Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Odds & sods

Taking on some slighter things while waiting against the day:

Stefan Themerson, Hobson's Island: Clever, in the way Roubaud's Hortense series is (unadvertised as one in a series of sorts itself). Barbara Wright's preface was a surprise, in that Themerson wrote in English, but: he also prevailed upon her to take up translation, with Jarry's Ubu Roi to cut her teeth on, for his Gaberbocchus Press, for which she is 'eternally grateful'. Me too. (Dalkey has redesigned its website to take direct orders over the 'net, but its physical location is up in the air since the transfer from Illinois State to Rochester fell through -- spent some time between colleges myself ... which might segue into:)

Cees Nooteboom, Philip and the Others: Not so much coming of age as going of youth. Nooteboom went on to write travel books before returning to novel writing; this first novel presages but does not approach the later work (earning a high GPA at complete-review, which excludes this one from consideration). From his last stateside publicity tour, a profile (this VN-ese idea is curious -- does CN's The Knight has Died echo Sebastian Knight?) and interview; last week comp-rev pointed to a Baedecker of an undiscovered country.

Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen: Reportage from a privileged position inside Auschwitz, important as testimony but eclipsed by Primo Levi and others (even Kertesz treats stripping conceit as a conceit). The writing occasionally rises to another level, as with Letter VII from "Auschwitz, Our Home": "You know how much I used to like Plato. Today I realized he lied. For the things of this world are not a reflection of the ideal, but a product of human sweat, blood and hard labour. It is we who built the pyramids, hewed the marble for the temples and the rocks for the imperial roads, we who pulled the oars in the galleys and dragged wooden ploughs, while they wrote dialogues and dramas, rationalized their intrigues by appeals in the name of the Fatherland, made war over boundaries and democracies. We were filthy and died real deaths. They were 'aesthetic' and carried on subtle debates."

Marguerite Duras, The Square and Moderato Cantabile: The first half of Four Novels (novellas, really) repackaged by Grove Press, various translators; strong and spare character studies, not as innovative as other nouveau roman works, but no less worthwhile for that.

I've been interspersing my reading with making my way through Seamus Heaney's Opened Ground, selected poems '66-'96 (having been impressed by his versions of Beowolf and Sweeney). The Page has recently brought to notice other Nirish poets, such as Michael Longley (though wife Edna steals the show in the lede), Paul Muldoon ... so I'm a little behind the curve: SNYTMag weighs in with a profile.


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