A Spotify playlist has been compiled to accompany the new books and to celebrate the first new edition A Vision of Battlements for more than 50 years.
The playlist reflects Burgess’s wide-ranging tastes which would go on to influence his own career as a musician, including little-known classical pieces, sea shanties, large-scale choral and orchestral works, pieces for Spanish guitar, operas, songs and ballets.
Published by Manchester University Press, the book will be released on 2 July 2017 to open the three-day Anthony Burgess Centenary Conference in Manchester. A second volume, The Pianoplayers, is being published simultaneously.
Burgess wrote 33 novels and 25 works of non-fiction throughout his life, yet much of his work is rare and out of print. He was also a composer of over 250 musical works, some of which will be performed during the conference.
Professor Biswell will be on stage to discuss Burgess’s music with the composer Raymond Yiu at the Bridgewater Hall on 4 July. Their talk will take place immediately before the BBC Philharmonic gives the European premiere performance of Burgess’s own Symphony in C. The concert, which is part of this year’s Manchester International Festival, will be recorded for later broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
Biswell, who is also Director of the Anthony Burgess Foundation and the author’s biographer, said: "Anthony Burgess is one of the great European writers of the twentieth century, but many people do not realise quite how prolific he was. One of the aims of the Irwell Edition is to change the conversation about his novels, and to introduce readers to little-known works which have been out of print and inaccessible for many years."
"Burgess is unusual in that he came to writing by way of having been a professional musician. Music is at the heart of his creativity, and musical references are present in all of his novels. I am delighted that people will have the opportunity to hear the Symphony in C played for the first time in the city of his birth, to celebrate what would have been his hundredth birthday."
First published in France in 1970, immediately greeted by both furore and acclaim, today Eden, Eden, Eden is recognised as one of the major works of the last century.
This beautiful new edition is a much-revised translation of the out of print English version originally published in 1995. It also includes new translations of the original prefaces by Michel Leiris, Roland Barthes and Philippe Sollers, plus a postface by Paul Buck.
Well, I've waited around a long time for this, and I couldn't be more thrilled... Zero Books have announced the forthcoming publication of my wonderfully talented friend Stephen Mitchelmore's This Space of Writing:
What does 'literature' mean in our time? While names like Proust, Kafka and Woolf still stand for something, what that something actually is has become obscured by the claims of commerce and journalism. Perhaps a new form of attention is required. Stephen Mitchelmore began writing online in 1996 and became Britain's first book blogger soon after, developing the form so that it can respond in kind to the singular space opened by writing. Across 44 essays, he discusses among many others the novels of Richard Ford, Jeanette Winterson and Karl Ove Knausgaard, the significance for modern writers of cave paintings and the moai of Easter Island, and the enduring fallacy of 'Reality Hunger', all the while maintaining a focus on the strange nature of literary space. By listening to the echoes and resonances of writing, this book enables a unique encounter with literature that many critics habitually ignore. With an introduction by the acclaimed novelist Lars Iyer, This Space of Writing offers a renewed appreciation of the mystery and promise of writing.
Collapse Vol. VIII is finally ready for pre-order. Do it.
With the public trial of 'Casino Capitalism' underway, Collapse VIII examines a pervasive image of thought drawn from games of chance. Surveying those practices in which intellectual resources are most acutely concentrated on the production of capitalizable risk, the volume uncovers the conceptual underpinnings of methods developed to extract value from contingency - in the casino, in the markets, in life.
It's summer, 1963. Fourteen-year-old Liana travels to Jerusalem, accompanied by her older sister and larger-than-life mother. The trip takes her from a sheltered life in Westchester County, NY to the hot, bustling, and thoroughly confusing landscape of the Middle East, where Jewish and Arab cultures exist side by side in an uneasy truce. She soon drifts away from her colorful family and their over-the-top relatives, and starts a furtive, increasingly passionate, secret relationship with the runaway son of an American diplomat. Together, they abscond to neighboring Palestine, where they hide in an abandoned monastery, while a frantic search for the two missing youngsters gets under way on the other side of an increasingly hostile border. More...
These guys popped up on Twitter the other day (@FitzcarraldoEds): "a London-based publisher, will be publishing long-form essays and novels." They start publishing "[i]n August, a novel: ZONE by Mathias Enard (originally published by @open_letter in the US and @ActesSud in France)... In September, an essay: MEMORY THEATRE by Simon Critchley, with images by Liam Gillick."
Great books to start with. (ZONE was reviewed by Steve at This Space here: "Everything is coursed into a recital, a unique poetic ritual of mourning to reach the destination that is itself. Zone is indeed soaked in trauma yet, in Mathias Énard's hands and Charlotte Mandell's fluid translation, it is exhilarating, and has to be read."
Some details on the contents of the long-awaited volume 8 of Collapse are up on the Urbanomic site. Includes such delights as Quentin Meillassoux's Mallarmé's Materialist Divinization of the Hypothesis, Nick Land's Transcendental Risk and Suhail Malik's The Ontology of Finance: Price, Power, and the Arkhé-Derivative. Could be me, but I'm not seeing an actual publication date...
In Repetition, Handke allows the peculiar light which illuminates the space under a leafy canopy or a tent canvas to glisten – between words, placed here with astounding – caution and precision; in doing so, he succeeds in making the text into a sort of ?refuge amid the arid lands which, even in the culture industry, grow larger day by day.” —W.G. Sebald, Across the Border
Music & Literature 3 brings to light the life’s work of three artists who have to date been denied—by geography, by language, and by politics—their rightful positions on the world stage. The Australian writer Gerald Murnane, a rumored Nobel Prize candidate, has been deemed “a genius on the level of Beckett” by Teju Cole, who opens this issue with a spirited exchange of long letters with the Aussie great. For the first time, Murnane’s entire catalog is introduced by top writers and critics, and we glimpse his three remarkable archives, which the author insists will remain unpublished until after his death. “The Interior of Gaaldine,” the infamous text that explains his fourteen-year absence from the world of fiction, rounds out more than 120 pages of new material on and by one of our finest yet little-known Anglophone writers. The issue’s second half is devoted to the Slovak composer Vladimír Godár and his unlikely collaborator, the Moravian violinist-singer Iva Bittová, who honed their crafts under the pall of the Communist regime and who only in recent years have begun cultivating worldwide audiences. Now, for the first time, Godár’s artistic writings as well as his manuscripts are available in English, alongside a portfolio of photographs and an oral history of Bittová’s career, as told by some of her closest collaborators and artistic partners.
Of the Subcontract is a collection of poems about computational capitalism, each of which was written by an underpaid worker subcontracted through Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk service. The collection is ordered according to cost-of-production and repurposes metadata about the efficiency of each writer to generate informatic typographic embellishments. Those one hundred poems are braced between two newly commissioned essays; the whole book is threaded with references to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Wolfgang von Kempelen, and the emerging iconography of cloud living.
Of the Subcontract reverses out of the database-driven digital world of new labour pools into poetry’s black box: the book. It reduces the poetic imagination to exploited labour and, equally, elevates artificial artificial intelligence to the status of the poetic. In doing so, it explores the all-too-real changes that are reforming every kind of work, each day more quickly, under the surface of life.
More on Nick Thurston's new book, Of the Subcontract, over on the information as material website.
Recent article on Greek poet Cavafy is a nice case in point. It takes three translations of “The City”, one of his most well-known poems, from Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard, Rae Delven and Daniel Mendelsohn, and gives them each a spin. For me, it's hands down Delven:
You will find no new lands, you will find no other seas.
The city will follow you. You will roam the same
streets. And you will age in the same neighborhoods;
and you will grow gray in these same houses.
Always you will arrive in this city. Do not hope for any other –
There is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you have destroyed your life here
in this little corner, you have ruined it in the entire world.
Another excellent looking new(ish) journal:
Music & Literature is ... dedicated to publishing excellent new literature on and by under-represented artists from around the world. Each issue of Music & Literature assembles an international group of critics and writers in celebration of three featured artists whose work has yet to reach its deserved audience. Through in-depth essays, appreciations, interviews, and previously unpublished work by the featured artists, Music & Literature offers readers comprehensive coverage of each artist’s entire career while actively promoting their work to other editors and publishers around the world. Published as print editions (and soon to be offered as digital editions as well), issues of Music & Literature are designed to meet the immediate needs of modern readers while enduring and becoming permanent resources for future generations of readers, scholars, and artists.
Lovely looking new journal from Corbel Stone Press:
Reliquiæ is an annual journal of poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, translations and visual art, edited by Autumn Richardson & Richard Skelton. Each issue collects together both old and new work from a diverse range of writers and artists with common interests spanning landscape, ecology, folklore, esoteric philosophy and animism.
Amongst a list of great looking titles coming out from Princeton University Press this season, particularly noteworthy are Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985 (selected and with an introduction by Michael Wood; translated by Martin McLaughlin); Kafka: The Years of Insight and Kafka: The Decisive Years both by Reiner Stach (both translated by Shelley Frisch); and Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica by T.J. Clark.
RGAP (Research Group for Artists Publications) was "formed by Martin Rogers in 1994, and was previously sited at the School of Art and Design, University of Derby" –
In 2002, RGAP moved out from the University to become an independent, not-for-profit artist-led organisation, and has continued to publish artists' books and editions, and work with other centres in the UK and abroad, setting up collaborative projects, publications, exhibitions and events. This includes the organisation of the Small Publishers Fair – an international event held annually in London.
As well as working with visual artists, RGAP has published editions by composers, writers, sound, and performance artists, and works have been featured in numerous exhibitions related to artists’ books and publications.
"A refusal to think philosophy as simply content..."
O-Zone: A Journal of Object-Oriented Studies is a peer-reviewed, open-access, and post-disciplinary journal devoted to object-oriented studies, both situated within and traversing the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and the arts. The journal aims to cultivate current streams of thought already established within object-oriented studies, while also providing space for new pathways along which disparate voices and bodies of object-oriented knowledges might encounter, influence, perturb, and motivate one another.
Located within a post-Kantian philosophical outlook, where everything in the world, from the smallest quarks to lynxes to humans to wheat fields to machines and beyond exist on an equal ontological footing, O-Zone: A Journal of Object-Oriented Studies invites new work that explores the weird realism, thingliness, and life-worlds of objects. Possible methodological approaches and critical modes might include: actor-networks, unit operations, alien phenomenology, agentic drift, onticology, guerrilla metaphysics, carnal phenomenology, ontography, agential realism, cosmopolitics, panpsychism, insect media, posthumanism, flat ontology, dark vitalism, prosthetics, territorial assemblage, vibrant materialism, dorsality, distributed intelligence, dark ecology, hyperobjects, realist magic, post-continuity, and other paradigms for object-oriented thought still coming into being and yet to be articulated.
I Burn Paris has remained one of Poland's most uncomfortable masterstrokes of literature since its initial and controversial serialization by Henri Barbusse in 1928 in L'Humanité (for which Jasienski was deported for disseminating subversive literature). It tells the story of a disgruntled factory worker who, finding himself on the streets, takes the opportunity to poison Paris's water supply. With the deaths piling up, we encounter Chinese communists, rabbis, disillusioned scientists, embittered Russian émigrés, French communards and royalists, American millionaires and a host of others as the city sections off into ethnic enclaves and everyone plots their route of escape. At the heart of the cosmopolitan city is a deep-rooted xenophobia and hatred — the one thread that binds all these groups together. As Paris is brought to ruin, Jasienski issues a rallying cry to the downtrodden of the world, mixing strains of "The Internationale" with a broadcast of popular music (more...)
Another beaut from the excellent Twisted Spoon Press.
Sylph Editions was established in 2006. It came about as a natural expansion of our design studio, which specializes in book design and frequently works with other publishers. The events that led to the setting up of the press clearly illustrate the main objectives and ideas. It began with the artist Jila Peacock. She had produced a spectacular silkscreen, hand-printed book with ten shape-poems from Hafez, the great 14th century Persian master. She approached us to turn her limited edition book (50 copies) into a more readily available publication. We were happy to do this, but obviously the book needed an appropriate publisher. We approached many prospective publishers along with Jila at the London Book Fair but no one seemed to have the necessary imagination to turn this into a commercially viable book. This was very much a tipping point for us; we realised there are many such worthy projects out there that fail to materialize – all they need is a certain kind of vision. Jila’s limited-edition book was being exhibited at the British Museum as part of the Word into Art exhibition. The British Museum is fortunate to have its own independent bookshop, which, unlike corporate chains, was happy to stock our book. During the exhibition it became their best-selling non-British Museum publication. This gave us the impetus to carry on. What we wanted to do, and believe we’ve done since then, is publish books that marry text and image – or as we like to put it ‘image and text conceived as one’ – while also paying attention to the book as a physical object...
In a world where everything is becoming faster, cheesier, and more functional – when books are no longer tactile, sensual objects, but characters on Kindle – it’s cheering to see anything swimming upstream. Bonus points if it extols that most underrated of literary trades, translation.
Applause keeps mounting for the Cahiers Series, published by the Center for Writers & Translators at the American University of Paris and Sylph Editions. It’s hard to stay on top of it. But Daniel Medin, one of my more charming correspondents, has been sending me updates from the American University.
The latest plug is in Friday’s New York Review of Books blog, where Colm Tóibín introduces László Krasznahorkai‘s Animalinside (with illustrations by Max Neumann):The prose of Hungarian novelist László Krasznahorkai is full of menace, but it would be a mistake to read the menace either as political or as coming from nowhere. In novels such as The Melancholy of Resistance and War & War, his imagination feeds on real fear and real violence; he has a way of making fear and violence seem all the more real and present, however, by removing them from a familiar context.
Daniel, now an associate professor at the American University (after teaching at Stanford a year or two back), said this:The allegorical tissue in that text [i.e., Animalinside] is very thick, the “animal inside” a literal and metaphorical thing at the same time – think Herbert‘s Report from the Besieged City, where “a rat became the unit of currency.” We’re in the realm of Kafka and Beckett here, and not just in approach: I believe that Krasznahorkai is a writer of nearly the same magnitude who has the mixed fortune of having been born Hungarian – mixed because of that country’s embarrassment of (literary, cultural) riches on one hand and its linguistic isolation on the other...
All this love coming from the Stanford University blog. Nice.
Dalkey Archive Press's Fall 2011 catalog is now available as a pdf on their website... as ever, some cracking looking books therein...
Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) "was a beloved Brazilian novelist whose contantly surprising, experimental prose was beloved by mid-century English-language writers like Elizabeth Bishop, but little known to general readers in the U.S. and U.K., due to the fact that, according to Lispector biographer Benjamin Moser, the published English translations do not give a good representation of the qualities of her work. But that is likely to change due to a series of new translations of many of her books published simultaneously by New Directions in the U.S. and Penguin Classics in the U.K., and edited by Moser."
More on this via Publishers Weekly:
Moser’s 2009 biography, Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector, was a kind of surprise hit, garnering lots of review attention and an NBCC award nomination. The interest for Moser’s book proved that there was an English-language readership for its subject. “I knew there were little cells of people that were into her here and there and that I could help her enter the bloodstream,” said Moser, who lives in the Netherlands and also speaks Portuguese. “The problem was the books were so badly translated--most of them, not all of them--were almost unreadable in English. I got all this attention for her. I had hoped that someone like Barbara [Epler, President and editor-in-chief of New Directions] would take it upon them to re-translate her, and that’s what happened.”
New Directions has been steadily reissuing titles from its storied backlist over the past few years, commissioning new introductions from contemporary writers and hip new covers. When Moser heard that New Directions was preparing to reissue Lispector’s last novel, The Hour of the Star in its original English translation by Giovanni Pontiero with a new introduction by Colm Toibin, he contacted Epler and insisted they do a new translation: “You can’t say no to that guy,” said Epler. “He finally just put a bag over my head and clubbed me and said he’d do the translation himself in two or three weeks.”
Moser had resisted the idea of translating Lispector himself, but finally decided to do it so as not to miss the chance to offer English readers a translation he felt worthy of Lispector’s legacy. According to Epler, the original translation “also has its qualities. Ben’s version is very different. It’s much more smooth in the Pontiero.” Moser insists Lispector is “incredibly difficult to translate, and to read at times. But she has this extremely distinctive voice. She’s inimitable. A translation is at some degree an imitation. You have to find out how to do that,” said Moser.
The resulting book is filled with jagged, jerky odd, and utterly compelling prose, which is how it should be according to Moser. After The Hour of the Star, New Directions will issue four other Lispector titles next May: Near to the Wild Heart, Água Viva, The Passion According to G.H. and A Breath of Life, the last of which has never appeared in English before.
Taking its cue from the vivid contribution of the short text to European cultural life and judging that the moment is right to reinvigorate the essay, Notting Hill Editions is a new imprint devoted to the best in essayistic nonfiction writing. Our writers come from a broad range of disciplines ensuring our essays will never fail to excite and inspire as they cover an ever-changing spectrum of topics.
Notting Hill Editions will publish at least six books twice a year. These beautifully produced and exquisitely-sized cloth-bound hardbacks are intended to revitalise and celebrate the long essay format. Covering a range of weighty subjects by some of the best and prominent thinkers, commentators and authors of our time, as well as works by key writers previously unpublished in the UK, the Notting Hill Editions brand represents quality, intelligent and upmarket publishing and will launch with a full marketng and media campaign.
These are really nice looking books, and with Georges Perec's Thoughts of Sorts, Roland Barthes' Mourning Diary and John Berger's Cataract in the first tranche of titles, Notting Hill Editions looks like a new imprint worth keeping an eye on...
The reputation of Stephen Crane’s prose masterpieces ought never obscure his singular contribution to American poetry. Just as Crane’s novels and sketches helped usher in a new mode of impressionistic realism, Crane’s poems are like no one else’s before or since, extraordinary harbingers of the poetic revolution of the early twentieth century. In The Black Riders (1895), War Is Kind (1899), and the best of his uncollected poems, Crane forged his own idiom: abrupt, compact, sharply visual, and brutally indifferent to the niceties of late Victorian verse. These spontaneous utterances—Crane said they came to him “in little rows, all made up, ready to be put down on paper,” sometimes five or six a day—seem now like a prophetic blast of the modernist era that was to follow, as Crane achieves what editor Christopher Benfey describes as his aim in his poetry: “to identify the truth about human existence as he conceives it, a truth that is difficult and austere, and rescue it from what he perceives to be competing and overly facile versions of it.”
In tones alternately sardonic and rueful, Stephen Crane’s poems, although small in scale, address immense problems of cosmic justice and the purpose of human life. They are not quite like anything else in American poetry: uncompromisingly harsh, gnomic, deliberately anti-poetic, and shot through with unforgettable phrases and perceptions. Christopher Benfey’s edition collects all of Crane’s poems and provides an introduction illuminating their biographical and cultural context.
New Stephen Crane: Complete Poems just out with the Library of America. (Read an exclusive interview with volume editor Christopher Benfey (PDF, 65K); read an excerpt, In the desert (PDF, 31K); read an excerpt, Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind (PDF, 36K))
Georges Perec fans will doubtless have noted that a nice wee hardback of Art and Craft of Approaching Your Head of Department to Submit a Request for a Raise has just landed in the shops.
The publishers, Vintage, gloss it thus:
So having weighed the pros and cons you've decided to approach your boss to ask for that well-earned raise in salary but before you schedule the all-important meeting you decide to dip into this handy volume in the hope of finding some valuable tips but instead find a hilarious, mind-bending farcical account of all the many different things that may or may not happen on the journey to see your boss which uses no punctuation or capitalisation and certainly no full stops
It follows the publication last May of An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris (Wakefield Press), and recent reissues, also by Vintage, of W or The Memory of Childhood and Things (which is one of my favourite Perec's, actually).
Coming at you at the end of April, from the always excellent Zero Books (publishers of Mark Fisher, Adam Kotsko, Nina Power, Richard Seymour...), is Laurie Penny's Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism:
Modern culture is obsessed with controlling women's bodies. Our societies are saturated with images of unreal, idealised female beauty whilst real female bodies and the women who inhabit them are alienated from their own personal and political potential. Under modern capitalism, women are both consumers and consumed: Meat Market offers strategies for resisting this gory cycle of consumption, exposing how the trade in female flesh extends into every part of women's political selfhood. Touching on sexuality, prostitution, hunger, consumption, eating disorders, housework, transsexualism and the global trade in the signs and signifiers of femininity, Meat Market is a thin, bloody sliver of feminist dialectic, dissecting women's bodies as the fleshy fulcrum of capitalist cannibalism.
Last Friday, I was very kindly asked to chair a seminar, organised by Verso, with André Schiffrin on the future of the book trade. Shiffrin was recently described by The Bookseller as the "legendary Pantheon publisher of old and independent firebrand of now with the not-for-profit house The New Press." He is a publishing hero to many, myself very much included, having put luminaries such as Studs Terkel, Noam Chomsky, Juliet Mitchell, R.D. Laing, Eric Hobsbawm and E.P.Thompson into print in the States. The excuse for the occassion was the publication of Schiffrin's latest book, Words and Money, a follow-up of sorts, a decade on, to his excellent The Business of Books.
The format of the session was pretty typical: Schiffrin gave a synopsis of his argument, then I interviewed him (a first for me, hugely enjoyable and a massive privilege) and then I took questions from the floor. Schiffrin's argument is essentially that "big-business congolomerate publishing in its current form is doomed... Investors are demanding as much as 15% returns on a business which, Schriffin argues, can only offer 3 or 4%." Widening-out from this is a cultural argument, of course: why is a business seen to be a failing concern if it is profitable, but just not massively so? This is a particular concern because, whilst publishing serious books can be profitable, it isn't often hugely so. This kind of publishing, runs the argument, is already always anti-intellectual.
An excellent comment (from HugoIgoNogo) over at The Bookseller takes up the argument, and brings our attention to its limitations (essentially, Schiffrin hasn't really got to grips with the Internet):
For books, the first decade of the 21st century has seen one of the great cultural earthquakes. Go back 10 years, or perhaps 20, and the landscape is barely recognisable. No Amazon; no Google and no ebook. Wherever you look: writers, agents, publishers and booksellers transacting literary business like their great-grandparents. Since the millennium, the relationship between words and money has undergone almost total inversion. On the demand side, publishers recklessly drove up profit margins from a comfortable 3% to a suicidal 15%. As for supply, a privileged minority of "content providers" (AKA authors) reached audiences and made fortunes that started at six or seven figures. This takeover sometimes had the air of a gold rush, but it has not been a bonanza for everyone. At the end of the second world war there were more than 300 bookshops in New York City. Today there are fewer than 30. The astonishing scale of this transformation has left many observers as disoriented as the survivors of a natural disaster. A new genre of books, cultural survival kits, has emerged to supply emergency road maps through new terrain: The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, and No Logo by Naomi Klein. Each one of these bestsellers is animated by a need to make sense of the new and troubling questions provoked by global capitalism and the viral power of the internet. Less flashy, and more humane, André Schiffrin, a distinguished former New York publisher, has been throughout this decade an indispensable, if rather pessimistic, guide to life after a cultural apocalypse, first in the much-admired The Business of Books (2000) and now in Words and Money (Verso). He has spent the last decade puzzling over the annihilation of the business he loves by conglomerate visigoths such as Vivendi (a French water and sewage company turned media giant). Actually, while the old contract between words and money was being torn up a new one (entitled "free") was being written, mainly by geeks in California. It is a measure of the profound disorientation experienced by seasoned professionals in this new environment that nowhere in Words and Money does Schiffrin really get to grips with the so-called Google Print Initiative, the biggest copyright heist in history. Nor does he tackle Amazon's burgeoning role as an internet publisher. Sometimes the cultural analyst who puts himself in the middle of the information superhighway ends up looking like Bugs Bunny in the path of a runaway Mack truck. There's a lot that's passionate and useful in Schiffrin's anguished analysis. He is right to identify a healthy market as the key to a vital culture and vigorous democracy. His heart is certainly in the right place, but strangely, for a book entitled Words and Money, he never fully addresses the thorny question of "free", as articulated by Anderson, James Boyle (The Public Domain) and Lawrence Lessig (Free Culture). I wish he had because this goes to the heart of the crisis faced by print at the moment. Books, like newspapers, are an essentially middle-class phenomenon whose market is the self-improving professional. As a bourgeois medium, books and their authors depend on the cash nexus. Johnson went straight to the point with: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." Johnson was right. Words that get written for money are likely to be superior to words spun out for nothing, on a whim. California's "free" movement wants to argue that literary copyright is an intolerable restriction of the public's right to access information, and that words should be free. That's a profound threat to the western intellectual tradition. I hope that André Schiffrin, having raised the alarm about the demise of serious publishing and journalism, will urgently turn his attention to the new, possibly darker, threat of digitisation and its consequences.
My good friend Sophie Lewis (freelance publisher and literary translator from French to English; translator of Stendhal’s On Love for Hesperus Press and various books for Pushkin Press) explains the story behind the new publishing venture And Other Stories:
“Heady experience”… “utopian stuff”… “well thought-out and radical”… “shamelessly literary”.
Who’s that attracting all the old-school praise? And Other Stories! We’re a publishing collective that you can join, if you like the sound of what we’re doing.
Launched earlier this year by translator Stefan Tobler, And Other Stories is a Community Interest Company, which in our case means that we’re a not-for-private-profit publisher. We gather circles of people, virtually and physically, who are also into reading powerful and unusual literature from around the world; we track down books in some of the languages that we can read between us (Spanish, French, German, Lithuanian, more soon); we translate samples and pass them around; eventually we pick the best, the novels and stories that we think good enough to demand full translation and publication in English.
We’re already near the end of this process with our first book – about which I can tell you nothing because the fine print is being worked out in Frankfurtas you read this. But soon you’ll hear all about it and the other three books we’re planning to publish next year.
Apart from our democratic editorial process, another feature that distinguishes us from the mob of publishers currently going down the pan is our subscription-based sales method. As well as choosing what we publish, you subscribers are the first to receive copies, contribute to our website and general decision-making, attend all our talks and parties for free – and should be proud to be supporting one of the most economical, outward-looking and broad-minded publishers in existence (please notify me of any competitors and I will move quickly to wipe them out). But truly, if you’d like to subscribe, please look here andotherstories.org/join-us and get in touch with Stefan.
And Other Stories really is an exciting new venture. It makes a fascinating combination of the traditional: the joy of simply meeting and sharing great literature; the Victorian satisfaction, verging on smugness, that comes with subscribing – and the avant-garde: the literature itself is certainly not about best-selling or crowd-pleasing taste, and looking beyond the Anglophone world seems radical in itself these days. This is why I’m involved.
But I almost forgot to add – it’s good fun getting into publishing, if you don’t have to worry about sales meetings, pleasing the marketing dept, being overruled by editors higher up the chain, etc. I’m hosting a party at my place on Tuesday, for our first author. That’s a first for me too.
Bookmunch has listed 50 Books You’ll Want to Read in 2010. If you're anything like me, this is mostly a list of the books that you'll be avoiding next year, but will be getting blanket coverage in the papers... Nevertheless, it's a useful selection of what's coming down the publishing pipe.
Is socialism desirable? Is it even possible? In this concise book, one of the world's leading political philosophers presents with clarity and wit a compelling moral case for socialism and argues that the obstacles in its way are exaggerated.
There are times, G.A. Cohen notes, when we all behave like socialists. On a camping trip, for example, campers wouldn't dream of charging each other to use a soccer ball or for fish that they happened to catch. Campers do not give merely to get, but relate to each other in a spirit of equality and community. Would such socialist norms be desirable across society as a whole? Why not? Whole societies may differ from camping trips, but it is still attractive when people treat each other with the equal regard that such trips exhibit.
But, however desirable it may be, many claim that socialism is impossible. Cohen writes that the biggest obstacle to socialism isn't, as often argued, intractable human selfishness -- it's rather the lack of obvious means to harness the human generosity that is there. Lacking those means, we rely on the market. But there are many ways of confining the sway of the market: there are desirable changes that can move us toward a socialist society in which, to quote Albert Einstein, humanity has "overcome and advanced beyond the predatory stage of human development."
Marion Boyars Publishers "started out in the sixties as the firm Calder and Boyars which was run jointly by John Calder and Marion Boyars. When the firm split in 1975, Marion Boyars Publishers was formed." When Marion Boyars died in 1999, her daughter Catheryn Kilgarriff took over as the Managing Director. Renowned for publishing "adventurous and occasionally controversial fiction and non-fiction, especially in translation," their best known authors include Ken Kesey, Hubert Selby Jr, Kenzaburo Oe, Ivan Illich and Georges Bataille.
Well, looks like they are calling it a day. They wrote to me yesterday saying:
Penguin have bought 38 titles from us and once we have completed our autumn program we will concentrate solely on the remainder of the backlist whilst operations wind down. Whilst Cathy has enjoyed the challenges faced here since she took over from Marion and is pleased to have achieved success with many new titles, she feels that in the current climate the time is right to sell.
Last Thursday, I spoke at Legend Press's first Publishing Laid Bare Conference. Basically, I said, "the internet is good, bloggers are fab" -- so nothing particularly newsworthy there then! But thanks so much to the good folk at Legend Press for inviting me to speak and thanks to everyone for the warm reception I got from those in attendance on the day.
Litopia After Dark with Martyn Daniels on the Google books settlement.
Scott Esposito talks to Declan Spring, senior editor at New Directions "in order to get a picture of how publishing beyond New York's giants is faring." Scott is "going to be conducting interviews with presses and publishing them here."
Scott is "interested to see if they're feeling the pain every bit as much as the big guys, or if their different publishing models are yielding different results. I'll also want to see what they're doing to stay competitive in this market and if they think the recession is going to shake up publishing at large."
In March, Open Letter are -- hurray! well done Chad! -- to republish Jakov Lind's Landscape in Concrete. Jakov Lind (1926–2007) was born Heinz Jakov Landwirth in Vienna in 1927 to an assimilated Jewish family:
Arriving in the Netherlands as a part of the Kindertransport in 1939, Lind survived the Second World War by fleeing into Germany, where he disguised himself as a Dutch deckhand on a barge on the Rhine. Following the war, he spent several years in Israel and Vienna before finally settling in London in 1954. It was in London that he wrote, first in German and later in English, the novels, short stories, and autobiographies that made his reputation, including his masterpieces: Landscape in Concrete, Ergo (forthcoming from Open Letter), and Soul of Wood. Regarded in his lifetime as a successor to Beckett and Kafka, Lind was posthumously awarded the Theodor Kramer Prize in 2007.
According to the Guardian, "Sam Leith, the Daily Telegraph's literary editor, has been made redundant as part of the latest round of job cuts by the Telegraph Media Group."
I've done a bit of work for Sam, so I'm very sad to hear about this -- hopefully someone will do the right thing, snap him up, and offer him a decent job.
Bored with ELF!? I've not read anything published by these folk, but they look like they might be interesting: Fiction Collective Two "is an author-run, not-for-profit publisher of artistically adventurous, non-traditional fiction. FC2 is supported in part by the University of Utah, the University of Houston - Victoria, University of Alabama Press, Illinois State University, and private contributors."
Of course, just as "Booker-winner" is code for dull, dull, dull, experimental fiction can be code for all over the place, but, regardless, FC2 might be worth y'all taking a look at.
As critics bemoan the navel-gazing and sexual confessions that continue to dominate the French book scene, nothing generates excitement like a literary stunt. So a leading French publisher spread a rumour that a secret book by a mystery pairing of two of the country's most famous writers was to be released next month, and would reaffirm the literary worth of the nation, setting the bestseller lists on fire.
After months of speculation, the duo was revealed yesterday as Michel Houellebecq, France's award-winning enfant terrible, and Benard-Henri Lévy, the dapper, leftwing philosopher (more...)
Who are the "true stars of London's creative industries and the powers behind the throne"? Well, funnily enough, despite living in Stockport, it turns out yours truly may be one of them! (Actually, I take this to be, if anything, a vote of confidence in brit-lit-blogging in general.)
The Hospital Club 100 will be the definitive list of who shapes the creative landscape in what is, after all, the most creative city in the world. We're not after fat cats and big wigs. Corner offices and chauffeurs are not a prerequisite for inclusion. We want to know the secret influencers, the creative catalysts, the unheard of power players; the unsung heroes who make the media world spin.
So, if you "feel someone on the long list deserves to be part of the finalists [I'm in the "publishing" category by the way!] on The Hospital Club 100 list, you have one week to cast your vote at thehospitalclub.com where each voter is entitled to nominate up to two people per category and voting is from Monday 23 June until 6pm on Monday 30 June.
Via Literary Kicks (and worth quoting in full I think):
Soft Skull, probably the best alternative/independent publisher in the USA right now, is being sold and merged into a large holding company managed by Charlie Winton, who has also acquired Shoemaker & Hoard and Counterpoint.
Once again, I'm disappointed that not many of my fellow bloggers seem to be paying attention to stories like these, because the Soft Skull news has not made much of a ripple. Are literary bloggers afraid to write about finance? Can it be that nobody thinks this is relevant news? Google Blog Search turned up only one blog post following GalleyCat's story, and I just don't understand this.
In sounding alarmed about the news, I'm not trying to cast negativity on the business decision Richard Nash and Soft Skull's management team have made. I think very highly of this team, and if any executive can continue to squeeze greatness out of Soft Skull under the watchful eye of a corporate finance overseer, Richard Nash is that executive. But I have to say that I'm worried, and I'm skeptical. Even if Nash succeeds for a while, don't corporate mergers always end at the same sad cul-de-sac, when eventually the winds change?
Great news for Beckett fans! Cambridge University Press had originally announced The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 1, 1929–1940, edited by Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and due out in October, at £85 but they have substantially reduced that figure and it now looks like the Letters will sell at a RRP of £30. Still expensive, but a hell of a lot cheaper than before. Excellent stuff. Well done CUP!
They've announced this year's Reading the World list over on Three Percent. And I've listed out all the titles on Editor's Corner for y'all too. Many of these look like pretty decent books. I'm particular keen to read Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolano (translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews), The Assistant by Robert Walser (translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky) and The Unforgiving Years by Victor Serge (translated from the French by Richard Greeman)
And it won't surprise the keen ones amongst you that today is Valentine's Day. Origins explained over on The Book Depository February newsletter.
"In the face of appeals and threats of legal action, Arts Council England has this morning confirmed it is to cut funding from the independent publisher Dedalus Books and the east London literature centre, Centerprise. The decision to reduce funding to Arcadia Books and Anvil Press has been reversed." (Via booktrade.info, more via the Guardian.)
This is not good news: Bookforum ... has decided to ... include current events coverage in a move to boost circulation (via imani). The reason why Bookforum is so good is because of its total focus on books. A watered-down version of the New York Review of Books is something we just do not need. Looks like roughly a third of the revamped mag will be devoted to current affairs. Groan. Like the world needs more current affairs coverage. FFS.
From the Bibliophile Bullpen blog:
One of the viral conversations bouncing from biblioblog to biblioblog, is about Advanced Review Copies, everyone wants to pitch their 2 cents. If you are on the Bookfinder Insider Mailing list you already have an inbox filled with tuppences. For more in depth reading Scott Brown's pennies can be picked up here and Adrien Kohn's can be collected here.
In a nutshell, publishers have been sending out review copies since the beginning of time. Freelance and salaried reviewers read and review the books, try to get some reviews published and then have been free to keep, sell, burn, eat or otherwise dispose of the books. Because booksales are down all over the map, publishers are pinning the blame this profound drop in sales on the tiny percentage of advanced review copies, bound galleys, proofs and other prepublication copies that have found their way into the used book market. This in a word is 'bullshit.'
According to The Kenyon Review blog:
... the lost Alexandre Dumas novel The Last Cavalier will be released by Pegasus in October, reports Publishers Weekly. The book was found in the National Library in Paris two years ago by Dumas expert Claude Schopp, who also added a conclusion to the unfinished novel. The book, published in France in 2005 as Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine, “gives a full account of the Battle of Trafalgar, which explains that the hero of the book was responsible for the death of Lord Nelson.” According to BBC News at the time, the novel “has been described as ‘indescribably brilliant’ by scholars.”
I wonder which scholars called it ‘indescribably brilliant’? I somehow can't imagine very many having the balls to call it ‘indescribably crap’!
I've been wandering the country meeting publishers again: last week I was down in Big London (seeing Hesperus, Faber, Random House, Dalkey and Penguin -- and running into friends who work for Peter Owen and Verso); yesterday I was in Oxford (OUP, of course!)
Mostly, I've been meeting folk with my Book Depository hat on, talking about business stuff, but, as you'd expect, there has been much chatter about blogging too (the excellent American-based OUPblog is well worth checking out if you don't know it). And whenever book people get together there is, inevitably, blather about books as well: Dalkey keep telling me wonderful things about Aidan Higgins; Peter Owen are excited about Anna Kavan's Guilty (some great photographs of Kavan over on the Peter Owen blog, btw).
Interesting gossip garnered (well, nothing very juicy I'm afraid): Hesperus are finding their feet with their new blog (which I wrote about over on Editor's Corner earlier today); OUP's American-based blog is soon to add British voices to the mix; Faber are working on an improved website as we speak; and Random House are just about to launch rbooks.co.uk ("the official book shop for The Random House Group").
The Welsh poetry pamphlet imprint, Rack Press, which was relaunched in January 2006, with pamphlets by John Barnie, Richard Price, and Nicholas Murray, issued three new pamphlet titles earlier this year which are selling well*. These are Eight by Five, epigrams from Peter Dale; Clockwork Scorpion, an excellent first collection from Hazel Frew, and Inconsequences a sequence by Dai Vaughan who is perhaps better known for his innovative fiction. There are still a few copies left and pamphlets can be ordered from email@example.com
*"selling well" in the British poetry market means that a tiny print-run is not being left on the publisher's hands!
Nice rant from Katya over at the Hesperus Press Blog:
I honestly don’t believe that our society has ‘dumbed down’. I think we as an industry need to provide the range to allow readers to make their own decisions, for god’s sake let someone choose the author with the funny name. And the media need to expand their attentions to more than the books with the largest marketing department behind them.
Although Christopher Middleton's If From The Distance: Two Essays is Menard's last solo book, I am pleased to say that we have come to an arrangement with Shearsman Books whereby some out of print Menard books will be reprinted in association with them. It is possible there will even be one or two new books. But after 38 years and 160 books, the time has come to move on.
Just prior to publishing their "last solo book", Menard published a second and revised edition of Anthony Rudolf's book on Piotr Rawicz, Engraved in Flesh. (Rudolf's edition and revised translation of Rawicz's masterpiece Blood from the Sky was published by Elliott and Thompson in 2004.)
I have just written a longish post on copyright over on my Book Depository blog Editor's Corner. Basic thrust is that publishers who publish out of copyright books, like Penguin Classics and OUP’s World Classics, show that, in some ways, copyright might not be that big an issue after all. My focus in the piece was on Oneworld Classics (the folks who have just purchased Calder Publications).
In 1890, the thirty-year-old Chekhov, already knowing that he was ill with tuberculosis, undertook an arduous eleven-week journey from Moscow across Siberia to the penal colony on the island of Sakhalin. Now collected here in one volume are the fully annotated translations of his impressions of his trip through Siberia, and the account of his three-month sojourn on Sakhalin Island, together with author's notes, extracts from Chekhov's letters to relatives and associates, and photographs.
Highly valuable both as a detailed depiction of the Tsarist system of penal servitude and as an insight into Chekhov's motivations and objectives for visiting the colony and writing the expose, Sakhalin Island is a haunting work of tremendous importance which had a huge impact both on Chekhov's subsequent work and on Russian society.
Sounds good. So, who (in the UK, please, so that it doesn't cost me a fortune to post it!) wants my spare copy? Email me, and I'll pop it straight in the post to you. First email gets it.
Update: Sakhalin Island has been claimed. Stop emailing already!
As you may have heard (if not, there is a wee note in the Guardian with the essential details), Alma Books have bought the legendary Calder Publications (including their shop in London, which has a cute little theatre stage in the back room!) I'll post further about this tomorrow (probably over on Editor's Corner). In the meantime, a new blog, Amazing Adventures of Bookboy, has an anecdote to share about meeting the "curmudgeonly and charming" John Calder back in the day.
As you may have noted, April is National Poetry Month over in the US. Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux have launched a National Poetry Month blog called The Best Words in their Best Order. They promise:
... a lot of great stuff planned for the month, including newly recorded audio from many of FSG's frontlist poets. Posts this week include Seamus Heaney, reading both his own poem and one by Ted Hughes; Thom Gunn (recorded in 1996) reading Elizabeth Bishop; and alternate cover art for Frederick Seidel's recent collection Ooga-Booga. Derek Walcott, Paul Muldoon, Yves Bonnefoy (reading in French!), Gjertrud Schnackenberg, and C.K. Williams are all to come.
A 30th birthday celebration of Manchester-based poetry publisher Carcanet Press (The Sunday Times Millennium Small Publisher of the Year in 2000) and its Editorial and Managing Director, the poet and critic Professor Michael Schmidt FRSL OBE, will take place at 7.30pm tonight at The Grand Gallery, The National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, New York. Hosted by the Poetry Society of America, the event will feature an incredible programme of readings by John Ashbery, Eavan Boland, Mark Doty, Marilyn Hacker, Stanley Moss, Kei Miller, Paul Muldoon, Maureen O'Hara, Marie Ponsot, John Peck, Susan Wheeler and David Yezzi. Admission is $10 / $7 for PSA members and students. Visit poetrysociety.org to book tickets.
The Book Depository has been shortlisted for two prestigious business prizes: the Fast Growth Business Awards, which seeks to find the "UK's best mid-market business", has The Book Depository up for Retail/leisure Business of the Year; and at the Retail Week Awards, TBD has been shortlisted for the Emerging Retailer of the Year. That little black number of mine is going to get so much wear this year!
Back almost exactly a year ago, the literary saloon noted that the translator Charlotte Mandell's name was, quite shockingly, not mentioned anywhere at all on the Random House version of her rendering of Bernard-Henri Levy's American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville.
The book that Charlotte translated is now out in the UK with Gibson Square. And guess what? No mention of Charlotte's name anywhere! I wrote to Gibson Square a couple of weeks ago now asking them to explain themselves, but I've still not heard anything back in reply. This is quite, quite out of order.
I'm just going through the up-and-coming book releases for the next few months so that I can make sure we get good, timely author interviews and book reviews etc. up on The Book Depository site. There are bucketloads of shiney, new releases, as there always are, but I've not spotted anything yet that really gets me very excited at all. So, a quick plea: have any of you good folk noticed any really good books, especially fiction, coming in the next few months? I've got plenty of information on the new Iain Banks, Tracy Chevalier, Dan Rhodes, Steven Saylor and similar guff, but nothing very RSB-esque is jumping out. Help!
Due to the happy circumstance of soon giving up my current day-job to begin, in the New Year, to work full-time as the web editor of The Book Depository (and, yes, one of my first jobs will be to sort out the look and feel!), I am now a subscriber to The Bookseller magazine. Hopefully, what this will mean going forward for RSB readers, is that I'll be able to keep a better eye on what is about to land in our bookshops.
Most of what The Bookseller reports is of little interest, but some publishing news is noteworthy. I was happy to see, for example, that in January, Penguin are releasing newly repackaged Kafka titles, including new translations, by Michael Hofmann I understand, of Metamorphosis and Other Stories (this volume incorporates "a fascinating occasional piece and The Aeroplanes at Brescia, Kafka's eyewitness account of an air display in 1909").
I just have to bring your attention to a fabulous Publisher of the Week interview I did with Lindsay Waters of Harvard University Press over at The Book Depository. Lindsay is the Executive Editor for the Humanities at HUP and has given the most wonderful, chunky answers to my (rather dull) five generic questions.
A new literary and culture magazine arrives: Habitus -- A Diaspora Journal. The first issue is devoted to Budapest:
Habitus Magazine is a new, international journal of Diaspora literature and culture. Our focus is the Jewish experience in the Diaspora, and Diaspora as a universal experience that mirrors and invigorates our own. Emphasizing literature, photography, criticism and reportage, our goal is to explore the lives of Jews and others in various locales around the globe.
The experience of Diaspora is not the sole property of Jews or Judaism; many other peoples have found themselves in an undiscovered country, turning back towards memory. These multiple Diasporas contribute to the cultural complexity of our modern world. They are the basis for a common experience that Habitus will try to address.
Each issue will focus on a new city as our venue for illuminating a different corner of the world, and a different perspective on the issues that define us.
Much isn't online, but the site has more than you'd think on first glance including editor Joshua Ellison's Welcome and My Jewish Budapest by George Szirtes. There are also some web-only articles which look good, including: Günther Grass and Imre Kertész in Conversation with György Dalos (which I've not read yet, but looks fascinating) and Ilene R. Prusher's Looking for My Tribe: A Journey to the Jewish Roots of Afghanistan’s Pashtuns.
On Sunday, Steve told us:
... at last, news that FSG is publishing Crossing the Sierra de Gredos, Krishna Winston's translation of Peter Handke's 2002 novel Der Bildverlust oder Durch die Sierra de Gredos. But contain yourself, it isn't out until next Summer.
In this fascinating new exploration of Samuel Beckett’s work, Pascale Casanova argues that Beckett’s reputation currently rests on a pervasive misreading of his oeuvre, which neglects entirely the literary revolution he instigated. Reintroducing the historical into the heart of this body of work, Casanova provides an arresting portrait of Beckett as radically subversive, doing for writing what Duchamp did for art, and in the process providing the key to some of the most profound enigmas of Beckett’s work.
Last week, The Bookseller kindly asked me to write a 200-word piece for their Reading for Pleasure section. I chose to write about Walter Benjamin's Berlin Childhood Around 1900. The piece was slightly cut for the magazine, as so often happens, and it isn't online, so here it it is, below, in full:
In Berlin Childhood Around 1900 one of the twentieth century's most incisive literary minds turns to his own earliest memories. Walter Benjamin, the celebrated German translator of In Search of Lost Time, wrote his minor counterpoint to complement Proust's Olympian masterpiece. Benjamin (along with Rilke) was one of the first to recognise the revolutionary nature of Proust's writing, but he was concerned in his own investigation into how memory creates and confounds us not to ape either Proust's unique style nor his philosophy. In beautiful, compact, stand-alone paragraphs, Benjamin becomes again the flaneur of his own bourgeois childhood. He finds a city in which he can lose himself. Losing oneself (as one does when reading) being the beginning of discovery (learning to get lost is a vertiginous skill). And writing, almost in fragments, he disturbs the teleology of autobiography. Today, perhaps more than ever, we need Benjamin's nuanced radicalism. Despite his Marxism, he knew human beings could not be reduced to avatars of their class, but were irreducibly complex. He knew the Messiah would only come to save us if we recognised the social system that is destroying our humanity as surely as it destroyed the Berlin of his childhood.
There was some fuss the other day (you may have seen Jonathan Beckman's Observer review?) about Verso's packaging of our Book of the Month Auschwitz Report. Beckman was cross because "Verso has dolled this up as the work of Levi, blazoning his name on the front of the book, at least five times bigger than the words 'with Leonardo De Benedetti'." But this is really rather silly. Beckman himself says, "De Benedetti's name does not sell books" (indeed so: who, bar a few experts will have heard of him?).
Michael Orthofer says this this sounds "pretty typical of the games publishers play. Can any of them be trusted?" But if Verso had not described this as a work of Primo Levi many, many readers would simply have missed it and that, surely, would have been a dereliction of their duty? Verso should be congratulated for bringing back a forgotten document into wide circulation: publishing Auschwitz Report is a good thing!
The exploitative packaging of Auschwitz Report is misleading. This 48-page document, with preface, introduction and postscript desperately swelling it to book length, is basically a report by two survivors of medical care in the Buna-Monowitz, a satellite camp of the Auschwitz complex. It is clear that this was written by Leonardo De Benedetti with the assistance of Primo Levi, not the other way around. Internal evidence also suggests De Benedetti as the main author. When discussing the selection of people for gassing, the report spends a page on the procedure for choosing invalids (events experienced by De Benedetti alone). When the report was published in 1946 in an Italian medical journal, it was almost certainly as a result of De Benedetti's influence, and named the authors as 'Leonardo De Benedetti and Primo Levi'.
My understanding is that Beckman is wrong to say that Levi had no knowledge of the procedure for choosing invalids. The preface, introduction and postscript may "swell" the report, but I found them to be useful and informative. Beckman also objects to the cover suggesting that the spectacles are representations of "Levi's distinctive bottle-lensed glasses", but the glasses are obviously not the kind Levi wore (just look at the cover). Indeed, the cover is probably a visual synecdoche for the vast piles of glasses so often seen in Nazi propaganda shots. But Beckman again, despite what seems like rather comically affected apoplexy, gets it right when he says, "Auschwitz Report provides an important corrective to the accepted view of Auschwitz ... [it] is a small but significant addition to Holocaust documentation."
Primo Levi is one of the most important writers of the 20th century – a work co-written by him is important as a work written by him. And, again, who would buy a book by De Benedetti!?
Addendum: Rowan Wilson, the Publishing Manager at Verso (and an old and very dear friend of mine) has just brought my attention to Robert Gordon's response to Beckman's "shrill assault" (Gordon is the editor of Auschwitz Report; his response was published in yesterday's Observer). Gordon's letter has been edited; I'm trying to get hold of the unexpurgated version which I'll publish later.
I've just posted an interview with Hilary Spurling (author of The Unknown Matisse and Matisse the Master) and an interview with Luke Brown of Tindal Street Press (one of the smallest publishers ever to reach the Man Booker Prize shortlist, with Clare Morrall's Astonishing Splashes of Colour) over at The Book Depository (which last night "fought off competition from Amazon's Advantage scheme and BIC's e4books initiative to take The Nielsen BookNet Supply Chain Initiative of the Year": yay! This is an important "industry" thingy: see the BookSeller for more).
Quercus is backing Christopher MacLehose, former publisher of Harvill, to set up a separate publishing unit specialising in translated literary fiction.
MacLehose will acquire and edit around 10 titles a year, funded by Quercus. The titles will be published by Quercus under the joint MacLehose Press/Quercus imprint, beginning next autumn.
MacLehose headed up Harvill for 21 years, where his acquisitions included Haruki Murakami, Ismail Kadare, Peter Hoeg and Henning Mankell. MacLehose became editor-at-large of Harvill Secker at the start of 2004, and left the company in July.
Transmission is one of the most exciting and innovative literature magazines being printed in Manchester. Established as a not-for-profit venture, the creators of Transmission are dedicated to providing a high quality medium for aspiring writers and artists to display their talents. The publication combines original and varied writing with quality illustration and snappy design.
Certainly, the Transmission boys are trying to do an interesting thing, combining new, local (North of England-based writers) work (of mixed quality) with a fairly literary magazine (eg interviews with Sarah Waters and Anthony Burgess´s new biographer Andrew Biswell and writing guidance from RSB interviewee Michael Schmidt). I'm not convinced yet, however, that they've fully proved themselves. What would be nice was if the contents for the sold-out early issues were put online, then you'd all be able to check it out.
Been a wee while since we heard from Milan Kundera here in the UK. Well, good news is that Kundera's The Curtain (originally published as Le Rideau, in French in April 2005 by Gallimard) will be published in English in February 2007 by HarperCollins. The Curtain is "a seven-part essay by Milan Kundera, along with The Art of the Novel and Testaments Betrayed composing a type of trilogy of book-length essays on the European novel." Goodness knows if and when we'll be getting another novel, though. The last one was Ignorance (written in 1999 in French and published there in 2000; translated into English in 2002 by Linda Asher).
Well, I was going to stay in today, hide from the rain, and read David Peace's The Damned Utd., but news of the Manchester Book Market (via The Literary Saloon) has just filtered through the wires, so I guess I'll be off into town to buy books (and records: the new Susanna And The Magical Orchestra is out!)
The Manchester Book Market is a brand new initiative designed to give independent publishers and retailers, of books and magazines, the opportunity to sell their product directly to the public. The project was set up in response to a perceived under-representation of the independent book sector, in Manchester and, if successful, will hopefully grow from a one-off initiative to a regular fixture on the specialist market calendar.
The event has been will take place on the busiest shopping days of the week, Friday and Saturday, to give traders the best possible opportunity to make profit and promote their organisations to potential consumers. Also, St. Anne’s Square is considered to be the ‘best pitch in town’ as a central attraction for shoppers from all sides of the city. The addition of an outdoor coffee shop, and potentially live literary events, will help ensure that consumers are kept in the vicinity.
Succour magazine is calling for submissions:
Succour is a biannual journal of new fiction and poetry. The magazine grew out of the University of Sussex's Creative Writing courses and is now sold in London, Brighton and Oxford. A themed journal, Succour aims to promote quality original work by new artists and writers.
For issue 4, The Obscene, Succour are looking for fiction, poetry and artwork from Manchester-based writers. You can email submissions to RSB's very own Max Dunbar. Prose submissions should not exceed 2500 words and should be attached as a Word document. Artwork can be emailed as bmp or jpeg files. You can interpret the theme as wilfully or obliquely as you like.
The deadline is Monday 28th August.
The Frontlist ...
... is a consortium of developers and writers from literary communities. We've formed to provide a new fair way to provide talented unpublished writers to have work annotated and critiqued by peers. The most well-received work will rise to the top, to be considered by a publisher.
The Frontlist is a community of talented writers that self-select work that they feel may be of interest to a publisher. Writers, upon signing up to The Frontlist, will be able to submit sample chapters of work that they are looking to publish. They will then be invited to provide detailed critiques on several pieces of work. Once they have finished this, their own work will go up for critique. Each month, the most well received work will be fast-tracked to the desk of a respected agent or publisher who specialises in the work's genre.
... Jason Cooper, a senior editor at Pan Macmillan (Picador) has agreed to read the submissions that achieve top reviews from The Frontlist.
Melvyn Bragg's Twelve Books that Changed the World listed no novels (Principia Mathematica; Married Love; Magna Carta; Book of Rules of Association Football; On the Origin of Species; On the Abolition of the Slave Trade; A Vindication of the Rights of Woman; Experimental Researches in Electricity; Patent Specification for Arkwright’s Spinning Machine; The King James Bible; An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations; and Shakespeare's First Folio). It was an, erm, intriguing list, but perhaps not what most folk expected to be served up. A more obvious list comes in the shape of a new series of "short biographies of world-changing books" from Atlantic Books. Whether we need a new series on introductory books notwithstanding, these are a handsome lot and include Simon Blackburn on Plato's Republic, Janet Browne on Darwin's Origin of Species, Christopher Hitchens on Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, Bruce Lawrence on The Qur'an and Francis Wheen on Karl Marx's Das Kapital. The series continues with books on the Bible, Smith's Wealth of Nations, Machiavelli's The Prince, Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey and von Clausewitz's On War.
Elie Wiesel's Night was recently re-translated (from the French by Elie's wife Marion Wiesel) and made an Oprah's Book Club choice in the USA, hugely helping sales of the newly revised version. Elie Wiesel's own Preface to the New Translation is online:
The reader would be entitled to ask: Why this new translation, since the earlier one has been around for forty-five years? If it is not faithful or not good enough, why did I wait so long to replace it with one better and closer to the original?
In response, I would say only that back then, I was an unknown writer who was just getting started. My English was far from good. When my British publisher told me that he had found a translator, I was pleased. I later read the translation and it seemed all right. I never reread it. Since then, many of my other works have been translated by Marion, my wife, who knows my voice and how to transmit it better than anyone else. I am fortunate: when Farrar, Straus and Giroux asked her to prepare a new translation, she accepted. I am convinced that the readers will appreciate her work. In fact, as a result of her rigorous editing, I was able to correct and revise a number of important details.
You may have noticed the sad death of Jerzy Ficowski (October 4th 1924 - May 9th 2006) last month. The Polish poet, translator, and scholar was well known for his essays on the life and work of Bruno Schulz and was "one of the best Holocaust poets" according to Yala Korwin (for more see The HyperTexts). I know little of his work, but I'm boning up.
The excellent Twisted Spoon Press have just released Waiting for the Dog to Sleep, Ficowski's only collection of prose, which is wending its way to me as I blog. Twisted Spoon is "an independent publisher based in Prague. Focusing on translating a variety of writing from Central & Eastern Europe, our list includes some internationally recognized names as well as up-and-coming authors who are having their work published in English for the first time." They have a great list, so if RSB goes all Eastern European over the next month, you'll know why.
Menard have recently released WG Shepherd's Mother's Milk (a very decent collection that I'll review here soon enough). I was very kindly invited to the book's launch but, sadly, this had to be cancelled because the author is unwell (get better soon Bill!) The invite, however, brought Menard Press to my attention and made me take a look at their titles. I was particularly interested to see Anthony Rudolf's own Engraved in Flesh: Piotr Rawicz and his Novel Blood from the Sky. Piotr Rawicz is an almost entirely forgotten figure (although this novel, Blood from the Sky was republished a couple of years back by Elliott & Thompson) and I wanted to know more. Very happily, Anthony is allowing me to reprint his fine Afterword to Blood from the Sky here on RSB. So, very soon, you'll all know who Piotr Rawicz is!
Sylph Editions have just sent on a copy of the absolutely gorgeous, sumptuously produced book: Ten Poems from Hafez (translated by Jila Peacock). Lovely to see such a fine edition of medieval Farsi poetry.
Hafez (d. 1390) is Iran’s premier and most quoted lyric poet. His status in his own country, and his universal appeal, can be compared with that of Shakespeare in the English-speaking world. The painter and printmaker Jila Peacock has chosen ten love poems from Hafez and following the footsteps of the great Islamic calligraphers, has produced ten shape-poems that sit by her own translations from the Persian. Accompanied by Robert Hillenbrand’s erudite introduction and a foreword by Parvin Loloi, this book is an exceptional achievement, a celebration of the marriage between word and image.
"WH Smith ... is asking £50,000 per title per week for places on its “adult gold” list of recommended reads in the run-up to Christmas. A less demanding £15,000 will ensure that any old book will be “read of the week” during the year." (via the Sunday Times)
For a cool one million quid you can have a RSB editorial devoted entirely to your latest title - just email me and I'll get it sorted. We may be expensive, but we're classy!
This year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize has been won by Norwegian writer Per Petterson for his novel Out Stealing Horses (Harvill). Petterson shares the £10,000 award with his translator Anne Born. I've not read Petterson, but the runner-up for the prize was Fatelessness by Imre Kertesz (translated by Tim Wilkinson) which is an excellent novel.
New graphic novel publisher First Second Books launches today. (See the First Second blog for more information.) RSB already has Ismo's review of Eddie Campbell's The Fate of the Artist up online (the book is published in the UK by Macmillan).
The has been much fuss recently over Helen Vendler's comments, in The New Republic, concerning Alice Quinn's Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box (uncollected poems, drafts and fragments by the American poet Elizabeth Bishop). I like Helen Vendler. I like her uncompromising, New Critical perspective and the rigour of her reading, but she is wrong to see Alice Quinn's book as a "betrayal" of Bishop. Michael Schmidt, in his editorial for PN Review no.169, says:
Readers of Bishop’s poetry are interested in the poems, in how they work, in how they came about. It is an arrogation on Vendler’s part to speak for the poet who, in leaving her papers to an archive, spoke with sufficient, quiet eloquence, herself. To limit access to Bishop’s working, to reserve the progressive spectacle of her creative process to academic scrutiny, to preserve it from the poet’s common readers, is a very high-church thing to do.
Faber and Faber have announced the projected publication of a seven-volume edition of The Complete Prose of T.S. Eliot, under the General Editorship of Ronald Schuchard and an advisory board comprising Warwick Gould, Archibald Henderson, Sir Frank Kermode, Edward Mendelson and Christopher Ricks. The edition will be published jointly by Faber and Johns Hopkins University Press in the United States:
TS Eliot was one of the most prolific and wide-ranging prose masters of our age, and the collections of essays published during his lifetime have had an immeasurable impact on literature, culture, and the humanities. At the beginning of the 21st century, however, the majority of Eliot's prose (over 700 essays and articles) remains uncollected or unpublished, nor are there critical editions of those collections published during his life. For the past fifty years, most assessments of Eliot's work and thought have been produced with little access to these materials, which remain scattered in numerous libraries and institutional collections around the world.
Poet Thomas Meyer's Coromandel is now online. (And a CD is available from Brown Roux, 17 Stuyvesant Street #16, New York, NY 10003, for $15 US dollars (including p&p).)
Start in the middle. Speak to the heart. Touch the quick flesh of words. Explore the bardo of the instant. Bring the present moment suddenly, startlingly, to life. Thomas Meyer does that: he wakes us up to ourselves, and makes us wonder why we had been so long asleep. Coromandel is an urgent message from another world – but which one? The deities within us speak and become words on a page: swooning, we follow.
"What is the image of Jerusalem that dwells in your mind?" So asks artist Steve Sabella at jerusalem-in-exile.net:
Work started on the preparation of an exceptional book with a new concept jerusalem in exile – tangible memories by artist Steve Sabella. The book seeks to explore the visual imagery held of Jerusalem by Palestinians who live in the Diaspora, as well as by Palestinians who live in Palestine but are incapable of reaching their city. The project will photographically ‘materialize’ the various mental images Palestinians hold of Jerusalem in their memories and imagination. The art experience will be documented in an art book, to be edited by poet Najwan Darwish that will compile various testimonies and texts on Jerusalem and other related subjects by a number of distinguished Palestinians artists, intellectuals and participants.
I was going to be reviewing Douglas Oliver's Whisper "Louise" for PN Review in the next month or so, but another article on the book came in so my piece wasn't needed and I'm off the hook! (I'll be reviewing the excellent In Time of Need instead.) The title was recently reviewed by John Hall for Jacket magazine and now, this weekend, Martyn Everett of BookSurfer reviews it:
Poet and one-time Cambridge journalist Douglas Oliver has written a remarkable book, interweaving recollections of his own life with accounts of episodes from the life of the legendary anarchist Louise Michel. But it is far, far more than a simple exercise in biography, as Oliver uses the coincidences and dissonances of the two lives as a way of exploring memory and meaning, the construction of self, and the nature of revolutionary action.
Worth keeping your eyes our for: War & War, by Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai, is just about to land. Originally published in Hungary in 1996, I think, this is Krasznahorkai's second novel in English from American publisher New Directions (who don't have the rights to sell War & War in the UK, so you won't find it in a UK bookshop, but getting it online will be easy enough) translated by poet George Szirtes, who also translated the earlier The Melanchology of Resistance. No less than WG Sebald commented that Krasznahorkai's prose "far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing."
Always a pleasure to receive books from Verso. And yesterday three gems arrived from "the most radical publisher in the UK and US" (or so they style themselves these days): Negri's Books for Burning: Between Civil War and Democracy in 1970's Italy ("Long before Antonio Negri became famous around the world for Empire and Multitude, he was infamous across Europe for [these] incendiary writings" ... Books for Burning consists of five pamphlets written between 1971 and 1977); David Harvey's Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development; and a backlist title, Franco Moretti's Atlas of the European Novel, 1800-1900.
For those interested in Moretti, Franco Moretti's Graphs, Maps, Trees: A Valve Book Event ("a series of short essays and comments") is a good place to start online.
Ooh, now I am excited about this: Freud's Requiem: Mourning, Memory, and the Invisible History of a Summer Walk (Continuum) by Matthew Von Unwerth (director of the Abraham A. Brill Library of The New York Psychoanalytic Institute & Society, and coordinator of the Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination, no less!) The book is billed as an exploration of Freud’s ideas "on creativity and mortality and their roots in his history" and a search for "broader lessons about love, memory, mourning, and creativity."
Written in 1915 during winter and wartime, Freud’s little-known essay On Transience records an afternoon conversation with 'a young but already famous poet' and his 'taciturn friend' about mortality, eternity, and the 'sense' of life. In Freud’s Requiem, the philosophical disagreement between Freud and his companions - who may have been the poet Rainer Maria Rilke and his muse and former lover Lou Andreas-Salomé - becomes a prism through which to consider Freud’s creativity as a response to his own experiences, from his passionately curious, lovestruck teenage years to his death after a long struggle with cancer in 1939. Drawing on a variety of literary and historical sources - Homer, Goethe, as well as Freud’s own writings, including his letters - Freud’s Requiem is both an intimate personal drama and a spirited intellectual inquiry.
Next month, 3:AM is helping to launch Bruce Benderson's The Romanian (published by London-based Snow Books), the first non-French novel to win the Prix de Flore ("Le prix de Flore, du nom du célèbre café de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a été créé en 1994. Il s'est donné pour mission de couronner un jeune auteur au talent prometteur."). The UK launch is on May 3rd at 7.30pm at The Horse Hospital, London WC1N 1HX.
A year ago, Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins conducted a survey of women readers to find a "watershed" women's novel, "the book which, above all others, had sustained individual women through key moments of transition or crisis in their lives." The winner was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, with Pride and Prejudice not too far behind. Jardine and Watkins have now repeated the exercise (more details of which can be found in the Guardian) with men. A very different list has emerged with The Outsider by Albert Camus coming out top. Other favourites for the men were Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. One reason advanced for the kind of books these men chose was that "men's formative reading was done between the ages of 12 and 20 - indeed, specifically around the ages of 15 and 16. For men, fiction was a rite of passage into manhood during painful adolescence. Many men admitted that they had read little fiction since".
The excellent Book Works is calling for proposals for new chap books: "a series of artists’ books of short treatises/chapters/pamphlet style publications." For application details please send a large self addressed envelope to:
19 Holywell Row
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
As you'd hope, Book Works "welcome proposals from all sections of the community, including practitioners from culturally diverse backgrounds." The deadline for proposals is May 12th 2006.
Before you send them a 900 page manuscript (hint: don't), take a look at their other lovely, tiny chap books, including Suitcase Body Is Missing Woman by Eva Weinmayr, Lost in Space by Andrew Dodds and Head in the Railings by Siôn Parkinson.
The Orwell Prize for Political Writing has been won by a novelist: Delia Jarrett-Macauley has won the prestigious award for Moses, Citizen and Me (Granta) a book about child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Now, I heard this on the Radio 4's Today programme this morning, but I can't find out much more information online. As soon as I do, I'll update this post.
I just noticed (from the Guardian Unlimited Books newsfeed on the bottom right of the RSB homepage), this Brecht story: "A series of letters discovered in a Swiss cellar reveal how Bertolt Brecht, Germany's famously uncompromising playwright, fell out with some of the 20th century's most glittering literary figures, including the novelist Christopher Isherwood" (from Newly discovered letters show Brecht's talent for offending). Well, to be honest, I didn't notice! Mr Nicholas Jacobs, of Libris, brought it to my attention.
Two world wars and twelve years of national socialism took their toll on the reception of German culture in Britain, particularly literature (German music survived unscathed). Libris’s principle aim was and is to contribute to the restoration of that literature to its rightful place in the English-speaking world.
Published on Tuesday, but only in the US for now, is A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe (not that that means you can't buy it very easily from anywhere!) This is the "largest and richest volume of poetry by [Fernando] Pessoa available in English, featuring poems never before translated alongside many originally composed in English." The poems are translated by the unlikely-named Pessoa expert Richard Zenith (translator of the wonderful, eccentric and baggy The Book of Disquiet and who edited and translated The Education of the Stoic: The Only Manuscript of the Baron of Teive). Zenith provides a useful introduction and notes and good information on Pessoa's "heteronyms". "There is nobody like Pessoa" is something WS Merwin once said, by the way. But, you now, I could've said that!
I began reading Edward Said's On Late Style (one of my Books of the Week this week, alongside Amorgos by Nikos Gatsos) at the weekend. The book, nicely reviewed by Paul Griffiths in the latest BookForum, was left unfinished when Said died of leukaemia, aged 67, back in September 2003. With the help of his wife Mariam and the literary critics Richard Poirier and Michael Wood (who, as one would expect from such an excellent writer, provides a useful, short introduction) the work has been constructed and looks to be a fitting last book by a key intellectual figure of the last few decades.
The first essay in the book is an engagement with Adorno's work on late Beethoven. Indeed, Adorno haunts this work. Whilst On Late Style is being billed as Said's last book of literary criticism it is every bit as much a book of musicology.
Edward Said looks at a selection of essays, poems, novels, films, and operas to determine what late style may explain about the evolution of the creative life. He discusses how the approaching death of an artist can make its way “with anachronism and anomaly” into his work, as was the case in the late work of Thomas Mann, Richard Strauss, Jean Genet, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, and C. P. Cavafy. Said examines Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Genet’s Le captif amoureux and Les paravents, Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Visconti’s film of Lampedusa’s The Leopard, Euripides’ The Bacchae and Iphigenia at Aulis, and Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, among other works.
JC Hallman's The Devil Is a Gentleman sounds bonkers, like something Jon Ronson or Louis Theroux might write, but coming out of an engagement with William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience:
Varieties was a watershed effort: a bestselling portrait of history’s pluralism and a defense of the spiritual quest, in all its guises, against the era’s increasingly secular sentiments. Today, with all the old tensions between skeptics and believers still in place, JC Hallman pays homage to James’s exploration of offbeat religious movements. But where James relied on the testimony and biographies of prophets and mystics, Hallman travels directly to some of America’s newest and most unusual religions, trekking from Druid circles in the mossy hills of northern California to the gleaming mother church of Scientology ... Along the way, he participates in a variety of rites and reports on a broad spectrum of beliefs. Eventually Hallman adopts James as his patron saint, spiritual adviser, and intellectual companion on the journey that will culminate in the creation of this book, a compelling combination of adventure and biography, spotted with hair-raising predicaments and rife with poignant portraits of unforgettable characters, including William James himself.
Michael Syrotinski's translation of The Flowers of Tarbes by Jean Paulhan (the introduction to which is online here at RSB) got a decent, small review, courtesy of Steven Poole, at the Guardian last Saturday. We'll be interviewing Professor Syrotinski here at RSB very soon.
A sign at the entrance to a park says it is forbidden to carry flowers inside. The crass authoritarianism of such a stricture (the idea is that anyone actually carrying flowers must have picked them from the park itself) prompts the French literary critic Jean Paulhan to a scintillating essay on commonplace expressions, language and rhetoric that was first published in 1941 and should still give pause to contemporary writers eager to declare war on cliché ... The argument is playful and urbanely self-contradicting at every turn ... I especially liked the author's sober admiration of a poet "for whom poetry seems so serious that he has taken the decision to stop writing it". Most pleasingly, he ends up running rhetorical circles around himself, confessing that he was a "terrorist" all along and pleading with the reader to act as though he had said nothing. One hopes that Paulhan continues the conversation somewhere with the shades of literary giants, carrying as many flowers as he wishes.
I've just reviewed Alberto Manguel's memoir With Borges:
Borges had known he would turn blind from an early age and finally lost his site in 1957. He was a voracious reader of a wide range of books and Manguel lists some of the titles that were housed in the modest flat Borges shared with his mother, Doña Leonor (who called him Georgie, which was his Northumbrian grandmother's nickname for him), Fanny, their maid, and Beppo, the big white cat. Borges, it transpires, loved Stevenson, Chesterton, Henry James and Kipling, and he loved the Arabian Nights, the Bible, epics like Njals Saga, Homer and Virgil: "epic poetry brought tears to his eyes." He disliked "faddish" literary theory blaming French literature "for concentrating not on books but on schools and coteries."
Romantic Poetry and the Fragmentary Imperative locates Byron (and, to a lesser extent, Joyce) within a genealogy of romantic poetry understood not so much as imaginative self-expression or ideological case study but rather as what the German romantics call "romantische poesie"—an experimental form of poetry loosely based on the fragmentary flexibility and acute critical self-consciousness of Socratic dialogue. The book is therefore less an attempt to present yet another theory of romanticism than it is an effort to recover a more precise sense of the relationship between Byron's fragmentary or "workless" poetic and romantic poetry generally, and to articulate connections between romantic poetry and modern literature and literary theory. The book also argues that the "exigency" or "imperative" of the fragmentary works of Schlegel, Byron, Joyce, and Blanchot is not so much the expression of a style as it is an acknowledgment of what remains unthought in thinking.
Not much in this morning's post, but what came was wonderful: Alberto Manguel's short memoir (just 74 pages) With Borges (from Telegram Books, new imprint of Saqi Books); the Ingeborg Bachmann reader Last Living Words and Steve Katz's Antonello's Lion (Green Integer); and, thrillingly, two new CDs from the sublime Cold Blue Music - Daniel Lentz's On the Leopard Altar and Chas Smith's Descent.
In 1964, in Buenos Aires, Jorge Louis Borges, by this time blind, approached sixteen-year-old Alberto Manguel, then serving in a book shop, and asked if he would be interested in a part-time job reading aloud to the old writer. With Borges is "part memoir, part biography and all celebration of the living quality of literature."
Cold Blue Music is the leading exponent of West Coast minimalism and post-minimalism. "The label defines a certain ‘Southern California sound,’ uncluttered, evocative and unusual, with a wistful emotional edge."
To be "rushed out in time for the 3rd anniversary of the declaration of war on 20th March and the major international demonstrations on 18th March", Verso (in collaboration with the Stop the War Coalition) are just about to release Not One More Death: "Luminaries of literature, science and music unite in their condemnation of the unjust war on Iraq and its disastrous occupation":
John le Carré attacks Tony Blair’s attempts to save the US and UK’s special relationship by giving legitimacy to the war; Richard Dawkins writes of the terrifying discourse of Good and Evil that dominates the Bush government’s thinking; Brian Eno tears apart the alleged reasons for the war and makes a compelling argument for the withdrawal of troops; Michel Faber highlights how language and rational debate gurgles down the drain in an atmosphere of hysteria; Harold Pinter’s excoriating Nobel acceptance speech; Iraqi writer Haifa Zangana documents the shocking record of atrocities in occupied Iraq and argues for the right of the Iraqi people to resist
The two latest titles from the excellent Clinamen Press are certainly worthy of a larger audience: Virtual Mathematics: the logic of difference, edited by Simon Duffy, and The Transversal Thought of Gilles Deleuze: Encounters and Influences, by RSB-interviewee James Williams, are both well-produced, challenging works of modern philosophy. I'll be commenting more on both of these books over the coming weeks.
This has been widely linked to, but librarians rule, so I'm happy to keep the meme alive: the New York Public Library has unveiled its annual list of 25 Books to Remember.
The Books to Remember program celebrates its 50th anniversary this year—with a list of outstanding titles chosen for their “distinct and lasting contribution to literature.” A panel of NYPL librarians works for months to pick the year’s most outstanding titles. The panel of seven begins by examining hundreds of book reviews. Next, they plunge in, each reading on average more than 100 of the year’s most notable works. Discussions and debates follow as the merits of each book are weighed. Finally, a vote decides which 25 make the list of the year’s most memorable reads.
The list includes some of the (dull) usual suspects (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer; Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro; On Beauty by Zadie Smith), some books we've reviewed here on RSB (The March; Small Island), Windows on the World by Frederic Beigbeder, which I thought clumsy and disingenuous, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, which moved me a great deal, and a couple of other titles that look worth tracking down - Bread and Roses: Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream by Bruce Watson ("vividly reconstructs the story of the 1912 textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a watershed moment in American labor history") and The War Works Hard by Dunya Mikha’il (translated from the Arabic by Elizabeth Winslow, this "intimate, subversive, and farsighted collection by an Iraqi poet chronicles the effects of tyranny and war on the psyche.")
The debut issue is:
Charles D'Ambrosio, Kelly Link, Anna Deavere Smith, Marilynne Robinson, Haruki Murakami, Rick Moody, Motoyuki Shibata, Yoko Ogawa, John Haskell, Lucy Raven, Peter Gizzi, Matthea Harvey, Antoine Wilson, Peter Orner, Ian Chillag, Jeremy Glazier, and others.
Superheroes, Hollywood in the McCarthy Era, translating grapefruit into Japanese, New Jersey porn, Tutsi women, the coal mines of West Virginia, Chekhov, Galileo, Salinger, that weird guy who lives down the street and drives by your house slowly, Bertolt Brecht, digging a hole to China, and more.
Intesting piece in the Independent reporting that the PM Tony Blair revealed his favourite reading matter at a World Book Day event in London yesterday. Blair said: "There were people who got me very involved in politics. But then there was also a book. It was a trilogy, a biography of Trotsky by Isaac Deutscher, which made a very deep impression on me and gave me a love of political biography for the rest of my life."
Radical publisher Verso will be loving this. Verso publish Isaac Deutscher's massive biography of Trotsky in three volumes: The Prophet Armed: Trotsky 1879-1921, The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky 1921-1929 and The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky 1929-1940. In a press release the publisher asks, "does this mean that even Verso, the radical left publishers, are now part of the Blairite project?" Let's hope not: the thought of a whole load of publishers tooling up and invading Iran does not make me happy!
The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize shortlist has been announced. For the past few years the prize has always thrown up some interesting titles but, despite thinking Fatelessness a very good book, I'm a bit underwhelmed by the rest of the choices this year: This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun; Mercedes-Benz by Pawel Huelle; Fatelessness by Imre Kertész (reviewed on RSB; and Kertész will be talking on Sunday at Jewish Book Week); Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson; The Door by Magda Szabó and The Ministry of Pain by Dubravka Ugresic.
Yesterday, Reaktion very kindly sent on to me Robert Bevan's excellent looking The Destruction of Memory. Just now I read, via the Distributed Presses blog, of an article by Robert Bevan in the Sydney Morning Herald:
Bevan argues that ... attacks on cultural and religious sites are "double attacks" on a society's foundations, "This is not collateral damage. It can be an attempt to destabilise a society or, where memories, history, and identity are attached to architecture and place, to enforce forgetting." In addition to the destruction of the Golden Mosque by unknown forces, Bevan's editorial provides various examples of different factions' uses of architecture in Iraq: the Shiite Mahdi Army's occupation of the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf in order to gain protection from the U.S forces, who knew that attacking the shrine would be unforgivable in the eyes of the Shiite population; the reprisals from Shiite groups toward Sunni mosques following the destruction of the Golden Dome; the U.S. military's use and disregard of historical sites, its militarily worthless "Shock and Awe" method, and its general failure to protect Iraq's heritage sites from looting and destruction.
Hamid Ismailov was forced to flee Uzbekistan because he was regarded as having "unacceptably democratic tendencies". He came to London in 1994 and is now head of the BBC Central Asia Service. His debut novel The Railway, translated from Russian by RSB interviewee Robert Chandler, will be published by Harvill Secker on Thursday 2nd March 2006:
Set between 1900 and 1980, The Railway introduces to us the inhabitants of the small town of Gilas in Uzbekistan. Among those whose stories we hear are Mefody-Jurisprudence, the town’s alcoholic intellectual; Father Ioann, a Russian priest; Kara-Musayev the Younger, the chief of police; and Umarali-Moneybags, the old moneylender. Their colourful lives offer a unique picture of a land populated by outgoing Mullahs, incoming Bolsheviks, and a plethora of Uzbeks, Russians, Persians, Jews, Koreans, Tatars and Gypsies.
On March 8th at 5.30pm there will be a reading, with Robert and Hamid, including snacks and wine! The event is free and will be held at St Benet’s Chapel, Queen Mary College, Mile End Road, E1 4NS (Mile End tube). For more (and please RSVP): email@example.com.
On April 4th at 6.30pm Robert and Hamid will be accompanied by music from Uzbek musicians (presumably, not whilst they read). This event is also free and to be held at Leighton House, 12 Holland Park Road, W14 8LZ (High St. Kensington tube). For more (and essential to RSVP): JacksonRowlandson@randomhouse.co.uk.
The Get London Reading ("[e]ncouraging Londoners to make more time for reading") project came to my attention the other day when a young man shoved a copy of The Rough Guide to London by the Book into my hand as I was running to catch a train back to sunny Stockport after a day in a very cold London. The guide is "[p]acked with obscure and intriguing information (How did Graham Greene survive the bombing of his Clapham house in 1941? Which nineteenth-century poet was in the habit of sliding naked down the banisters?), it chronicles the waves of novelists, poets and playwrights who have lived in London over the centuries, written about it, and developed its identity as a result." You can download (pdf!) a copy if you fancy a gander.
Tom Gauld and Simone Lia's exhibition of books, drawings, paintings and prints continues to run at Analogue Books up in Edinburgh. You can also see some of the work in the Cabanon Press gallery. Also worth noting is that Tom's new screenprint The Hairy Monster, a guide is just out. Tom also has a new story entitled Sample Collection Unit 413/R87.13 in the anthology Kramers Ergot Six which is due out this summer. Simone's Fluffy part four is also out now, completing the cutest story ever told about a rabbit who thought he was real.
Beckett once said to a friend, "All I want to do is sit on my ass and fart and think of Dante". "Ass"? Surely Beckett would have said "arse"? Anyway, Beckett centenary a timely reminder of a lifetime of artistic integrity, by Rachel Campbell-Johnston, in today's Times (via the literary saloon) reminds me, again, of the upcoming Beckett centenary events and that James Knowlson's Beckett Remembering: Remembering Beckett: Uncollected Interviews with Samuel Beckett and Memories of Those Who Knew Him (Bloomsbury) is out in the UK March 6th (Arcade's version has been out in the US since January).
Thinking of Dante, fans of Italy's finest son should certainly remember The William and Katherine Devers Series in Dante Studies (issuing out of the University of Notre Dame Press). Part of that excellent series is John A Scott's remarkable Understanding Dante, which was Book of the Week here on RSB a month ago.
According to The Times:
The decay of Britain’s most treasured books will be halted with the help of a device developed to help police to detect drugs and bombs. The British Library is buying an “electronic nose”, with the help of a £200,000 grant from an American foundation, to sniff out books in urgent need of conservation. An electronic sensor can determine whether paper is breaking down at a molecular level from the musty smell, caused by acids, which is the first sign of decay.
Green Integer are about to release Last Living Words: The Ingeborg Bachmann Reader, translated from the German by Lilian M. Friedberg with an introduction by Dagmar C. G. Lorenz (the book should be available, in the UK, in July). Bachmann was a close friend of Thomas Bernhard's and appears as a character in Extinction (so Steve tells me). Green Integer have previously published her early work Letters to Felician.
This Ingeborg Bachmann Reader consists of works of poetry and fiction published during the life of the great Austrian writer. Brilliantly translated by Lilian M. Friedberg ... Bachmann is no longer the frail and tortured writer presented in so many previous translations, but is a writer who stands as a strong woman and major literary figure. Born in Klagenfurt, Austria on June 25, 1926, Ingeborg Bachmann studied law and philosophy at the universities of Insbruck, Graz, and Vienna ... Over the next many years, she produced numerous collections of poetry, fiction, and radio plays, including Anrufung des Großen Bären (Invocation of the Great Bear), the collections of stories Das dreißigse Jahr (The Thirtieth Year) and Simultan, and the novel Malina.
James Wood reviews Robert Alter's beautifully presented and "remarkable new translation of the Pentateuch," The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary, in this week's London Review of Books:
Robert Alter eschews ‘face’ to describe the surface of the world at the start of Genesis, and I miss the cosmic implications, but his first two verses amply compensate with their own originality: ‘When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath hovering over the waters, God said: “Let there be light.” And there was light.’ The King James Version has ‘without form and void’ for Alter’s Anglo-Saxonish ‘welter and waste’, but Alter, as throughout this massive work, provides a diligent and alert footnote:
The Hebrew tohu wabohu occurs only here and in two later biblical texts that are clearly alluding to this one. The second word of the pair looks like a nonce term coined to rhyme with the first and to reinforce it, an effect I have tried to approximate in English by alliteration. Tohu by itself means ‘emptiness’ or ‘futility’, and in some contexts is associated with the trackless vacancy of the desert.
Out in March, in Faber's Poet to Poet series, is Michael Hofmann's choice of Robert Lowell (1917-1977) poems. Lowell's Life Studies, published in 1959, is seen as a decisive turning point in American poetry, a turn to the confessional and autobiographical which, I'd argue, has not, recently, served poetry that well (how many sub-Plath emotings do we need?) As Hofmann says in his excellent introduction, Lowell was controversial throughout his writing life - and remains so. Faber published Lowell's massive Collected Poems in 2003. (More on Lowell at Modern Amercican Poetry site. Some useful links at learner.org too.)
A new (British) film, by director Michael Winterbottom, about the horrors of Guantánamo Bay has, it seems, excited audiences at the Berlin International Film Festival and is being tipped to win the festival's prestigious Golden Bear award. The film is funded by Channel Four and will air on British TV on March 9th (the day after, the film will be released online, on DVD and in cinemas). The Road to Guantánamo is the story of the three British Muslims (Rhuhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul, the so-called Tipton Three) who were held at the US military base for two years without charge or trial.
This is all very timely as it was only yesterday that the Guardian reported that a leaked UN draft report said that treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay constitutes torture in some cases and violates international law.
Usefully, just recently out in paperback from The New Press is Torture: A Human Rights Perspective edited by Kenneth Roth and with an introduction by Geoffrey Robertson. Due soon is David Rose's Guantánamo: The War on Human Rights.
Widely linked to, but worth citing again just in case you've not seen it: the first issue of Green Integer Review is now online.
Christine Brooke-Rose was born in Geneva and educated at Somerville College, Oxford and University College, London. She taught at the University of Paris, Vincennes, from 1968 to 1988 and now lives in the south of France. Carcanet have just released her Life, End Of:
She is eighty. Facing death, she considers her experiments with narrative, and with the narrative of her life. What is the purpose of the narrative she is creating here, and what the purpose of the life that lives it in the writing? At the centre of Life, End Of, in a mock-technical lecture from the Character to the Author, she comes to accept that her experiments in narrative are like life: the narrative creates itself ... Christine Brooke-Rose’s last novel is a darkly comic exploration of the meanings and non-meanings to which, in the end, life and art lead us.
The Brooke-Rose Omnibus brings together four unexpected novels: Out, a science-fiction vision of a world surviving catastrophe; Such, in which a three-minute heart massage is developed into a poetic and funny narrative; Between, a glittering experience of the multiplicity of language; and Thru, a novel in which text and typography assume a life of their own. Linking them all is wit, inventiveness and the sharply focused intellegence of Christine Brooke-Rose, a great European humanist writer.
The University of Alabama Press ("Life is short. Read good books.") have just published Coming Out of War: Poetry, Grieving, and the Culture of the World Wars by Janis P Stout. Back-cover puff (coming from Philip Beidler, author of Late Thoughts on an Old War: The Legacy of Vietnam) reckons:
It is hard for me, as a reader, to contain my praise. This study of the poetries of the great wars of the 20th century in their relation to what Stout calls the culture of mourning is comprehensive and masterful. It is immensely learned, yet readable. Most important, the book is intensely wise and humane, distilled from a career of reading and writing and meditating on the meanings of art forms and expressions.
And the publisher's own description certainly make it sound worth a read:
While probing the work of such well known war poets as Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, and Randall Jarrell, Stout also highlights the impact of the wars on lesser studied, but equally compelling, sources such as the music of Charles Ives and Cole Porter, Aaron Copland and Irving Berlin. She challenges the commonplace belief that war poetry came only from the battlefield and was written only by men by examining the wartime writings of women poets such as Rose Macaulay, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, and Gwendolyn Brooks. She also challenges the assumption that World War II did not produce poetry of distinction by studying the work of John Ciardi, Karl Shapiro, Louis Simpson, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens. While emphasizing aesthetic continuity between the wars, Stout stresses that the poetry that emerged from each displays a greater variety than is usually recognized.
Camus at Combat: Writing 1944-1947 (Princeton University Press), edited and annotated by Jacqueline Lévi-Valensi, translated by Arthur Goldhammer, and with an introduction by David Carroll, has just landed.
Paris is firing all its ammunition into the August night. Against a vast backdrop of water and stone, on both sides of a river awash with history, freedom's barricades are once again being erected. Once again justice must be redeemed with men's blood.
"Albert Camus (1913-1960) wrote these words in August 1944, as Paris was being liberated from German occupation. Although best known for his novels including The Stranger and The Plague, it was his vivid descriptions of the horrors of the occupation and his passionate defense of freedom that in fact launched his public fame." Usefully, PUP have a copy of the first chapter online:
Articles that appeared in clandestine issues of Combat can at best be classified as "probably" by Camus, and it is not out of the question that he wrote others. For obvious reasons, he kept no record of what he wrote, and no firm conclusions can be drawn from either the themes or the style of what was published, since everything that appeared in the paper constituted an act of resistance and reflected goals shared by everyone who wrote for it.
After reading John Banville's Man Booker prize-winning The Sea, a slim volume trumpeted as fiction, I was startled to discover, upon perusing my hefty atlas, that this supposedly fantastical place named Ireland was an actual island ...
On February 1, 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran after fifteen years of exile [and] was acclaimed the leader of the Iranian Revolution. Later that year revolutionary students would storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran and take the staff hostage, to profound consequence. One observer of the Iranian Revolution was Michel Foucault, who was a special correspondent for Corriere della Sera and le Nouvel Observateur, for whom he wrote a series of articles. In Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism, Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson illuminate Foucault's support of the Islamist movement and show how Foucault's experiences in Iran contributed to a turning point in his thought.
Also, read Foucault's What Are the Iranians Dreaming About?
Shame is a bi-lingual text in prose and poetry ... When Birgit Kempker — a younger German writer living in Basel — invited Kelly to create a work together, neither knew the other except by reputation. They proceeded, over the course of two years, to communicate by e-mail through sixteen exchanges, and the subject was shame, shame at its most personal and prosaic and intimate, sometimes even fetching, and at its most generic and couched and poetic and hallucinatory ... Shame is a book spoken between two lovers who will never be lovers, a book of the unabashed and prised apart secret intimacy that can be laid bare against all constraint by ghostly lovers — virtual, exemplary, psychic guides to one another...and the rest of us.