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Detective, Find Thyself

missing-person

I am nothing. Nothing but a pale shape, silhouetted that evening against the café terrace, waiting for the rain to stop…

Published in French as Rue des Boutiques Obscures in 1978, Missing Person is a relatively early novel by Patrick Modiano, whose first book dates to 1968. Its narrator is a detective working for the Hutte Agency and we quickly learn that he himself is, in fact, the “missing person” of the title. “Hutte, as usual, sat at his massive desk, but with his coat on, so that there was really an air of departure about it. I sat opposite him, in the leather armchair we kept for clients.” Read more

Modiano’s Dora Bruder- With & Without Images

Patrick-Modiano-dora-bruder

It takes time for what has been erased to resurface. Traces survive in registers, and nobody knows where these registers are hidden, and who has custody of them, and whether or not these custodians are willing to let you see them. Or perhaps they have quite simply forgotten that these registers exist.

All it takes is a little patience.

…But I am a patient man. I can wait for hours in the rain…

That last little touch – “I can wait for hours in the rain” – is so typically Modiano. Here, in Dora Bruder, Modiano’s narrator is trying to assure us that he is persistent in the face of obstacles, that he is patient. And the proof he offers? “I can wait hours in the rain…” Quirky and understated.

The interrelationship between memory, time, and place is central to the books of Patrick Modiano. In the opening sentence of Dora Bruder, he quickly alludes to three separate time periods.

Eight years ago, in an old copy of Paris-Soir dated 31 December 1941, a heading on page 3 caught my eye: “From Day to Day.”

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Kosmopolis15 = Sebaldiana

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The Centre de Cultura Contemporànea de Barcelona is devoting Kosmopolis15 to W.G. Sebald. Kosmopolis is an annual “amplified literature festival” with live and online components. From its website:

The CCCB presents The Sebald Variations, in which the German writer of some of the fundamental texts of our turn of the century such as The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz forms the leading thread in an examination of the history of the 20th century and its projections into our present. How useful are Sebald’s books to understanding 21st-century culture? How can we escape from the “pedagogical prison of memory” that anchors us in the horrors of the 20th century without blazing the trails of a social construction of the future? At K15, we embark on a series of conversations with writers, essayists and artists set on exploring the core themes of the exhibition, creating synergies by joining the spirit of the festival with the author’s unorthodox approach. The Kosmopolis website also offers the Sebaldiana blog, an online space to explore Sebald’s world.

The online contents are being added over the course of the next month. I am happy to say that my contribution “Writing after Sebald” is already posted. I look at a handful of writers who I feel are the most “Sebaldian” in one way or another: Alexander Kluge, Iain Sinclair, Christoph Ransmayr, Sergio Chejfec, Teju Cole, S.D. Chrostowska, Micheline Aharonian Marcom, and Frederick Reuss. Read more

Sebald Events for February 2015

If you are in New York City this Wednesday February 11, you might want to try to get to Symphony Space at 7:30 PM for a book club discussion covering W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn led by the amazing line-up of Rick Moody (The Ice Storm), Dinaw Mengestu (All Our Names), and Hari Kunzru (Gods Without Men). Denis O’Hare (American Horror Story) will read an excerpt from Sebald’s book. There is an admission charge. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets in advance. Symphony Space is at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street, New York, NY 10025-6990.

 

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

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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.

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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

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