Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Recent translations

Fernando Pessoa (Richard Zenith trans & ed), A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe Selected Poems (Penguin '06)
Zenith brings more to the fore of four of Pessoa's personages: Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis, Alvaro de Campos, and 'himself'. While his prior collection, Fernando Pessoa & Co., is better overall (and atypically was my introduction, rather than the better-known The Book of Disquiet of Bernardo Soares), this nonoverlapping selection provides more depth via their production into the heteronyms (particularly de Campos) which are themselves a crucial aspect of Pessoa's literary accomplishment, not that the poems don't stand well by themselves (though some here are fragmentary, but then, so too was Pessoa). Pessoa's innovations to Portuguese poetics owe something to his familiarity with English (though his English writing is atavistic) and perhaps this eases translation; his last written words were in English, "I know not what tomorrow will bring," the day before his death.

Borislav Pekić (S.Dickey & B.Rakić trans), How to Quiet a Vampire A Sotie (Northwestern '05)
A personality at war with itself, Konrad Rutkowski, a medieval historian whose past as a Gestapo Obersturmführer catches up in a case of mistaken identity (you've got the wrong man!), rationalization buttressed by an arsenal of Western rationality (philosophy, historiography) in letters written to a distant brother-in-law, wrapped in commentary (preface, footnotes) by investigatory narrator Pekić, along with appendices of interrogation as mock Socratic dialogue (yeah, I'm lookin' at you, JH -- the chess thing doesn't work quite so well here either) and nihilistic Tractatus. Good and evil: Hegelian thesis and antithesis not synthesizing, but compromising. Ambitious but not without flaws, though these hardly detract from the overall effect. Pekic's widow started a blog this spring (English/Serbian), including excerpts from the intro and novel.

Peter Weiss (Joachim Neugroschel trans), The Aesthetics of Resistance Vol. I (Duke '05)
Western tradition, primarily as evinced in art, provide the frame and commentary for preWWII European leftist politics; the problems of artistic and political representation intertwine amid the fractures at the base of civilization. Top marks per Complete Review: "The Aesthetics of Resistance proves that a book can be political and convince aesthetically [pace Nabokov]. Weiss does more than that even: his novel is a superior piece of art, a fusion of subject, content, and presentation that succeeds on every level." I doubted this assessment in the middle, after a strong start, but an equally strong ending convinced; V. I works stand-alone, but I want to know what I have to do to get to V II & III Englished. The only flaw in this volume is Frederic Jameson's prefatory blatherings, which, if they belonged at all, belonged afterwords, but they don't (unless ironically). Weiss is better known for Marat/Sade but deserves to be better known for this.


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