The recent death of William Weaver, the acclaimed translator of Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Primo Levi and other modern Italian authors, spurred memories of the translation class he taught at Columbia University back in the late 1970s. A small group of students listened attentively to his thoughts about how best to go about rendering the literature of another culture into English.Continue Reading →
In his note to this collection, the Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi (1943–2012) refers to the 14 pieces as “drifting splinters.” These “fragments of novels and stories,” he writes, “have a larval nature.” They are “sketchy compositions,” “quasi-stories,” and “background noise.” Despite the author’s misgivings, a “residual pride,” plus “the chance of a few meagre words,” led him to gather and publish.Continue Reading →
My favorite shelf in the home library is where Raymond Roussel, the Comte de Lautréamont, E.T. A. Hoffmann, Leonora Carrington and other writers form a brilliant phalanx of eccentricity and marvel. I turn to it like a five-hour energy drink, sampling a few pages of, say, Raymond Queneau or Heinrich von Kleist when in need of a shot of alternative reality (I’m waiting for cable to start producing surreality shows in which men and women practice automatic writing while in trances).
So what fun to add Paul Scheerbart and his perpetual motion machine to the line-up, an altogether delightful addition to the foule folle. A German writer who was born in the Prussian port of Danzig and lived in Berlin for much of his life, Scheerbart (1863-1915) was a jack of all genres — art critic, playwright, novelist, poet, etc. — with many muses.Continue Reading →