Posts Tagged ‘Paris’
December 3, 2013 | by Anna Della Subin
Like his friend, fellow Scorpio, and confidant Albert Camus, Albert Cossery would also have celebrated his one hundredth birthday last month. The patron saint of indolence—who wrote only when he had nothing better to do—died in 2008. But one can imagine that Cossery, had he made it to his centenary, would have been exactly like Cossery at any age. The elegant Egyptian novelist, impeccably dressed, forever held fast to his routine. For nearly sixty years, until his death, he lived in an austere room in the Hotel La Louisiane in St. Germain des Prés. Each day he slept late, venturing out only in the afternoons, to bask in the sun and watch the girls of the Luxembourg Gardens, or to have a plate of lentils and fizzy water at the Café de Flore and linger for hours, doing nothing. Even when, toward the end of his life, he was hospitalized for an operation, Cossery—still wearing the ward’s pajamas—escaped the hospital for the café, pushed in a wheelchair by a beautiful blonde.
“Here comes Tutanhkamun,” the waiters whispered behind his back. Just so, Cossery’s writings, forever returning to the same scenes and casts—of mendicants and saltimbanques, failed revolutionaries and hashish-addled philosophers—preserved a certain consistency over the decades. The young Albert, who attended French schools as a child in Cairo, began his first novel at age ten. At seventeen, he published a book of poems, titled Les Morsures, “The Teeth Marks” or “Bites.” By all accounts the book has been lost, and Cossery himself up until his death coyly refused to aid any devoted readers in search of a copy. Yet three poems were preserved in the monumental anthology Poètes en Egypte, edited in Cairo in 1955 by Jean Moscatelli. The anthology, which brought together over fifty-five Franco-Egyptian writers, captured the collective achievements of a literary community in the twilight of its end. It included Cossery’s friends Georges Henein and Edmond Jabès, as well as Joyce Mansour and Horus Schenouda—all of whom were soon to leave, or had already left, for exile in Paris in the wake of Nasser’s coup. Read More »
August 27, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
- “Want to lose a friend who’s a writer? Ask her, a month in, how it’s going. Better still, ask her to describe what she’s working on.” Mark Slouka explains the etiquette.
- The great affect/effect problem.
- Libraries across Quebec are banding together to help rebuild the branch destroyed in the July Lac-Megantic oil-train derailment.
- “The rise of the belles-lettres establishment, celebrating France’s literary culture, and even that of its neighbours, is the latest marketing sensation in the French capital, as hoteliers come up with ever more innovative—or desperate—ways to attract guests.” These include a Proust-themed hotel, a hostelry devoted to literary lovers, and a third containing an ominous-sounding Franz Kafka room.
- The latest in long-overdue library books: an alumna returns a volume to her Michigan school library thirty-three years late, from Dubai.
May 24, 2013 | by Ben Downing
See part 1 here.
Already familiar as I was with the main events of Paddy’s military career, I asked him to fill in the gaps. What had he done while in Cairo?
“My first leave from Crete, after many months in the mountains, was at the time of the Italian surrender in September 1943. I had managed, by devious means, to persuade the Italian general commanding the Siena Division to escape from the island with some of his staff, and I accompanied them. When they’d been handed over in Cairo, I found myself quartered in rather gloomy billets known as Hangover Hall. There I became great friends with Bill Stanley Moss, on leave from the Third Battalion of the Coldstream Guards, and later my companion on the Kreipe expedition. Couldn’t we find more congenial quarters? Almost at once Billy found a positive mansion on Gezira Island, which we shared with a beautiful Polish countess called Sophie Tarnowska—she and Billy were married later on—her Alsatian, two mongooses, and a handful of close SOE friends, also on leave.
“Tara (as we named the house) was an immediate triumph. With its ballroom and a piano borrowed from the Egyptian Officers’ Club, and funded by our vast accumulations of back pay, it became famous—or notorious—for the noisiest and most hilarious parties in wartime Cairo. At one of these, fired by the tinkle of a dropped glass, everyone began throwing their glasses through the windows until not a pane was left.
“It was to Tara that we returned after the Kreipe expedition. But the rigors of a year and a half of Cretan cave life, it seems, suddenly struck me with an acute rheumatic infection of the joints, akin to paralysis. After two months in a Cairo hospital—where King Farouk once kindly sent me a magnum of champagne—I was sent to convalesce in Lebanon. I stayed at the British summer embassy at Aley, above Beirut, with Lady Spears, who was the well-known American writer Mary Borden, and her husband, Sir Edward Spears, our ambassador there. We had all met in Cairo, which at that time was one of the most fascinating gathering points in the world.
“But I was itching to get back to Crete. By the time I managed to return, in October 1944, the entire German force had withdrawn to a small perimeter in the west of the island. The outcome was a foregone conclusion, and the Germans made only occasional sorties. With their imminent surrender in view, it wasn’t ‘worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier,’ as Frederick the Great said—or of a single mountaineer or Allied soldier, for that matter. Read More »
April 10, 2013 | by Sarah Gerard
It 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 »
April 8, 2013 | by Clare Fentress
It’s a busy time here at The Paris Review. Tomorrow is our annual gala, the Spring Revel, and in two weeks, we move our little office from the Tribeca loft that has been our home for the past eight years to a new space in Chelsea. Boxes are piled high; loose books and papers are strewn about; scissors and tape will not stay in the same place.
Last week, we were clearing a bookshelf of its contents and came across a batch of small, white booklets. The Paris Review: Twenty Year Index, Issues 1–56, they were titled; they appeared to be lists of everything that had been published during the magazine’s first twenty-three years, and were put aside for recycling. Flipping through them later, we realized that the booklets also contained an introduction by George Plimpton, a founder of the magazine and its editor for the first fifty years of its history.
A minihistory of the Review, full of forgotten anecdotes and remembrances, the introduction is particularly poignant as we prepare for these two (for us) significant events. George recalls early offices of the magazine, angering Ernest Hemingway with brash interview questions, the many volunteers who flocked to the Review and gave a fledgling publication a boost. He writes of raucous Revels past: “The Revels were memorable affairs, with so much effort spent by staff members in entertaining the guests that very often the fund-raising aspects of the events were forgotten. The extravaganza on Welfare Island (although 750 people turned up) actually lost money—and primarily because a piano was left out in a glade and was ruined in a post-party rain squall.”
Here’s to a Revel that’s just as fun, but minus the rain.
An Index is simply a statistical compilation which does not suggest the quality of the material listed, or the critical standards that guided its selection. It can only record the appearance, not the gist, of William Styron’s introductory “letter” which set forth the magazine’s principles in the first pages of the first issue—a letter addressed to John P. C. Train, the managing editor, who in questioning Styron’s manifesto elicited a reply which turned out to be lively and pertinent and a considerable improvement on the original document.
An Index can list the people who have worked for the magazine, but it cannot acknowledge their individual contributions. Their number has been vast. The Paris Review has traditionally published a masthead longer by far than Fortune magazine’s. Indeed, so many volunteers turned up to help in the early days that the managing editor referred to the females by the collective name of “Apotheker” (Joan Apotheker … Mary Apo …)—from the German for “druggist,” which he apparently thought appropriate. Their male counterparts were referred to as “Musinskys”—named after the first of their breed who came to work for a Paris summer. Read More »