The New Issue of Asymptote

Some great stuff therein, including this review by Ian Dreiblatt:

Against this backdrop, there is cause for celebration in NYRB/POETS’ recent publication of An Invitation for Me to Think, a collection of most of Vvedensky’s surviving writing, edited by the poet and scholar Eugene Ostashevsky. In this volume, Ostashevsky has translated much of Vvedensky’s work anew and has also included some of Matvei Yankelevich’s previous translations, previously available only in tiny, though gorgeous, editions. Comprising mostly poetry (much of it in the form of several-voice verse plays) and some prose, the book is a beautiful compliment to the public resuscitation Tolokonnikova initiated, a splendid opportunity for English-language readers to become familiar with Vvedensky’s vital weirdness and weird vitality, with the English word “weird” applying in its Vvedenskian double meaning of both “strange” and “bound up with fate.”

Aleksandr Vvedensky was born to an intellectual St. Petersburg family a few weeks before the Revolution of 1905. It was a time marked by astonishing intellectual ferment in Russia, with Symbolism in full bloom and Futurism growing. When he was twenty, he met another young poet named Daniil Juvachov, who wrote under the name Daniil Kharms, and the two of them, kindred spirits, founded a writers’ group called the Academy of Left Classics. A few years later, to dodge possible associations with Trotskyism, they changed the name to the Union for Actual Art—in Russian, Ob’jedinenie Real’nogo Iskusstva, usually shortened to OBERIU. The members of OBERIU quickly established themselves as Leningrad’s preeminent avant-gardists, staging performances where poetry readings mingled with film, plays, clowning, and hijinks of many stripes.

And this essay by Michael Hoffmann:

In the winter of 1992, I visited Wolfgang Koeppen in his high gloomy cavernous apartment on the banks of Munich’s green rushing river, the Isar, to give him a copy of my new translation of his novel, Death in Rome. Many things about that afternoon, which was dark when it began and soon turned into evening, might have been calculated to cause vertigo and bewilderment. I was there ostensibly to “interview” him, which was not something I’d ever done before. I had and have the deepest admiration for his writing—especially the so-called “post-war-trilogy” of Pigeons on the Grass (1951), The Hothouse (1953), and the book I had begun by translating, Death in Rome (1954—Koeppen was someone who wrote his books quickly and in little clusters, or not at all). It was all so long ago in his life, and before the beginning of mine—but what else was there to talk about? Death in Rome was and remained his last novel. Then there was Koeppen’s age, he was in his mid-eighties, fifty years my senior: how to show respect and forbearance to such a man, and yet extract some information from him for the readers of the Observer? His long life was full of old mysteries. Uninquisitive and content with the books, I didn’t know what they were: how he got through the War; the mystery of his writing and not-writing; his long, torturous marriage to a woman who when he married her was under-age—that was something else it certainly wouldn’t have occurred to me to question him about. And yet here was someone who had haunted 1920s Berlin, the Romanisches Café and all—who spoke with real feeling for the lost decades of German-Jewish civilization, who, himself a young man in his twenties, claimed to have met Joseph Roth, whom I had also lately begun translating, and who had always seemed inconceivably remote to me, until I found myself sitting in the company of this man who had once been his younger colleague!

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Blinding Excerpt at Asymptote Blinding by Mircea Cartarescu, which I mentioned a couple of months ago, has just been published and you can now read an excerpt in Asymptote....
  2. Issue 23 Preview at The Quarterly Conversation We've published two features from the upcoming (March 7) Issue 23 of The Quarterly Conversation. These are two excellent pieces, and we published them early...
  3. New Asymptote New issue of Asymptote, pretty stuffed with all kinds of translation stuff. There’s a short piece by Laszlo Krasznahorkai. And this essay on translation by...
  4. The Buenos Aires Review Issue 1 Just published, the first full issue of The Buenos Aires Review. Featuring, among other things, a new translation of Mario Bellatín. And an interview with...
  5. Music & Literature Issue 3 Murnane fans will find a lot to love in Issue 3 of Music & Literature. Full table of contents is amazing (and at the link),...

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I teach philosophy and have always hesitated to put poets on the syllabus, but having looked at ‘An Invitation for me to Think’ I’m inclined to change that policy.

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