Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence

7.10.06

Howahyah Five-O

Readings prompted by fiftiversaries, in Hungary and on the highways:

László Krasznahorkai, War & War, trans George Szirtes (note the latter blogs under "News"): The author's website supplies a better précis (and motivation, and samples) than I can provide, though I can add a pointer to the relevant work of Mario Merz. The experimental form, that may restrict minor character perspectives to a single (numbered) run-on sentence, reads surprisingly well and naturally in English, but then I've been known to oversubordinate myself. This is post-WW II not post-revolution, and the emphasis in on the premillenial decade; the protagonist, a provincial archivist, may well stand in for the nation here.

Michel Butor, Mobile ('62; trans Richard Howard '04): Across the American atlas A to Z, state by state, common proper placenames recurring, setting up an associative interstate network, blurring the boundaries between them by interleaving taxonomies of:
Cars of various makes, gas stations, 28 flavors at HoJo's;
Audubon's Birds of America, mail-order catalogues;
State flowers, birds, mottoes;
Natural features (rivers, lakes, mountains, caverns), National Parks, Forests, Reservations;
and so on to the divisions that then mattered: Native Americans; African-Americans: racism (for whites only); the Salem trials.
In the cities, foreign-language newspapers, radio, cuisine;
Regional variations in quotation: Franklin (Information to Those Who Would Remove to America), Jefferson (Notes on the State of Virginia), Louis Sullivan (Autobiography of an Idea), Andrew Carnegie (The Gospel of Wealth) ...
D'Agata's introduction (otherwise somewhat misconceived, overconnecting to the Interstate Highway System, just turned 50 this year) quotes Butor elsewhere: "The problem of the United States is the problem of what happens to Eurpean civilization when it arrives in a landscape that permits it to develop on a larger scale." But the cover blurb is better informed, pointing to the dedication "In the memory of Jackson Pollock", gone now 50 years, on whose later works the aesthetic of Mobile relies -- it has taken twice as long to rediscover the merits of Pollock's late work as it had for Mobile to garner any critical attention.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Mr. Waggish said...

Szirtes is an excelent translator. I'm very happy he's translating Satantango for publication next year. What else did you make of the book? I found it bedeviling to write about.

8/10/06 00:22  
Blogger nnyhav said...

I'd seen your posts on Bela Tarr relating to this, but didn't see that Satantango was next up for Szirtes. Good news.

What else on W&W? I'm a sucker for the archivist hook, and for nested manuscripts, but how these are folded in, like much else, is as digressive as the sentence structure, hard to get a handle on. There is also an element of naivete not restricted to Korin. All of this relates to an aesthetic that remains opaque, perhaps by design -- I don't know enough about Hungarian art trends to say more about that.

On Mobile I'd meant to say that Butor's portrait of America is more incisive and coherent than e.g. BHL's anecdotage. Better said below the fold I s'pose.

8/10/06 01:06  

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