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Posts Tagged ‘Jorge Luis Borges’

Decadent Prose: An Interview with Translator Kit Schluter

April 10, 2013 | by

marcel_schwobIt is 1891. Marcel Schwob, a well-know author, meets a “girl of the streets” in the rain, in a slum of Paris. Her name is Louise, and she is sick with tuberculosis. He takes her home and cares for her. He writes her stories—fairy tales—which she loves. They grow close. Louise shows Marcel the beauty of innocence. Two years later, she dies. He is crippled by his grief. For six months, he doesn’t write.

Then, he publishes The Book of Monelle, a groundbreaking work of decadence. An assemblage of fairy tales, nihilist philosophy, and aphorisms tightly woven into a tapestry of deep emotional suffering, it becomes the unofficial bible of the French Symbolist movement. Schwob influences writers and thinkers from Alfred Jarry to André Gide to Stéphane Mallarmé to Jorge Luis Borges and Roberto Bolaño. Translated obscurely into English in 1927, The Book of Monelle all but falls into obscurity shortly thereafter.

Now, thanks to a new translation by Kit Schluter, Monelle is once again available in the States, with a biographical afterword. In addition to his translation work, otherwise focused on Pierre Alferi, Amandine André, and Danielle Collobert, Schluter is a poet and an editor at CLOCK Magazine and O’Clock Press, and will begin his graduate studies at Brown in the fall. We met to talk at a café in New York’s West Village.

Why don’t you start by telling me how you found Schwob’s work and what drew you to it?

I studied in Paris for a little bit in early 2010, and went to work in Tours, a city southwest of Paris, for about a month in the summer. I lived with my friend Sylvain Burgaud, who the translation is dedicated to, and a dear friend Bruno Chartier. Sylvain and I worked in these vineyards outside of town, trimming grapevines for about ten hours a day. Then we’d go to this bar at night called Le Serpant Volant, or the Flying Snake. The bartender, a wonderful person named Omar, when he found out that we were translating each other’s poems, offered us the second floor of the bar as a translating space in the evenings. Sylvain and I were translating almost every night, my first experience with the frenzy of translation and its conversations, obsessing over single words.

One weekend, we went out to his house in La Roche Bernard, and we were translating a poem of mine, which is called “Journals.” We got to a passage and he asked, Have you ever heard of Marcel Schwob? I said, No, definitely not. And he said, Well, you need to read him, because you write a lot like him. I said, Okay, fine. Show me the book. I was really excited, and a little flattered.

So, he went and got the book. I read one sentence, or two sentences, from “The Words of Monelle.” It was, “And Monelle said again, ‘I shall speak to you of moments,’” but in French, and something like, “Love the moment. All love that lasts is hatred.” It’s a little adolescent, isn’t it? But it really spoke to me, so I said, “Sylvain, will you loan me this book? I want to translate it into English.” But he wouldn’t lend me the book because he’d lent it out so many times before to people who didn’t return it. When he asked for it back, they had already lent it to someone else! That’s my favorite part of the whole story—that Sylvain couldn’t lend me the book because he had lost it so many times by way of lending. Read More »

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What We’re Loving: Crapalachia, Welty, Animalia

February 22, 2013 | by

crapalachiaThough the book doesn’t come out until the middle of next month, I can’t wait until then to say how much I liked Scott McClanahan’s Crapalachia. It’s about his youth in rural West Virginia, where he spent his formative years under the influence of his Grandma Ruby and Uncle Nathan, who suffered from cerebral palsy. The book is subtitled “a biography of a place,” but it’s more a biography of a handful of people, and Ruby and Nathan are easily its star characters: beguiling in their weirdness and utterly charming in their deep affection for each other and for Scott. His voice is wholly unaffected, and his account manages to be both comic and unpretentiously sentimental. —Nicole Rudick

 My worst reading habit is not reading too fast, or too slow, or stopping books in the middle, or right before the end (though I do all of those things). It’s my persistent impulse to read books that reflect my mood—an impulse that, if indulged often, reduces my reading list to a positively uncatholic range of authors and subjects. But one recent evening, my initial, “safe” pick (James’s The Golden Bowl) was thwarted by Geneviève Castrée’s Susceptible, which, when spotted in a pile of neglected books, looked too intriguing to let alone. An autobiographical comic, the work is less like an illustrated diary and more like a scrapbook; it shows rather than tells, pasting together a series of vignettes to build a narrative of the author’s troubled early life. Castrée’s beautifully toned black-and-white drawings even read more like vintage photographs than they do sketches. The book’s pervasive melancholy is still lingering with me, a reminder of why we really read: to feel things besides our own emotions. —Clare Fentress Read More »

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Reading the Viaduct

December 4, 2012 | by

Starting out for the southern end of the Reading Viaduct means walking alongside a live railroad track, vigilant for the sound of a CSX freight train approaching from behind. Your destination is the mouth of an abandoned tunnel, which will pull you into stretches of almost total darkness thirty feet below ground. You aren’t headed for the tunnel because you love tunnels, but to glimpse the diversity of landscapes that makes up Philadelphia’s Reading Viaduct before it becomes the city’s answer to New York City’s Highline. You are there for the tunnel as much as for what’s on the other side: the promise of meadowland and prairie hiding in plain sight.

The Reading Viaduct may one day become a linear park transecting downtown Philadelphia. Should that happen, the Viaduct would be like no other park in the world. The three-mile stretch runs thirty feet underground at one end and emerges as an elevated line thirty feet above street level on the other. Since the 1980s, it has been abandoned. Sections of the Viaduct may undergo development as early as next year. Read More »

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What We’re Loving: Cocktails, Borges, Color

August 17, 2012 | by

As though a blog written by a Merriam-Webster lexicographer weren’t exciting enough, Kory Stamper at harm·less drudg·ery recently posted on the thrilling discovery of color definitions. To whit: “begonia n … 3 : a deep pink that is bluer, lighter, and stronger than average coral (sense 3b), bluer than fiesta, and bluer and stronger than sweet william — called also gaiety.” In a kind of synesthetic treasure hunt, she races through the dictionary to follow the trail of colors. “I eventually ended up at ‘coral,’ where sense 3c yielded up the fresh wonder, ‘a strong pink that is yellower and stronger than carnation rose, bluer, stronger, and slightly lighter than rose d’Althaea, and lighter, stronger, and slightly yellower than sea pink.’ Carnation rose was clearly the color of the pinkish flower on the tin of Carnation Evaporated Milk, and Rose d’Althaea was clearly Scarlett O’Hara’s flouncy cousin, but it was the last color that captivated me. ‘Sea pink,’ I murmured.” —Nicole Rudick

“You probably wear lipstick, powder base and a little eye makeup every day. But have you ever considered drawing in completely new eyebrows, wearing false eyelashes, putting hollows in your cheeks with darker foundation, a cleft in your chin with brown eyebrow pencil or enlarging your mouth by a third? These are just a few sorcerer’s tricks available.” Among the most amusing tributes to the original fun, fearless female is Bonnie Downing’s affectionate Outdated Beauty Advice from Helen Gurley Brown over at the Hairpin. —Sadie O. Stein

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Wharton, Borges, and Grey: Fan-Fic Galore!

August 1, 2012 | by

  • The latest Dead Authors Podcast features Jorge Luis Borges.
  • In all honesty, who isn’t interested in lists of famous literary feuds?
  • A new generation takes over Doonesbury.
  • A new generation discovers The Babysitters Club.
  • Leigh Stein explains how to read in public.
  • Marc New York’s Fifty Shades–inspired ad campaign.
  • An excerpt from The Age of Desire, Jennie Fields’s Edith Wharton–themed romance.
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    The Grand Map

    October 5, 2011 | by

    RV890, Norway 2011.

    Toward the end of Lewis Carroll’s endlessly unfurling saga Sylvie & Bruno, we find the duo sitting at the feet of Mein Herr, an impish fellow endowed with a giant cranium. The quirky little man regales the children with stories about life on his mysterious home planet.

    “And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!”
    “Have you used it much?” I enquired.
    “It has never been spread out, yet,” said Mein Herr. “The farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.”

    Among Mein Herr’s many big ideas, none is as familiar to us as the Grand Map. We use it, or a version of it, on a daily basis. With Google Street View, which allows us to traverse instantly from a schematic road map into the tumult of the road itself, we boldly zoom from the map to the territory and back. As the Herr said, “we now use the country itself as its own map.” Read More »

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