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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.

August 13th, 2014

Bolaño, Epiphanies and Imminence — A Post by Chris Andrews



Roberto Bolano's Fiction, Chris AndrewsThe following post is by Chris Andrews, author of Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction: An Expanding Universe. You can also read our interview with Chris Andrews about the book:

At the end of “Advice on the Art of Writing Short Stories” (in Between Parentheses), Bolaño writes: “read Chekhov and Raymond Carver. One of the two of them is the best short-story writer this century has produced.” Chekhov died in 1904, so either Carver wins by elimination, or Bolaño is suggesting that with just a toe in the century Chekhov beats all his epigones. In any case, the coupling is significant, for both Carver and Chekhov wrote epiphanic short stories. Describing the cards taped to the wall beside his desk in “On Writing,” Carver says: “I have a three-by-five up there with this fragment of a sentence from a story by Chekhov: ‘… and suddenly everything became clear to him.’ I find these words filled with wonder and possibility. I love their simple clarity, and the hint of revelation that’s implied.”

In Bolaño’s work there are moments when everything becomes clear to a character … or seems to be on the point of becoming clear. Sometimes the character has what the German critic Gunther Leypoldt, discussing Carver, calls an “arrested epiphany”: one that fails to deliver any definite content. This is what happens in “Gómez Palacio” when the director of the local arts council takes the narrator to her special place, which turns out to be a truck parking area in the desert, from which they can see the headlights of cars on a distant stretch of road. The narrator is initially skeptical, and with good reason: his host seems to be slightly crazy and has a taste for practical jokes. But then something happens:

I saw how the light, seconds after the car or truck had passed that spot, turned back on itself and hung in the air, a green light that seemed to breathe, alive and aware for a fraction of a second in the middle of the desert, set free, a marine light, moving like the sea but with all the fragility of earth, a green, prodigious, solitary light that must have been produced by something near that curve in the road — a sign, the roof of an abandoned shed, huge sheets of plastic spread on the ground — but that, to us, seeing it from a distance, appeared to be a dream or a miracle, which comes to the same thing, in the end.

Up to the explanation (“that must have been produced …”), the lyricism of this long sentence suggests something marvelous, and although the green light seems to breathe only for a fraction of a second, the aura created by the descriptive language does not vanish so quickly, partly because the explanation is conjectural, and partly because the final equation relativizes the importance of the physical facts: if dreams are miracles, why not hallucinations and illusions too? And yet this portent leads nowhere, and the narrator interrupts the lyric flight: “Then the director started the car, turned it around and droved back to the motel.”

Read the rest of this entry »

August 13th, 2014

Making Sense of Afghanistan’s Electoral Crisis — A Post by Noah Coburn and Anna Larson



“While Kerry again has brokered a deal between feuding candidates, there is no reason to believe that this deal will ultimately hold and it is the candidates who will ultimately determine whether there is a peaceful transition of power or not.”—Noah Coburn and Anna Larson on the recent elections in Afghanistan

Derailing Democracy in Afghanistan, Noah Coburn and Anna LarsonThe following post is by Noah Coburn and Anna Larson, coauthors of Derailing Democracy in Afghanistan: Elections in an Unstable Political Landscape:

Following the last minute intervention of John Kerry, the elections in Afghanistan to replace Hamid Karzai as president, have entered a chaotic period of counting, re-counting and accusations of fraud and corruption. How do we make sense of the power plays that are going on on both sides? Often forgotten in the mainstream press, these elections are actually the fifth in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in 2001, and turning to look back at some of the lessons from these elections can help us think about the current process. We’ve spent much of the past six years tracking candidates, officials and voters in Afghanistan and our book, Derailing Democracy in Afghanistan: Elections in an Unstable Political Landscape, provides some important lessons.

First, elections are shaped by the cultures and history that they are held in. Too often local forms of democracy are ignored and we recount the long history of democratization (and sometimes de-democratization) that Afghanistan has experienced since its first elections in the 1950s. Clearly there is no evidence to suggest that elections or democracy are somehow incompatible with Afghan culture. Despite this, a group of former commanders and the political elite, have manipulated elections over the past decade to consolidate their own power. This has created more skepticism about elections on the part of many Afghan voters. The high turnout in the 2014 elections suggests that most Afghans want to see a new direction in the government away from some of the nepotism of the Karzai regime. However, the current wheeling and dealing between Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai, and Kerry points to the fact that it is the political elite alone that control the resources in the country and this vote is unlikely to change that.

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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

August 12th, 2014

New Book Tuesday: Death Watch, In Stereotype, the Wrath of Capital, and More New Books



Deathwatch, C. Scott CombsOur weekly list of new books now available:

Deathwatch: American Film, Technology, and the End of Life
C. Scott Combs

In Stereotype: South Asia in the Global Literary Imaginary
Mrinalini Chakravorty

The Wrath of Capital: Neoliberalism and Climate Change Politics (Now available in paper)
Adrian Parr

Film Theory: Creating a Cinematic Grammar
Felicity Colman

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Cold War Icon, Gulag Author, Russian Nationalist?: A Study of His Western Reception
Elisa Kriza

Critical Reflections on Audience and Narrativity: New Connections, New Perspectives
Edited by Valentina Marinescu, Silvia Branea, and Bianca Mitu

Lobbying Uncovered?: Lobbying Registration in the European Union and the United States
Lisa Moessing

Read the rest of this entry »

August 11th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction



Roberto Bolaño's Fiction

“An indispensable guide to navigating the rich world of Bolaño’s fiction.” — Publishers Weekly

This week our featured book is Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction: An Expanding Universe, by Chris Andrews

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

We are also offering a FREE copy of Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction: An Expanding Universe 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, August 15 at 1:00 pm.

Chris Andrews, a leading translator of Bolaño’s work into English, explores the singular achievements of the author’s oeuvre, engaging with its distinct style and key thematic concerns, incorporating his novels and stories into the larger history of Latin American and global literary fiction.

Read the introduction to Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction: An Expanding Universe:

August 8th, 2014

University Press Roundup



Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

First up, over at the Chicago Blog, author and popular science journalist Carl Zimmer helps us to examine the realistic implications of our current so-called Ebolapocalypse.

OUP author Daniel Romer wants to know: What’s next for youth and the emergence of new media? From online ads to video games, the way in which younger people have approached the proliferation of media has changed drastically in the last twenty years. One massive study undertaken in the UK sheds some light on the effects–both positive and negative–that have surfaced amid this transition.

While we’re at the OUP Blog, take a look at some artwork featuring the gods, heroes, and mythological creatures of Greek antiquity, taken from author Barry B. Powell’s new free verse translation of Homer’s The Odyssey.

69 years ago this week, history’s first nuclear attack devastated the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yale Press author Keiko Hirata discusses the circumstances surrounding these monumental events, as well as the complicated and resounding impacts they’ve carried for Japan’s subsequent outlook and regrowth in the following decades.

This week, Penn Press covered a History News Network blog post by one of their authors, Jeffrey Glover, discussing America’s first interracial marriage. Can you guess who was involved?

Lastly, we head over to Beacon Broadside, where the environmental effects of fracking on U.S. aquifers are examined alongside Michelle Bamberger’s and Robert Oswald’s book, The Real Cost of Fracking.

Thanks again for reading this week’s roundup! Have a great weekend, and leave any thoughts in the comments!

August 8th, 2014

Househunting in the Homeland — Part 2 of an essay by Wendy Law-Yone, author of “A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma”



“It struck me for the first time how stable, how fixed was the life of a dictator…. He was the immovable, centrifugal force that had sent thousands of Burmese citizens spinning out into the troposphere of permanent displacement.”—Wendy Law-Yone

A Daughter's Memoir of Burma, Wendy Law-YoneThe following essay is by Wendy Law-Yone, author of A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma. This is the second part of her essay (read part one here) looking back at her return to Burma after years of exile:

The young reporters were watching us drive up and down the road at snail speed, peering at the house numbers from the open windows of our taxi. As we approached once more the high wall in front of which they were gathered, I asked the taxi driver to stop.

They crossed the road toward us in a pack: four women and two men in their twenties and thirties, cameras and press ID’s swinging from their necks, a boom microphone leading the way.

“What are you looking for, Auntie?” The sassy girl with the ponytail leaned in through his window to address me.
“House number Fourteen A,” I said. ‘We can’t seem to find it.’ I got out of the car to stretch my legs, and was immediately surrounded.
“Hello, Auntie! Where are you from, Auntie?”
“From this very street. I used to live here. At Number 14 A.”
“When, Auntie?”
“Long before any of you was born.”
“And Auntie now lives in – ?”
“London.”
“London!” Ah’s! and Aw!’s of wonderment. I might have mentioned the moon.
“But tell me,” I said. “What are you all doing here, anyway?”
“Waiting for the prisoner release,” said the girl with the ponytail brightly. Then, seeing my blank look, “Auntie does know about the prisoner release?”

Auntie did know. Only Auntie had been distracted and forgotten the big news: Six hundred political prisoners were to be released that day—yet another earnest of the government’s dedication to reform.

“General Ne Win’s grandsons are coming home any minute!” one of the boys blurted out. “That’s why we’re waiting here, in front of their house.” I stared at the house with the high wall across the street, slow to take in the revelation.

In 2001, the year before his death, Ne Win had fallen foul of the ruling military clique and been placed under arrest together with the daughter with whom he was living. The following year, the daughter’s husband and three sons were imprisoned on charges of plotting a coup.

Ne Win died in 2002; his daughter was released from house arrest in 2006, but his grandsons had remained in prison. It was they who were about to be released.

“You mean,” I said, “they still live here?”

It struck me for the first time how stable, how fixed was the life of a dictator. Since assuming power in 1962, Ne Win had lived on this street, and died on this street, exactly where, as a fifteen-year-old, I had last set eyes on him. He was the immovable, centrifugal force that had sent thousands of Burmese citizens spinning out into the troposphere of permanent displacement.

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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?

Read the rest of this entry »

August 7th, 2014

Househunting in the Homeland — An Essay by Wendy Law-Yone, author of “A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma”



A Daughter's Memoir of Burma, Wendy Law-YoneThe following post is part 1 of an essay by Wendy Law-Yone, author of A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma. For more on the book, you can also read our interview with Wendy Law-Yone

It was last day of my two-week tour of Burma, and the calendar was auspicious. Friday January 13th, 2012. Friday the thirteenth, at the beginning of a leap year! An excellent day to wrap up the business of househunting in Rangoon. That was how I had slugged the page in my notebook listing the homes I had once lived in and was determined to track down. HOUSEHUNTING.

I was born in Burma, but fled the country in 1967, at the age of 20. My father, Ed Law-Yone, publisher and editor of The Nation, Burma’s best known English-language newspaper, was still languishing in political prison when—desperate to escape the crushing police state my country had become—I decided to decamp. Accompanied by my brother Alban, I headed for the Thai border, choosing the “backdoor” route favored by smugglers and insurgents. Long before we reached the border, in the southern port of Moulmein, we were picked up by the secret police, and jailed for two weeks of interrogation.

Eventually, in May 1967, I was granted permission to leave the country—as a stateless person. Since then, I had been back only once: in 2001, after a 33-year prohibition. Some states are particularly pitiless toward their prodigal sons and daughters. The Burmese military regime was one of those states. Or had been.

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August 6th, 2014

An Interview with Wendy Law-Yone, author of “A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma”



A Daughter's Memoir of Burma

The following is an interview with Wendy Law-Yone, author of A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma:

Question: Why did you decide to write a memoir of your father’s life as opposed to a more conventional biography?

Wendy Law-Yone: A conventional biography would have required scholarship and research of the kind that simply wasn’t possible when I set out in earnest to write about my father’s life. Like a great many Burmese exiles of my generation, I was barred from returning home to Burma for such a prolonged period—33 years in my case—that I had pretty much given up hope of ever going back, much less of being allowed to investigate my father’s past in situ. But I never wanted to write a biography in any case, so that was not even in the equation.

The question was what to do with his memoirs, which had been collecting dust for years, for decades. What eventually supplied me with the courage – and the necessary interest—to give them the airing they deserved was the decision to tell his story from two perspectives principally: his and mine. My version of his life—and the ways it impinged on mine—would act as a gloss on his version. Anyone can write a biography of my father, I thought; but I alone can write a memoir. It was the one unique contribution I could make.

Q: What was the importance of The Nation, the paper your father edited, to Burmese society from the late 1940s to the early 1960s?

WL-Y: My father founded The Nation in 1948, the year of Burma’s independence. For the next fifteen years, throughout the post-war era of parliamentary democracy, the newspaper rose steadily in circulation and influence to become the leading English-language daily, with an international reputation. In 1963, following a coup that brought in a military dictatorship, his newspaper was shut down and he spent the next five years in prison.

When he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism in 1959, his citation read: ‘More than any other paper in Burma, The Nation has taken the role of a social conscience, speaking energetically against restrictive press laws, waste, inefficiency, and intolerance, and censuring “apartheid” and racial discrimination …’ The role he himself took on in the public sphere has few equivalents in modern journalism – he appointed himself both watchdog and blood hound.

When he died in exile in 1980, his obituary in the New York Times described him as “the first independent newspaper editor of free, post-war Burma, and also to date the last.”

Q: What role did your father play in the movement to overthrow the military government of Ne Win in the early 1970’s

He instigated the movement, organized it, masterminded it, and watched it die in its infancy. He must have hatched his plans in jail, because the minute he was released, he went into action. He convinced the deposed minister U Nu to spearhead the resistance he envisioned, then fled Burma to set up a government-in-exile in Thailand. The movement was soon joined by prominent politicians from Rangoon, as well as armed dissidents already operating in the border regions. He lobbied key members of the Thai government to provide a safe haven for the former Burmese prime minister—and to turn a blind eye to his subversive activities. He went on an international fund-raising tour with U Nu, banging the drum loudly on three continents. Then he returned to Thailand to engage in more diplomacy and conspiracy, shuttling between jungle camps along the Thai-Burmese border, vetting mercenaries and other would-be supporters of the cause, negotiating with Thai government officials increasingly fed up with the Burmese troublemakers they were harboring.

The movement fell apart within a year or two of its founding. But brief though it was, the coalition it brought together – of a central Burman government and an alliance of ethnic minority armies—was without precedent. It was the first and last bid for the restoration of democracy in Burma—until Aung San Suu Kyi and a new generation of dissidents came on the scene some fifteen years later, in the ‘8888’ uprising.

Read the rest of this entry »

August 5th, 2014

Video: Wendy Law-Yone Discusses “A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma”



In the following video, Wendy Law-Yone discusses her new book A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma at the Frontline Club in London. (Please note, the British title for her book is Golden Parasol: A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma):

August 5th, 2014

New Book Tuesday: Intimate Strangers, Alienation, Arab Uprisings, and More New Books!



Our weekly list of new titles now available:

Intimate Strangers, Andreea Deciu RitivoiIntimate Strangers: Arendt, Marcuse, Solzhenitsyn, and Said in American Political Discourse
Andreea Deciu Ritivoi

Alienation
Rahel Jaeggi

The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East
Edited by Marc Lynch

Self-Consciousness and the Critique of the Subject: Hegel, Heidegger, and the Poststructuralists
Simon Lumsden

New Strategies for Social Innovation: Market-Based Approaches for Assisting the Poor
Steven G. Anderson

Living Karma: The Religious Practices of Ouyi Zhixu
Beverley Foulks McGuire

The Columbia Sourcebook of Literary Taiwan
Edited by Sung-sheng Yvonne Chang, Michelle Yeh, and Ming-ju Fan

Historical Atlas of Northeast Asia, 1590-2010: Korea, Manchuria, Mongolia, Eastern Siberia
Li Narangoa and Robert Cribb

Mind in the Balance: Meditation in Science, Buddhism, and Christianity (Now available in paper)
B. Alan Wallace

The Author and Me
Eric Chevillard

August 4th, 2014

Book Giveaway! A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma



A Daughter's Memoir of Burma

“Gorgeous: vivid, precise and awash in remembered sunlight.” — Independent on Sunday

This week our featured book is A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma, by Wendy Law-Yone

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

We are also offering a FREE copy of A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma 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, August 8 at 1:00 pm.

Wendy Law-Yone was just fifteen when Burma’s military staged a coup and overthrew the civilian government in 1962. The daughter of Ed Law-Yone, the daredevil founder and chief editor of The Nation, Burma’s leading postwar English-language newspaper, she experienced firsthand the perils and promises of a newly independent Burma. This memoir tells the twin histories of Law-Yone’s kin and his country, a nation whose vicissitudes continue to intrigue the world.

Read the introduction to A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma:

August 1st, 2014

University Press Roundup



Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

The Association of American University Presses released a statement this week in support of net neutrality. Citing the mission of scholarly presses everywhere toward the preservation, advancement, and dissemination of scholarship, the AAUP asserts a principle reliance on the Internet and “open, neutral public network access to the online content and services of libraries, institutions of higher learning, and publishers small and large.”
At The Beacon Broadside, Frederick Lane examines the growing presence of “nullification” in American politics. He cites resistance to federal gun laws in some states as well as the recent Supreme Court case involving Hobby Lobby and the company’s protest of a requirement under the Affordable Care Act that female employees be given access to certain contraceptives that the owners believe act as abortifacients.

The University of California Press blog has a great video about the history of theatrical reissues of films in the age before television and video. The video features Eric Hoyt, author of Hollywood Vault: Film Libraries before Home Video.

The surprisingly important role that Italy played in the Cold War is considered in an interview with Kaeten Mistry, author of The United States, Italy and the Origins of Cold War: Waging Political Warfare on the Cambridge University Press blog.

On the one hundredth anniversary of Word War I, the University of Chicago Press blog features an excerpt from their book War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America by Beth Linker. The excerpt contextualizes the relationship between rehabilitation and the progressive reformers who pushed for it as a means to “rebuild” the disabled and regenerate the American medical industry.

In another WW-I related post, Marian Moser Jones, author of The American Red Cross from Clara Barton to the New Deal, asks the more basic question why should Americans care at all about the World War I Centennial? (via the Johns Hopkins University Press blog)

Speaking of one hundredth anniversaries, the Duke University Press blog features a post by Robert A. Hill, editor-in-chief of The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, who looks back at the 100-year anniversary of the founding of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League.

The Harvard University Press blog examines the American Association of University Press’s recent statement in support of net neutrality.

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July 31st, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner, the Poetry Edition and the Poems of Tomaž Šalamun



Tomaz Salamun

“But just being what you are, to be free within your writing, this is also the center of the real responsibility of the world. Therefore, your freedom is a political act.”—Tomaž Šalamun

We normally reserve Thursday’s to feature a work of fiction but today will focus on poetry and specifically the work of Tomaž Šalamun, whose collection Soy Realidad: Poems is now, finally, available in English from Dalkey Archive Press.

Soy Realidad ranges far from Šalamun’s Slovenia, combining his native language with Latin, French, English, and Spanish, as well as evoking such places as Belize, the Sierra Nevada, and Mexico City. From sex to God, from landscape to literature, Šalamun’s poetry is as ever a restless and witty inquisitor, peeling back the layers of the world.

Below are some excerpts from a fascinating, wide-ranging discussion he had with fellow Slovenian poet, Charles Simic that was originally published in BOMB. In the conversation, Šalamun and Simic, talk about political poetry, the state of poetry in contemporary world culture, and translation:

Charles Simic: Didn’t you also get in trouble over some political poem when you started writing poetry?

Tomaž Šalamun: Yes, this was in ’64. There was a very important cultural literary magazine called Perspektive in Ljubljana, which was battling with the official communist line. Heidegger was translated, Merleau-Ponty, Roland Barthes, Tel Quel’s authors. When they came to the border of being abolished, I was named editor in chief because they wanted to save the journal by putting an innocent young man in the position. And then I published a poem, which I thought was a kind poem, nothing special, but the government ideologues thought the poem itself and the gesture of me being put in charge as editor in chief was so transgressive that I found myself in jail. But the reaction from Le Monde, from the New York Times, from Corriere della Sera was so strong that they just pushed me out of jail after five days. I came out as a culture hero, and it was a very cheap glory. I realized, I have to become a really good poet to earn my fame. (laughter)

CS Was there anything in the poem?

TS It was a line: “Socialism à la Louis XIV.” And in one line: “dead cat.” But I had no idea that the interior minister was named Macheck (Maček), or “cat.” So he took it personally. The really bad years were the mid-’70s, which I think were also the darkest political years in Europe; when Aldo Moro was killed, when Schleyer was kidnapped, when the Brezhnev doctrine was so strong. Coming back from America, from Iowa in 1973, I was annihilated. I couldn’t make any money. The repression from Slovenia on me only stopped because of American PEN. So America really saved me several times.

CS You started out not wanting to be a political poet, right?

TS Yes. But because the system was very sophisticated then, when I came out of jail people from the Secret Service—the Udba—said, “Oh, you lost your steam, you don’t write any protest poems anymore.” My second book, still published by myself, was about butterflies, about nothing. It was more subversive than if I would write protest poems, since the government needed to show its pluralism and democracy. One has to be very precise not to be corrupt or used.

CS Your poems since then, too, have had moments when they would be interpreted politically. Do you think of politics?

TS Well, I was fighting to be free within my writing. And just this was subversive, and therefore political. But, for example, during the Balkan wars, when Brodsky and Milosz were able to write something, I was completely silent. I didn’t write a line of anything from ’89 to ’94. I just stopped writing.

CS It was too depressing. I get upset on almost a daily basis about things going on in the world. But to say, “I’m going to write a poem about the injustice in whatever place in the world” isn’t how it works with me.

TS And I think if you did intend to show that anger or depression, you wouldn’t be able to write good poetry. But just being what you are, to be free within your writing, this is also the center of the real responsibility of the world. Therefore, your freedom is a political act….

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July 30th, 2014

Joel Migdal on the Historical Contexts of The Present-Day Middle East



Joel Migdal, Shifting Sands

Joel Migdal, author of Shifting Sands: The United States in the Middle East, recently appeared on the podcast This is Hell!, to provide some historical context to recent events in the Middle East.

In this wide-ranging conversation that starts in the Cold War and winds past the Arab Spring, Migdal discusses the Sunni-Shia-irreconcilability myth, how the creation of Israel and the growth of Arab nationalism shaped the post-WW2 landscape, how monarchies, republics and non-state actors are shifting the regional power dynamics and why new maps won’t save the Middle East, but neither will American presidents.

July 29th, 2014

New Book Tuesday: Kant, Academic Style, Male Sex Work, and More New Books



Our weekly list of new titles:

Kant and the Meaning of Religion, Terry GodloveKant and the Meaning of Religion
Terry Godlove

The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities
Eric Hayot

Aristotle’s Ladder, Darwin’s Tree: The Evolution of Visual Metaphors for Biological Order
J. David Archibald

Race in a Bottle: The Story of BiDil and Racialized Medicine in a Post-Genomic Age (Now available in paper)
Jonathan Kahn

Until the Fires Stopped Burning: 9/11 and New York City in the Words and Experiences of Survivors and Witnesses (Now available in paper)
Charles B. Strozier

Male Sex Work and Society
Edited by Victor Minichiello and John Scott

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July 28th, 2014

Columbia University Press at Columbia University



Columbia University Press Vitrine

We are very pleased to announce that Columbia University Press now has its own vitrine on the campus of Columbia University! The vitrine gives us a a great opportunity to feature some of the excellent books we’ve published by Columbia University faculty or authors associated with the school.

Since the picture above might be a bit difficult to make out, the first four books we’ve included are:

Freedom’s Right: The Social Foundations of Democratic Life
Axel Honneth
Axel Honneth is professor of philosophy at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt and the Jack C. Weinstein Professor for the Humanities at Columbia University.

The Columbia Anthology of Yuan Drama
Edited by C. T. Hsia, Wai-yee Li, and George Kao
C. T. Hsia (1921–2013) is professor emeritus of Chinese at Columbia University.

Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea: Freedom’s Frontier
Theodore Hughes
Theodore Hughes is associate professor of modern Korean literature and film in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University.

The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism
Dean Starkman
Dean Starkman is an editor and Kingsford Capital Fellow of the Columbia Journalism Review.

For a fuller, but by no means complete, list of other recent CUP titles by Columbia University Professors.

July 25th, 2014

“The mind–body dualism has long overstayed its visit” — Concluding Thoughts from Shadow Medicine



“The mind–body dualism has long overstayed its visit. Western science needs to advance beyond the cur­rent reductionist model to some blending of the subjective and social aspects of healing.”—John S. Haller Jr.

Shadow Medicine, John S. Haller Jr.We conclude our week-long feature on Shadow Medicine: The Placebo in Conventional and Alternative Therapies with an excerpt, fittingly enough, from the concluding chapter. In “Reassessment,” Haller examines some of the challenges confronting alternative medicine as it tries to gain greater legitimacy as well as the need to integrate our understanding of what both alternative and conventional medicine offer:

With approximately 80 percent of the world’s population, including half the US population, using some form of [contemporary and alternative medicine] (CAM), the scientific community can no longer view these thera­pies as simply a fringe interest among consumers. However, because CAM therapies diverge sharply from reductionist science, the nature of their evidence and the subjective manner of their production create substantive problems for evidence-based medical knowledge. This suggests a remark­able similarity between CAM therapies and numerous nonspecific theo­ries and practices such as psychotherapy that, although difficult to explain in terms of their modus operandi, have proven beneficial to patients. The current tension between conventional therapies and unconventional ther­apies represents a collision of epistemologies. For the former, disease cau­sation constitutes the ideal form of evidence; for the latter, outcomes are of equal or greater importance. In our postmodern world, multifactorial causation has become more accepted as doctors and medical researchers adopt a more integrative role for unconventional therapies—a road that neither is straight nor accompanied by clear markers.

As the usage of homeopathy, acupuncture, herbals, chiropractic, and other CAM modalities amply demonstrate, their poor performance in clinical trials have caused little or no diminution in their popularity. They remain robust in their claims and ever anxious to expand their therapeu­tic applications. Even with increased consumer interest, however, only a small number of CAM therapies are expected to achieve legitimacy along­side conventional medicine. Unlike biomedicine, which is constantly jus­tifying its existence through replication and evidence-based research, most CAM modalities have yet to prove their efficacy or replicability, standing firmly on a static set of principles and practices that appear to “work,” albeit only marginally better than the placebo. To date, only a few have been able to build a scientific explanation for their efficacy. And for those that have achieved this status, the outcome has not always been to their benefit. The fact that the management of chronic disease constitutes 78 percent of medical expenditures in the United States explains why con­ventional medicine has been so aggressive in fighting CAM and, where possible, co-opting its more effective therapies.

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