Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence

7.2.07

Midwinter midweek readings

Hugo von Hofmannsthal, The Lord Chandos Letter and other writings: So far as prose goes, HvH was a one-hit wonder; the other writings, not all complete (here excluding longer efforts, similarly not all complete), show craft and competence, occasionally art, but do not approach the spirit of The Letter. (Hofmannsthal forsook poetry shortly thereafter, becoming Richard Strauss' librettist and then a political essayist.) There's piquancy to the notion that, in this venue, what he'll be remembered for writing was about an inability to continue writing.

Roberto Bolaño, Amulet, trans Chris Andrews: Braced for a let-down after By Night in Chile and Distant Star, I was pleasantly disappointed in my expectation, though the monologic form from a fractured perspective masks some inessential weaknesses. It challenges loftier interpretations of the events of '68 in Mexico City -- it might be termed the 'other' "Other Mexico", seen from outside (by an Uruguayan; Bolaño's surrogate also present) but within the larger Spanish tradition, stripping out Paz's conceits of the centrality of both ancient indigenous and modern U.S. influences ... the Metaphor in Paz's Conjunctions & Disjunctions also gets a work-out:
And that is when time stands still again, a worn-out image if ever there was one, because either time never stands still or it has always been standing still; so let's say instead that a tremor disturbs the continuum of time, or that time plants its big feet wide apart, bends down, puts its head between its legs, looking at me upside down, one eye winking crazily just a few inches below its ass, or let's say that the full or waxing or obscurely waning moon of Mexico City slides again over the tiles of the women's bathroom on the fourth floor of the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature ..."
The narrator's days-long self-sequestration here during the military incursion on UNAM is the hub around which all else revolves, the one certainty, the time that is of the essence. This narrative unfolds as time does not within it. (One oddity: The Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data omits Bolaño's date of decease, despite listing copyright as belonging to his heirs; it was present on the copyright page for Last Evenings on Earth.)

FS&G is bringing out The Savage Detectives (trans Natasha Wimmer) in early April, but it's 2666 that I look forward to most; meanwhile, it looks like the best that the spring releases have to offer.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Mr. Waggish said...

Disagree somewhat on Hofmannsthal. I'm very fond of the Kleist-like "Event in the Life of Marshall...", which leads me to think that he -could- have continued writing fine work but realized its redundancy.

10/2/07 21:35  
Blogger nnyhav said...

I know, Bassompierre was chosen as exemplary of German short stories of the period -- but it seems to me pretty bleak between Goethe and the turn of the century. Did you ever find out more about the complaint that it relied too much on Goethe's German Refugees?

(sorry about delayed response -- I was unattainably devoid)

19/2/07 10:33  

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