Friday, April 30, 2010

A Quiet Friday

A few short notes as we await the arrival of the new Absinthe assistant editor:

If you're near NYC this weekend you'll want to check out some of the events at the PEN World Voices festival. It runs through Sunday (May 2nd) and there are so many great panels and readings to attend. Wish I was there.

A fascinating new collection of writer's from Prague will be published in May. The Return of Kral Majales: Prague's International Literary Renaissance 1990-2010 is edited by Louis Armand and features work by over 90 writers and translators. Read more about it here.

Absinthe contributor Anne Milano Appel's translation of Blindly, by Claudio Magris, has just been published by Penguin Canada: "hailed as a masterpiece upon its initial publication in Italy, Blindly is a novel of highly original, poetic intensity, a Jacob's Ladder reversed to descend into the nether regions of history and, in particular, of the twentieth century." Magris is frequently mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature and an interview with him appeared in Absinthe 7.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Italian Film, Absinthe & Romanian Fiction, and Friedrich Dürrenmatt

It's that time of year when the Italian Film Festival comes to Detroit and they have a number of really interesting films this year screening at multiple venues, including the Detroit Film Theatre (a great place to see a movie), Wayne State University, and the University of Michigan, among other spots. Check out the festival schedule here and start living la dolce vita.

Despite the volcanic ash clouding the skies of Europe the London Book Fair went on as scheduled and so did an event to celebrate the release of Absinthe 13 sponsored by the Romanian Cultural Institute. Of course, I was sitting here rather than enjoying one of my favorite cities but hopefully a good time was had by those in attendance ... and hopefully it brought deserved attention to some great Romanian writers.

Fellow Dzanc Books imprint Black Lawrence Press has published a collection of poems by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, the prominent Swiss novelist, playwright, and essayist, who died in 1990. The poems are translated by Daniele Pantano, a Swiss poet, translator, critic, and editor, whose own poems appeared in Absinthe 10. I definitely recommend picking up a copy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thomas E. Kennedy's "In the Company of Angels"

Several weeks ago I was in a local Borders checking out the new fiction releases and one particular cover caught my attention. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the book was Tom Kennedy's novel In the Company of Angels. If you regularly read this blog or Absinthe you'll know that Tom contributes the "Shout from Copenhagen" column (in addition to contributing a number of translations to the magazine). He has been a good friend to Absinthe and so I was very pleased to see the attention his book is getting. In the Company of Angels is part of Kennedy's "Copenhagen Quartet" and is the first of the four to be published in the U.S.

A few days after my Borders visit I was fortunate to receive a copy in the mail and though I'm not yet done reading it I can say that it deserves all the accolades it's been receiving. Here's a sampling of some of the reviews:

It probably doesn’t reflect glowingly on American expat Kennedy’s native country that this watershed novel is the first to be published in the U.S. after a decade of acclaim abroad. Why it’s taken so long is anyone’s guess, as there’s plenty to admire in the serpentine unwinding of troubled protagonists adrift in contemporary Copenhagen.
--from a starred review in Publishers Weekly

An artfully written story with a conscience.

--Kirkus Reviews

If its stellar quality is any indication, the entire quartet promises to be an exceptional reading experience.... This novel offers much more than just a beautiful writing style. Each character's story is so undeniably interesting that the reader gains a sense of the wonder of disparate lives with unpredictable but intriguing connections.

--from a starred review in Booklist

Kennedy writes with unusual insight and compassion, depicting the best and the worst of the human experience. His work may be new to U.S. readers, but it merits greater attention, and we should look forward to seeing the other three books in his quartet published here.
--Library Journal

Pick up a copy for you and a friend!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky by Dmitry Trakovsky

The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good.
--Andrei Tarkovsky

On April 7th and 8th Absinthe collaborated with Oakland Community College to present two films by and about the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. Last night we screened Tarkovsky’s autobiographical film The Mirror (1975) and the previous night we presented the documentary Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky by the filmmaker Dmitry Trakovsky. We were very fortunate to have Dmitry with us on Wednesday night to talk about his film.

In Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky, the filmmaker explores Tarkovsky’s continued influence through a series of interviews that take Trakovsky from Los Angeles, to Italy and Sweden, and eventually to rural Russia. In Florence, he speaks with the director’s son, Andrei Andreevich Tarkovsky, who shares memories of his father.

Dmitry also interviews Erland Josephson, the renowned Swedish actor, about the two films he made with Tarkovsky: Nostalghia and The Sacrifice.

The documentary includes many other interviews and clips from Tarkovsky’s films and is an excellent introduction to the work of a director whose films are just as significant and moving today as when they were released. Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky will definitely make you want to revisit Tarkovsky’s films or experience them for the first time.

I definitely recommend checking out Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky if it screens near you. And be sure to speak with the filmmaker. Dmitry Trakovsky shares a lot of fascinating anecdotes about Tarkovsky and the making of the film. He also has a very generous spirit and a great sense of humor.

Trakovsky was born in 1985 in Moscow, and grew up in suburban Los Angeles after his family immigrated to the United States in 1987. He recently founded a small production company, Trakovsky Film LLC and you can learn more about him and the film at

Some upcoming screenings of Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky include:

Northwest Film Forum, Seattle
Sunday, April 18, 5PM

Cinecenta, University Of Victoria
Tuesday, April 20, 3PM

Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York
Wednesday, April 28, Time TBA

European Film College, Ebeltoft, Denmark
Sunday, May 2, 2PM

De Spiegel, Heerlen, Holland
Thursday, May 6, 8PM

Monaco Charity Film Festival
Tuesday, May 11, Noon

Friday, April 2, 2010

Christos Anesti

It’s a Good and beautiful Friday here (and the start of my favorite month) so I’ll keep this post fairly short and just touch on a few things I’ve been listening to and reading.

Before that, congratulations are due to Finnish-Estonian author Sofi Oksanen for winning the Nordic Council Literature Prize for her novel Purge.

Purge will be published this month by Grove Atlantic and the publisher’s website describes the novel as “a haunting portrait of two generations of women, the ghosts of Estonia’s Soviet occupation, and the cruel realities of contemporary Europe.”

If you enjoy listening to podcasts you’ll want to check out the Reading the World podcast hosted by the ubiquitous Chad Post of Three Percent/Open Letter and translator and poet Erica Mena.

They are off to a good start with these podcasts, which have so far featured interviews with Lawrence Venuti, Susan Harris, and Suzanne Jill Levine.

The World Books podcast by Bill Marx is fascinating and includes over thirty interviews with writers and translators such as Hungarian novelist Ferenc Barnas (who appeared in Absinthe #6), Dubravka Ugresic, Norman Manea, and Susan Bernofsky.

Both podcasts can be downloaded at itunes.

I read Pierre Guyotat for the first time with Semiotexte’s publication of Coma, translated by Noura Wedell. What can I say about it? It’s not an easy read but is a complexly poetic account of the writer’s descent into physical and mental illness.

And today, as many begin to celebrate forgiveness, I completed Philippe Djian’s novel Unforgivable, translated by Euan Cameron and published by Simon & Schuster.

An entertaining read and not surprisingly being made into a film like some of his previous work. This film is said to star Carole Bouquet, who made quite an impression on me as a young man in her Chanel no. 5 commercials (featuring the great Nina Simone and her song “My Baby Just Cares for Me”, and directed by Ridley Scott).