Mark Polizzotti on translating Patrick Modiano. His translation of Suspended Sentences comes out next month from Yale University Press.
The Occupation has been described as the “black hole of French memory.” Modiano’s particular talent has been to extend that void, to expose the profound moral ambiguities it covers over and the responsibility for those ambiguities in the most mundane aspects of his characters’ daily lives. Similarly, the Nobel citation focused on “the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the Occupation.” At the same time, one has the frequent impression in his books that the narrator’s memory is faulty, subject to lapses and short-circuits, suggesting that the facts being related are not as reliable as we’d wish, that certain crucial elements have been left out: responsibility is an uncomfortable burden to shoulder. It is no accident that many of these narratives flirt with tropes of the roman noir or take on the character of private investigations.
Another review for Volume 3 of Samuel Beckett’s Letters. The Independent.
The success of Waiting for Godot is still warm and he faces a world of admirers in new translators, writers, journalists (“the bastards”), actors and directors: “people, people, signatures, smiles, confusion of names”. These are the years when Harold Pinter first meets Beckett and Beckett first meets Buster Keaton, each to their heroes. Beckett marries his partner, Suzanne Deschevaux Dumesnil, and falls for his lifelong confidante to be, Barbara Bray.
The pull of two languages is mirrored by the pull of two private lives. Success has come and there is a lot of socialising done. But for a man writing under the flag of failure, this must also have had the feeling of the brakes being taken away. To counterbalance this, the letters continue to show a very harsh judging of his own work though always with a morbid self-deprecating humour – “Time they buried me” – that can only win empathy from today’s reader.
Beckett in his fifties (b.1906) is getting into the swing of making theatre and these years alone see the birthing of Fin de Partie (Endgame), Krapp’s Last Tape, Happy Days (of Winnie, “opulent blonde, fiftyish, all glowing shoulders and decollete), All That Fall, Embers, Words and Music, Play, Film with Keaton and the novella Comment C’est (How it is) plus “deserts of self-translation”. It’s an extraordinary output.
Busy day today, so I don’t have the time to catalog all the absurdities here, but needless to say Matthew Yglesias should stick to industries he understands. And he might want to learn to write like a grown-up.
Here’s a little real talk about the book publishing industry — it adds almost no value, it is going to be wiped off the face of the earth soon, and writers and readers will be better off for it.
The fundamental uselessness of book publishers is why I thought it was dumb . . .
What is indisputably true is that Amazon is on track to destroy the businesses of incumbent book publishers. But the many authors and intellectuals who’ve been convinced that their interests — or the interests of literary culture writ large — are identical with those of the publishers are simply mistaken.
I know that people like Farhad Manjoo get paid to be techno-utopians, but I still don’t quite understand why they seem to think that e-readers are an “all or nothing” proposition. It’s kind of like if you really like your blender and you go on an evangelical tear professing to all and everyone that THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO BLEND MOTHERFUCKERS AND IF YOU DO NOT BLEND AS I BLEND YOU ARE A POOR FOOLISH LUDDITE!!!!!!!!
Kindles are a tool that people who love to read books can use. So are smartphones, iPads, Kobos, Nooks, print . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Collection of Sand has just been published in English in the U.S., as has the Complete Cosmicomics. More Calvino in the world is better.
Here is Ron Slate on Collection of Sand.
Collection of Sand comprises four sections. The first part, “Exhibitions – Explorations,” includes ten pieces that mainly deal with shows and exhibits he visited in Paris: an exhibition of “bizarre” collections (sands, cowbells, train-tickets, toilet-paper packaging, etc.), early maps of the New World, the recreation of an 1856 display of wax monstrosities in wax, cuneiform and hieroglyphics, on the making of Delacroix’s “Liberty . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Best post-Nobel piece I’ve read on Patrick Modiano.
Modiano’s aim has been to place his own personal history against a broader social backdrop. He has called himself “a plant that grew out of a dung heap”, and, more directly, at least at first, “a product of the Occupation, the time when one could simultaneously be a trafficker of black market, a gestapiste of the Lauriston street and a pursued man. It is in this time when I met my father, a cosmopolitan Jew, and my mother, a comedian of Belgian origin, in the pre-war cinema”. (Modiano’s first . . . continue reading, and add your comments
A nice review of Lila at the Los Angeles Review of Books.
So when I tell you that Lila ends with a birth, if you are anything like me, your first read of this novel will be vaguely agitated. Not because it is unclear what will happen (this is no spoiler: we know from Gilead that there will be a child and that both he and Lila will live), but rather because across nearly 1,000 pages and over 30 years of reading Robinson, we have not yet encountered a depiction of pregnancy and parturition: the violent . . . continue reading, and add your comments
The Literary Saloon reports that a book by Linda Boström Knausgaard will soon be making its way to the English language. Yes, that name should look familiar to you.
In The Bookseller Anna James reports that Visser of De Geus launches English language publisher — which is to be called World Editions. (The current World Editions site doesn’t quite capture the English-language-publication version that’s coming.)
They kindly sent me ARCs of their forthcoming (in early 2015) first four volumes and it’s a promising start. The most notable title is Linda Boström Knausgård’s The Helios Disaster (see, . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Jacobin has an interesting, if problematic take on the Nobel Prize in Literature as an institution. The thrust of it is that the Literature Prize as it currently stands is a golem-esque creation of transnational capitalism, serving its needs by highlighting those authors that play to the humanistic, liberal ideals (which everyone in Stockholm, and probably Europe, knows are universal). It does so by books that are fit for global consumption and that feed in to a very particular image of the author as a lone outsider, completely detached from any present political realities.
Okay, okay, there’s . . . continue reading, and add your comments
After reading many, many translations, I am attempting to catch up with developments in mainstream American prose; i.e., the “big names” in American fiction. The last book I read in this vein was The Flamethrowers, which I liked to a point.
Now up, Ben Lerner’s new novel 10:04.
I view this book as a very ambitious failure. If we are to believe the backstory presented in the book itself—that it grew out of a story published in The New Yorker on June 18, 2012—then it was written extremely quickly, maybe in as little as a . . . continue reading, and add your comments