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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Walser’

Announcing Our Summer Issue!

May 28, 2013 | by

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The proofs of our Summer issue just arrived at Twenty-Seventh Street from the printer. This afternoon is our last chance to catch any mistakes. You always find a few typos—and we have more names to spell-check than usual, because this issue contains more stories, poems, and interviews than any in recent memory. 

Some of these writers are regular contributors, including Lydia Davis—with her first publication since she won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize for fiction—and David Gates, whose new story is a favorite of his and ours. Others are writers we’ve been waiting to publish for a while, namely Ben Lerner, whose first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, is one of the best debuts we’ve seen in the past few years, and Kristin Dombek, whose essays in n+1 electrified us. The newly translated stories by Robert Walser are from his groundbreaking 1904 collection, Fritz Kocher’s Essays. This book (which won the admiration of Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin) made me feel for the first time that I understood what all the fuss is about.

Still others, including Emma Cline, Gillian Linden, and the Italian poet Patrizia Cavalli—translated by the likes of Jorie Graham and Mark Strand—are new to us and will probably be new to you. We look forward to saying, You read them here first.

Plus, three interviews.

Two are devoted to the art of literary biography. Michael Holroyd’s lives of Lytton Strachey and George Bernard Shaw, among others, revolutionized the study of Bloomsbury and Edwardian literary history.

MICHAEL HOLROYD

I am a great believer in private life, which is quite unfashionable now—to be a celebrity is the thing, or you are nothing. But I believe in private life for the living, and I think that when one is dead one should be a little bit bolder, so that the rest of us may have some record of how things actually were. Otherwise we will be left with well-meant lies, which add to the difficulties of life and lead to real misunderstanding.

Hermione Lee’s biographies of Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, and Edith Wharton are just as influential.

INTERVIEWER

What is it like to write a death scene?

HERMIONE LEE

It depends how they died. Some cynical biographer said to me, Make sure it’s a good death. Make sure you’re not picking someone who just declined. 

Finally, we have an Art of Fiction interview with the Nobel laureate Imre Kertész. It is, according to Kertész, the last interview he will ever give. Luisa Zielinski’s probing, sensitive questions explore the reasons that Kertész—ten years after he survived the Holocaust—decided he had to write.

IMRE KERTÉSZ

Look, I don’t want to deny that I was a prisoner at Auschwitz and that I now have a Nobel Prize. What should I make of that? And what should I make of the fact that I survived, and continue to survive? At least I feel that I experienced something extraordinary, because not only did I live through those horrors, but I also managed to describe them, in a way that is bearable, acceptable, and nonetheless part of [a] radical tradition … Perhaps I’m being impertinent, but I feel that my work has a rare quality—I tried to depict the human face of this history, I wanted to write a book that people would actually want to read.

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Dancing with Myself

February 14, 2012 | by

In one of Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories, “In The Electric Tram,” the narrator describes the feeling of well-being that comes with sitting in a moving vehicle on a rainy afternoon: the joy of lighting a cigarette, the satisfaction of composing a tune in his head, the urge to strike up a conversation with the reticent conductor. His gaze takes in the other passengers: “the drooping mustaches, the face of a weary, elderly woman, a pair of youthfully mischievous eyes belonging to a girl,” before happily settling on his footwear. “I must say,” he confesses to his reader, “I have achieved a certain technical mastery in the art of staring straight ahead.”

The German industrial city of Wuppertal still has a functioning electric tram, which hangs from long beams like an aerial camera and which travels through Wim Wender’s new 3-D dance movie, Pina, an homage to the German choreographer Pina Bausch. It is a running joke, appearing during the movie’s opening titles as the audience grapples with their 3-D glasses and cropping up in different scenes throughout the film—suspended above two dancers performing a duet on a roundabout, or situated below a dancer who, sitting on the tram’s old fretwork, shoves his legs around as they pop up like disobedient wooden beams. Later, in the tram’s car, a male dancer wearing cardboard cut-out Spock ears takes a seat in the back row and stares straight ahead, apparently oblivious to his appendages—and to the female dancer boarding the vehicle, whose dark hair is entirely hiding her face. She heaves along with her a white pillow as if it were a live thing, making squelching sound effects, before reassuming her anonymity and sitting down. This is Bausch’s world—a little like ours, but stranger: perhaps more like Walser’s Berlin of 1905, a city of would-be actors and artists, voyeurs and dilettantes, and elderly women with lipstick on their teeth. Pina reminds us of the ways we are all performing to one another and pretending to ignore others’ performances, and it’s one of the most blissful things I’ve ever seen on a rainy afternoon. Read More »

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Staff Picks: ‘At Last,’ Ambivalence

February 10, 2012 | by

“I couldn’t make her amusing,” says David Melrose after asking his girlfriend to eat off the floor like a dog, “but I did at least keep her quiet. I was dreading having another talk about the agonies of being rich. I know so little about them, and she knows so little about anything else.” From the first pages of Edward St. Aubyn’s Never Mind, it’s clear that his cycle of Patrick Melrose novels will be delightfully packed with gross privilege, dysfunction, and savage humor. The first four novels have just been released as a single paperback alongside the fifth and final book, At Last. I look forward to devouring them all. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

If you’re a Thomas Mann fan—or, anyway, someone who’s fascinated by his work (fan doesn’t seem the right word)—it’s worth seeking out Gilbert Adair’s The Real Tadzio, the story of the ten-year-old Polish nobleman who inspired Mann’s Death in Venice. The object of the thirty-six-year-old author’s fixation was unaware of the connection for years. The book deals with his reaction to the odd sort of celebrity he acquired and, of course, with the summer in Venice that inspired the novella. It’s a slim volume, but it packs a punch and is ultimately as much about the end of an era in Europe as it is about the creative process or Mann’s disquieting obsession (about which his wife was oddly blasé). —Sadie Stein

Ambivalence may be the moral failing of the twenty-first century. Or perhaps not. It depends. I’m as guilty of it as anyone (maybe more), and I don’t feel good about my role in what Kenneth Weisbrode describes as a collective pathology. But in reading his engaging minihistory, I do feel encouraged to just make a decision already. —Nicole Rudick

The Library of Congress has made available, via Flickr, all sixteen hundred jazz photos by William P. Gottlieb. From 1938 to 1948, Gottlieb documented the New York and D.C. jazz scenes with the obsession of an avid collector. Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Django Reinhardt, and even Doris Day—all are represented. —Josh Anderson

Weighing in at ten pounds, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII, the nine-hundred-page volume of photographer Taryn Simon’s latest body of work, is not the easiest book to curl up with. Compiled over four years, Simon’s project records the bloodlines of eighteen different families across the world, charting the forgotten details of their family histories. It is an unforgettable exploration of survival, inheritance, and the forces of fate. —Elizabeth Nelson

“Anyone who takes pleasure in modesty will get on well here,” writes Robert Walser of a bar in his Berlin Stories. The same could be said of his work, as the excerpts now running at The New York Review blog prove. —D.F.M.

I really liked this piece on Jewish designers’ appropriation of WASP style—and how often is a title this perfectly suited to its subject? —S.S.

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Staff Picks: Delightful Fuckers, Ephemeral New York

September 30, 2011 | by

Elaine Blair says let your children read Nicholson Baker: “House of Holes will introduce impressionable readers to many interesting sexual possibilities without a whisper of stereotype or slur. You can be sure that no matter what scene your children are masturbating to, they are not objectifying women. But you will have to make sure that they accidentally stumble on it soon, before they find the Internet, if they are to have a fighting chance at being wholesome and delightful fuckers instead of hopelessly depraved ones like yourself.” —Lorin Stein

My friend Pete turned me on to Ephemeral New York, which, along with Vanishing New York, has immediately entered my personal must-read feed. And if you really want to feel melancholy about our city’s lost treasures, take a look at this. (And thanks to Vanishing New York for turning me on to Karen Lillis’s Bagging the Beats at Midnight, a memoir by a long-time employee of beloved—and endangered—St. Mark’s Bookshop.)Sadie Stein

Is print dead? Not at all. The New York Art Book Fair, hosted by Printed Matter this weekend at P.S. 1, is probably the best browsing experience you’ll have all year. Photobooks, artist’s books, antiquated books, ephemera, zines: it has everything from the small to the massive, the odd to the vintage, the practical to the whimsical. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

I’ve been poking around in Asymptote, a new and impressively eclectic online magazine, with fiction and nonfiction, poetry and criticism, all in translation. I’ve especially enjoyed the (very) short story by Robert Walser, translated by Susan Bernofsky, Adonis’s “Ambiguity,” translated by Elliott Colla, and an essay about riddles by the Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky, translated by Shushan Avagyan. There is, in other words, something for everyone. —Robyn Creswell

I picked up a copy of Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi in the office and am thoroughly enjoying doses of Wes Anderson-esque whimsy. It’s a fairy tale disguised as a novel about a writer (named Mr. Fox), his muse (Mary Foxe), and his characters. Like all good fairy tales, the story is told over and over again in various romantic settings, in this case involving plenty of typewriters, brownstones, and flower shops.Artie Niederhoffer

An old interview between Borges and Enrique Krauze, devoted mainly to Spinoza, is newly translated in the current issue of The Reading Room: “Descartes let himself be seduced by that abominable little Protestant sect, the heresy that is the Church of Rome; but if one accepts his premises, one arrives either at solipsism or Spinozism. Which means that Spinoza was a more coherent thinker and certainly much braver than Descartes. For me—simply because I'm a coward myself—bravery is an essential virtue.” –L. S.

Much has already been written on the immersive, off-broadway theatre experience, Sleep No More. Recently extended through November 5, this eerie production has been haunting me all week. Though the storyline (based on Macbeth) left me a bit puzzled and frustrated, the sets, music, and lighting design alone are worth the price of admission. If you go, stick as close to the actors as you can (even when that means literally running up and down stairs) and you might get as lucky as I did to get locked in a room alone with one of the players. What a memorable and bewitching treat to have a monologue recited to you and you alone—sans mask. —Charlotte Strick

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Staff Picks: John Cassavetes, Giant Marbles, Terry Castle

June 10, 2011 | by

Last Saturday I caught a midnight showing of John Cassavetes’s Faces. Shot in LA in the mid-sixties, Faces is a movie about sex, booze, and aging—or, you might just as well say, about the faces of John Marley, Lynn Carlin, Seymour Cassel, and Gena Rowlands. It is absolutely sad, absolutely tender, and absolutely unsentimental. You won’t cry, and for days you won’t be able to get it out of your head. Not, at least, by reading The Pumpkin Eater (1962), Penelope Mortimer’s fictional account of her marriage to Rumpole creator John Mortimer: “We didn’t love each other as most people love: and yet the moment I have said that I think of the men and women I have seen clasped together with eyes full of loathing, men and women who murder each other with all the weapons of devotion.” —Lorin Stein

I’ve been enjoying Caroline Preston’s ingenious The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, a novel made up entirely of vintage images. It’s nifty and fun—but the plot moves along, too! —Sadie Stein

Jon-Jon Goulian on Robert Silvers, venerable founding editor of The New York Review of Books: “A man who can field a call like that with such composure is a man, you might say, whose head is still full of marbles, and yet that would leave open the possibility, inconceivable to me, that Bob might one day lose a few. That leaves only one alternative: Bob’s head contains one giant marble, one only, and you will have to behead him to make him give it up.”L. S.

Maybe the summer is provoking more wanderlust in me than usual, because this week I read two novels about runaways. First up was Robert Walser’s Jakob von Gunten. I moved on to Denis Johnson’s Angels. Reading it late at night in the immensely humid heat and borderline-nonexistent light of my tiny bedroom seemed to underscore every bizarre and frightening episode of Johnson’s book. —Natalie Jacoby

Prior to reading Terry Castle’s collection The Professor: A Sentimental Education, I was only familiar with her jaw-dropping Sontag reminiscences—but I’m sorry it took me so long: all her essays are that funny, pithy, and unexpected. —S. S.

Wesley Yang’s remarkable n+1 essay about Seung-Hui Cho, the shooter at the Virginia Tech massacre, is now available as a Kindle single. —Thessaly La Force

On the lighter side, I recommend our Southern editor, John Jeremiah Sullivan, on how to survive Disney World—minus the fear and loathing. —L. S.

A George Plimpton video game? —T. L.

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Staff Picks: Robert Walser, Katherine Larson

May 13, 2011 | by

I’ve been poring over Robert Walser’s Microscripts, a selection from the cache of papers covered in demonically miniaturized handwriting he left at his death. The stories are wonderfully odd, and the book itself is a beautiful object. It includes color reproductions of the manuscripts—often written on the backs of business cards—as well as the deciphered German originals. Walter Benjamin’s afterword praises Walser’s “artful clumsiness,” and I would do the same for Susan Bernofsky’s translation. —Robyn Creswell

I’ve been stealing moments all week to read Katherine Larson’s book of poems, Radial Symmetry. The synthesis of experience and curiosity that Larson no doubt uses in her work as a field ecologist and research scientist is here applied to verse. The natural world has never felt more physical, more alive with tiny movements and infinite textures—and so titillating, as when she writes, “We hear the cactus whisper / pollinate me furry moth.” —Nicole Rudick

Alexander Chee shared an old essay of his on Twitter this morning about being a student of Annie Dillard’s: “You could think that your voice as a writer would just emerge naturally, all on its own, with no help whatsoever, but you’d be wrong. What I saw on the page was that the voice is in fact trapped, nervous, lazy. Even, and in my case, most especially, amnesiac. And that it had to be cut free.” —Thessaly La Force

After seeing a spectacular production of the play on Broadway, I’ve rediscovered Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. It’s a play about love, sex, transcendence (if there is any), and whatever it is that defines the human experience across time and space. But it also reminds us of the beauty and sustaining force of wonder; “it’s the wanting to know that makes us matter,” because when all is said and done, “when we have found all the meanings and lost all the mysteries, we will be alone, on an empty shore.” —Elianna Kan

In Anthony Burgess’s The Pianoplayers, a retired prostitute tells the story of her father, a man who “called himself not a pianist but a pianoplayer.” (No space between piano and player—that was how close he and the piano were.) The entirely fictional yet perfectly matter-of-fact recollection of a difficult father takes the narrative form of a memoir and turns it on its head. Given my absorption in Burgess’s novel, it was an especially interesting week to experience Reading My Father, Alexandra Styron’s memoir of her father, the literary icon (and friend of The Paris Review) William Styron. —Rosalind Parry

Military dogs jumping out of helicopters. Sick. —Natalie Jacoby

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