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Archive for the 'Fiction' Category

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: Julia Kristeva and Teresa of Ávila in the New York Times

Julia Kristeva

Today’s fiction corner features Julia Kristeva’s new novel Teresa, My Love: An Imagined Life of the Saint of Avila. While Kristeva first made her name as a philosopher and critic, she has also written several novels, including Murder in Byzantium and The Old Man and the Wolves.

In her newest novel Teresa, My Love, Kristeva mixes fiction, history, psychoanalysis, and personal fantasy. The novel follows Sylvia Leclercq, a French psychoanalyst, academic, and incurable insomniac, as she falls for the sixteenth-century Saint Teresa of Avila and becomes consumed with charting her life. Traveling to Spain, Leclercq, Kristeva’s probing alterego, visits the sites and embodiments of the famous mystic and awakens to her own desire for faith, connection, and rebellion.

In today’s post, we are happy to present excerpts from the recent New York Times book review of Teresa, My Love, written by Carlene Bauer:

Imagining a Saintly Life, Some of It Not So Holy
‘Teresa, My Love,’ Julia Kristeva’s Latest Novel
By Carlene Bauer

It is hard, even knowing just a few facts about Teresa of Ávila, not to fall in love with her. This 16th-century Spanish mystic, saint and doctor of the church could sigh over her own limitations with the precision, earthiness and wit of a born writer. “I could be bribed by a sardine,” she once wrote. Nor did she muffle her sighs over the sisters in her care. “Believe me,” she wrote, “I fear an unhappy nun more than many devils.”

The French psychoanalyst and literary critic Julia Kristeva has not been immune to the charms of this holy woman. She has put Teresa on the couch before (most recently in “Hatred and Forgiveness”), and in “Teresa, My Love,” she, or rather her alter ego, the clinical psychologist Sylvia Leclercq, analyzes Teresa and her historical, spiritual and sexual significance.

Descended on her father’s side from Jewish converts to Christianity, this girl who grew up to have raptures was the very pretty daughter of a woman who loved to read novels, a 16th-century Emma Bovary. Her mother passed that love on to her daughter, who might herself have become a thwarted dreamer like Emma, save for a thirst for glory and independence. At 7, Teresa persuaded her brother Rodrigo to run away to “the land of the Moors,” so they could be martyrs. At 21, she ran away again, despite her father’s wishes, to the Carmelites, partly to avoid an unwanted marriage, partly to heed a call.

Sylvia reads Teresa as a woman who needed a Father to love her without judging her for her passions, and a woman who needed to be one with the Son to assure herself she was not solely female, because to be female meant to be sentenced to motherhood. Teresa is also considered, not as explicitly, an exemplar of the feminine genius that Ms. Kristeva has contemplated in books on Hannah Arendt, Melanie Klein and Colette. Teresa did not imprison herself in an interior castle of mysticism but reformed an order and founded 17 monasteries, traveling all over Spain. In Ms. Kristeva’s interpretation, Teresa isn’t “the patron saint of hysteria,” as Freud’s mentor Josef Breuer called her, but the patron saint of passionate pragmatics.

Why Teresa again and why now? “What’s left of that universe of faith and love, what’s left of the windmills?” Sylvia Leclercq asks. “Chimeras, TV soap operas for avid women and their partners. Or God’s madmen, the suicide bombers, who pretend not to realize that he (the Almighty, the Master, the One and Only, the True, the Beyond) has mutated into pure spectacle, and twist their alleged faith into murderous nihilism.” Teresa’s life and her writings could be one antidote to this malaise, because, according to Sylvia/Ms. Kristeva, she “ventures as far as possible along the route that beckons the person who doesn’t give up on believing, the person who talks as a way of sharing, and who loves in order to act.”

“Teresa, My Love” is perhaps strongest when Ms. Kristeva sets her characters in dialogue, particularly a three-act play in which Teresa, on her deathbed, converses with figures like her confessor and friend John of the Cross. Here, Ms. Kristeva’s affection for her subject finds effortless expression in a vibrant and persuasive imagining of Teresa as she might have sounded off the page. Her ebullient exegesis will probably most delight those who think that faith and love need more spokesmen and spokeswomen than just Pope Francis — and more than just believers to speak of them.

Read the full review here.

Monday, December 15th, 2014

A Q&A with Janet Poole on Modernist Literature in Korea

When the Future Disappears

The following is an interview with Janet Poole, author of When the Future Disappears: The Modernist Imagination in Late Colonial Korea.

Q: Your book deals with an extraordinary group of writers working in Korea at the height of Japanese occupation during the Asia-Pacific War. How did you first become interested in their work?

JP: When I was first studying Korean and living in Seoul, there were these uncanny ways in which the colonial past seemed to exert an ongoing effect in the present. For instance, old people would come up to me in the street, when I was standing at a bus stop for example, and start talking to me in Japanese. Luckily I had learnt Japanese and could answer! But what really intrigued me was that they would not be surprised when I answered them in Japanese, but would just carry on having a regular conversation with me. This had never happened to me in Japan. I became interested in the history of colonialism and especially the ways in which it left traces in language and language use. Naturally—as a fiction lover—I started to read novels and short stories from that time. I had learnt that colonial occupation had been brutal and, most of all, that it had prevented Koreans writing in Korean, especially as the Asia-Pacific War intensified. But when I picked up books of canonical short stories—the best loved in the nation and the like—so many of them were written in the late 1930s. It seemed such a contradiction that the stories most heralded still today had been written when supposedly Koreans had the least possibilities for expression. That’s what got me interested. (more…)

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: Ground Zero, Nagasaki

Ground Zero, Nagasaki

In this installment of our Thursday Fiction corner we will be featuring the just-published Ground Zero, Nagasaki: Stories by Seirai Yuichi and translated by Paul Warham.

Seirai Yuichi’s stories are set in contemporary Nagasaki, and draw an unflinching portrait of the A-bomb’s horrific, ongoing trauma. Whether they experienced the attack directly or have merely heard about it from survivors, many of the characters in these stories filter their pain and alienation through their Catholic faith, illuminating a side of Japanese culture little known in the West. For hundreds of years, Christianity was suppressed in Nagasaki, but the religion enjoyed a revival in modern times. The Urakami Cathedral, the center of Japanese Christian life, stood at ground zero of the A-bomb attack.

Here is the first story from the collection, “Nails”:

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: Julia Kristeva and St. Teresa

Julia Kristeva, Teresa My Love

Today’s fiction corner features Julia Kristeva’s new novel Teresa, My Love: An Imagined Life of the Saint of Avila. While Kristeva first made her name as a philosopher and critic, she has also written several novels, including Murder in Byzantium and The Old Man and the Wolves.

In her newest novel Teresa, My Love, Kristeva mixes fiction, history, psychoanalysis, and personal fantasy. The novel follows Sylvia Leclercq, a French psychoanalyst, academic, and incurable insomniac, as she falls for the sixteenth-century Saint Teresa of Avila and becomes consumed with charting her life. Traveling to Spain, Leclercq, Kristeva’s probing alterego, visits the sites and embodiments of the famous mystic and awakens to her own desire for faith, connection, and rebellion.

Below is an excerpt from the novel:

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: A Conversation with Julio Cortázar

Julio Cortazar

Welcome back to the Thursday Fiction Corner. As always, we are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, the leading publisher in avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! From time to time in the Fiction Corner, we have delved into the amazing list of interviews included in past issues of Dalkey Archive’s Review of Contemporary Fiction. This week, we have done so again, looking back to a 1983 interview with influential Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar, in which Cortázar discusses the influence of Borges, creativity in literary criticism, and his belief that humanity has taken “the wrong path.” The entire interview can be found on the Dalkey Archive Press website.

A Conversation with Julio Cortázar
By Evelyn Picon Garfield

EPG: Let’s begin with some general questions. How would you characterize your writing within the context of a literary generation in Argentina and in Latin America?

JC: The question is somewhat ambiguous because there are many ways to belong to a generation. I suppose you are referring to a strictly literary generation. Let’s leave Latin America aside until later since the Argentine panorama is complicated enough. In order to understand generations you must have distanced yourself in time because while you are experiencing that generational context, you don’t realize it. I mean that when I began to write, or rather publish in 1950, I wasn’t aware of any generational context. I was able to discern some strengths, writers I admired in Argentina and others I detested; but now, twenty-five years later, I believe I’ll be able to say a few intelligent words about it. The first part of my work is situated along extremely intellectual lines, the short stories, Beastiary for example. It is rather logical to imagine that in the fifties I was inclined towards the most refined and cultured writers, and to some extent influenced by foreign literatures, that is European, above all English and French. It is necessary to mention Borges, at once, because fortunately for me, his was not a thematic or idiomatic influence but rather a moral one. He taught me and others to be rigorous, implacable in our writing, to publish only what was accomplished literature. It is important to point this out because, in that period, Argentina was very unkempt in literary matters. There was little rigor, little self-criticism. Someone as extra ordinary as Roberto Arlt, the opposite of Borges in every sense, was not at all self-critical. Perhaps for the best, since self-criticism might have rendered his writing sterile. His language is untidy, full of stylistic errors, weak. But it has an enormous creative force. Borges has less creative energy in that sense, but he compensates for it with an intellectual reflection of a quality and refinement that for me was unforgettable. And so I automatically leaned towards that hyper-intellectual bent in Argentina. But it is all ambivalent because at the same time I had discovered Horacio Quiroga and Roberto Arlt, populist writers. You know the division between the Florida and Boedo groups. I had also discovered those in Boedo. And what I called “force,” a moment ago, impressed me. So, for example, the whole “porteno” side of city life in the short stories of Bestiary, I owe—not as a direct influence but rather as rich themes—to Roberto Arlt. Because despite all that has been said about Borges’ Buenos Aires—a fantastic, invented Buenos Aires—that Buenos Aires does exist but it is far from being all that the city is. Arlt perceived things from below for cultural, vital and professional reasons and saw a Buenos Aires to live in and stroll through, to love in and suffer in, while Borges saw a Buenos Aires of mythic destinies, of a metaphysical mother and eternity. So you see, my place in that generation—which is not mine but the previous one—at the same time fulfills a kind of moral, ethical obedience to Borges’ great lesson, and a teluric, sensual, erotic (as you like) obedience to Roberto Arlt. There are many examples, of course, but this one should give you an idea of what I mean. Others in my generation followed similar paths at times, but I know of no one else who simultaneously encompassed those two poles. There were pseudo-Borgeseans who produced an imitative literature.

The worst one can do, as far as Borges is concerned, is try to imitate him. It would be like wanting to imitate Shakespeare. In Argentina, those who tried to copy Borges, with books full of labyrinths and mirrors and people dreaming they are dreamt by others—you know all those Borgesean themes—as far as I know, didn’t produce anything of value. On the other hand, those who tended towards a more populist approach, towards the Argentinian wan, like Arlt and Quiroga, there, many achieved extraordinary works. I would cite Juan Carlos Onetti’s case. He’s not Argentinian, but we make no distinctions between Uruguayans and Argentinians in literary matters. Quiroga was also Uruguayan. A man like Onetti, whose greatest early influence was William Faulkner, but, at the same time, the direct contact with the streets, the people, the men and women of Uruguay, had a personality that, in my opinion, made him one of the greatest novelists of Latin America. Onetti is a little older but we can be included in the same generation of those who were inclined towards realism and produced a more important work than those who sought the purely intellectual and fantastic side of Borgesean mythology. Unconsciously I ended up straddling the two sides because if you think about the short stories in Bestiary you will find what has concerned many critics and what everyone now knows, that my stories are, at once, very realistic and very fantastic. The fantastic is born of a very realistic situation, an everyday, routine episode with common people. There are no extraordinary characters like Borges’ Danes or Swedes or gauchos. No, my characters are children, youth, ordinary people; but the fantastic element suddenly appears. That was all completely subconscious for me. I’ve needed to read many critical studies to realize that. Really, I never know anything about myself; you critics are the ones who show me things, and then, I realize.

I’m going to tell you something, Evie. I don’t believe I’ve ever written anything intellectual. Some works lean in that direction; for example, Rayuela emerges from a concrete fact and the characters begin to talk, so they launch into theories. Well, you and I can also theorize now if we like. But it’s always on a secondary level. I wasn’t born for theorizing.

EPG: Before, you mentioned how to write short stories as if you exorcised them. Also you said you act almost like a medium. But many people can experience such sensations without writing short stories like “Las babas del diablo” (“Blow-Up”) or “Autopista del Sur” (“The Southern Thruway”) or “Todos los fuegos el fuego” (“All Fires the Fire”).

JC: That’s the great difference between the creation of fiction and the criticism of fiction. When I was young I respected the critics but I didn’t have a very good opinion of them. They seemed necessary, but to me creativity alone was of interest. I’ve changed a lot since then because, as some critics have studied my books, they’ve shown me a great deal that I’ve ignored about myself and my work. At times criticism is called a kind of secondhand creativity. That is, the short story author writes from a void while the critic begins with an already finished work. But that is also creativity because the critic has reserves, mental and intuitive powers that we authors do not possess. There is a sort of division of labor. The critic spends his time lamenting that he’s not a creator. Bruno complained he was not Johnny; but if I could speak for Johnny now, he would also complain about not being Bruno to some extent. I, myself, would like to be a kind of synthesis of the two, even for a day, for one day of my life, creator and critic. When I say creator, it is always with some embarrassment because it is a word loaded with Romantic significance from the nineteenth century; that is, the creator is a sort of minor god. I no longer believe that. The creator is a laborer like many others. There is no scale of values that places the creator above the critic. A great critic and a great author are absolutely on the same level.

(more…)

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: Haïlji and The Republic of Užupis

In a post from earlier this year we featured the recently launched Library of Korean Literature Series, published by Dalkey Archive Press. Next week, Dalkey and the Korean Cultural Centre UK are having a big, two-event launch party on November 4th and 5th, with Haïlji, author of The Republic of Užupis.

On the 4th, there will be a book launch with Hailji; John O’Brien, CEO of Dalkey Archive Press; and Richard Lea, a writer from The Guardian. On the 5th, there will be a discussion and screening of The Road to Racetrack, based on the Haïlji’s controversial novel of the same name.

For more on Haïlji’s work and books from the library, here is a sampler that includes excerpts from the initial books from the series:

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: Interview with Adda Djorup, a Contributor to Best European Fiction 2015

Best European Fiction 2015The 2015 edition of Dalkey Archive Press’s popular Best European Fiction is now available. The following is an interview with Adda Djorup, who wrote the story “Birds” as the Danish contribution to the volume:

Question: You have lived in a number of countries, including Spain and Italy. Have those experiences affected your writing? Do you feel that there is a “European Fiction”, or do you notice differences in each literary community?

Adda Djorup: Living outside of my own country has certainly affected my writing. Naturally all writing begins with observing and reflecting. When I place myself out side of my usual geographic and cultural context, I feel that it sharpens my observations, not only of the things that are culturally different than what I am used to, but also of the things that are universal. I feel that there is both a ’European’ fiction and differences in each literary community. Or to put it differently: I feel that any book simultaneously belong to several communities. That’s the beauty of literary fiction – it belongs to individual readers, nations and languages, and it also transcends borders between individuals, nations and languages.

Q: How important is it to you to be translated into English?

AD: I am very happy to be translated into English. I love the process of writing itself, but I’d also really like for my texts to be read – if they weren’t it would feel like talking into a void. And I’m always happy when people care to tell me how they read my work. Besides I have a lot of friends who speak English but not Danish. Now I will be able to show them some more of my work in a qualified translation.

(more…)

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: Interview with Hadrien Laroche, author of “Orphans”

“My books are humorous. You can hear the laughter that accompanies every tragic moment!” — Hadrien Laroche

Orphans

Earlier this year, we published an interview with Hadrien Laroche, author of Orphans. Now that the book is available for sale, we are reposting the interview and for more on the book and Laroche, read a recent article from The Irish Times:

Q: Henry né Berg, one of the characters in Orphans, seems to be inspired by a distant relative of yours, the banker Edouard Stern. Can we as­sume that Hannah née Bloch and Hélianthe née Bouttetruie are also real people?

Hadrien Laroche: That’s true. The day they announced Edouard Stern’s death, I called my editor, thunderstruck, and told him “Henry né Berg has been killed!” He was equally stunned. But one needs to be careful: in spite of what I myself thought at the time, in shock, Edouard Stern really was killed, not Henry né Berg. Orphans is a work of fiction, a fabrication. Henry né Berg incarnates the willing, philo­sophical orphan. He is one element of my portrait of Man orphaned of his humanity. The concept and experience of the orphan is the subject of all my work. My orphans belong to no one: to no name, no country, not even a language. And obviously, to no family. Milan Kundera said, “what an author creates [. . .] belongs to no one but himself.” I’m going further than that. To be the descendant of one’s work means something else: the work doesn’t belong to the author in the least, no more than a child belongs to its father, or a mother belongs to her child. So it’s not a roman à clef, nor is it autofiction. It’s rather an aesthetic project that starts from life experience. (more…)

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: Translating a Novel of Sadism — On Alain Robbe-Grillet’s “A Sentimental Novel”

A Sentimental Novel, Alain Robbe-Grillet

“I am unconvinced that the only man on the planet with horrifying fantasies was Alain Robbe-Grillet.”—D. E. Brooke

Recently The New Yorker interviewed D. E. Brooke, the translator of A Sentimental Novel, just published by Dalkey Archive. The interviewer Elisabeth Zerofsky admired Brooke’s controlled translation of Robbe-Grillet’s disturbing novel and wanted learn more about the translator. Turns out D. E. Brooke is a pseudonym and the translator’s identity remains hidden but “Brooke” was willing to answers some questions about the novel and the translation, here are some excerpts:

Q: Why did you feel that it was important that this book be translated and published in the English-speaking world

D. E. Brooke: I remember sitting in a coffee shop with a writer friend who mentioned that Robbe-Grillet’s last novel remained untranslated in English, and that this was due to the disturbing nature of the material it contained. I said immediately that I would translate it. The reasons had less to do with the book’s contents than with my own history as a reader and my encounter with “La Jalousie” at age fifteen. It was a portal that introduced notions of narrative voice, authorial choice, and the reader’s relationship to text in ways that I had not considered, as I devoured my way through more conventional fiction that served a different purpose: allowing me to escape my reality at the time. Any number of other works by twentieth-century authors might have triggered similar reflections and explorations. Only, in my case, Alain Robbe-Grillet was the instigator and, as an adolescent, I remember the excitement produced by the book’s propositions: that it purportedly granted greater agency to the reader, supposedly bared the scaffolding of writing. These claims intrigued me and gave me a first taste of something. So my reasons for translating “Un Roman Sentimental” were, you could say, purely sentimental.

(more…)

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: An Interview with Dorothy Tse, author of Snow and Shadow

Snow and Shadow, Dorothy Tse

“I don’t regard my stories as departing from conventionally understood reality. I think humans are adapting and transforming themselves in radical ways. If we can eat meat made in a science lab, then it’s possible for a woman to change into a fish.”—Dorothy Tse

The following is an interview with Dorothy Tse, author of the short story collection Snow and Shadow. In a review of the book, Joyelle McSweeney wrote, “”I’m stunned by the resolve, accomplishment, and strangeness of this vision. Tse joins the ranks of artists currently remaking the world.”

The interview originally appeared on the book’s website, where you can also read excerpts from the collection.

Question: Can you envision the ideal reader of your fiction—in terms of background, education level, tolerance for gruesome imagery, or any other traits you think matter? Stated otherwise, what attributes does a reader need to have to fully appreciate and understand what you are communicating in Snow and Shadow?

Dorothy Tse: One of the privileges of being a writer is that you don’t have an audience in front of you as you write. I don’t want to sacrifice this freedom by imagining an actual reader. Plus, any reader that I can imagine will never be as creative and complex as the actual readers I may have.

Q: Which eastern and western authors do you consider to be your primary influences?

DT: I do not distinguish between Eastern and Western authors. When I was young, I liked reading fairy tales from anywhere—sometimes stories in the Bible gave me a similar kind of enjoyment. But my formal consciousness came from reading mainland fiction writers who exploded on the scene in the 1980s. After mainland China had had a closed-door policy for decades, these Chinese writers were influenced suddenly by writers from around the world, such as Kawabata, Márquez, and Kafka. The subsequent formal experiments by these Chinese writers felt like looking into a kaleidoscope.

(more…)

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: Vice Celebrates 30 Years of Dalkey Archive

Alix's Journal

A recent article by Blake Butler published in Vice celebrated 30 years of Dalkey Archive Press.

In recognizing the singular achievement of Dalkey, Butler wrote:

For the past 30 years Dalkey Archive has quietly and consistently been a vital aesthetic cornerstone in print. Each year the publisher produces a new stream of titles sourced from all over the world, extending one of the most ambitious catalogs in literature. From canonical cornerstones like Gaddis, Barth, Barnes, Ashbery, and Huxley, to lesser known or more contemporary masters such as Hawkes, Infante, Kiš, Gombrowicz, and Reed, and through a world literature series focusing on Catalan, Norwegian, and Turkish writers, among others, the archive maintains a colossal library of important works available all under one roof….

It’s sort of like a museum in that way, a source intent only on providing sustenance for major works that may have disappeared, or never appeared at all.

Butler also recommended several of his favorite Dalkey books, including:

Geometric Regional Novel, by Gert Jonke

Tripticks, by Ann Quin

The Magic Kingdom, by Stanley Elkin

The Other City, by Michal Ajvaz

Alix’s Journal, by Alix Cleo Roubaud

Europeana, by Patrik Ouředník

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: The Value of Publishing Translation

John O'Brien, Dalkey Archive Press

“Both surprised and pleased with the willingness of other countries to help finance such publications, it wasn’t until much later I began to wonder why they did this–why was being published in English so important?” — John O’Brien

We are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, one of the leading publishers of avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! In today’s Thursday Fiction Corner post, we are happy to present a short essay written by John O’Brien, the publisher of Dalkey Archive Press, on his history of publishing works in translation and on the cultural value that he believes such works provide. The essay originally appeared in The Art of Empathy: Celebrating Literature in Translation, a collection of essays on translation published by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Chris Andrews, Translator, Critic, and Fan of Roberto Bolaño

“It has been a privilege to be involved, as a translator, in the process by which Bolaño’s fiction travelled from Blanes in Catalonia to Hyderabad and the western suburbs of Sydney, to name just two places where I know it has been read with a passion.”—Chris Andrews

Roberto Bolano's Fiction, Chris AndrewsIn addition to being the author of Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction: An Expanding Universe, Chris Andrews is also the translator of several of Bolaño’s novels. His roles as translator, scholar, and critic give him a distinct understanding of Bolaño’s novels.

Andrews was recently asked by Publishers Weekly to discuss a book by Bolaño that has perhaps not received as much attention as it deserves, and he selected Distant Star, a novel he translated and was published in English by New Directions in 2004. The following is an excerpt from his essay:

Bolaño knew, at least from 1993, when he was diagnosed with a progressive autoimmune disease of the liver, that his chances of a long life were slim. I like to think that in 1995, as he wrote Distant Star, he also knew that he was finding his way into an enormous and singular territory, and that, as a writer, he would not have to start over. In Nazi Literature in the Americas, under the influence of Jorge Luis Borges and a lesser-known Argentine, Juan Rodolfo Wilcock, he had described imaginary works in a work of fiction. In Distant Star, he took another step, which would prove to be decisive, bringing three more processes into play: expanding what he had already written, allowing his characters to return, and exploiting their tendency to overinterpret their surroundings.

(more…)

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: A. G. Porta, Roberto Bolaño’s Writing Partner

“Whereas the Porta-Bolaño world is one of violence and sweaty-balled erudition, entering The No World Concerto is like entering an M. C. Escher lithograph.”—Darren Koolman

The No World Concerto, A. G. PortaSince our featured this book is Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction: An Expanding Universe by Chris Andrews, we thought we would take a closer look at the work of one of his early collaborators and life-long friend, the Spanish novelist A. G. Porta, author of The No World Concerto.

Bolaño and Porta co-wrote Consejos de un discípulo de Morrison a un fanático de Joyce (Advice from a Morrison Disciple to a Joyce Fanatic), which was published in Spanish in 1984. It was the first published book for both authors.

In an article about Bolaño in Public Books, David Kurnick writes that the book:

Announces the birth of some of Bolaño’s durable obsessions, most notably his vision of the physical and moral proximity of artistic practice and state terror. [The novel is a] noir account of an unlikely crime spree undertaken by a Joyce-obsessed Spanish writer and his South American girlfriend over a long Barcelona summer….

In his introduction to the 2006 reissue, Porta quotes a 1981 letter from Bolaño proposing to “do with Joyce (or with J. J.’s Ulysses) what Joyce had done with Homer and the Odyssey. Of course there’s a big difference! But the result could be really interesting, a kind of Pollock drip-painting, the translation of Joycean symbols and obsessions into a short, violent, rapid novel.” In the event, the novel does not demand a refresher course in Irish modernism: allusions to Joyce abound, but they take a backseat to the action (the duo likes to cite Ulysses’s opening lines at the start of each stick-up).

A. G. Porta has also written several novels on his though as of yet, the only one translated into English has been The No World Concerto (for more on the book read Eric Lundgren’s excellent review in The Quarterly Conversation).

In describing the book Darren Koolman, one of the novel’s translators, writes:

The No World Concerto features some of the characters from [Porta's] previous three novels. But, besides retaining the same beguilingly simple prose style and metatextual construction, it is markedly more ambi­tious than any of his previous works. Ostensibly the story of an old screenwriter’s struggle to finish his script, and his relation­ship with a former student—a female piano prodigy referred to only as “the girl”—who is similarly struggling to write her own novel, it is a bewildering superposition of tales within tales that often blend seamlessly into one another…. As with his first novel, the book is haunted by the ghost of Joyce, and again like that novel, there is the folie à deux relationship of two ambitious characters intent on escaping their situation. But whereas the Porta-Bolaño world is one of violence and sweaty-balled erudition, entering the No World is like entering an M. C. Escher lithograph.

Below is an excerpt from the novel that includes a translator’s preface by Darren Koolman.

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Interview with Chris Andrews, author of Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction

Roberto Bolano's Fiction: An Expanding UniverseThe following is an interview with Chris Andrews, author of Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction: An Expanding Universe

Question: How did you discover Bolaño’s work?

Chris Andrews: Chatting with booksellers in Santiago and Valparaíso in 2001. Bolaño was already very well known in Chile: he had won the Premio Rómulo Gallegos, and revisited the country twice in 1998 and 1999. His relations with the contemporary Chilean literary world were stormy (see the end of “I Can’t Read” in The Secret of Evil) but his loyalty to Enrique Lihn and Nicanor Parra (who turns 100 in September) was total. I like to think that he has recruited new readers for those two great Chilean poets.

Q: Did you expect Bolaño’s work to find a large public in English when you began translating it?

CA: No, but not because I didn’t think it deserved to be widely read. With the first two books, I was thinking: This could be it, because that’s the way it usually goes. An author who is well known and respected in his or her language usually gets one or two shots in translation, and unless something special happens straight up, he or she falls into the category of authors who have been tried and found not to work. Luckily, Barbara Epler at New Directions didn’t approach Bolaño in that way: she was committed to waiting for something special to happen, which it did, with the story collection Last Evenings on Earth, and then with The Savage Detectives, which was published by FSG.

Q: What kind of book did you set out to write with Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction?

CA: Well, it’s a scholarly book, but I wanted it to be clear as possible. I wanted it to be as true as possible to the complexity of Bolaño’s work, even if that meant qualifying my arguments quite often. I wanted to do justice to textures and fine details, but also to connect the fiction with large ethical and political questions, such as: Does Bolaño glorify brawling? Is his work romantic? Is it anarchistic? The book as a whole has an arc: it moves, very roughly speaking, from form to content to value, and there’s a shift in the conceptual background from narratology to philosophy.

(more…)

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: An Interview with Tamaz Chiladze, author of “The Brueghel Moon”

“Ultimately, the function of literature is to intensify mystery, not to solve it, isn’t it?”—Tamaz Chiladze

Tamaz Chiladze, The Brueghel MoonThe following is an interview with Tamaz Chiladze, author of The Brueghel Moon.

The novel is part of Dalkey Archive’s new Georgian Literature Series:

Question: Are either of the protagonists—Levan and Nunu—in any way based on you, or on your own experiences in relationships?

Tamaz Chiladze: For me, Levan and Nunu are quite real—they’re flesh and blood people. They live their own lives, have their own relationships, but neither has any similarity to my person or my personal life.

In general, characters are born, and are not so much based on the autho’s personal experience, but are more dependent on readers and their life experiences. I believe authors are more interesting and involving if they are able to relate their narrative to that of the reader. The link between them, their common, shared stories, play an important role in establishing this contact. I could also add that, in a sense, the process of reading is an act of discovering oneself, of bringing oneself alive.

I doubt I will sound original if I say that literary characters not only enrich mankind ethically, but increase its numbers worldwide.

Q: The novel deals with psychiatric issues such as depression, psychosis and psychiatry itself. What motivates you to communicate such things? Do you seek to represent a relationship be­tween psychiatry and literature or the act of writing?

TC: I’m not at all sure what inspired me to write the novel. I think there is hardly a writer who has managed to avoid depressed states or psychosis. They just can’t, and this is particularly true in our mod­ern times. Sadly, depression, neurosis, and psychosis have become quite typical, as if they are the normal conditions of our existence.

A writer helps readers to overcome their solitude, anxieties and fears. In this sense he acts like a priest or a doctor. But because he has sinned himself, in fact, a writer cannot be a priest. Neither can he be a doctor. He is better suited to the role of patient, especially considering how many times his aching, torn heart has been darned with the thread of hope. I would say a writer is the last surviving representative of the ancient caste of clairvoyants or oracles.True, no one seems to heed him, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t telling the right stories or saying the right things.

In any case, my novel has nothing to do with psychiatry as a branch of science. Ultimately, the function of literature is to intensify mystery, not to solve it, isn’t it?

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Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: An Interview with Paul Emond, author of The Dance of a Sham

The Dance of a Sham

Welcome back to the Thursday Fiction Corner. As always, we are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, the leading publisher in avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! This week we feature an interview with Belgian author Paul Emond, conducted and translated by Becky McMullan. What happens when narrators transgress the “implicit pact” between readers and themselves? Paul Emond discusses below this possibility and its consequences, explored more fully by his unique styling in The Dance of a Sham.

Paul Emond interviewed by Becky McMullan. Translated from the French by Becky McMullan.

The Dance of the Sham is a book in a sentence, the reader does not have time to stop and process what he or she has just read; instead, one is compelled to read until the end, and without stopping. Did you work in this way when writing the book? That is to say, did you compose it in one “breath”?

No, it’s not at all “automatic writing” in the sense of the surrealists, for example. Despite the breathless pace of the words, it’s a very constructed novel in which the essential narrative template is the rivalry between the narrator and Caracala, the protagonist of his tale, or more so of his memories, or his most likely imagined memories.

The narrator is fascinated by the way in which Caracala was capable of telling stories, including eccentric and untrue stories, and of keeping his audience in suspense. Therefore for him, the narrator, it’s about doing the same thing with the reader of the novel: taking him or her along on a long story (the novel), to make the reader lose footing right from the beginning (as one might say of a swimmer), en route toward the ocean with no way of getting off the ship. (more…)

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: An Interview with Andrej Blatnik

Law of Desire: Stories

“After the new Central European literature managed to achieve a new freedom – the freedom to be ‘just’ literature, without any political ambition – it got back the chance to say something political without losing dignity. But instead of great political and social topics, which can motivate masses, now the politics of everyday life is something we encounter every day – and here the individual is the battlefield.” — Andrej Blatnik

We are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, one of the leading publishers of avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! In today’s Thursday Fiction Corner, we present an interview with Slovenian writer Andrej Blatnik, as he discusses his newest short-story collection, Law of Desire, and the tragic impact of desire on the human condition.

Andrej Blatnik with Dalkey Editor West Camel

This collection seems to suggest that the overarching ‘law’ of desire is that it is always accompanied by doubt or pain. Did you set out to write all or some of these stories with this in mind – or was it something you discovered in writing them?

In all of my collections of short stories, I try to put together the stories that fit within a specific frame. In You Do Understand, published by Dalkey Archive in 2010, the frame was formal – all the stories were shorter than 500 words. (At least in my native Slovenian, not all the translations managed to achieve that.) In Law of Desire, after writing the first stories, I discovered the “fil rouge” of desire in them, but not just any desire – a demanding one, and in addition to that, a demanding desire that brings also pain, not only pleasure. It goes without saying that the desire fulfilled seems not to be our desire anymore – isn’t that alone enough for doubt or pain?

However much your characters want to escape their desires, they seem ineluctable, despite the negatives associated with them. Is this the reason for the final tragedy of a story such as Electric Guitar ?

I had an interesting experience with that story. When I write about a specific topic, I look for advice from people who know more about this topic than I do. And when I finished Electric Guitar, I sent it to a friend of mine who is a social worker and a specialist in child abuse. She called me immediately: “Who told you about this story?” Well, nobody told it to me, it’s an act of imagination, I tried to explain, but she continued: “You need to tell me who told you about it, it’s absolutely unprofessional that this very sensitive story leaked since it could destroy even more lives if the media got to it.” It took quite a bit of effort to convince her that I really made the whole story up and that it was pure coincidence that it was very similar to another story — alas a true one — of a father and a child that her office wanted to keep as discreet as possible. We sometimes hear that no invented tragedy in literature, movies, etc., can compete with the tragedies of life itself – this story seems to prove it again. (more…)

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: A Conversation with Danilo Kiš

Danilo Kiš

“Art is the terrain where you are absolutely free and where you can explore all life’s beauties and all life’s vices without being punished. There’s a simple explanation for this: art is a replacement for real life. Art is the opposite of life. A normal person doesn’t write books.” — Danilo Kiš

We are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, one of the leading publishers of avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! Today we continue our series of Thursday Fiction Corner posts highlighting conversations from the Dalkey Archive backlist (so far we’ve featured Nicholas Mosley and Carlos Fuentes) with a conversation with Danilo Kiš and Brendan Lemon, which took place in 1984. Kiš was a Yugoslavian and Serbian writer known for combining narrative experiment and humor with the deadly serious realities of life in Eastern Europe in the mid and late twentieth century. In their interview, Lemon and Kiš discuss Kiš’s reading habits, his love of the technical aspects of writing, and “the problems of ethics and aesthetics.” Read the full conversation on the Dalkey Archive Press website.

Brandon Lemon: The act of reading is very important in Hourglass, especially the relationship between reading and dreaming. At one point you write that in The Interpretation of Dreams Freud didn’t pay enough attention to the reading we do before sleep. Do you read a great deal? What kinds of books do you read at bedtime?

Danilo Kiš: I read a great deal. And I generally dream about what I read more than about what I experience otherwise. I think that that would also have been the case for the father in Hourglass. Reading is also depicted in Garden, Ashes in the passage where the child reads a fragment from a novel about love. I like novels that work in bits of other books. It’s reassuring to those of us who spend most of our lives reading. It seems perfectly normal to me not only to dream about what one reads but also to insert what one reads into one’s life and one’s work. The relationship of reading to writing and of both to the rest of life is something that I’ve very consciously included in my work.

BL: Let’s get back to your reading.

DK: You know, I’m very lazy. I write little and rarely. But I read all the time, all kinds of things. I’m a big reader of poetry because I consider myself something of a poet manque. Technically, I know exactly what to do, and I like translating poetry. But I realized that I can better express myself in prose. (more…)

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Book Giveaway! The Collapse of Western Civilization, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

The Collapse of Western Civilization

This week our featured book is The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.

In addition to features on our blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Collapse of Western Civilization to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, July 11 at 1:00 pm.

“A chilling view of what our history could be. Ignore it and it becomes more likely. Read this book, heed its warning, and perhaps we can avoid its dire predictions.” — Timothy Wirth, vice chairman, United Nations Foundation, and former U.S. Senator and Member, U.S. House of Representatives

Read the introduction and the first chapter, “The Coming of the Penumbral Age”: