Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Ramblin' Man

Life is a journey. I'm not the sojourner. Not pilot, navigator, nor passenger. Nor even the vehicle. I'm the ride, the traversal (and maybe, just maybe, cartographer). No itinerary, except in retrospect, and that keeps changing. Everything prepares me for what I'll see, though nothing could. Nobody can see everything anyway, but I try to see all I can.

Taking in the sights is a matter of accretion, of assimilation. I take a bit with me, leaving nothing of myself behind. Each experience leaves some trace, incrementing the mental topography, as fluid as any natural landscape, dunes shifting, mountains eroding, rivers changing course. The topography in turn determines how new experience will be incorporated, nothing taken in all at once, even when the change is as abrupt as an earthquake or a volcano. Or experience may be refracted through a fellow traveller, even (especially?) when meeting that traveller is the event, reciprocally reshaping the corresponding landscapes. The voyages can never be fully shared, as separate points of origin affect how significant features are received, landmarked, and the terrains remain distinct even as the maps nominally coincide. And yet, amid all the give and take, nothing is lost.

But the I of which I speak is not this internal landscape, no more than the sojourner upon it. The territory is what I make of it, and vice versa, as I make the journey. Making it up as I go along. Finding my place in the world and finding the world in my place. It is all one, inseperable in aspect.

Why do I say I? It might just as well be you. It's merely a placeholder. But even (especially?) the same words convey different meanings.



Friday evening found me in the midst of the Washington Mews (and PEN events) for an open-air ceremony announcing the winners of the 2013 Best Translated Book Award, with Chad Post (of sponsor 3% and of Open Letter) presiding, and after a prologue introducing Finnegans List, with Bill Martin (translator and co-founder of The Bridge Series) announcing the poetry winner and Michael A. Orthofer (of the complete review) announcing the fiction winner.

The fiction winner is no surprise: George Szirtes' Laszlo Krashnahorkai's Satantango [NDP], though Marian Schwartz's Mikhail Shishkin's Maidenhair [Open Letter] gave it a run for the money.

The poetry prize was less of a lock, but deservedly went to Sean Cotter's Nichita Stanescu's Wheel with a Single Spoke [Archipelago Books]. (I say deservedly unreservedly, though I hadn't read the the other contenders, since Stanescu certainly merits wider notice; and I look forward to Cotter's rendering of Cartarescu's Orbitor for us in October.) (Us? I'm still getting used to pronoun usage as regards Archipelago Books, and here of course I speak for myself. Though not much lately, sorry.) This is Archipelago's first award for poetry and third overall, tops among publishers, NDP having one each in poetry and fiction. But it's great to see Open Letter gaining traction, and other lit-trans pubs getting off the ground—the kind of competition I'm into is the kind that raises everybody's game.