I wanted to throw a little attention toward Adventures In Immediate Irreality by Max Blecher. I haven’t had time to read this book yet, but I’m going to. It has a lot going for it—first of all, Daniel Medin speaks highly of it, which is a high endorsement. Secondly, it is the final book to be translated by the late Michael Henry Heim, which makes it very much of note.
And check out this biography:
Max Blecher’s father was a successful Jewish merchant and the owner of a porcelain shop. Blecher attended primary and secondary school in Roman, Romania. After receiving his baccalaureat, Blecher left for Paris to study medicine. Shortly thereafter, in 1928, he was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis (Pott’s disease) and forced to abandon his studies. He sought treatment at various sanatoriums: Berck-sur-Mer in France, Leysin in Switzerland and Tekirghiol in Romania. For the remaining ten years of his life, he was confined to his bed and practically immobilized by the disease. Despite his illness, he wrote and published his first piece in 1930, a short story called “Herrant” in Tudor Arghezi’s literary magazine Bilete de papagal. He contributed to André Breton’s literary review Le Surréalisme au service de la révolution and carried on an intense correspondence with the foremost writers and philosophers of his day such as André Breton, André Gide, Martin Heidegger, Illarie Voronca, Geo Bogza, Mihail Sebastian, and Sașa Pană. In 1934 he published Corp transparent, a volume of poetry.
In 1935, Blecher’s parents moved him to a house on the outskirts of Roman where he continued to write until his death in 1938 at the age of 28. During his lifetime he published two other major works, Întâmplări în irealitate imediată (Adventures in Immediate Irreality) and Inimi cicatrizate (Scarred Hearts), as well as a number of short prose pieces, articles and translations. Vizuina luminată: Jurnal de sanatoriu (The Lit Up Burrow: Sanatorium Journal) was published posthumously in part in 1947 and in full in 1971.
Herta Müller’s introduction to Adventures In Immediate Irreality is available at The White Review.
Here is the review in Kirkus. And here is the review in The Literary Review.
The first Sebald that I read was The Rings of Saturn. This was in the spring of 2006.
Back then I didn’t like writing in my books, so I used these sticky colored tape things to mark passages I found interesting.
After that was On the Natural History of Destruction. There was no real reason I read this one next—I just happened to find it used at Moe’s Books, and I took it to Mexico with me.
I read it in late 2006. You can see my ticket for the anthropological museum of Xalapa, Veracruz, which has a magnificent collection of enormous Toltec heads, among many other items. Definitely a Sebaldian location. Incidentally, that entry fee is in Mexican pesos, not dollars, so it came out to about $4.00, not $40.00.
After that it was Austerlitz. I recall reading this in a subletted apartment in Berkeley right after I had returned form Latin America, while writing an essay on Bioy and Kafka.
It was about this time I read my first work of Sebald criticism, J.J. Long’s W.G. Sebald: Image, Archive, Modernity.
And some marginalia.
Than came Vertigo, one of the first books of many, many I was to read on my commutes on the Bay Area Rapid Transit.
And some marginalia from that one.
Shortly thereafter, I think it was around the spring of 2011, I came upon these two works of Sebald criticism. The bottom one, Searching for Sebald, is particularly special. It’s about 600 pages in length, is full of very interesting photos, mixed media pieces, essays, and interview. It even includes this:
The infamous photo taken where Sebald had his fatal car accident. Some say that the patters in the smoke resemble Sebald’s face, particularly his trademark mustache. (This photo was later discussed in the Sebald documentary, Patience (After Sebald), which I viewed in spring 2012.)
About that time I also happened onto this book: Unrecounted, which combines portraits of eyes with brief poetry. Famously, Javier Marías is included in here:
I discuss this briefly in an essay I wrote on Marías.
It was after Unrecounted that I acquired After Nature, Sebald’s first book, and Campo Santo, which was the first book of Sebald’s that I ever heard of, via a review published in the San Francisco Chronicle upon the book’s release in spring 2005.
2013 brought Across the Land and the Water and A Place in the Country, an essay collection which is Sebald’s most recent book in translation (and possibly the last?)
The latter I bought at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris in May 2013, shortly after presenting a paper on Bolaño at a conference in Warwick, England.
All that leaves is The Emigrants, which I have not yet read. This was actually the first book of Sebald’s that I ever purchased, but I did so as a gift. Being as much of a Sebaldian as I am, I know I will have to read this one day, but I’ll also be a bit sorry to see any unread full-length Sebald departing from my life.
In addition to The Emigrants there also remain For Years Now, a short book of stories/poetry, and The Emergence of Memory, which is interviews, not writings.
I would be interested if anyone is aware of any other worthwhile books of Sebald criticism.
I’m a little bit intrigued by Stephen Marche’s idea that some books can hold up to being read 100 times or more. This seems like something I’m dangerously close to actually attempting. Although, this could make for a strange project—at 3 reads per year, this would take 34 years. Even at a rather brisk 10 reads per year, that would still be 10 years—not exactly insignificant. What if 5 years in you decided that this book didn’t actually hold up to 100 reads?
I’m curious to know which books you all would actually try this with. Keep in mind practicalities—what I want are books you think this could really work for. After all, we all can probably think up a laundry list of 500-page books wisdom literature that would sustain some pretty heavy intellectualizing, or just plain crazy stuff like Gravity’s Rainbow, but a lot of these just wouldn’t work out on a practical level (if I read GR 10 times per year, I wouldn’t read much else, which would either be really cool or ruin my life).
Here’s my review of Alejandro Zambra’s latest book, which, depending on how you want to look at things, is either his first short story collection or his longest novel ever.
It’s hard to choose, but this may be my favorite quote from Michael Hofmann’s translation essay “Sharp Biscuit,” found in his recent essay collection, Where Have You Been? Hofmann tackles translation theory like a true poet—instead of digging deeply into philosophical ideas of translation, he gives us image after image, metaphor after metaphor in an attempt to describe what he does when he translates. (There’s a beautiful image there of poetry translations with facing-page originals being like a spider’s captured, wrapped up prey (the translation) just waiting to be consumed by the awaiting . . . continue reading, and add your comments
It’s early, but The Musical Brain and Other Stories—the first story collection by César Aira to appear in English—is already shaping up to be one of my favorite reads of the year. I’m a die-hard Aira fan, but there are books of his that I feel just aren’t quite as good as they might be. What I’m saying is, some of his conceits work for me, and some of them don’t.
The amazing thing for me about The Musical Brain is that it all works. These are 20 stories, and each of them is virtuosic. In addition . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Minae Mizumura was a runner-up for the 2014 Best Translated Book Award. That year Seiobo There Below was the winner (and virtually impossible to beat), but had that book not won, it’s very possible that A True Novel would have.
Mizumura’s project is original and interesting, and her second book to be translated into English was published last month by Columbia University Press. It is The Fall of Language in the Age of English, translated by Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter.
Reviews in The Complete Review:
The Fall of Language in the . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Gail Hareven is notable for having won the 2010 Best Translated Book Award (for The Confessions of Noa Weber). I’ve heard very good things about Lies, First Person, which is publishing next week.
Not a ton of reviews available yet, but here are two: Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus.
This is all the César Aira I own, as it would be seen on my bookshelf if you came to my home. I have him in my “Latin America” collection, sandwiched between some other Argentines—Ernesto Sábato, Tomás Eloy Martinez, and Adolfo Bioy Casares. (My copy of The Conversations is missing in action.)
The first Aira I purchased, and the first I read, was Como me hice monja (How I Became a Nun), which I found at Ghandi Books in Puebla, Mexico in 2007. I believe it was something . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I would like to recommend to you all Aliens and Anorexia by the American avant-garde writer, editor, and filmmaker Chris Kraus. Published in 2000, it was her second novel, and I think it more successfully realizes the goals set by another recent American novel, The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner. (This isn’t the place for my thoughts on Kushner’s accomplished, but ultimately disappointing, novel, but if you want to read those you can find some of them here.)
What is at the heart of these two books? Modernism, femininity, feminism in the . . . continue reading, and add your comments