Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Graven ruins

Carlos Emilio Gadda,That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana (trans William Weaver): In a word, overripe. The faded, fated, feted, fetid glory of Rome in early ilducean times (March '27) -- an investigation of a double crime that hits its principal investigator close to home. It is an aw[e]ful mess, a maze of false turnings: Language ornate, wordplay baroque, some gems, mostly semiprecious, gilding the gelding -- a barrenness of great wealth or power set against the fecundity of poverty, chaos, decay. Many mixed messages, multiple dualities; the signal-to-noise ratio is low, but meaningfully so. Unlike Joyce's Dublin or Cabrera Infante's Havana, I felt hindered by a lack of geographic familiarity, especially as to its historical overlay (and history is as much a culprit, or at least an accessory after the fact). Even so, a difficult read, in any case. [excerpt]

I'm glad to see the NYTBR devoting long-overdue attention to fiction in translation. Minor cavil: Scant coverage of presses devoted to bringing this about -- no Dalkey Archipelago on their maps, one lone nyrb offering (the only press covered twice [well, once and a half] is Seven Stories). Nary a word of Int'l PEN coming to town either.


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