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Archive for May, 2017

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

A Media Roundup for International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train

International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train

“You’ll meet people all over the world who will say, “Oh yeah, I used to live in New York. I used to ride the 7 train or 6 train. I used to get off [at] this station”—and they’ll tell you the station. They may have never succeeded in becoming Americans, or never wanted to, but they became New Yorkers, to the extent that they could use the transit system to get around.” — William Kornblum

This week, our featured book is International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train, by Stéphane Tonnelat and William Kornblum. Today, we are pleased to present excerpts from some of the great press attention that the book has received.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of International Express!

First, in The Atlantic‘s CityLab blog, Tanvi Misra interviews Tonnelat and Kornblum about what their ethnographic research on the 7 train has taught them about the subway line, New York, and the immigrant experience:

One of the young people cited in the book noted something very interesting: How a person swipes the Metrocard can divulge whether or not they live in the city. That anecdote highlights one of the main arguments you’re making in the book, that taking the subway helps newcomers assimilate and develop a common identity, not just as riders of a particular train line, but as New Yorkers. Could you talk about that?

Tonnelat: The competencies that people learn on the train are, in fact, urban competencies. They can be applied anywhere. That way, the subway opens up the city materially, through [access to different places around the city], but also socially.

Kornblum: You’ll meet people all over the world who will say, “Oh yeah, I used to live in New York. I used to ride the 7 train or 6 train. I used to get off [at] this station”—and they’ll tell you the station. They may have never succeeded in becoming Americans, or never wanted to, but they became New Yorkers, to the extent that they could use the transit system to get around.

(more…)

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Becoming New Yorkers on the 7 Train

International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train

“New Yorkers are proud, even boastful, about the city’s diversity, and in this study we seek to know more about the actual experiences of diversity as it occurs in daily life, primarily on one subway line, the 7 train. We look at how social diversity affects the riders and the functioning of the system itself.” — Stéphane Tonnelat and William Kornblum

This week, our featured book is International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train, by Stéphane Tonnelat and William Kornblum. To start the week’s feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s first chapter, “Becoming New Yorkers on the 7 Train.”

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

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

New Book Tuesday: A Ch’ae Manshik Reader, the New York Hotel Experience, and More!

Sunset: A Ch'ae Manshik Reader

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

Sunset: A Ch’ae Manshik Reader
Ch’ae Manshik. Edited and translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton.

New York Hotel Experience: Cultural and Societal Impacts of an American Invention
Annabella Fick
(Transcript-Verlag)

Trusting the Police: Comparisons across Eastern and Western Europe
Silvia Staubli
(Transcript-Verlag)

Politics, Piety, and Biomedicine: The Malaysian Transplant Venture
Jenny Schreiber
(Transcript-Verlag)

Transformations of the Supernatural: Problems of Representation in the Work of Daniel Defoe
Petra Schoenenberger
(Transcript-Verlag) (more…)

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Book Giveaway! International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train

International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train

“As a lifelong resident of Flushing and a lifelong rider of the Flushing line, I’m absolutely thrilled about this new book. Tonnelat and Kornblum have become one with the 7, a gritty transit spoke that for generations has doubled as a lifeline as it meanders seemingly halfway around the world right through a dozen neighborhoods in Queens.” — John Liu, former New York City comptroller and councilman

This week, our featured book is International Express: New Yorkers on the 7 Train, by Stéphane Tonnelat and William Kornblum. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Netflix on the Croisette — Jonathan Buchsbaum

Exception Taken

The following post is by Jonathan Buchsbaum, author of Exception Taken: How France Has Defied Hollywood’s New World Order:

What to make of the recent flap over Netflix at the Cannes Film Festival? Is this the French being the French or does it point to something larger about their desire to protect creative filmmaking in an age of streaming and binge-watching?

According to French rules, any film released in a theater must wait a specified period of time before subsequent screening in a different format. The French call this the “chronology of media.” While the US press misunderstood the recent controversy regarding the showing of two Netflix movies at Cannes—Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories—the French coverage, which is more familiar with the background, considered the rationale behind the rule, even if it risks becoming anachronistic in a rapidly changing industry.

In France, the powerful theater owners’ organization objected to the recent decision of Cannes to accept Netflix-produced films that would not open in theaters at all. According to the French rules, if the films opened in theaters, they would have to wait three years before streaming online by subscription, and Netflix refused to accept that condition. (Amazon, not a subscription service, can stream after four months.) Caught in some crossfire, the festival, after weeks of negotiations, decided to give Netflix a pass this year and require a theatrical opening next year for all films in competition.

While the French deserve some criticism in this latest film tiff, a little history may remove the appearance of rigidity or irrationality in the French rules. When television first entered peoples’ homes in the US after WWII, the film industry viewed television as a threat. Who would go to movie theaters when they could watch films in their living rooms? Consequently the Hollywood majors refused to allow their films to be shown on television at all until RKO broke ranks in 1955. Twenty years later, video tape was seen as a similar challenge, and two Hollywood studios took Sony to court (and lost in the Supreme Court) to prevent the distribution of films on video tape.

In both cases, those fears proved unfounded as the total revenue surged, even if the theatrical shares of the pie shrunk. Moreover, somewhat paradoxically, the number of theater screens actually doubled in the US between 1980 and 2000, from 18,000 to 37,000 (with 39,000 last year).

Nobody really knows how important theatrical release is today. It may still return a declining share of total film revenue, but as the traditional first window of theatrical release still gets reviewed in the press, it may be more important in generating subsequent revenues for DVD, television, Amazon, Netflix, new streaming services.

(more…)

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

New Book Tuesday: China’s Green Religion, Robert K. Merton, Currency Conflict and Trade Policy, and More!

China's Green Religion

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

China’s Green Religion: Daoism and the Quest for a Sustainable Future
James Miller

Now available in paperback:
Robert K. Merton: Sociology of Science and Sociology as Science
Edited by Craig Calhoun

Currency Conflict and Trade Policy: A New Strategy for the United States
C. Fred Bergsten and Joseph E. Gagnon
(Peterson Institute for International Economics)

The Sublime Continuum Super-Commentary (theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma’i tīkka) with the Sublime Continuum Treatise Commentary (Mahāyānottaratantraśāstravyākhyā; theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma’i bstan bcos rnam par bshad pa)
Gyaltsap Dharma Rinchen, Maitreyanātha, and Āryāsanga. Introduction and Translation by Marty Bo Jiang. Edited by Robert A.F. Thurman and Thomas F. Yarnall.
(American Institute of Buddhist Studies)

A People’s History of India 14: Economic History of India, AD 1206-1526, The Period of the Delhi Sultanate and the Vijayanagara Empire
Irfan Habib. Published in association with the Aligarh Historians Society.
(Tulika Books) (more…)

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Announcing the Columbia University Press Fall 2017 Catalog

Columbia UP Fall 2017 Catalog

We are proud to announce our catalog of new books coming in Fall 2017! In her introductory letter, Press Director Jennifer Crewe lays out her hopes for the books in the catalog and lists a few highlights:

Dear Readers,

This season’s catalogue puts forth the results of a remarkable effort by Columbia University Press authors to grapple with urgent global issues. With books tackling climate change, racial justice, national security, and social policy, as well as eye-catching original subjects—the alt-right, fracking, Lyme disease, the “corporate tomato,” and nonrealistic taxidermy—our authors stand out at the frontiers of scholarship.

Our titles this season showcase the University and its local and global presence. The fiftieth anniversary of the events of 1968 is approaching, and in A Time to Stir (p. 1), Paul Cronin presents remarkable recollections of the protests that shook Columbia’s campus and resonated worldwide. Turning to the present and its challenges, in The Sustainable City (p. 25), the Earth Institute’s Steven Cohen describes the policies that can make urban systems go green, especially relevant to Columbia’s position in a vibrant metropolis. Columbia’s Global Centers seek to facilitate international communication, and in Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly (p. 29), the Global Centers executive vice president Safwan M. Masri does just that through a personal account of Tunisia’s history.

Highlighting the best of European thought continues to be one of our core strengths, with a never-before-translated compendium of Roland Barthes’s correspondence (p. 6); Artaud the Moma (p. 7), Jacques Derrida’s virtuosic lecture on Antonin Artaud given at the Museum of Modern Art; and a philosophical new novel by Julia Kristeva, The Enchanted Clock (p. 8). Joining them are globe-spanning works of literature in translation, including Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s metafictional mystery In Black and White (p. 9) and an exciting selection of new Russian Library titles (pp. 16-17). Annette Insdorf’s Cinematic Overtures (p. 22), a Leonard Hastings Schoff Lecture, turns our attention to a movie’s first minutes, and the Kenneth J. Arrow lecture series continues with Christan Gollier’s Ethical Asset Valuation and the Good Society (p. 41), which seeks a better way of directing investment toward the common good.

As remarkable as they are, the books on display in this catalogue would not exist without the efforts of our readers, partners, and the university community. Thank you for your support of our books and our mission.

Jennifer Crewe
Associate Provost and Director

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Emigrating to Mars or Returning to Earth

The Traveler's Guide to Space

“[E]stablishing colonies on Mars will be the hardest, most expensive, most dangerous, and most transformative emigration experience in human history. Every aspect of human society will have to be modified or reinvented, including agriculture, water collection and purification, mining, manufacturing, construction, transportation, communication, medicine, reproduction, social activities, cultures, religions, education, economy, emergency
responses, recreation, policing, alcohol production, and protection from radiation, to name a few.” — Neil Comins

This week, our featured book is The Traveler’s Guide to Space: For One-Way Settlers and Round-Trip Tourists, by Neil F. Comins. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the final chapter of the book, in which Comins looks at the possibility of colonizing Mars from the point of view of a potential colonizer.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Traveler’s Guide to Space!

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

The Traveler’s Guide to Space

The Traveler's Guide to Space

“Once you get through the initial adjustment period, the fun begins, but with the caveat that just not everything you enjoy on Earth will be fun out there and things that you wouldn’t think if doing here, such as talking to someone who is upside down in front of you, or eating food that is floating, rather than on a plate, will be interesting experiences.” — Neil Comins

This week, our featured book is The Traveler’s Guide to Space: For One-Way Settlers and Round-Trip Tourists, by Neil F. Comins. Today, we are happy to present a guest post by Comins introducing some of the ideas in his book.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Traveler’s Guide to Space!

The Traveler’s Guide to Space
By Neil F. Comins

The era of civilian and commercial space travel has arrived, with paying tourists visiting the International Space Station and private companies developing rockets and other hardware to be used in space. Building on the knowledge about living in space gained over the past 65 years, countries and companies are making real plans to visit and perhaps colonize our Moon, as well as visiting other bodies in space, such as nearby asteroids and passing comets.

As exciting and romantic as such adventures are, none of them are as simple, straight-forward, or accessible as, for example, journeys to countries half way around the world. The latter trips basically require: arranging accommodations and activities; booking flights; getting a passport and visa (if necessary); getting any necessary inoculations and a supply of the medicines you need, along with medical insurance if necessary; letting your credit card company know you are making the trip, and, packing. Each of these things can be accomplished in a matter of minutes to hours, with the whole process taking perhaps a week, and much less time for the seasoned traveler. Preparing for a trip into space, whether just a quick ride above the boundary that defines space and back, a trip into orbit, one in which you leave Earth’s thrall, will require months, or even years of preparation, depending on the voyage. Astronauts preparing to go to the International Space Station today train for more than two years.

Virtually every aspect of life changes when you go into space. Adjusting to living out there, whether for a few days or a lifetime, is uncomfortable as your body gets acclimated to the lack of gravity, called microgravity. Besides the space sickness and physical changes in your body that microgravity causes, you will find that eating, another one of the pleasures on Earth, is a notably different experience in space, too. Food tastes much blander out there and so food that is crafted to be consumed in space is often accompanied by stronger spices than you would consider using on Earth.

Once you get through the initial adjustment period, the fun begins, but with the caveat that just not everything you enjoy on Earth will be fun out there and things that you wouldn’t think if doing here, such as talking to someone who is upside down in front of you, or eating food that is floating, rather than on a plate, will be interesting experiences. If you ever dreamed of flying like superwoman or superman, you will have the opportunity to do that in space, or at least to float weightlessly from one side of a room to another. You will also be able to heft and even throw people who, on Earth, would weigh much more than you do.

Next time you have sex, I invite you to think about the role gravity plays in your interactions with your companion. Microgravity changes many aspects of sexual relations, so substitute technology will have to be developed in order for you to be able to do it, much less enjoy it, up there.

Obviously, space journeys to different destinations will take different lengths of time and each will present you with different experiences and opportunities at your goal. Space travel will require, among other things, significant training on getting along with people from different cultures, countries, races, religions, and philosophies. You will also have to learn to make good use of your time on extended journeys, to prevent boredom, which can actually become dangerous.

Because every world that will be available to visit this century is different in size, composition, shape, and surface features, what you can see and do will depend intimately on your destination. Without a doubt, the most exotic, glamorous, and diverse world that may be on that list is Mars. However, the challenges involved in providing a viable habitat there, as well as reliable landers and, for those making round trip journeys, vehicles to return to orbit are substantial.

In The Traveler’s Guide to Space: For Round-Trip Tourists and One-Way Settlers, I explore all these aspects of space travel in the near future and much more. I also discuss activities and experiences available on different worlds in our astronomical neighborhood. The book is written both for people interested in going into space and anyone else who would like to see the big picture of space travel.

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

New Book Tuesday: The Scaffolding of Sovereignty, The Seventh Sense, and More!

The Scaffolding of Sovereignty

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

The Scaffolding of Sovereignty: Global and Aesthetic Perspectives on the History of a Concept
Edited by Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, Stefanos Geroulanos, and Nicole Jerr

Now available in paperback:
The Seventh Sense: How Flashes of Insight Change Your Life
William Duggan

Now available in paperback:
Courtesans and Opium: Romantic Illusions of the Fool of Yangzhou
Anonymous. Translated by Patrick Hanan.

The Right Balance for Banks: Theory and Evidence on Optimal Capital Requirements
William R. Cline
(Peterson Institute for International Economics)

The Artful Aussie Tax Dodger: 100 Years of Tax Reform in Australia
Lex Fullarton
(ibidem Press)

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Book Giveaway! The Traveler’s Guide to Space

The Traveler's Guide to Space

“There is no other book for the popular reader that addresses the many serious challenges involved in deep space travel. Understanding these issues is essential for anyone with an interest in space exploration. The Traveler’s Guide to Space does an excellent job at looking at the whole picture, from space tourists to one-way colonization; from physical to psychological challenges.” — Robert Geller, University of California, Santa Barbara

This week, our featured book is The Traveler’s Guide to Space: For One-Way Settlers and Round-Trip Tourists, by Neil F. Comins. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Culture Industry 2.0, or the End of Digital Utopias in the Era of Participation Culture

Sociophobia

“With the next distraction only a click away, patience for things that require effort evaporates. Anyone who doesn’t have quick responses to complex questions is promptly and publicly punished by a withdrawal of Likes. But is the medium responsible? Is it the human condition as such? Is the anthropological and technological constellation an overlay over background political and economic interests?” — Roberto Simanowski

This week, our featured book is Sociophobia: Political Change in the Digital Utopia, by César Rendueles, translated by Heather Cleary, with a foreword by Roberto Simanowski. Today, we are happy to present Simanowski’s foreword, in which he discusses the radio and Bertolt Brecht’s reaction to it, the timing of the coming of the internet, and Rendueles’s criticism of “Internet-centrists” and “cyberutopians.”

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Sociophobia!

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

New Book Tuesday: Abe Kobo, Diana Trilling, Paul Milgrom, and More!

Beasts Head for Home

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

Beasts Head for Home: A Novel
Abe Kōbō. Translated by Richard F. Calichman.

The Untold Journey: The Life of Diana Trilling
Natalie Robins

Discovering Prices: Auction Design in Markets with Complex Constraints
Paul Milgrom

Now available in paperback:
A Hunger for Aesthetics: Enacting the Demands of Art
Michael Kelly

The Children’s Film: Genre, Nation, and Narrative
Noel Brown
(Wallflower Press)

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Postnuclear Capitalism

Sociophobia

“We disparage consumerism, populism, and the finance economy but see them as the last bastion against today’s version of the barbarians at the gates. We live in constant fear of anthropological density because the only alternatives to liberal individualism we know are fundamentalism and the squalor of the megaslums. As though there were nothing between the headquarters of Goldman Sachs and the Buenos Aires shantytown known as Villa 31.” — César Rendueles

This week, our featured book is Sociophobia: Political Change in the Digital Utopia, by César Rendueles, translated by Heather Cleary, with a foreword by Roberto Simanowski. To start the feature, we are happy to present an excerpt on what Rendueles terms “postnuclear capitalism” from the book’s first chapter.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Sociophobia!

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Sociophobia: Political Change in the Digital Utopia, by César Rendueles

Sociophobia

“Rendueles’s book transcends the national context in which it was written, and, without exaggeration, goes to the heart of the contemporary problem of political organization, as it concerns radical protest and resistance movements. The refreshing aspect of Sociophobia is its sober approach to the role of new media in fomenting alternative political structures.” — Michael Marder

This week, our featured book is Sociophobia: Political Change in the Digital Utopia, by César Rendueles, translated by Heather Cleary, with a foreword by Roberto Simanowski. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, May 5th, 2017

Art of Translation roundtable recap

There are still 2 days left in Russian Literature Week. Check out the remaining events here.

Art of Translation roundtable

Every year, Read Russia’s Russian Literature Week provides a variety of events for devotees of literature, from raucous panels on what’s new and hot on the contemporary scene to intimate, in-depth conversations on single titles. On Tuesday May 2nd 2017 the Russian Literature Week event The Art of Translation: A Literary Roundtable focused on translators. Moderator Ruth Franklin, author of Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, began by inviting the participating translators to speak briefly about a recent translation and read a short passage from it. Thomas Kitson read from Rapture by Iliazd, the most recent publication in the Russian Library. Lisa Hayden commented that readers often assume that the most difficult part of translating Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin was the archaic language, but actually, getting the rhythm right was harder. Antonina Bouis read a passage from Sergei Lebedev’s Oblivion, a novel that, in Nina’s words, “turned the collapse of the Soviet Union into a kind of poetry”. And Marian Schwartz was gracious enough to read to us from an as-of-yet unpublished translation of a book by Leonid Yuzefovich. It will come out in February from Archipelago and currently bears the working title Horsemen of the Sands. The book concerns the Far East and Mongolia, and Marian pointed out that this makes it work particularly well in translation because Yuzefovich has already explained the unfamiliar customs and history for his Russian readers, who are also on unfamiliar ground.

Ruth deftly steered the conversation to highlight common themes and differences between the works and the methods of the translators. We had a rousing discussion of realia, which, as Marian commented, can add or take away from the overall experience of reading the translation. She cautioned that the translator should ask herself: Why is it there? How is it being used? What’s the effect on the original audience?

One big dividing factor is whether or not the author being translated is alive. Lisa, Nina, and Marian all enjoy close relationships with these authors. This allows them to ask for clarification, of course, but more importantly, having the author’s explicit permission makes it much easier to alter the underlying work. Michael Wise, the co-founder of New Vessel Press, was in the audience, and he and Nina spoke about some tightening of the prose and in one instance even some rearranging that they were able to do with Lebedev’s blessing. This kind of liberty is harder to take with the work of a dead author. Tom Kitson added that since he was unable to discuss Rapture with Iliazd, he compensated by reading his other works and getting a sense of his relations with other Russian writers.

Ruth ended the event with a request for advice for aspiring or emerging translators:
Marian Schwartz: Pick a really good book. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how good your translation is.
Antonina Bouis: Work with an author you like as a person.
Lisa Hayden: Listen for voices. Read out loud.
Thomas Kitson: Pick a book that you really love.

The Art of Translation: A Literary Roundtable was co-sponsored by Columbia University Press, the Columbia University Slavic Department, and the Harriman Institute

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Thoughts on Rapture by Iliazd (Ilia Zdanevich)

Iliazd’s Rapture is one of the upcoming titles in the Russian Library, a new series that seeks to demonstrate the breadth, variety, and global importance of the Russian literary tradition to English-language readership through new and revised translations of premodern, modern, and contemporary Russian literature.

Rapture

Today Veniamin Gushchin, CC ’18, Russian Library Intern responds to Rapture by Iliazd, translated by Thomas J. Kitson

The term emigrant, as opposed to the more commonly used immigrant, is inherently backwards facing, focusing on the country of origin rather than the destination. In the popular imagination, the immigrant arrives in a land of opportunity, while the emigrant flees from an oppressive regime, hopelessly yearning to return to their past. Though the two words have vaguely the same meaning, though the distinction in writing is but a few letters and in pronunciation is often barely detectable, the terms are antonyms due to the complex set of relationships an individual has with their countries of departure and arrival.

As the son of Russian immigrants that grew up in a bilingual and bicultural environment, I am very sensitive to this distinction. My parents immigrated to the United States in the 90s for greater job opportunities in the field of medicine and made the deliberate choice – mostly to spite my grandmother, who believed such efforts to be in vain – to raise me speaking Russian and aware of my cultural heritage. From watching the Soviet version of Winnie the Pooh before Disney’s to listening to tapes of the actor Innokenty Smoktunovsky reading Eugene Onegin on road trips, my parents recreated a small island of Russian culture in our home. They spoke of their Soviet past with a mixture of nostalgia and disillusionment, as many Russians do. My childhood experience was one of continually balancing my parents’ past with the pressures to assimilate to American culture. Living in suburban Maryland rather than in an immigrant enclave like Brighton Beach, my sole source for my Russian identity was my parents, my only chance to use my Russian my home. As a result, preserving this heritage grew in significance. Now, studying Russian literature in college, I seem to have come to some sort of compromise between these identities. Nevertheless, I do often feel as if I am still that child coming back from school to my parent’s home, part of and distant from both worlds. More importantly, my experience is different than those of denizens of Brighton, than those whose heritage becomes but a percentage mentioned in discussions of ethnic background.

To turn things back a century, and three waves of Russian migration, the tension between cultural preservation and assimilation is reflected in the most prolific Russian émigré writers, Ivan Bunin and Vladimir Nabokov. Especially in the works of the nomadic Nabokov, nostalgia for an idealized version of prerevolutionary Russia is central to the artist’s identity. In terms of assimilation, even in Paris, Bunin wrote exclusively in Russian and interacted mostly with his immediate circle of fellow emigrants. Though Nabokov appears to have shown a greater degree of adaptability, becoming internationally renowned as a writer in English, his constant relocation – the only “Nabokov house” is in St. Petersburg where his family lived before the Revolution – betrays his inability to settle down and fully reconcile his lost past with the present. The idealization of this prerevolutionary period has influenced perceptions of the Soviet Union and imperial Russia both abroad and in Russia. More recently, post-Soviet discourse, exemplified in artistic expression such as Govorukhin’s film “Russia That We’ve Lost,” returns to portraying the turn of the twentieth century as a time of cultural brilliance and sophistication. These notions about the first wave of Russian immigration and that era have become so widespread that they have come to represent its dominant narrative.

The figure of Ilia Zdanevich, or Iliazd, complicates this simplistic view of the reactionary emigrant. Born in Tbilisi, Georgia, his first act of migration was to Petrograd, where he became involved in a number of avant-garde artistic groups associated with the movement of Russian Futurism. His reason for migrating to Paris was to establish new artistic relationships between the nascent Soviet avant-garde and similar artistic movements in Paris, such as Dada and surrealism. Both political and artistic, he stands in contrast to the more conservation Nabokov and Bunin. While the latter two writers proudly continued the traditions of Russian nineteenth century literature, Zdanevich eagerly embraced the possibility of reshaping and developing his genre. Despite his efforts, however, once the Soviet government turned against the avant-garde, Iliazd found himself in “poetic reclusion,” effectively exiled despite having emigrating for an entirely different set of reasons. Nevertheless, the artist continued to live in Paris, collaborating with the likes of Picasso, Matisse, and Léger, developing a reputation in the European art world and, at least in part, assimilating.

Rapture is a doubly nostalgic novel, set in Iliazd’s native Georgia and written as an allegory of the Russian Futurism movement. Published in a doubly distant Paris, it is a thick mixture of avant-garde and traditional folklore, of Russian, Georgian, and Western influences that is impossible to fully separate into its constituent elements.

This new translation of Rapture allows Anglophone readers to experience Iliazd’s complex and thrilling artistic vision for the first time ever. In addition to placing the novel on the same shelf as the modernist masterpieces of Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and Thomas Mann, the publication of this translation complicates the simplistic binary between emigrant and home country present in the most influential narratives about this era. Iliazd’s voice joins the already dominant voices of Bunin and Nabokov to paint a more detailed and nuanced portrait of the first wave of Russian immigration in Paris. Immigration, emigration, and migration are all messy concepts, crossing the boundaries of identity as much as geopolitical borders. Each individual within these processes has a unique relationship to both the country of arrival and departure, the experience only able to be captured in polyphony.

Want to learn more about Rapture? Join the event TODAY, May 4, cosponsored by the NYU Jordan Center and PEN America World Voices Festival, with translator Thomas Kitson and scholar Jennifer Wilson. “What’s Old is New: Gender and Power in Iliazd’s Neglected Rapture

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Interview with Ashley Shelden, author of Unmaking Love

Unmaking Love, Ashley Shelden

“What I see in contemporary literature—in novels that I discuss in the book and those that didn’t make it in—is an understanding of love that runs counter to [a] traditional story. In these novels, love is not a uniting, conservative, or peaceful force; love is more often aggressive, violent, divisive, and corrosive.”—Ashley Shelden, author of Unmaking Love: The Contemporary Novel and the Impossibility of Union

The following is an interview with Ashley Shelden, author of Unmaking Love: The Contemporary Novel and the Impossibility of Union:

Question: Love is typically seen as sentimental and conservative, and perhaps because of that, other queer theorists and critics tend to focus on desire or sex. With this in mind, why are you so interested in love?

Ashley Shelden: It’s not that I’m not interested in desire or sex as analytic categories. Indeed, so much of the theoretical and intellectual work in psychoanalysis and queer theory that has galvanized me focuses on these concepts. Motivated by this work, I wanted to think more deeply about love in theory and literature in order to rethink the uses to which it has been put both intellectually and politically. In this way, my project is in sympathy with Laura Kipnis’s Against Love. I don’t necessarily agree with Kipnis’s arguments in that book, but I am invigorated by her impressive capacity not to accept received ideas and her commitment to putting pressure on all our assumptions about love.

I think you’re right, then: love is often used coercively as a sentimental force of conservation—to maintain the primacy of marriage, to occlude differences, to pacify and render inert disruptions to the dominant order. But what I see in contemporary literature—in novels that I discuss in the book and those that didn’t make it in—is an understanding of love that runs counter to this traditional story. In these novels, love is not a uniting, conservative, or peaceful force; love is more often aggressive, violent, divisive, and corrosive. It’s this unfamiliar version of love in which I am most interested because it flies in the face of what we commonly assume love to be.

Q: It sounds like part of what appeals to you about the alternative account of love that contemporary novels articulate is the light these novels can shed on politics. What political concerns does love allow you to consider anew?

AS: Let me just say here that when I think about the political uses of love, I don’t have in mind a sense of politics as partisan. By “political” I mean the ways we adjudicate on relations within the social. I want to clarify this point because my book is not necessarily suggesting new definitions of love for progressive political ends. Instead, my aim is to think about the ways that love is used to organize—and indeed disorganize—sociality. In that way, the political relations that love informs are quite broad. The first political issue that we might think of in relation to love is, of course, same-sex marriage, the mantra for which is “love is love.” But beyond the intimate sphere of loving relations, love also pertains to the recognizably contemporary issue of relationality in a globalized, transnational world. In the book, I use Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled and Hari Kunzru’s Transmission in order to think through the amorous dimensions of transnational connectedness.

Another political issue that the question of love brings to the fore is the question of “the other” and otherness. Jacques Lacan famously suggested that there can be no love for an other, and we can only love sameness, that which reflects back to us the image of ourselves. This idea enlivens my project as it concerns issues relating to ethics—if love is directed only at sameness, then this idea suggests that there is something destructive in love’s seemingly unifying force. In order to love another, I must obliterate the other’s otherness, making that person into a fictional reflection of myself, which effectively eradicates the other in her particularity.

(more…)

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Interview with Thomas J. Kitson, translator of Iliazd’s Rapture

Iliazd’s Rapture is the newest title in the Russian Library, a series that seeks to demonstrate the breadth, variety, and global importance of the Russian literary tradition to English-language readership through new and revised translations of premodern, modern, and contemporary Russian literature.

Thomas J. Kitson will be speaking about Rapture with Jennifer Wilson on Thursday, May 4th at 5:00 PM at NYU’s Jordan Center. More information here

Enter the Rapture Book Giveaway here

Rapture

Today Veniamin Gushchin, CC ’18, Russian Library Intern interviews Thomas J. Kitson about his translation of Rapture by Iliazd

What makes Rapture a classic of literary modernism, worthy of being read alongside the works of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and others? Why has it been ignored for so long?

I’ll take your second question first. Rapture got off to a bad start in the politically touchy and rapidly shifting Russian publishing milieu of the late 1920s, both in the Soviet Union and in the Emigration. But Iliazd took a stance that tended to undermine his own cause – and eventually, this became a fully conscious campaign to create art that would “vanish idly,” like the storied hidden treasures in the novel. When Iliazd began writing his novel in 1926, there was every indication Soviet publishers wanted to establish ties with left-leaning émigré writers. Iliazd sent the first chapters to his brother Kirill in the USSR, expecting it would appear alongside works by “fellow travelers” like Isaac Babel, Boris Pilnyak and other authors who had been moving more or less fluidly between Moscow, Berlin, and Paris. Kirill submitted the manuscript just when those publishing opportunities started disappearing. A new “proletarian” campaign in literature, not just against fellow travelers and their favored journal, Red Virgin Soil, but also against the avant-garde gathered around the journal LEF, including Vladimir Mayakovsky, coincided with Stalin’s consolidation of power within the Party. Iliazd’s manuscript was rejected on a combination of aesthetic and ideological grounds (reads like it’s been translated, “clumsy,” even “illiterate”; opens with a monk, displays “aesthetico-contemplative indifference to characters” and entertains a “mystical state of the spirit”). Iliazd wrote an exaggeratedly tendentious, almost mocking rejoinder to the Soviet editors emphasizing his “internationalism” and asserting that he’d been in the crowd that greeted Lenin at Finland Station in April 1917. But under conditions in the Soviet Union in 1928, his avant-garde pedigree and émigré status made him profoundly suspect. To my knowledge, his contacts in the USSR never made another attempt to publish the novel, although copies of it circulated among a small group of admirers in the 1930s. So for the vast majority of Russian readers, the novel never existed at all.

In Paris, Iliazd had taken a resolute stance against the anti-Soviet émigré arbiters of culture who controlled access to the Russian-language press, and there simply wasn’t a sufficiently large Russian-speaking audience independent of those organs. Iliazd’s associates, like the Dada writer and painter Sergei Charchoune and the younger poet Boris Poplavsky, had, one by one, “compromised” for the sake of being able to publish. Again, as far as I know, Iliazd never made any overture at all to the main Russian-language publishers, and even preferred unrealized schemes to translate the novel into French. He gave away a large number of the 750 copies he published at his own expense in 1930, and Russian bookstores refused to carry what was left on the pretext that it included several obscenities. Iliazd’s marketing strategy was openly challenging to potential buyers: “If you’re that inhibited, don’t read it!” So it disappeared there, too.
When Iliazd later gained a reputation in France as a printer and publisher of artists’ books, Rapture didn’t have the visual appeal to overcome its inaccessibility to non-Russian readers. It’s an indication of how thoroughly forgotten the novel was that it didn’t have champions to publish it during the Glasnost explosion. Luckily, there have been connoisseurs over the last thirty years, in and outside Russia, to keep pushing it forward in small editions. I find myself thinking that this is probably the most high-profile publication the novel has ever had, and that puts a lot of responsibility on me.

The novel’s modernism lies primarily in its post-Great War, post-Christian exploration of human desire for transcendence. Humans are thoroughly unnatural, time-bound, dying animals whose relentless artifice inevitably creates nostalgia for Nature, or the Infinite, or Unchanging Eternity, or Ideal Beauty, and efforts to “recover” these unattainable states exact a certain quantity of violence of one kind or another. Beneath his entertaining adventure story, Iliazd introduces Freudian drives, linguistic minimal phonetic pairs, Nietzschean jenseits, chivalric quests and fairy-tale tasks, mythologies of metamorphosis, including Christian Transfiguration and Resurrection, Romantic and Symbolist longing for the Eternal Feminine, and various strains of apocalypticism, among other features, to generate layers of meaning. Iliazd considered his novel above all a “commentary on… poetry as an always vain endeavor.” It is full of allusion, but also poetically structured (circularly, like many other modernist works) with rhyme, inversion, and recapitulation. And it wears all this remarkably lightly.

What new insights about the competing literary movements at the beginning of the twentieth century can be gained from Rapture?

Laurence, the protagonist, is said to be a portrait of Vladimir Mayakovsky, and the bare storyline grows out of a transparent pre-war polemic in which Zdanevich (not yet known as Iliazd) described a film scenario called “The Fallen Man,” a melodrama about a promising young revolutionary’s utter degradation and dishonorable death. While Iliazd could still be intransigent, I think what he saw during the war took away his unforgiving polemic edge, and Rapture is suffused with sympathy and self-deprecation – all poets are necessarily failures. We know that when Futurist and Acmeist poets rejected their Symbolist fathers, they retained, as with any Oedipal response, many of their fathers’ techniques and attitudes. The French scholar Régis Gayraud is absolutely right to see in Rapture “a return to a species of Symbolism bearing the experience of the avant-garde.” I suspect there may be a much harsher inscription of Nikolai Gumilev, the Acmeist leader executed by the Bolsheviks, lurking in the novel, but that’s something I haven’t dealt with.

I also hope, since Iliazd was close to Paul Eluard and frequently attended Surrealist meetings where Freud, Gothic novels, and German Romanticism were among the topics, someone will put this novel in conversation with the Surrealist prose emerging at the same time, like Louis Aragon’s Paris Peasant and André Breton’s Nadja.

In translating Rapture, how did you navigate the multiple layers of cultural distance between the English-language reader and the text: first Russian, then Georgian?

Oddly, I didn’t feel that I needed to mediate much here. There’s an ongoing debate about where the novel is set (Soviet editors, to start with, didn’t like its lack of specified time and place). I lean toward agreeing with Elizabeth Beaujour that it’s simply set among mountain peoples, and there’s no need to specify more than Iliazd does. Iliazd loved the village culture of Georgia (and of the Anatolian areas he explored during a wartime archaeological expedition), but he also loved the Pyranees, and Petr Kazarnovskii makes a case for linking Rapture to the Albanian mountain settings that inspired Zdanevich’s first play. There are features that suggest a setting in the Russian Empire, but, once again, I don’t feel compelled to set that down in stone, and, in fact, I think the novel gains, especially on the mythical and fairy-tale levels, by leaving the question open. I deliberately translate vodka as “brandy” just for that reason. There’s a lovely interplay between the openness of “Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away” and maddeningly detailed descriptions of seemingly fantastic ethnographic practices and beliefs that turn out to be lifted almost verbatim from Iliazd’s notes about specific villages he visited. I want English-language readers to be immersed in minute detail when Iliazd decides to give it without breaking the effect of fantasy – and the same holds for the urban settings with their commercial phantasmagoria and the Party’s revolutionary striving for “expedient coercion.”

Rapture is rich in literary and historical references, especially to the Russia literary scene at the turn of the century. For English-language readers with little to no knowledge of the Russian literary tradition, do you believe this text is truly accessible? To what extent?

I think the novel can be enjoyed without being able to catch all the allusions (I certainly haven’t). Many English-language readers are familiar with Dostoevsky and will certainly find that characters and situations from his major novels come to mind. Readers who know modern French poetry will find echoes of Baudelaire and Rimbaud (for instance, the monk Mocius sees a satyr gnawing a rifle barrel). I have incorporated some vocabulary and phrasing from the King James Version of the Bible, which I hope will sound in many English-language readers’ ears. Some allusions, like Laurence’s invocation of Boris Pasternak when he vows to wed the government’s soldiers to “our sister death,” are extremely fleeting, but will probably register with some readers. I think the book will reward any level of reading experience for curious, intelligent readers.

When I’m feeling very inadequate as a translator, I imagine Rapture could warrant something like Yale University Press’s simultaneous publication of two versions of Máirtín ´O Cadhain’s Cré na Cille (The Dirty Dust and Graveyard Clay), where the alternate version would focus sharply on another level of puns and allusions that results in an entirely different book.

Translators generally fall along a spectrum regarding how faithfully they believe a translation should adhere to a source text. Where do you fall on this spectrum of remaining to true to the text and making it accessible to the reader?

I don’t think of remaining true and making it accessible as mutually exclusive tasks. I think the text can have some odd features and still be accessible, especially because I imagine a reader with a generous tolerance for what’s unfamiliar. In part, remaining true to this text meant taking into account the specific kinds of incomprehension or bewilderment evident in the fragmentary accounts of the manuscript’s effect on its first readers. I was particularly drawn to the impression that the novel had been translated from another language into Russian. How should I handle that in my own, actual translation? I retained a few syntactic and punctuation features I thought might create just a slight edge of unease. They were flagged at the proofreading stage, so they were perceptible, but we agreed that they didn’t impede reading. But my sense of hitting the right balance depends on the text. If I were tackling Zdanevich’s beyonsense plays, I’d have a very different feeling for what I want readers to have access to.

What are your hopes for this publication? Do you have any particular expectations for its reception or impact both on academia and general readership?

As I mentioned above, I feel like this translation has the potential to introduce Rapture to readers on a scale it’s never achieved. Today, the sheer fact of making it available in English already provides a huge advantage. I fantasize that bilingual Russian speakers will encounter it and want to read Iliazd’s Russian.

At the same time, I hope Rapture finds a place for general readers alongside Dostoevsky and Bulgakov, but also alongside Woolf and Lawrence and Mann. And, in a sense, I hope readers will think of it not as a Russian novel, but as an important element in a much broader literary heritage.

Are you interested in translating any of Iliazd’s other novels or works?

I’m currently translating Iliazd’s Philosophia, set in 1921 among Russian refugees in Istanbul — a psychologically and referentially paranoid novel moving toward a terrorist plot to blow up Hagia Sophia. It feels very timely.

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

New Book Tuesday: Rapture, Global Jihad, African American Political Thought, Becoming a Rock Musician, and More!

Rapture

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

Rapture: A Novel
Iliazd. Translated by Thomas J. Kitson.

Nexus of Global Jihad: Understanding Cooperation Among Terrorist Actors
Assaf Moghadam

Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance
Alex Zamalin

Venture Investing in Science
Douglas W. Jamison and Stephen R. Waite. Foreword by Mark Anderson.

Contemporary Drift: Genre, Historicism, and the Problem of the Present
Theodore Martin

On Becoming a Rock Musician
H. Stith Bennett. Foreword by Howard S. Becker. (more…)