Monday, January 31, 2011

Literary Magazines in Germany

If you think we like literary magazines (or magazines in general) then you would be right and so an article like Big Ideas for Little Money: The Boom in Literary Magazines at the Goethe Institute site definitely catches our eye. It takes a look at three new literary magazines:
[SIC] is a magazine project that places text in direct relation to illustration; um[laut] appears under the bold subtitle of “junge kunst. politische kunst. mindestens” (i.e. young art. political art. at least). radar, by contrast, sees itself as a cultural mediator between Germany, Poland and Ukraine and, logically enough, is published as a trilingual magazine.
The article quotes Michael Braun as referring to literary magazine editors as “literature-mad mavericks and stubborn types who do not let meagre returns deter their passion for literature and who have retained a dogged ambition to discover literary talents and forgotten texts”.

I've definitely met a few editors matching that description.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Encountering Milan Kundera

I was eager to read Milan Kundera's latest collection of essays, Encounter, published last fall by Harper and translated by Linda Asher. It was not a disappointment. Kundera notes in the dedication that the collection is "an encounter with my reflections and my recollections, my old themes (existential and aesthetic) and my old loves ..."

The opening essay is about one of my favorite painters, Francis Bacon. Kundera concludes that Bacon's distorted images and faces depict "the infinitely fragile self shivering in a body; the face I gaze upon to seek in it a reason for living the 'senseless accident' that is life."

In the final essay, on Curzio Malaparte and his novel The Skin, Kundera's thoughts turn to death:

The war's closing moments bring out a truth that is both fundamental and banal, both eternal and disregarded: compared with the living, the dead have an overwhelming numerical superiority, not just the dead of this war's end but all the dead of all times, the dead of the past, the dead of the future; confident in their superiority, they mock us, they mock this little island of time we live in, this tiny time of the new Europe, they force us to grasp all its insignificance, all its transience ...  

Encounter also includes essays on Dostoevsky, Philip Roth, Juan Goytisolo, Anatole France, Gudbergur Bergsson, and many others.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Poetry International Web: Dutch and Flemish Poetry Day

Poetry International Web celebrated Dutch and Flemish Poetry Day with poems from the Poetry Day chapbook Een oud geluid (An Old Story) by Dutch poet Remco Campert. They are accompanied by audio recordings of the poet reading his works and translations into English by Donald Gardner.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

2011 Best Translated Book Awards: Fiction Longlist

Over at Three Percent Chad Post has announced the fiction longlist for the 2011 Best Translated Book Awards. The list includes 25 works from many of our favorite authors, translator, and publishers and you're sure to find a great read here:

The Literary Conference by Cesar Aira.
Translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver.
(New Directions)

The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz.
Translated from the Czech by Andrew Oakland.
(Dalkey Archive)

The Rest Is Jungle & Other Stories by Mario Benedetti.
Translated from the Spanish by Harry Morales.
(Host Publications)

A Life on Paper by Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud.
Translated from the French by Edward Gauvin.
(Small Beer)

A Jew Must Die by Jacques Chessex.
Translated from the French by Donald Wilson.
(Bitter Lemon)

A Splendid Conspiracy by Albert Cossery.
Translated from the French by Alyson Waters.
(New Directions)

The Jokers by Albert Cossery.
Translated from the French by Anna Moschovakis.
(New York Review Books)

Eline Vere by Louis Couperus.
Translated from the Dutch by Ina Rilke.

Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck.
Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky.
(New Directions)

The Blindness of the Heart by Julia Franck.
Translated from the German by Anthea Bell.

Hocus Bogus by Romain Gary (writing as Emile Ajar).
Translated from the French by David Bellos.
(Yale University Press)

To the End of the Land by David Grossman.
Translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen.

The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson.
Translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal.
(New York Review Books)

The Clash of Images by Abdelfattah Kilito.
Translated from the French by Robyn Creswell.
(New Directions)

Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico by Javier Marias.
Translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen.
(New Directions)

Cyclops by Ranko Marinković.
Translated from the Croatian by Vlada Stojiljković,
edited by Ellen Elias-Bursać.
(Yale University Press)

Hygiene and the Assassin by Amelie Nothomb.
Translated from the French by Alison Anderson.
(Europa Editions)

I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson.
Translated from the Norwegian by
Charlotte Barslund and the author.
(Graywolf Press)

A Thousand Peaceful Cities by Jerzy Pilch.
Translated from the Polish by David Frick.
(Open Letter)

Touch by Adania Shibli.
Translated from the Arabic by Paula Haydar.

The Black Minutes by Martin Solares.
Translated from the Spanish by
Aura Estrada and John Pluecker.
(Grove/Black Cat)

On Elegance While Sleeping by Emilio Lascano Tegui.
Translated from the Spanish by Idra Novey.
(Dalkey Archive)

Agaat by Marlene Van Niekerk.
Translated from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns.
(Tin House)

Microscripts by Robert Walser.
Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky.
(New Directions)

Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer by Ernst Weiss.
Translated from the German by Joel Rotenberg.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Absinthe Recommends: Books

We'll finish up the recommendations from Absinthe #14 with our book recommendations:

I Don’t Believe in Ghosts by Moikom Zeqo
Translated by Wayne Miller
BOA Editions, 2007, 160 pp.
This work publishes for the first time in English sixty-seven poems from Zeqo’s collection Meduza. Written between 1970 and 1974, the poems navigate archly between amusing (a line comparing the Eiffel Tower to a giraffe struck me as so true I laughed aloud) and poignant: several poems ruminate on that singular feeling of being lonely, including the thoughtful “An Explication of the word Loneliness.” There is much to appreciate here on a political scale (Meduza’s poems were written in part as a reaction to Albania’s policies of Social Realism), but what truly captivates are the poems about more quotidian acts, such as being in love and “wandering” (“Intimate”) or exploring what for Zeqo must be another everyday act: writing itself.  Over the course of the collection, Zeqo examines the way he works at metaphors, sheltering them (“Dusk”) or bringing them forth from his skin like suns (“From the Pores of My Skin”).  No matter what brings you to these pages, you will leave with the certainty that if for no one else but you Zeqo has created what he himself was searching for, “the poetry of the people.”

I’d Like by Amanda Michalopolou
Translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich
Dalkey Archive, 2008, 144 pp. 

There are countless examples of stories that focus on the theme of connection, where multiple plot lines all end in one place and where the characters are all revealed to be members of one family, etc.  The thirteen stories in Michalopolou’s collection also play with the idea of connection but in a unique way. Instead of combining neatly together, what might join them may be an object, like pointé shoes or a red beret; a relationship—sisters or a married couple; repeated names or lines. For example, the first two stories (“I’d Like” and “A Slight Uncontrolled Unease”) both begin with the exact opening phrase, but then go in widely different directions. What this technique does for Michalopolou’s stories is to create two intriguing paths that draw you ever deeper into the stories. First, an unintentional (or not) game has been created wherein you hunt each story for similarities (noting the many times you’ve read something about “yellow eyes”) and then flip through again to try and find more. Second, an atmosphere has been built over the collection of comfortable familiarity, that sense you’ve been here before—only someone has perhaps rearranged the furniture. In I’d Like Michalopolou crafts stories that are not only completely enjoyable on their own but read together offer a refreshing take on a familiar device. 

Toward the Endless Day: The Life of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel by Olga Lossky
Translated by Jerry Ryan
University of Notre Dame, 2010, 344 pp.
Orthodox Christian theologian Elisabeth Behr-Sigel embodied an ecumenical spirit—born of a protestant father and Jewish mother, part of an eastern faith yet living in Paris—and these factors contributed to a generosity and openness in her theological writings and dealings with people. She embraced the Orthodox faith at age 24, studied theology at a time when there were few women theologians, and died in 2007 at 98. This fascinating biography includes excerpts from Behr-Sigel’s journals and personal letters and anyone with an interest in ecumenism or twentieth-century European history will find much to enjoy.  

The Return of Král Majáles: Prague’s International Literary Renaissance, 1990-2010
Edited by Louis Armand
Litteraria Pragensia Books, 2010, 960 pp.
Armand collects the work of over ninety writers and translators working in Prague over the twenty years since the Velvet Revolution, including Michal Ajvaz, Hana Androniková, Sylva Fischerová, and Róbert Gál. As one might expect, the texts are diverse and demonstrate a range of influences and styles. Poetry and prose are richly supplemented with author portraits and other archival photos, along with a detailed bibliography.  The anthology takes its title from Allen Ginsberg’s election as “King of May” in a 1965 visit to the city, the poem he wrote as a result, and his return to Prague at the time of the revolution twenty-five years later.   

Thanks to Absinthe contributor Anne Marie Sumner (and an anonymous Absinthe editor) for these recommendations.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Absinthe Recommends: Films

We'll continue with our film recommendations from Absinthe #14:

I Have Loved You So Long
Directed by Phillipe Claudel
France, 2008

The funny thing about guilt is that it often keeps one from doing the right thing.  We put up walls and push people away.  Yet those feelings of guilt might be the impetus we need to reach out and begin reconciliation.  Juliette (Kristen Scott Thomas—in a Francophone role!) finds herself in such a place.  Released after 15 years in prison, she numbly reconnects with her younger sister (Elsa Zylberstein) and begins the slow, humbling process of rebuilding her life.  Abandoned by parents and husband, Juliette only has a sympathetic parole officer and her sister to help bring about what nearly amounts to a resurrection.  Writer/director Claudel creates an emotional tension in all of Thomas’ relationships—even the more casual ones and Thomas gives an appropriately restrained performance throughout. 

Directed by Andrzej Wajda
Poland, 2007

Director and co-writer Andrzej Wajda revealed in a Polish TV interview that he was caught between telling “the crime and the lie.”  The crime being the 1940 massacre of over 15,000 Polish army officers—including those who were teachers, architects, bankers, and engineers before the September 1939 invasion—by the Soviets.  Wajda’s own father was executed with the others in the Katyn forest.  The lie was the cover up and denial by the Soviets.  They blamed it on the Nazis who discovered the mass graves and, in an egregious case of the pot calling the clichéd kettle black, used it for their own propaganda. The story focuses on the women who are left widowed with unanswered questions and on the destruction of Polish culture by Stalin.  The film shifts back and forth from the crime to the lie and ends abruptly—like the lives of those soldiers taking a bullet to the back of the head.

Thanks to Absinthe contributor Scot Martin for the film recommendations.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Absinthe Recommends: Music

Each issue of Absinthe includes some music, book, and film recommendations and so we thought we'd share some from the new issue. Today we'll feature some suggested music for your listening pleasure:

GoodGreef Presents the Alex Kidd & Kutski Experience by Alex Kidd & Kutski

There has been a fair amount of press coverage of a rave music revival in the past few years, but that coverage rarely acknowledges the fact that rave has lived on in the form of hard dance, an umbrella term for a number of techno subgenres popular throughout Europe. On this mix from Alex Kidd and Kutski, the British DJs showcase a range of current tracks, landing somewhere between Jeff Mills, Alice Deejay, Belgian hardcore and dark trance. There are some cheesy moments (DJ Isaac’s moronic “Bitches”, for example), but this is largely an exhilarating listen.

Barcelona by Mattin & Cremaster

Basque provocateur Mattin teams up with Barcelona-based improvisers Ferra Fages and Alfredo Costa Monteiro on this short e.p. of seven untitled tracks. Opening with savage feedback and screaming, the trio then slowly builds mixing board sounds and computer noise from near silence to another harsh climax. Silence and tiny gestures return on the third piece, while a shrill noise ushers in the fourth. Sputtering, humming, distressed machinery pushes forward, Mattin breaking in again to scream before being subsumed back into the melee. The most unsettling moment of this uneasy listening music, though, is what sounds like teeth rattling around in a tin cup on the final track.

Catshoukah EP by Panagiotis Spoulos
Phase! Records

This sixteen-minute piece from the Greek experimental musician sounds like you’re in a dream. It starts with a lighthouse fog horn in the distance before slowly building in intensity and sound. A train calls out its horn as it gets closer. The feeling of dread starts to take over. It is cold, and you feel uneasy. The sound recedes again to that slight drone, before picking up with alien synthesizer patterns that race up your spine. Headphone music for a walk in the dark.

Miastenia by OvO

Italian duo OvO are a hard group to place. On the one hand, there’s punishing, sludgy metal (“Anime Morte”), thrash (“Fobs Unite”) and grunge with Yoko Ono-esque vocal quavering (“Mammut”), but there’s also minimalist jazz (“Coco”), drum-and-cello driven art song (“VooDoo”), and what sounds like Paris café music from an alternative reality (“Rio Barbaira”). The album closes with “Miastenia,” which manages to unite slow, heavy riffs, a middle section of dubbed out piano, followed by more riffs and demon growls over the course of twenty minutes. This is an odd, engaging album.

Thanks to Absinthe music contributor Jeff Sumner for these recommendations.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Granta and Habitus: Spanish Novelists and Berlin

You've probably already heard about Granta's recent "Best of Young Spanish Language Novelists" issue. Over at Three Percent they covered each author and it's well-worth taking a look at their coverage. The issue includes fiction from six writers from Spain: Andres Barba, Pablo Gutierrez, Sonia Hernandez, Javier Montes, Elvira Navarro, and Alberto Olmos.

The new issue of the excellent magazine Habitus will be published soon and it's focused on Berlin. A few pieces have been posted to their web site, including an interview with Horst Hoheisel and Habitus Editor Joshua Ellison's thoughts following a visit to the city.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

15 Second French Films

I intended to mention this weeks ago but time slipped away ... this link was sent to me by the inimitable Sean Cotter:

15 Second French Films--"Want to watch pretentious films, but simply don't have the time?
Problem Solved."

These entertaining shorts will make you want to download that Godard or Truffaut film from Netflix.

Or maybe not.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Literalab Blog at Czech Position

A new blog to keep tabs on is Literalab by Michael Stein over at the recently launched online magazine Czech Position. Michael writes about Central European writing and art and so far he's added interesting posts on the cultural scene in Belarus, Wassily Kandinsky, the Belarus Free Theatre, Kafka and Schulz in Stockholm, and a two-part interview with György Spiró.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Public Enemies: Bernard Henri-Levy and Michel Houellebecq

Random House has recently published Public Enemies, a conversation between the French writers Bernard Henri-Levy and Michel Houellebecq. It's sure to be an entertaining read and the New York Times provides two takes on the book.

Dwight Garner helps us understand the neologism "moasting" and notes that Public Enemies "is a pure distillation of literary moasting, as high proof as it gets. Both men delight in being provocative, on the page and off, yet feign shock that anyone has ever been provoked," while Ian Buruma writes "the running gag that permeates the entire discussion is the conceit that (Henri-Levy and Houellebecq) are hated, persecuted and despised by almost everyone" and concludes that "it is all brilliantly done. But I’m afraid to say that none of this is meant to be read as a comic novel. It is all in deadly earnest."

You can also read an excerpt here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Absinthe #14 Has Arrived

Don't miss out on the newly published Absinthe #14.

The issue presents fiction by Mateiu Caragiale, Anca Cristofovici, Robert Gal, Wieslaw Mysliwski and Norberto Luis Romero, with poetry by Rita Dahl, an interview with filmmaker Dmitry Trakovsky, book reviews and film & music recommendations, and reports from Copenhagen and Prague. In addition, photographs by Giacomo Brunelli appear on the cover and in an 8-page portfolio. Order a copy here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

European Cinema and the Golden Globes

Last night the Golden Globe Awards were presented and the five films nominated for best foreign-language film were all from Europe: Biutiful (a Mexico-Spain co-production), The Concert (France), The Edge (Russia, and presumably not a film about the U2 guitarist!), I am Love (Italy), and In a Better World (Denmark).  Susanne Bier's In a Better World won but all the films sound like they're worth taking a look at. I'm definitely interested in seeing Bier's film after seeing her well-done Oscar-nominated 2006 film After the Wedding.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

2011 Milosz Year

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of poet, translator, and prose writer Czeslaw Milosz and the Polish Book Institute is celebrating 2011 as Czeslaw Milosz Year:

Our hope is that the hundred-year anniversary of Czeslaw Milosz’s birth will be a chance to reacquaint ourselves with his work, which has long prompted creative reflection on the condition of the contemporary world.
The Milosz Year program is made up of new book publications, conferences, discussions, and exhibitions devoted to the poet, organized in Poland and abroad – from Krasnojarsk through Vilnius, Krasnogruda, Krakow, and Paris, to New York and San Francisco. Its culminating point will be the second edition of the Milosz Festival, taking place in Krakow (May 9th-15th 2011).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dwell Magazine and European Architecture and Design

One of the magazines we like to read in the Absinthe home office is Dwell and the current issue (February 2011) has a number of Eurocentric articles, including a look at the London Design Festival  (we’d add the Pontus desk by Pinch to our office). Additionally, there is a feature on Brussels-based German furniture designer Christiane Högner and the castoffs she creatively uses to furnish her family’s two-bedroom apartment, along with an article about 2012Architects, a firm that designed and built a home in Enschede, the Netherlands almost entirely from locally recycled materials.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Wisdom of Dostoevsky’s Father Zossima and Current Political Rhetoric

There has been a lot of finger-pointing from the political left and right in response to the shooting last weekend of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (and many others) but little in the way of taking responsibility for our own words and actions. Contrast The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz  who states “there are crazy people out there, but we can’t all be responsible for what they do” with what Tucson resident Michele Brubaker told a reporter: “I’m here for Tucson. This should not be happening … we’re all responsible. We have to do something.”  Her reaction echoes the words Fyodor Dostoevsky ascribes to Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov that we are “each of us responsible for everyone.” 

How would our political rhetoric (and personal or “private” behavior) change if we held to the belief that we have a responsibility for everyone and everything?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Damian Kelleher and Absinthe 13: Spotlight on Romania

The Australian writer Damian Kelleher has a great site where he intelligently reviews international literature (including many European authors and several who have appeared in Absinthe). He’s been working through the Romanian issue of Absinthe and so far has reviewed five stories: Adriana Bittel's Names, Clockwork Animals by Mircea Cărtărescu,  Dan Lungu's To the Cemetery, Bogdan Suceavă's Can You Hear the Shape of a Drum?, and Chewing Gum by Lucian Dan Teodorovici.