Skip to content

Science + Zen: Dror Burstein’s Netanya

netanya

“The clouds above our heads are created thanks to cosmic rays emitted millions of years ago by suns that have exploded and whose lights have already gone out.” Dror Burstein. Netanya. [Dalkey Archive Press, 2013. Translated from the Hebrew by Todd Hasak-Lowy.]

The narrator of Dror Burstein’s Netanya – a narrator we are lead to believe is Burstein himself – spends a night lying on a bench along the side of Smuts Boulevard in the town of Netanya, Israel, and as he stares up into the night sky he tries to grasp the vastness of the universe and the full extent of time from the Big Bang until the day when the universe might come to an end. As his mind shuttles between the cosmic and the minute, the faraway and the local, the distant past and the current moment, he realizes “how flimsy our existence is, how many conditions must exist and must continue to exist over the course of millions of years so that a single flower or a single pencil or a single book might exist.” Interwoven into the narrator’s contemplation of the universe is the story of three generations of his Jewish family, starting with his grandfather, who emigrated from Poland to Israel in the 1930s. Read more

Photo-Embedded Fiction & Poetry 2014

Here is my list of works of fiction and poetry published in 2014 containing embedded photographs.  You can see all of my previous lists via the drop-down menu “Photo-Embedded Literature” at the top of this page.  I’ve updated a number of the annual lists recently, usually thanks to readers who point me in the direction of books I’ve overlooked.  If you know of a book from any year that I might not have mentioned, please let me know in a comment. [Added to on March 23, April 8, 2015.]

Song of the Shank

Jeffery Renard Allen. Song of the Shank. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press. Several photographs credited to various sources.

Amis Zone of InterestMartin Amis. The Zone of Interest. London: Jonathan Cape. Contains a single photograph of Adolf Hitler and Martin Bormann placed between the final page and the Acknowledgements.

Golden Handcuffs 19-001

Mark Axelrod. “Kissing Sonia Braga.” A story in Golden Handcuffs Review 19 (Fall-Winter 2014-15), pp. 136-149. A short story containing seven unattributed photographs of the actress Sonia Braga, including film posters and snapshots. Read more

Sebald, Kluge & Competing Translations

Kluge Air Raid

Alexander Kluge’s writings clearly exerted a great influence on W.G. Sebald, especially Kluge’s important 1977 book Neue Geschichten: Hefte 1–18: “Unheimlichkeit der Zeit” (which roughly translates as “New Histories: Notebooks 1–18: ‘The Uncanniness of Time’) . Neue Geschicten is written in a flat, non-literary prose that becomes a montage of voices, photographs, drawings, and charts. Last year, Seagull Books released Kluge’s book Air Raid, which includes what I believe to be the first English translation of a section from Neue Geschichten. The bulk of Air Raid, which is translated by Martin Chalmers, consists the the text titled “The Air Raid on Halberstadt on 8 April 1945,” which appears in Neue Geschicten as the second of the eighteen notebooks ,”Der Luftangriff auf Halberstadt am 8. April 1945.”About a third of Air Raid consists of related pieces by Kluge drawn from several of his other books. Air Raid then concludes with Sebald’s “essay” on Kluge called “Between History and Natural History. On the Literary Description of Total Destruction. Remarks on Kluge.” Read more

Recently Read – Two from Full Circle Editions

burning

body-of-work

Full Circle Editions is a small publisher based in East Anglia that has produced sixteen books since it began operations in 2008. I’ve written about two of their books before: Audio Obscura by poet Lavinia Greenlaw and photographer Julian Abrams and After Sebald: Essays and Illuminations. I’ve recently finished two more of Full Circle’s handsome, well-designed books: Body of Work: 40 Years of Creative Writing at UEA (2009) edited by Giles Foden and The Burning of the Books (2014), a poem sequence by George Szirtes with photocollages by Ronald King. Read more

Suspended Sentences

Suspended Sentences

I sat at a sidewalk table of one of the cafés facing the Charléty stadium. I constructed all the hypotheses concerning Philippe de Pacheco, whose face I didn’t even know. I took notes. Without fully realizing it, I began writing my first book. It was neither a vocation nor a particular gift that pushed me to write, but quite simply the enigma posed by a man I had no chance of finding again, and by all those questions that would never have an answer.

So writes the narrator of Flowers of Ruin (Fleurs de Ruine), the third and final novella in Patrick Modiano’s book Suspended Sentences. After all of the hoopla over his winning the Nobel Prize for literature, I was impatient to check him out for myself. So I headed over to the great Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City to see what was in stock. At the moment, Suspended Sentences was my only option, but it turned out to be a good introduction to Patrick Modiano. I read the book compulsively for the next few hours, sucked in by Modiano’s voice and pacing.

Read more

Two Cahiers

Cahiers 23 and 24

I can’t seem to stop writing about the Cahier Series, published by Sylph Editions in collaboration with the Center for Writers & Translators at The American University of Paris. I have previously written about five earlier numbers in this series and now I’m blown away by the latest two, both written by eminent translators.

Erica Baum 1

Read more

Literary Legacies & Networks – Witnessing, Memory, Poetics, Pt 4

Witnessing

As I neared the end of Witnessing, Memory, Poetics: H.G. Adler & W.G. Sebald I began to feel a bit claustrophobic as a succession of scholars resolutely examined the relationships between these two writers. But the final section, “Literary Legacies and Networks,” introduced a new set of faces to the volume – Franz Kafka, Theodor Adorno, Hermann Broch, and Heinrich Böll. In the first of three essays in this section, Martin Modlinger examines “The Kafkaesque in H.G. Adler’s and W.G. Sebald’s Literary Historiographies.” Adler made numerous references to Kafka in his books and short stories and, significantly, warned against viewing Kafka primarily as a prophet of the Holocaust. Adler believed that “totalitarianism makes up just one chapter of many equal, disturbing developments in modern history that Kafka’s work addresses.” Although Sebald’s use of Kafka has been written about frequently, Modlinger brings some new insights of his own, comparing Jacques Austlitz’s inability to gain access a real understanding of Theresienstadt (where his mother perished) with the surveyor’s inability to penetrate the castle in Kafka’s novel The Castle.

As a place of suffering and death, [Theresienstadt] cannot – and should not – be fully accessible to the living. Where literature approaches history, especially the history of the Holocaust, it needs to keep its proper distance. For Sebald, literary historiography can never claim to be able to present the factual or emotional truth of suffering; it can only describe the path of necessary failure toward such an understanding.

Read more

After Sebald

After Sebald Full Circle

Even before I opened up the book, I wondered about the front cover of Full Circle Edition’s new title After Sebald. The list of the nine contributors (excluding Jon Cook, the volume’s editor) – three visual artists, four writers, and two academics – suggested a welcome new approach to Sebald, a possibly refreshing change from the steady appearance of theory-infused academic volumes that have been appearing regularly for years. Read more

Three Encounters with W.G. Sebald

4.cover

The latest issue of the Journal of European Studies (vol. 44, no 4, December 2014), contains a section called “Three Encounters with W.G. Sebald (February 1992 – July 2013),” edited by Richard Sheppard. Sheppard also provides some introductory remarks. (The complete Table of Contents for the issue can be found here.)

The first encounter is a reprint of Toby Green’s 1992 revealing interview with Sebald called “The Questionable Business of Writing,” accompanied by a new introduction by Green. This first appeared on the Amazon.UK website, where, somewhat surprisingly, it can still be found. Read more

The Correspondence Artist by Barbara Browning

Correspondence Artist

In The Correspondence Artist, Barbara Browning’s debut novel, Vivienne has a paramour whose identity must be kept secret. But since Vivienne seems to want to tell us all about him or her, she invents a handful of personas to stand in for her lover: a world music rock star from Mali, an Israeli novelist, a Basque revolutionary, and a Vietnamese artist. Vivienne moves the story deftly back and forth between her fantasy lovers, telling us about their trysts and sharing their discussions on film, contemporary art, jazz, literature, Jacques Lacan, and other topics familiar to the international art intelligentsia. In the hands of many other writers, conversations like these often come off stilted or speechy, but Browning lets Vivienne talk directly to the reader in a natural, comfortable, almost chatty manner that is totally convincing. She asks us questions and worries, for example, that we might not be following her explanations of Lacan. “Am I losing you?” she asks us as she attempts to summarize Lacan’s observations on the various meanings of the word “letter.” Read more

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,298 other followers