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Posts Tagged ‘Don Bartlett’

What We’re Loving: Stridentists, Oblivion

August 31, 2012 | by

Of the first volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s long, uneventful bildungsroman, My Struggle, James Wood wrote, “Even when I was bored, I was interested.” Wood is a man who knows how to pay attention to long, boring books, even at times enjoys them, so I began My Struggle with trepidation; it was misplaced. The book kept me up till two almost every morning for a week. All the good things Wood says about the novel seem to me true; but I loved it even when the narrator slipped into clichés, because they made him seem that much more real and singleminded in his storytelling. I don’t read Norwegian, but it’s hard to believe that the translator, Don Bartlett, could have made such vital, humane prose—over such a long stretch—unless he was hewing close to a work of genius. —Lorin Stein

“Here’s my brutal / many-minded / poem / to the new city,” are the first words of Manuel Maples Arce’s “City: Bolshevik Super-Poem in 5 Cantos.” The poem was first published in Mexico City in 1924, and the subtitle isn’t entirely ironic. Another stanza begins, “Russia’s lungs / blow the wind / of social revolution / in our direction. / Literary dick gropers / will understand nothing.” I first read about Arce in Savage Detectives, where he is one of the deities in Bolaño’s pantheon of the Latin American avant-garde, identified as “the father of stridentism.” I thought this was a made-up group, but it really existed (that’s them, in the photo). They gathered in a café called Multánime (“many-minded”), where a contemporary reports that “the waiters placed their order via radio and the Pianola played music from intercepted Martian concerts.” —Robyn Creswell

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