The End of Oulipo?

The End of Oulipo? My book (co-authored with Lauren Elkin), published by Zero Books. Available everywhere. Order it from Amazon, or find it in bookstores nationwide. The End of Oulipo

Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

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Translate This Book!

Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

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Group Reads

The Tunnel

Fall Read: The Tunnel by William H. Gass

A group read of the book that either "engenders awe and despair" or "[goads] the reader with obscenity and bigotry," or both. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Naked Singularity

Summer Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Life Perec

Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

Starting March 2011, read the greatest novel from an experimental master. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Last Samurai

Fall Read: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

A group read of one of the '00s most-lauded postmodern novels. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Tale of Genji

The Summer of Genji

Two great online lit magazines team up to read a mammoth court drama, the world's first novel.

Your Face Tomorrow

Your Face This Spring

A 3-month read of Javier Marias' mammoth book Your Face Tomorrow

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Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

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Here are ten of my favorite moments from these hugely interesting letters.


Interviews from Conversational Reading

New Books
See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • A Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

Aharon Appelfeld and Kafka

Dan Green has an interesting post on the Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld. The post touches on a number of points related to his novel All Whom I Have Loved, but I wanted to quote Dan's take on Appelfeld vis a vis Kafka:

Appelfeld is often enough compared to Kafka, but this comparison in turn generally assumes that Kafka's fiction is allegorical in a more or less overt way. But of course Kafka created narratives that appear to incorporate an allegorical level of meaning only to complicate and ultimately to deny that meaning. Kafka's world purports to be comprehensible, its ultimate sense to be discovered just around the next narrative turn, but it is finally a world of no-sense, or, more accurately, only of the aesthetic sense made through its own impeccable construction. Kafka is at pains to give his inscrutable world as much substance and texture as is necessary to make it. . .real. The point of reading Kafka's fiction is not, it seems to me, to arrive at a conclusion that the world we live in is absurd, or frightening, or grotesque, but that the world Kafka has created is self-sustaining and entirely logical.

If Kafka is a touchstone in understanding the work of Aharon Applefeld, then something like this focus on texture, on the imaginatively concrete, must be true of Appelfeld's fiction as well. Like Kafka, Appelfeld in all of his novels is concerned above all to sustain the integrity of his invoked world, to make the reader's experience of that world as palpable as the more customary world assumed in most novels. Indeed, if part of Appelfeld's ambition as a fiction writer is to recapture the lost world of prewar European Jewry, then insuring that the particulars remain in the foreground of the reader's attention seems all the more necessary, even if those particulars must unavoidably be filtered through fallible and subjective retrospection.

Appelfeld also has a novel recently published by Godine, Badenheim 1939.

I also noted that Dan's critical website, Critical Distance, has a new piece on Nicholas Baker. I'm a little too swamped to read it right now, but needless to say I'll get to it sooner or later.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Kirsch on Kafka On the heels of the new translation of Kafka’s novel Amerika, the NTYBR publishes a short essay on it by Adam Kirsch. Kirsch spends some...
  2. The Quotable Kafka My edition of Kafka’s complete short stories tells me that the short story "The Great Wall of China" "though apparently a fragment, is so perfect...
  3. Updating Kafka In The Guardian, Cockroach sounds impressive: De Niro's Game, the riveting Impac-winning debut novel by the Lebanese-born writer Rawi Hage, ended with its young hero,...
  4. This Is Not How I Pictured Kafka’s Infernal Machine The disco ball really screws it up. ...
  5. Kafka This is a beautiful reading: In the event, when they became engaged, Kafka would have to face the prospect of conjugality, and in Stach’s persuasive...

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2 comments to Aharon Appelfeld and Kafka

  • Scott, you’re also a little too swamped to get Nicholson Baker’s name right!
    And Badenheim 1939 has been out in translation for 29 years!
    Godine’s beautiful edition of Appelfeld’s “The Age of Wonders” is the one to go for. And then “The Healer”.

  • Steve,
    I’m aware of the previous Godine editions. They’re out of print and hard to find, which is why I mentioned that Badenheim was recently published.

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