Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


The Other's Other

Whenever I visit a bookstore to procure a particular title, I always am on alert for some companion volume to assert itself from the shelf (more generally, though, bookbrowsing has not proven transferable to other venues of shopping, just as my training as a lab technician has proven inapplicable to cooking). In picking up Against the Day, the other title that leapt out at me was Yuri Rytkheu's A Dream in Polar Fog; appropriately enough, given both the farflung venue ("a distant northern land"?), timing (19-teens), and an initial pivot of dynamite -- an explosion mangles the protagonist's hands, and he finds himself at the mercy of a small indigenous community in Chukotka on the Siberian coast. The story [spoilert: synopsis], one part Melville's Typee and one part William Morris' News from Nowhere, is unusual for such narratives in presenting the circumstances filtered through both the interloper's and the communal standpoints. Rytkheu himself is Chukchi (he tacked on the 'Yuri' for documentation purposes when entering the Soviet education system; some manipulation on names occurs with his protagonist as well), born not long before the written form of his native language, though this text is translated from the original ['70?] Russian, which went out of print after USSR dissolution, back in print in '93 in German -- perhaps mirroring the vicissitudes of the region. Which led me to ponder another conundrum: What does a book seemingly so amenable to analysis via a postcolonial theoretical apparatus have to say about the hegemony of the Novel itself? That the novel accommodates and assimilates non-Western literary forms becomes problematic with a nonliterate culture; in this instance, the story is oriented (yeah, well ...) towards an outside audience, its lyricism occasionally erring into sentimentality.

Also read: Tanizaki's The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi, parodizing historical forms and the nasal fixation (Freudian not Urban sense, and, actually, dysfixiation).

PSA 'Tis the season to be donors: Many worthy nonprofit publishers of poetry and of translations are supported by (well-chosen) Lannan Foundation grants [click on Details...], but also welcome individual tax-deductible contributions.


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