1. A book describes works that the author has conceived but not brought into being. 2. The world is drawn from memory. There are missing countries, altered borders. [more inside]
“What is the lesson you draw from your own existence?” This is the philosophy that Proust teaches us. Last year, the French magazine La Revue des Deux Mondes published an interview with Daniel Mendelsohn about his experiences reading Proust as part of a special issue on “Proust vu d’Amérique.” Translated from the French by Anna Heyward. [more inside]
A liquor store in Amsterdam. A veteran in Bagdad. A family in Rome. A WWII veterans memorial in Berlin. A house in Oxford. Edouard Levé photographed towns in the United States that shared names with famous cities. He photographed fully-clothed actors reenacting scenes from rugby and pornography [nsfw]. He also wrote some novels, influenced by Oulipo. Autoportrait, describes his life in 120 pages of unordered vignettes and brief, declarative sentences—"The girl whom I loved the most left me. [...] I am uneasy in rooms with small windows." and so on. His fourth novel, Suicide, is a one-sided conversation between an anonymous narrator ("I") and his friend ("you"), who committed suicide twenty years ago. It's a painfully intimate meditation on the act and its fallout on its own merits—"Your life was hypothesis. Those who die old are made of the past. Thinking of them, one thinks of what they have done. Thinking of you, one thinks of what you could have become. You were, and you will remain, made up of possibilities."—but few will read Suicide unburdened with the knowledge that Edouard Levé killed himself several days after completing it, at the age of 47. [more inside]
"The Threat to Proust" by Roger Shattuck: When Proust’s novel fell into the public domain in 1987, three Paris publishing houses were ready with new editions that had been in preparation for several years. They all carry the same basic 3,000-page text with few variations. The differences lie in packaging and presentation. Laffont-Bouquins chose to publish three fat volumes prefaced by elaborate historical and biographical materials. Garnier-Flammarion produced ten pocket-sized volumes competently edited by Jean Milly. The new Pléiade edition, published by the original copyright holder, Gallimard, made the boldest, most ambitious, and most expensive bid to claim the market. In a combination of editorial, literary, and commercial decisions, Gallimard proposed to influence the way we read Proust and, to some degree, the way we approach all great literary works. [more inside]
Reading Blaise Cendrars is like stepping into another universe. His fiction is unlike anything else I've ever read. His poetry influenced the mighty Guillaume Apollinaire and helped shape the face of modernism. But it is his mockery of biographical detail and the very notion of literature that fascinates me the most. If, like me, you're not a fan of autobiography, then Blaise Cendrars is the memoirist for you.
"Maxims and axioms are, just like summaries, the work that spirited people do, it seems, for the use of mediocre or lazy spirits." Presenting maxims, axioms and more from the Philosophes: Vauvenargues! Chamfort! Fontenelle! La Bruyère! Galiani! La Rochefoucauld! Saint-Évremond! [more inside]
There is a before and an after André Markowicz. In the early 1990s the translator, born to a Russian mother and French father, began translating the complete works of Dostoyevsky for Babel / Actes Sud. By the time he finished the mammoth undertaking in 2002 he had proved something: what people had been reading by Dostoyevsky wasn’t Dostoyevsky. - an interview with André Marcowicz, writer and translator. [more inside]
The Saragossa Manuscript is an unusual movie based on a strange book by a remarkable man. [more inside]
The sales of a book by Madame de Lafayette, "La Princesse de Clèves", are up in France and there have been public readings of it in theatres and universities. The reason? Sarkozy hates it. As Sarkozy's popularity plummets, the "17th century tale of thwarted love" gets unexpected attention beyond the classroom. Badges inscribed with "I am reading The Princess of Clèves" were the most popular item at the opening of the Paris book fair this week. [more inside]
Shockingly, a novel about a Nazi officer who abets murder squads, transports Jews to Auschwitz, has sex with his twin sister, possibly kills his parents and then dies rich, old and reflective has caused a trans-Atlantic controversy among literary critics. Published in the original French three years ago, the English translation of Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones hit American bookstores this week. [more inside]
Alain Robbe-Grillet, French author, member of the Académie française and subject of this recent Mefi post, has passed away at age 85.
Luc Sante has started a blog (according to Sasha Frere-Jones). Two entries so far, the first on a book cover from the 60's and the second on a picture of a rockabilly band. From the 2nd blog post: And that is why we come here once a year to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown rockabilly band: to persuade them to rest, and lay off the young. But just have a look at them--they were never meant to be! They should never have tried occupying the same stage, and they should have left music to find its own way home. The piano player, with his incipient Mickey Mouse ears, was clearly destined for a career working with puppets. The twins on guitar and bass were natural-born casino greeters. The other guitarist has the fine tapered hands of a pest-control agent specializing in silverfish. And the drummer--he was meant as an example. What happened to him should have been shown to driver-safety classes in every high school in the country. [more inside]
CELT, the Corpus of Electronic Texts, "brings the wealth of Irish literary and historical culture to the Internet, for the use and benefit of everyone worldwide. It has a searchable online database consisting of contemporary and historical texts from many areas, including literature and the other arts." It has texts in Irish, Latin, Anglo-Norman French, and English, ranging from the annals of the fifth century to the Agreement reached in the Multi-Party Negotiations in Northern Ireland of 1998. "Great my glory/ I that bore Cuchulainn the valiant..."