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Archive for the 'Fiction' Category

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

On the making of trout amandine and cauliflower gratin, an excerpt from “The Author and Me”

The Author and Me

In this week’s Thursday Fiction Corner, we continue our celebration of The Author and Me, written by Éric Chevillard and translated by Jordan Stump, which has been named as a finalist for the 2015 Best Translated Book Award in Fiction! Today, we are happy to present a short excerpt from the book which truly gets to the heart of the story: the contrast between the delicate and delightful preparation of trout amandine and the brutal and horrifying cooking (if one can use a word with such limited negative connotations to describe the process) of cauliflower gratin. Bask in the glory of the description of the first, and shiver in fear at the description of the second:

On the making of trout amandine and cauliflower gratin, an excerpt from The Author and Me
By Éric Chevillard, translated by Jordan Stump

So you begin, of course, by cleaning the trout, through the gills if you know what you’re doing, or more simply by making an inch-long incision in its belly, starting from the anus, taking care not to puncture the bile sac, lest you impregnate the fish’s pink, delicate flesh with a bitterness it succeeded in containing better than I, I must confess, Mademoiselle, but I have my reasons. Now rinse your trout, with care once again: there are sometimes little clots of blood still clinging to the spine. Cut off the fins, slash the end of the tail to prevent it from curling up in the frying pan like a scorpion’s, which would introduce into your lunch a note of aggression that will sooner or later be sounded by one of your tablemates anyway—whereupon you will lower your nose to your plate to find the exquisite tenderness your fellows deny you. Next, melt a tablespoon and a half of butter in a frying pan and, in another, dry roast a half cup of sliced almonds, stirring them gently with a wooden spatula. In your enthusiasm, you will have grown a third hand for snipping the parsley. Lower the heat under the first pan and, while in the other the almonds turn golden, brown your trouts (I put in two: I’d like one myself), dusted with flour and perhaps stuffed with a sprig of thyme. After eight minutes—men will have been born by the thousands, men will have died, that will give you a sense of those minutes’ import—turn the fish, salt and pepper the browned side, and add the parsley along with half the almonds. Let a few more minutes go by, turn the fish once again, scatter over the reserved almonds, drizzle the whole thing with the remaining butter and a little spray of lemon.

What do you think?

How much we’d have to say, if it weren’t rude to talk with your mouth full!

Whereas.

Whereas that woman.

Whereas, quite to the contrary, that woman.

Whereas, quite to the contrary, that woman began by dividing a cauliflower into little florets! (more…)

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Friday Fiction Corner: Éric Chevillard, the Best Translated Book Awards, and Cauliflower

The Author and Me

Congratulations to Éric Chevillard, Jordan Stump, and the team at Dalkey Archive Press! Chevillard’s The Author and Me has been named as a finalist for the 2015 Best Translated Book Award in Fiction!

The last line of Éric Chevillard’s brief biography on his website reads: “Hier encore, un de ses biographes est mort d’ennui.” Once translated: “Yesterday, one of his biographers has died of boredom.” For the non-Francophone reader researching Chevillard, it is difficult to uncover more biographical details on this French author. While he is relatively young, he published his first novel at age twenty three, and has been prolific enough to publish more than twenty works of fiction, including The Author and Me and Demolishing Nisard, both published in translation by Dalkey Archive. Writing in support of The Author and Me in the BTBAs at the Three Percent Blog, Michael Orthofer of the Complete Review gives a more complete run-down of Chevillard’s translated works. (more…)

Friday, May 1st, 2015

David Foster Wallace on Hedonism

Freedom and the Self

“Although Wallace would laud value hedonists for sticking out their necks and saying that life should be about something, he nevertheless expresses deep worries about the role of pleasure in a good life.” — Nathan Ballantyne and Justin Tosi

This week our featured book is Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert. In today’s post, the final post of the week’s feature, we’ve excerpted another section from Nathan Ballantyne and Justin Tosi’s essay, “David Foster Wallace on the Good Life.” In this section, Ballantyne and Tosi discuss DFW’s

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Freedom and the Self!

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Thursday Fiction Corner: David Foster Wallace on Ironism

Freedom and the Self

“Wallace’s insight on irony is this: when worn as a mask, irony helps one cast a striking figure, but it is privately, personally destructive.” — Nathan Ballantyne and Justin Tosi

This week our featured book is Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert. In the concluding essay in the collection, Nathan Ballantyne and Justin Tosi argue that David Foster Wallace’s “writings suggest a view about what philosophers would call the good life.” In today’s post (an intersection of this week’s feature and our weekly Thursday Fiction Corner), we’ve excerpted the section of Ballantyne and Tosi’s essay in which they discuss DFW’s conception of irony as a source of unhappiness in contemporary culture.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Freedom and the Self!

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Read Steven Cahn and Maureen Eckert’s Introduction to Freedom and the Self

Freedom and the Self

This week our featured book is Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert. Today, we are happy to present Cahn and Eckert’s Introduction, in which they explain their hopes for Freedom and the Self, and discuss the essays contained in the volume.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Freedom and the Self!

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

David Foster Wallace as a Philosophy Student and a Philosopher

Freedom and the Self

This week our featured book is Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert. Freedom and the Self follows up on Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will, our recent publication of David Foster Wallace’s critique of Richard Taylor’s philosophical work, with essays examining DFW’s philosophical views in more depth.

To set the stage for the week’s feature, today we are featuring the afterword from Fate, Time, and Language, written by Jay Garfield, a professor who worked with Wallace at Hampshire College, as well as a set of “Brief Interviews with Philosophy Students” in video form, explaining and delving into different aspects of Wallace’s work. Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Freedom and the Self!

David Foster Wallace as a Philosophy Student

Brief Interviews with Philosophy Students

On DFW the Philosopher:
(more…)

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace

Freedom and the Self

“In the last decade, Wallace scholarship has often confined itself to very narrow corridors, covering and re-covering excursions that have become increasingly familiar. This collection opens up a new wing of the critical mansion, building up not only our understanding of Wallace’s important early engagement with Taylor, but also pressing his investigations toward lively new dialogues with John McFarlane, David Lewis, Archilochus, Richard Rorty, and many others.” — Stephen J. Burn, University of Glasgow

This week our featured book is Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book, its subject, and its editors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Freedom and the Self. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, May 1st at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Thursday Fiction Corner: Our 2015 Best Translated Book Award Nominees!

A huge congratulations to Dalkey Archive Press and East Slope Publishing, our distributed client presses, for making the 2015 Best Translated Book Award Fiction Longlist and Poetry Longlist!

According to Three Percent:

these twenty-five titles will be narrowed down to a select group of finalists on Tuesday, May 5th, and the winner will be announced at a panel during BEA on Wednesday, May 27th. As always, thanks to Amazon.com’s grant, the winning author and translator will each receive a $5,000 cash prize.

Fiction Longlist

The Author and Me by Éric Chevillard, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (France, Dalkey Archive Press)

Works by Edouard Levé, translated from the French by Jan Steyn (France, Dalkey Archive Press)

Snow and Shadow by Dorothy Tse, translated from the Chinese by Nicky Harman (Hong Kong, East Slope Publishing)

Poetry Longlist

Soy Realidad by Tomaž Šalamun, translated from the Slovenian by Michael Thomas Taren (Slovenia, Dalkey Archive)

***

Check out some of our previous blogposts about the value of literature in translation below!

Words Without Borders interview with Susan Bernofsky, co-editor of IN TRANSLATION: Translators on Their Work and What It Means

World Literature Today interview with IN TRANSLATION editors Susan Bernofsky and Esther Allen

The Value of Publishing Translation

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Columbia University Press wishes you a very happy St. Patrick’s Day from New York! For St. Paddy’s, take a look at a few of the many impressive titles from Dalkey Archive’s Irish Literature Series.

The Dalkey Archive
Flann O’Brien

Hailed as “the best comic fantasy since Tristram Shandy” upon its publication in 1964, The Dalkey Archive is Flann O’Brien’s fifth and final novel.

From Out of the City
John Kelly

From Out of the City is intricate, outrageous, sophisticated, funny and wonderfully entertaining: what more could a reader ask?”
— John Banville

The Cold Eye of Heaven
Christine Dwyer Hickey

“Christine Dwyer Hickey’s tale of a very ordinary Dubliner, starting at the close of his life, is the most profound novel I have read for years.”
The Guardian

The Key (Dual-Language Edition)
Máirtin Ó Cadhain
Translated by Louis de Paor and Lochlainn Ó Tuairisg

“He is one of the most important writers of the twentieth century.”
BBC

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Thursday Fiction Corner: James Davis on the Writing of Eric Walrond

Eric Walrond, James Davis

For our Thursday Fiction Corner, we asked James Davis, author of Eric Walrond: A Life in the Harlem Renaissance and the Transatlantic Caribbean, to discuss what makes the fiction and journalism of Walrond so distinctive.

All of Eric Walrond’s writing has a kind of restless quality, a turbulence that is a bit disturbing yet intensely compelling.

Besides Tropic Death, which I enjoy for these sensory appeals as much as its critique of colonial relations, I really like Walrond’s story “Miss Kenny’s Marriage” and his essay “White Man, What Now?” The first is a sly trickster tale set among Brooklyn’s early 20th century black bourgeoisie. It’s shrewd and hilarious, published originally in 1923 in The Smart Set, a New York magazine edited at the time by H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan. A sendup of the social pretensions of the “strivers” of the race, the story chronicles the rise and fall of a pompous Atlantic Avenue hairdresser—or as Miss Kenny puts it, “not a hairdresser at all, but a beauty culturist.” Day and night she’s in the shop, coiffing “girls and old women, spinsters and preacher’s wives, scrubwomen and colored ladies of gentility,” and saving bundles of cash. But despite her work ethic and churchgoing ways, she is arrogant and her striving for respectability involves deep prejudices. “I am not like a lot of these new niggers you see floating around here,” she tells a client, “A few hundred dollars don’t frighten me. Only we used-to-nothing cullud folks lose our heads and stick out our chests at sight of a few red pennies.” No, she adds, “there ain’t none of the nigger in me, honey.”

Walrond delivers her comeuppance in the form of Elias Ramsey, a prominent young lawyer, member of Brooklyn’s “olive-skinned aristocracy,” twenty-three years her junior. Courting Miss Kenny with professions of love and adulation, he absconds soon after their wedding with all her hard-earned savings. Although the story is just a lark, it exhibits Walrond’s flair for code switching, alternating idiomatic registers between Southern migrant characters, black New Yorkers, and his own wry narrative voice. A twenty-four year old writer only a few years removed from the Caribbean, Walrond’s performance in “Miss Kenny’s Marriage” is a kind of masquerade, a way of becoming a New Negro author by writing like an American. The story also stages a theatrical punishment for its title character because she commits the cardinal sin of harboring contempt for less respectable members of her race.

(more…)

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Thursday Fiction Corner: Interview with Ishmael Reed

In conjunction with Black History Month, this Thursday’s Fiction Corner features an interview of author and activist Ishmael Reed from the Dalkey “Review of Contemporary Fiction” archives. Reed is not one to mince words. The homepage of his website features blurbs from three different writers, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Sam Tanenhaus, all praising him as, “Great,” “Great,” and “Great.”

Reed has published dozens of books, including the novels Juice!, The Free-Lance Pallbearers, The Terrible Threes, The Terrible Twos, Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, The Last Days of Louisiana Red, and Reckless Eyeballing. He also wrote plays collected in Ishmael Reed: The Plays. See the available books here.

In this interview, Professor Reginald Martin speaks with Ishmael Reed, who excoriates a kind of “Eastern, Manhattan” intellectualism. In addition to his vociferous critique of the academic establishment, responsible, he argues, for the construction of “the black aesthetic,” their conversation veers into topics such as jazz, voodoo, and black feminism. Reed has faced backlash for his views. In a more recent interview with the Paris Review, Reed stated: “When Tupac mentioned me in a song, it compensated for all of the hostile responses to my nonfiction and fiction.” The song is ‘Still I Rise’.

The following interview was conducted July 1-7, 1983, in Emeryville, California, a suburb of Oakland and San Francisco.

REGINALD MARTIN: Camus wrote in “Neither Victims nor Executioners” that the only really committed artist is he who, without refusing to take part in the combat, at least refuses to join the regular armies and remains a freelance. In many respects, I see you that way, but many of your critics, Houston Baker, Jr., and Addison Gayle, Jr., for example, seem to throw out any possibility that issues they support may also be issues that you equally support.
ISHMAEL REED: I saw Houston Baker, Jr., recently in Los Angeles. I don’t bear any ill feelings toward him. In fact, he was very cordial toward me. I feel that the piece published in “Black American Literature Forum” that was edited by Joel Weixlmann was irresponsible, and my point is that they would never attack white writers the way they do black writers in that magazine, and I still maintain that. All these scurrilous charges that Baraka made against black writers—and I’ve discussed this with Baraka—those charges were outrageous—he called them traitors, capitulationists. (more…)

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Thursday Fiction Corner — Minae Mizumura As Novelist

The Fall of Language in the Age of English

Minae Mizumura, author of The Fall of Language in the Age of English is also a well-known novelist. Her most recent novel, A True Novel, is a reimagining of Wuthering Heights and has been widely praised, including a glowing review in the New York Times.

Recently, The White Review, a literary magazine, ran an excerpt from Mizumura’s novel published in Japanese as Shishosetsu from left to right. The unusual title, a mixture of Japanese and English, represents the novel’s content and form. The novel is narrated by a Japanese young woman who, like the author, grew up in the United States in a bilingual environment. ‘Shishosetsu’ refers to a genre of autobiographical novel that characterizes much modern Japanese literature. Since English words and phrases are woven into the text, the novel was written horizontally, from left to right, unlike other Japanese novels, which are written vertically on the page and read from right to left.

THE TELEPHONE RANG AT 9:45 THIS MORNING.

As white morning sunlight poked through the cracks in the blind, I inserted the cord into the telephone jack, digesting the usual sick realisation that another day had begun. No sooner was the telephone plugged in than the ringing gave me a start.

Sudden fear shot through me. It might be the French Department Office.

Is this Minae Mizumura?

Yes it is.

What on earth are you doing?

What on earth was I doing? If they asked me, what could I say? I could not explain it even to myself. I was afraid that somehow the way I was living—holed up in this apartment that remained dim even in the daytime, fearful of the dawning of each new day, for all the world like a snail coiled tightly in its shell—might become shamefully and unmistakably exposed to the light of day.

As hopes of an international call from Tono gradually faded, I fell into the habit of unplugging my telephone every night; apart from the practical desire to avoid being awakened by my sister, the main reason was this very fear.

It is of course a neurotic fear. Every department has one or two delinquent graduate students on its rolls, and there is no reason why the department should care if I put off my orals indefinitely on the pretext that my advisor is in and out of the hospital. It’s not only the department—in the whole huge United States, apart from Nanae hardly anyone is aware that I even exist. And why should they be? Still, I am afraid. From the time I wake up in the morning till five in the evening, when the office closes, I live in fear that at any moment the telephone will ring and I will be given final notice—Your time is up!—and stripped of my identity as a graduate student.

(more…)

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Thursday Fiction Corner: “Samuel Taylor’s Last Night,” by Joe Amato

Samuel Taylor's Last Night

“[Samuel Taylor's Last Night] has an appeal and an intensity to it that are both personal and cultural, both emotional and critical, and the images, insights, and considerations tarry with you, lending the book a marked, essayistic and moral dimension that calls for a slow digestion.” — Christian Moraru

We are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, one of the leading publishers of avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! Today’s Thursday Fiction Corner post features Joe Amato’s recently published novel, Samuel Taylor’s Last Night. Amato’s academic novel has been reviewed in both the Los Angeles Review of Books and Inside Higher Education. Read on for excerpts from both reviews, as well as a short excerpt from the novel itself!

In the LARB review, Christian Moraru explores the ways that the novel “is a text at war with itself”:

Samuel Taylor’s Last Night is a text at war with itself because the narrator S.T. is at war with himself, but on a deeper level, Joe Amato is staging, with humor and inventiveness, an agonistic poetics — an antipoetics in the best (anti)tradition of self-reflective surfiction and avant-pop parodic bricolage. As in Ronald Sukenick, Raymond Federman, Steve Katz, Curtis White, Mark Amerika, and Mark Leyner, this modus operandi speaks to a paradoxically clarifying “anti-transparency.” They all seek to debunk the pseudo-realistic, instrumentalist myth of writing as, in S.T.’s words, “a transparent medium through which a reader might be transported to untold representational or ideational coordinates.” The myth rests on a misconception perpetuated by lay audiences and “storyteller entertainers” alike, for whom “the telling of stories is not the primary aim” of storytelling. Instead, what matters to such “tribes,” S.T. says, is that language might take you beyond itself, to some “places foreign to the text itself.”

(more…)

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Thursday Fiction Corner: “The Tingling, Tangling Tango as ’tis Tripped at Coney Island,” by Djuna Barnes

A Coney Island Reader

Welcome to the Thursday Fiction Corner, where we highlight some of the excellent fiction from our list and the lists of our distributed presses. This week, we are happy to present an excerpt from A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion, edited by Louis J. Parascandola and John Parascandola. A Coney Island Reader brings together over one hundred years of writing about Coney Island, from authors ranging from Walt Whitman to Katie Roiphe. In today’s post, we’ve excerpted a short piece originally published in the Eagle in 1913 by American modernist writer Djuna Barnes: “The Tingling, Tangling Tango as ’tis Tripped at Coney Island.”

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.

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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: