Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Hrabal-hrousing and more

So it was 8 years ago that I introduced myself to the writings of Bohumil Hrabal, reading in quick succession Closely Watched Trains, I Served the King of England & Too Loud a Solitude, so I was past due to circle back, especially with his centennial in full swing, and my favorite publisher obliged, with Harlequin's Millions—no, nothing to do with Rupert Murdoch's $415MM romance—one of Hrabal's later novels, wherein he takes the place of his mother, who takes her place in a retirement home in a retired castle, whose residents are not so much out of place as out of time, passing time with tales of times past. Only sixteen paragraphs long, but each a meandering chapter, it nearly doubled the page-count of my hreading: as Ron Slate puts it, "Hrabel described his technique as pabeni or “palavering” – essentially a high-strung gabbing, a narrative preference he discovered in Beckett and Joyce, but also in Cervantes and even Dante. His realism is a kind of gentle hysteria; his world is undeniably ours but rendered through what pretends to be unbridled, aimless speech. It is kindled speech, Hrabal seems to be telling us, that creates the reality and for this reason he has no taste for conventional novelistic telling. His generosity is the access to actuality as it rises up in language. Here lie the pleasure and the beauty." (excerpt)

The translator, Stacey Knecht, acknowledges connecting with Hrabal: "Apparently, it is possible to fall in love with a writer you've never met. I'm honored to have had the privilege of falling in love with Bohumil Hrabal, with his words and music and images. If he were still alive, I'd tell him so, but instead, I've made a promise: to continue translating his books and advising everyone to read them." Netherlands-based, she's on an East Coast U.S. tour (NY, Boston [10 May], DC [15 May]) this month, inaugurated yesterday at "A Discussion on Works in Translation and International Literature" the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House. The readings there spanned a broad range, besides Hrabal:
Publisher Jill Schoolman, from her own translation, in Imagine Africa *new*;
Archipelago staff's Kendall Storey, a favorite from José Ángel Valente (trans Tom Christensen);
Chuck Wachtel, from Mahmoud Darwish (Simon Antoon), Aimé Césaire (Anna Bostock, John Berger) *new*, Meng Hao-Jan (David Hinton) (and another who escapes me, sorry);
and Richard Sieburth, on his translations of (16thc)literary Lyons, comparing Maurice Scève to Louise Labé *new*, refuting rumors that the latter was but a construct of the former. (oopsdate: a chat with Jeffrey Yang) (Sieburth was also the translator of Henri Michaux's Stroke by Stroke, the very first Archipelago I encountered.)

(Afterwards I dropped in on the BTBA reception, to congratulate Chad Post on his award winning an award, and met Alex Zucker, another translator from the Czech, who will be chatting with Stacey Knecht on 14 May @ WORD in Brooklyn.)


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