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(06/30/2009) Gestures by H. S. Bhabra. New York. 1986. Viking Press. First Novel. keywords: Literature England. 280 pages. Cover painting - 'La Jeune Fille et la Mort' by Baldung van Grien. Jacket design by Neil Stuart. 0670809802.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   H. S. Bhabra's stunning first novel is a complex and richly wrought narrative of a world, and its people, caught in the flux of the twentieth century. It is also the autobiography of Jeremy Burnham: Englishman, gentleman, career diplomat, eighty-five years old and looking backward. His story begins in 1923, when, as a young and inexperienced foreign service officer, he arrives in Venice to take up his first post, as His Majesty's Vice-Consul in this ancient and exotic city. Instantly he falls into a friendship with an attractive older woman, an Englishwoman named Jane Carlyle; she initiates him into the ways of the world and introduces him to the enigmatic Eva van Woerden, with whom he falls hopelessly in love, as well as to the man who will become an important figure in his life, the mysterious, cosmopolitan, and wealthy Jewish connoisseur Anthony Manet. Inevitably, the destinies of these four characters become intertwined, as Venice falls under the shadow of encroaching fascism. And then one of them is brutally murdered, setting off a chain of events that will climax more than twenty years later, in the ruins of postwar Amsterdam, when the lessons of love and courage and moral responsibility implicit in that earlier death are at last made plain. For Jeremy's memoirs, elegant and beautifully crafted, so like the diplomatic position papers he is accustomed to drafting, begin to run out of his control, until they become a testament of complicity in the extravagant barbarism of our century. Set in times when social, political, and sexual structures are changing irredeemably, full of the hesitations and reticences of human nature and desire, GESTURES is a beautiful and terrible reflection on memory and accountability and a tale of eloquent and tragic force. It marks an outstanding literary debut.

 

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(06/29/2009) Apocryphal Stories by Karel Capek. New York. 1975. Penguin Books. Translated From The Czech By Dora Round. keywords: Literature Czechoslovakia Translated. 160 pages. The cover shows a detail of 'Europe After the Rain' by Max Ernst, at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Connecticut. 0140038604.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Karel Capek’s play, R. U. R. , introduced the word ‘robot’ into many languages; but the work of this great Czech writer included also novels, short stories, political comment and much else. This delightful collection of vignettes was published posthumously in Prague at the end of the Second World War, and one wonders why such telling scenes in the lives of classical, biblical and even literary figures have been excluded from the ordinary history books. How reasonable are the comments of a Jewish baker on Christ’s miracle with the five loaves; how probable that Alexander the Great should pen an outrageous hard-luck story to his old tutor, Aristotle; how human if four of Caesar’s veterans, foregathered at a reunion, become a trifle confused about their campaigns in Gaul. Impish irony or uproarious humour colour many of these stories, in which neither Hamlet nor Napoleon is safe. But of the nativity or Lazarus or St Francis of Assisi Capek writes with moving simplicity.

 

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(06/28/2009) The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola. London. 1952. Faber & Faber. keywords: Literature Nigeria Black Africa. 125 pages. Cover art by Barnett Freedman.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   He took to drinking palm-wine as a boy. His father being rich, he grew up to do no other work but drink palm-wine. At first he tapped the trees himself. But this interfered with his drinking. So his father engaged an expert tapster. The Drinkard’s friends became uncountable. Then the tapster died. After a melancholy experience of friendless water-drinking, the Drinkard set off – rather like Orpheus in search of Eurydice – to find his dead tapster in the Dead’s Town. This astonishing story was written in English by a West African, and is in part the product of African folk-lore, stimulated by European inventions. For example, the author’s use of the ‘telephone voice’ enlarges, without destroying, his African command of vivid imagery. But we think that THE PALM-WINE DRINKARD is more than a lucky accident. If not a work of individual genius – as perhaps, it may be – it is, without question, the work of very remarkable individual talent. His journey took him through the spirit-ridden African bush and adventures one would have supposed to be indescribable, but for the fact that Mr. Tutuola describes them in direct and simple English, most captivatingly tinted by reflections of his native idiom. Before the European reader has turned the first page he is himself a drinkard. Very soon he is picking up a faithful wife, who will share all his terrors and triumphs. She has been enticed away from the market in her own town by a curious creature, a complete gentleman very beautiful to see, who hires all the parts of his boat for his daily occasions, but at home is a mere skull. The Drinkard fortunately possesses a very powerful name, was wise enough to equip himself for his journey with some extremely useful ju-ju. Even so, it is touch and go for him and his wilt, in adventures we shall not begin to relate.

 

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(06/27/2009) The Capital Of Hope by Alex Shoumatoff. New York. 1980. Coward McCann & Geoghegan. keywords: Travel Latin America Brazil History. 209 pages. Jacket paper cut by IVAN CHERMAYEFF. Photograph of the author by DOUG ABDELNOUR. 069811048x. November 1980.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The dream of a capital in the interior is almost as old as Brazil itself, but it was not until 1955 that ground was broken on an uninhabited dusty plateau near the center of the country. Like the building of other ‘artificial’ capitals, the making of Brasilia galvanized the entire nation. The city would not merely open up the interior but was to become an international model of urban planning. ‘How would you like to be my Michelangelo?’ President Kubitschek asked architect Oscar Niemeyer by 1960 the city was ready: thousands of construction workers moved out of shacks into high-rise apartments, embassies were grudgingly transferred from Rio, and the whole world came to celebrate. Brasilia had become not just a city but the very symbol of Brazil’s hope and future. How Brasilia came to be and how it has worked since is the focus of this fascinating profile of Brazil today by New Yorker staff writer Alex Shoumatoff. Having explored the Amazon, Shoumatoff went to Brasilia to find the modern Brazil. In the process, he also acquired a wife and a family whose own story-a migration from the poverty-stricken Northeast to the capital of hope-mirrors that of the hundreds of thousands of Brazilians whose lives have changed since Brasilia was created. A trained naturalist, Shoumatoff studied the local flora and fauna between interviews. He talked with architects, city planners, government officials, and ordinary settlers. The result is this beautifully written, dramatic account of a construction project that became a wonder of the world as it sliced through each new mile of inhospitable terrain, of a city that grew with all the wide-open high spirits and raw violence of the American frontier, of a country poised uncertainly on the brink of becoming a world superpower, and most important, of the people who are Brazil.

Alex Shoumatoff’s previous books are Florida Ramble, The Rivers Amazon and Westchester. Educated at Harvard, he worked for the Washington Post, then freelanced for a number of periodicals, including Roiling Stone, Saturday Review, The Village Voice, and The New Yorker.

 

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(06/26/2009) Last Living Words by Ingeborg Bachmann. Kobenhavn/Los Angeles. 2005. Green Integer Press. Translated From The German By Lilian M. Friedberg. With A Critical Introduction By Dagmar C. G. Lorenz. keywords: Literature Austria WomenTranslated. Green Integer 136. 363 pages. Cover photograph by Stefan Moses. 1933382120.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This INGEBORG BACHMANN READER consists of works of poetry and fiction published during the life of the great Austrian writer. Brilliantly translated by Lilian M. Friedberg, LAST LIVING WORDS presents a new perspective on this important, internationally renowned figure. Fried-berg’s Bachmann is no longer the frail and tortured writer presented in so many previous translations, but is a writer who stands as a strong woman and major literary figure.

Born in Klagenfurt, Austria on June 25, 1926, Ingeborg Bachmann studied law and philosophy at the universities of Insbruck, Graz, and Vienna. She received her degree, writing a dissertation on Heidegger, from the University of Vienna in 1950. After graduating she became a scriptwriter at Radio Rot-Weill-Rot in Vienna, and in 1953 won the Gruppe 47 Prize for her first collection of poems DIE GESTUNDETE ZEIT Over the next many years, she produced numerous collections of poetry, fiction, and radio plays, including ANRUFUNG DES GROGEN BAREN [poetry], the collections of stories DES DREISSIGSE JAHR and SIMULTAN, and the novel MALINA. Green Integer has previously published her early work LETTERS TO FELICIAN.

 

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(06/25/2009) Seven Serpents & Seven Moons by Demetrio Aguilera-Malta. Austin. 1979. University Of Texas Press. Translated From the Spanish By Gregory Rabassa. keywords: Literature Translated Ecuador Latin America. 305 pages. Cover: Ed Lindlof. 0292775520.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

    Jesus Christ is alive and well and militant in South America, albeit a bit careworn and singed upon his cross. So is the epic spirit that reveals a people’s tribulations and persistent survival. Demetrio Aguilera-Malta has combined these two age-old elements in his novel SEVEN SERPENTS AND SEVEN MOONS, set on the shores of Santorontón. This tropical village is inhabited by some exceptional beings: the vigorous, rough-hewn Father Cándido and his wry talking Jesus - a crucifix presented to him by pirates from out of the past; Colonel Candelario Mariscal, the despoiler who is said to be the son of the Devil and is seeking salvation through the honest love of the daughter of the witch doctor Bulu-Bulu; and Crisóstomo Chalena, the outsider who gains control of the town s roofs and rainwater and eventually the entire village. These and many other equally protean figures cross paths and swords as Santoronton is torn between the Evil One and the Crucified One. The story is invested with a pervading sense of magic and with political meaning as well. The fantastic microcosm of Santorontón illustrates both symbolically and literally many of the essential problems that bedevil Latin America.

DEMETRIO AGUILERA-MALTA, born in turn-of-the-century Ecuador, is a poet, playwright, essayist and novelist. Now recognized as one of the major literary influences in Latin America. Aguilera-Malta made a vital contribution to the development of ‘magical realism’, a creative blend of fantasy and myth, imbued with the vision of social and political turmoil. In the 1930s, he was one of the Ecuadorian writers who formed the Grupo de Guayaquil to further social change. His early works were judged crude and violent, but they were a turning point in Ecuadorian literature and have had an obvious impact on younger Latin American writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez. SEVEN SERPENTS AND SEVEN MOONS was first published in Mexico in 1970 and later in Spain and Italy. His other novels translated into English include MARCIELA and DON GOYO.

GREGORY RABASSA is internationally known as a master translator. He has won both the National Book Award for Translation and the American P. E. N. Translation Prize. He is the translator of Márquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude and Autumn of the Patriarch.

 

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(06/24/2009) Cross Roads by Karel Capek. North Haven. 2002. Catbird Press. Translated from the Czech by Norma Comrada. keywords: Literature Czech Eastern Europe Translated. 256 pages. Cover: Christopher Lione. 0945774559.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Catbird’s third volume of stories by Karel Capek introduces two early collections, written during and right after the First World War. The first collection, WAYSIDE CROSSES, is an agonized search for an absolute truth. Some of the stories take the form of mystery tales, without solutions. Others are about apparent miracles that have no explanations. When answers are found, they are sudden, fleeting moments of intuition that cannot be communicated to others. Capek wrote in reference to these stories, ‘the search for truth is more than truth itself.’ These metaphysical tales about the elusiveness of the absolute, of a God, are also about our limitations, our tenor and our helplessness. Yet the stories are told simply and with humor. The second collection, PAINFUL TALES - ‘painful’ in the sense of the things we do that are painful to remember - consists of more realistic stories that have much in common with the works of Chekhov and Maupassant. ‘Here people act badly, cowardly, cruelly, or weakly,’ Capek wrote, ‘and the point is that you cannot condemn any of them. I wanted to show them in humiliation and weakness, without debasing their value as human beings.’ Capek’s search here is for sympathy and tolerance, taking into account the characters’ self-doubt and self-torment, as well as their actions. In these complex morality plays, one good conflicts with another, making choices extremely difficult.

 

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(06/23/2009) The Path To The Nest Of Spiders by Italo Calvino. Boston. 1957. Beacon Press. Translated From The Italian By Archibald Colquhoun. keywords: Literature Translated Italy. 145 pages.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This is the first book in America by a young Italian writer who is being widely acclaimed overseas and whom the editors of Accent characterize as ‘one of the most highly regarded of younger Italian writers. ’ He was introduced to American readers in Marc Slonim’s Modern Italian Short Stories, and now here is his novel, which shows why he is one of the bright new stars in the current Italian Renaissance. The reason for the title becomes obvious. This is the story of Pin, the cobbler’s apprentice, who grows up in one of the ancient fortress-towns of the Ligurian coast in the period of World War II when the partisans are fighting back from the hills, and German soldiers are quartered in the town. Pin is a skinny kid who must keep his wits sharp in order to live. With the other boys who have families, he is an outcast: he has no family except a prostitute sister. Pin therefore is ‘forced to take refuge in the world of grown-ups’ in ‘the smoky violet air of the tavern,’ where he hears talk which he can imitate—to get obscene laughter—but cannot understand. He sings sentimental songs and learns how to insult and to curse—but all the while he yearns to be one of the gang, ‘to go off with a band of young companions to whom he could show the place where spiders make their nests, or with whom he could have battles among the bam- boos in the river-bed. ’ How he joins the partisans and makes common cause with another outcast - one of the strangest combinations since OF MICE AND MEN - is part of the story; but chiefly this is a tender-tough portrait of a boy living in a world he never made, and never would have made; and it is told with absolutely no sentimentalism. In fact, Sean O’Faolain finds that the author ‘has something of the subjective response to nature of Pavese, and the hardness and innocence of Vittorini. ’ If this story does not grip American hearts in a way that no reader will soon forget, we are going out of the prophesying business.

Italo Calvino was an Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy, the Cosmicomics collection of short stories, and the novels Invisible Cities and If on a winter’s night a traveler Italo Calvino was born in Santiago de Las Vegas, Cuba, to botanists Mario Calvino and Evelina Mameli. The family soon moved to its homeland Italy, where Italo lived most of his life. They moved to Sanremo, on the Italian Riviera, where his father had come from The young Italo became a member of the Avanguardisti with whom he took part in the occupation of the French Riviera. He suffered some religious troubles, as his relatives were openly atheist in a largely Catholic country. He was sent to attend a Waldensian private school. Calvino met Eugenio Scalfari, with whom he would remain a close friend. In 1941 Calvino moved to Turin, after a long hesitation over living there or in Milan. He often humorously described this choice, and used to describe Turin as ‘a city that is serious but sad. ’ In 1943 he joined the Partisans in the Italian Resistance, in the Garibaldi brigade, with the battlename of Santiago. With Scalfari he created the MUL Calvino then entered the Italian Communist Party. Calvino graduated from the University of Turin in 1947 with a thesis on Joseph Conrad and started working with the official Communist paper L’Unità. He also had a short relationship with the Einaudi publishing house, which put him in contact with Norberto Bobbio, Natalia Ginzburg, Cesare Pavese and Elio Vittorini. With Vittorini he wrote for the weekly Il Politecnico Calvino then left Einaudi to work mainly with L’Unità and the newborn communist weekly political magazine Rinascita. He worked again for the Einaudi house from 1950, responsible for the literary volumes. The following year, presumably to advance in the communist party, he visited the Soviet Union. The reports and correspondence he produced from this visit were later collected and earned him literary prizes. In 1952 Calvino wrote with Giorgio Bassani for Botteghe Oscure, a magazine named after the popular name of the party’s head-offices. He also worked for Il Contemporaneo, a Marxist weekly. From 1955 to 1958 Calvino had an affair with the actress Elsa de’ Giorgi, an older and married woman. Calvino wrote hundreds of love letters to her. Excerpts were published by Corriere della Sera in 2004, causing some controversy. In 1957, disillusioned by the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, Calvino left the Italian Communist party. His letter of resignation was published in L’Unità and soon became famous. He found new outlets for his periodic writings in the magazines Passato e Presente and Italia Domani. Together with Vittorini he became a co-editor of Il Menabò di letteratura, a position which Calvino held for many years. Despite severe restrictions in the US against foreigners holding communist views, Calvino was allowed to visit the United States, where he stayed six months from 1959 to 1960, after an invitation by the Ford Foundation. Calvino was particularly impressed by the ‘New World’: ‘Naturally I visited the South and also California, but I always felt a New Yorker. My city is New York. ’ The letters he wrote to Einaudi describing this visit to the United States, were first published as ‘American Diary 1959-1960’ in the book Hermit in Paris in 2003. In 1962 Calvino met the Argentinian translator Esther Judith Singer and married her in 1964 in Havana, during a trip in which he visited his birthplace and met Ernesto Che Guevara. This encounter later led him to contribute an article on the 15th of October 1967, a few days after the death of Guevara, describing the lasting impression Guevara made on him. Back in Italy, and once again working for Einaudi, Calvino started publishing some of his cosmicomics in Il Caffè, a literary magazine. Vittorini’s death in 1966 influenced Calvino greatly. He went through what he called an ‘intellectual depression’, which the writer himself described as an important passage in his life: ‘. I ceased to be young. Perhaps it’s a metabolic process, something that comes with age, I’d been young for a long time, perhaps too long, suddenly I felt that I had to begin my old age, yes, old age, perhaps with the hope of prolonging it by beginning it early’. He then started to frequent Paris, where he was nicknamed L’ironique amusé. Here he soon joined some important circles like the Oulipo and met Roland Barthes and Claude Lévi-Strauss, in the fermenting atmosphere that was going to evolve into 1968’s cultural revolution During his French experience, he also became fond of Raymond Queneau’s works, which would influence his later production. Calvino had more intense contacts with the academic world, with notable experiences at the Sorbonne and at Urbino’s university. His interests included classical studies: Honoré de Balzac, Ludovico Ariosto, Dante, Ignacio de Loyola, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Cyrano de Bergérac, and Giacomo Leopardi. At the same time, not without surprising Italian intellectual circles, Calvino wrote novels for Playboy’s Italian edition He became a regular contributor to the important Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. In 1975 Calvino was made Honorary Member of the American Academy, and the following year he was awarded the Austrian State Literary Prize for European literature. He visited Japan and Mexico and gave lectures in several American towns. In 1981 he was awarded the prestigious French Légion d’Honneur. During the summer of 1985, Calvino prepared some notes for a series of lectures to be delivered at Harvard University in the fall. However, on 6 September, he was admitted to the ancient hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, where he died during the night between the 18 and 19 September of a cerebral hemorrhage. His lecture notes were published posthumously as Six Memos for the Next Millennium in 1988. His style is not easily classified; much of his writing has an air of the fantastic reminiscent of fairy tales, although sometimes his writing is more ‘realistic’ and in the scenic mode of observation Some of his writing has been called ‘postmodern’, reflecting on literature and the act of reading, while some has been labeled ‘magical realist’, others fables, others simply ‘modern’. Twelve years before his death, he was invited to and joined the Oulipo group of experimental writers. He wrote: ‘My working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language.'

 

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(06/22/2009) The Collected Poems Of Frank O'Hara. New York. 1972. Knopf. Edited By Donald Allen. keywords: With An Introduction by John Ashbery. 591 pages. Jacket design by Muriel Nasser. 0394439015. April 1972.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This collection brings together for the first time all of the poems that have so far been discovered - more than five hundred - which Frank O'Hara wrote in his lifetime. They reflect his growth as an artist from the earliest dazzling, experimental verses that he began writing in the late 1940s to his last years, when his poems became awesomely individual and reflective. More than any other poet of the second half of the twentieth century, O'Hara has left a mark on a whole generation of younger poets. Breaking away from the more academic tradition of modern poetry, his concept of the poem as the chronicle of the creative act that produced it - as John Ashbery describes it in his perceptive, short introduction - gave rise to a poetry different from anything that had burst upon the literary scene. All of his intensely felt experiences in the other arts - music, painting, sculpture, dance - served to nourish his unique form of expression and, as Ashbery says, provided him with a sort of reservoir of inspiration: words and colors that could be borrowed freely from everywhere to build up big airy structures. When O'Hara died in an accident in 1966, at only forty, not a great deal of his poetry had been published, although what, work was known had had tremendous impact. Partly because of his reluctance to bother with the serious pursuit of an exclusively literary career, and perhaps partly because of the spontaneous nature of the poems themselves, which resisted the finality of publication, many of his poems existed only in a letter to a friend or on a scrap of paper somewhere - so many that the very size of this collection will come as a surprise to those who think they know his work well. Donald Allen, a friend of O'Hara's and an editor whose anthology THE NEW AMERICAN POETRY, published in 1960, has had a lasting influence, has done a painstaking job of gathering, and annotating all the poems. The result is a varied and brilliant collection whose immediacy brings startlingly to life the many-faceted career of a young man whose love of art, of people, of the teeming city of New York - of simply living - found expression in a style and language that speak directly not only to ‘poets in search of a voice of their own but for the reader who turns to poetry as a last resort in trying to juggle the contradictory components of modern life into something like livable space.'

 

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(06/20/2009) Devil On The Cross by Ngugi wa Thiong'o. London. 1982. Heinemann. keywords: Literature Kenya Black Africa Paperback. AWS 200. 254 pages. Cover photograph by Chris Yates. 0435902008.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Despair drives Wariinga to leave Nairobi and to seek refuge in her home town of Ilmorog. She travels by matatu taxi with an invitation in her hand – an invitation to a feast of thieves organized by the Devil. These thieves, who used to be local businessmen and capitalists, vie with one another to boast about how they became rich. This celebration of corruption in all its forms forces Wariinga to acknowledge that her life has been nothing more than passive acceptance of corruption itself. In DEVIL ON THE CROSS, the ancient rhythms of traditional story-telling are used in counterpoint to written styles. Ngugi provokes with the force of Brecht, Bunyan, Swift, and Beckett. It went into three printings on its original Gikuyu publication.

 

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(06/19/2009) Chronicle Of The Narvaez Expedition by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca. New York. 2002. Penguin Books. Translated From The Spanish by Fanny Bandelier. Revised And Annotated Translation By Harold Augenbraum. Introduction By Ilan Stavans. keywords: Literature Spain Translated History Latin America. 117 pages. Cover art: Alfred Russell, Alvar Nadez Cabeza de Vaca and His Companions Lost on the Shore of the Gulf of Mexico, 1528. 0142437077.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   An enthralling tale of exploration and survival in the New World. This riveting true story is the first major narrative detailing the exploration of North America by Spanish conquistadors The author, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, was a fortune-seeking. Spanish nobleman and the treasurer of an expedition sent to claim for Spain a vast area of today's southern United States. In simple, straightforward prose, Cabeza de Vaca chronicles the nine-year odyssey endured by the men after a shipwreck forced them to make a westward journey on foot from present-day Florida through Louisiana and Texas into California. In thirty-eight brief chapters, he describes the scores of natural and human obstacles they encountered as they made their way across the unmapped land. Cabeza de Vaca's gripping account offers a trove of ethnographic information, including descriptions and interpretations of native cultures, making it a powerful precursor to modern anthropology.

 

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(06/18/2009) British Historians & The West Indies by Eric Williams. Port-of-Spain, Trinindad. 1964. P. N. M Publishing Company. keywords: History Caribbean Colonialism. 187 pages.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The former, based on research done in the 1940s and initially presented at a symposium at Atlanta University, sought to debunk British historiography on the region and to condemn as racist the nineteenth and early twentieth century British perspective on the West Indies. Williams was particularly scathing in his description of the nineteenth century British intellectual Thomas Carlyle.

 

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(06/17/2009) Against The Forgetting: Selected Poems by Hans Faverey. New York. 2004. New Directions. Translated from the Dutch by Francis R. Jones. Preface by Eliot Weinberger. keywords: Literature Poetry Netherlands Translated. NDP969. 178 pages. Cover photograph by Jeffrey Yang. Design by Semadar Megged. 0811215555.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   AGAINST THE FORGETTING presents the work of the Netherlands' most eminent twentieth-century poet, Hans Faverey. This collection brings together poems from his eight published volumes spanning the years 1968 to 1990 as well as a selection of poems from a posthumous collection, SPRING FOXES, first published in Holland in 2000. Filled with a precision and arresting musicality comparable to the hermetic poems of Celan and Bronk, and as mysterious as the writings of Heraclitus and the German mystic Meister Eckhart, Faverey's poems, like Lichtenberg's lightning frozen in time, lash out, splintering systems and syntax - enlightening. ‘Hans Faverey made his reputation only gradually. He is a poet of losses and silences, of meditations on change and how change either undermines or strengthens our sense of reality. ’ - Edwin Morgan. ‘In the world he has left behind, I still feel the presence of Hans Faverey like the proximity of a dangerous wound. In Rotterdam I took part in a translation project devoted to his work. He had only a few weeks to live. The light, the secret wound, the beauty, the reflection of the approaching end - all of this has remained for me as the painful light emitted by his poetry. ’ - Gennady Aygi.

HANS FAVEREY, born in Paramaribo, Surinam, moved as a child to Amsterdam, where he lived until his death. He was a clinical psychologist, and played the harpsichord, an instrument for which he also composed. Faverey received many literary awards including the Amsterdam Poetry Prize, the Jan Campert Prize, and the prestigious Constantijn Huygens Prize for his work as a whole.

FRANCIS R. JONES, Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at Newcastle University, UK, translates from Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, Hungarian, Russian, Dutch, Flemish, and Dutch-based Creole. He is the only translator to have won the UK's biennial European Poetry Translation Prize twice.

 

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(06/15/2009) Glottal Stop: 101 Poems by Paul Celan. Hanover & London. 2000. Wesleyan University Press. Translated From The German By Nikolai Popov & Heather McHugh. keywords: Literature Germany Translated Poetry. 147 pages. 0819564486.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Rich new translations of one of the most important poets of our time. Wet from the world / the scrapped taboos- / and all the bordercrossings between them, / pursuing / meaning, fleeing / meaning. Paul Celan is widely recognized as the greatest and most studied postwar European poet. His poetry dominates the field in the aftermath of the Holocaust, at once demanding and highly rewarding. This new selection of translations of Celan's poems focuses on previously untranslated work and opens up facets of his oeuvre never before available to readers of English. These translations, called ‘perfect in language, music, and spirit’ by Yehuda Amichai, work from the implied premise of what has perceptively been called Intention auf die Sprache, delivering the spirit of Celan's work - his dense multilingual resonances, his brutal broken music, syntactic ruptures, and dizzying wordplay.

Nikolai Popov teaches English and Comparative Literature at the University of Washington in Seattle. A James Joyce scholar and translator, he co-translated with Heather McHugh a collection of the poems of Blaga Dimitrova

Heather McHugh is Milliman Distinguished-Writer-in-Residence at the University of Washington. In addition to six acclaimed books of poetry and the collection of essays BROKEN ENGLISH: POETRY AND PARTIALITY, she has translated poems by Jean Follain and Euripides’ CYCLOPS.

 

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(06/14/2009) What Can I Do When Everything's On Fire by Antonio Lobo Antunes. New York. 2008. Norton. Translated From The Portuguese By Gregory Rabassa. keywords: Literature Portugal Translated. 587 pages. Cover design by Evan Gaffney Design. 9780393329483.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The razor-thin line between reality and madness is transgressed in this Faulknerian masterpiece, António Lobo Antunes’s first novel to appear in English in five years. WHAT CAN I DO WHEN EVERYTHING’S ON FIRE?, set in the steamy world of Lisbon’s demimonde - a nightclub milieu of scorching intensity and kaleidoscopic beauty, a baleful planet populated by drag queens, clowns, and drug addicts—is narrated by Paolo, the son of Lisbon’s most legendary transvestite, who searches for his own identity as he recalls the harrowing death of his father, Carlos; the life of Carlos’s lover, Rui, a heroin addict and suicide; as well as the other denizens of this hallucinatory world. Psychologically penetrating, pregnant with literary symbolism, and deeply sympathetic in its depiction of society’s dregs, Lobo Antunes’s novel ventriloquizes the voices of the damned in a poetic masterwork that recalls Joyce’s ULYSSES with a dizzying farrago of urban images few readers will forget. ‘A soaring, symphonic epic by the Portuguese master novelist, considered to be the ‘heir to Conrad and Faulkner’.

Born in 1942, António Lobo Antunes is the author of sixteen novels, including ACT OF THE DAMNED and THE NATURAL ORDER OF THINGS. He lives in Lisbon.

Gregory Rabassa is the recipient of multiple prizes and the translator of ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, among other classic works.

 

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(06/13/2009) The Council Of Egypt by Leonardo Sciascia. London. 1966. Jonathan Cape. Translated From The Italian by Adrienne Foulke. keywords: Literature Sicily Italy Translated. 212 pages. Jacket design by Leigh Taylor.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Set against the teeming, colourful life of Palermo, THE COUNCIL OF EGYPT is both an engrossing novel and a convincing historical reconstruction of eighteenth-century Sicily. It is the story of a forger, Don Giuseppe Vella, an impoverished chaplain and interpreter of dreams who, by a masterpiece of ingenious deception, achieves comfort and power for himself, and a new past for his home island. He survives several attempts to expose his fraud, only to unmask himself deliberately in a moment of desperate boredom. The narrative then shifts subtly from Vella's half-conscious attempts to buttress the ruling Bourbon absolutism to a foredoomed attempt by a young lawyer, Francesco di Blasi, to import the ideas of the French Revolution and give them to a Free Republic of Sicily. Vella the imposter escapes relatively unharmed, but the intense, high-minded di Blasi is punished with appalling savagery for his ideals. Sciascia's piercing insight into the minds and mood of the age is equal to that of a contemporary writer. He observes the frivolity of a society that reduces even the most tragic event to an item of gossip for the Conversation Club or a jotting in the Marquis of Villabianca's diary, but more acutely, he perceives the essential ferocity of the period.

 

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(06/11/2009) Verses & Versions: Three Centuries OF Russian Poetry by Vladimir Nabokov. Orlando. 2008. Harcourt. Edited By Brian Boyd & Stanislav Shvabrin. Introduction By Brian Boyd. keywords: Literature Russia Translated Poetry Anthology. 441 pages. Jacket design by Bradford Foltz. 9780151012640.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   VLADIMIR NABOKOV was hailed by Salman Rushdie as the most important writer ever to cross the boundary between one language and another. A Russian emigre who began writing in English after his forties, Nabokov was a trilingual author, equally competent in Russian, English, and French. A gifted and tireless translator, he bridged the gap between languages nimbly and joyously. Here, collected for the first time in one volume as Nabokov always wished, are his English translations of Russian verse, presented next to the Russian originals and accompanied by brilliant, brief portraits of the poets. Here, also, arc some of his notes on the dangers and thrills of translation. With an introduction be Brian Boyd, author of Vladimir Nabokov, a prize-winning two-volume biography. Verses and Versions is a momentous and authoritative contribution to Nabokov's literary legacy.

VLADIMIR NABOKOV was one of the twentieth century's greatest writers in Russian and English. Poet, novelist, dramatist, memoirist, critic, translator, essayist, and scientist, he was awarded the National Medal for Literature in 1973. He taught creative writing and Russian literature at Wellesley, Stanford, Cornell, and Harvard. Among his most celebrated works are LOLITA; PALE FIRE; ADA; SPEAK, MEMORY; and his translation of Pushkin's EUGENE ONEGIN.

BRIAN BOYD, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of English at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, is the foremost scholar on Nabokov's life and works, and has edited Nabokov's fiction, memoirs, and butterfly writings.

STANISLAV SHVABRIN is a scholar, translator, and lecturer in Russian language and literature at Princeton University and an expert on Nabokov as translator.

 

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(06/10/2009) The Curtain: An Essay In Seven Parts by Milan Kundera. New York. 2007. Harper Collins. Translated From The French By Linda Asher. keywords: Literary Criticism Literature Czech Translated. 168 pages. Jacket art - 'Portrait of Maria Adelaide of France in Turkish Costume', 1753 by Jean-Etienne Liotard. Jacket design by Carl Hanser Verlag. 9780060841867. February 2007.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   In this thought-provoking, endlessly enlightening, and entertaining essay on the art of the novel, renowned author Milan Kundera suggests that ‘the curtain’ represents a ready-made perception of the world that each of us has—a pre-interpreted world. The job of the novelist, he argues, is to rip through the curtain and reveal what it hides. Here an incomparable literary artist cleverly sketches out his personal view of the history and value of the novel in Western civilization. In doing so, he celebrates a prose form that possesses the unique ability to transcend national and language boundaries in order to reveal some previously unknown aspect of human existence.

 

  

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(06/09/2009) The Way Home by George Pelecanos. New York & Boston. 2009. Little Brown. keywords: Mystery America. 325 pages. Jacket design by Keith Hayes. 9780316156493.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   A brilliant new novel about fathers and Fans and the dangers of modern life by ‘one of the most literary of Americas crime Writers’ BENEATH THE FLOORBOARDS IN A HOUSE he's remodeling, Christopher Flynn discovers something very tempting - and troubling. Summoning every bit of maturity and every lesson he's learned the hard way, Chris leaves what he found where he found it and tells his job partner to forget it, too. Knowing trouble when he sees it - and walking the other way - is a habit Chris is still learning. Chris's father, Thomas Flynn, runs the family business where Chris and his friends have found work. Thomas is just getting comfortable with the idea that his son is grown, working, and on the right path at last. Then one day Chris doesn't show up for work - and his father knows deep in his bones that danger has found him. Although he wishes it weren't so, he also knows that no parent can protect a child from all the world's evils. Sometimes you have to let them find their own way home. THE WAY HOME is the most powerful novel yet from the electrifying George Pelecanos, whose work has been compared to that of Dennis Lehane and Richard Price, writers ‘who push the boundaries of crime writing into literary territory’ As profound and engrossing as Pelecanos's work as a writer and producer on The Wire, THE WAY HOME is an unforgettable novel of fathers' hopes and sons' ambitions, of love, drive, and forgiveness.

 

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(06/08/2009) Collected Poems by W. H. Auden. New York. 1976. Random House. Edited By Edward Mendelson. keywords: Poetry Literature England. 696 pages. 0394408950. October 1976.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This volume contains all the poems that W. H. Auden wished to preserve, in the texts that received his final approval. It includes the full contents of his previous collected editions and all the later volumes of his shorter poems. Three poems are printed for the first time, and four early poems that Auden rejected from earlier collections are here restored. INCLUDES - Poems ; The Orators ; The Dance of Death ; The Dog Beneath the Skin ; On This Island ; Letters from Iceland ; On the Frontier ; Journey to a War ; Another Time ; The Double Man ; For the Time Being ; The Collected Poetry ; The Age of Anxiety ; The Enchafed Flood ; Nones ; The Rake's Progress ; The Shield of Achilles ; Homage to Clio ; Elegy for Young Lovers ; The Dyer's Hand ; About the House ; The Bassarids ; Collected Shorter Poems, 1927-1957 ; Collected Longer Poems ; Secondary Worlds ; City Without Walls ; Epistle to a Godson ; Forewords and Afterwords ; Thank You, Fog.

WYSTAN HUGH AUDEN was born in England, on 21 February 1907. His family moved to Birmingham during his early childhood. He was educated at Gresham's School, Holt, and at Christ Church, Oxford. His first book of poems, published in 1930, had an immediate and vital effect on English letters. During the 1930's he completed two more books of poems, collaborated on three plays with Christopher Isherwood, and wrote books about his travels to Iceland and to the war in China In 1939 he took up residence in New York, and he became an American citizen in 1946. His work during the 1940's included the longer poems ‘New Year Letter,’ ‘For the Time Being,’ ‘The Sea and the Mirror,’ and ‘The Age of Anxiety. ’ In collaboration with Chester Kallman he composed opera libretti for Igor Stravinsky, Hans Werner Henze, and Nicolas Nabokov. From 1948 through 1957 he lived for part of the year in Ischia, and from 1957 onwards in Kirchstetten, Lower Austria. In 1972 he left his winter home in New York to return to Oxford. He died in Vienna in the early hours of 29 September 1973.

Edward Mendelson, the editor of the collection, is Auden's literary executor. 

 

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(06/07/2009) The History of Polish Literature by Czeslaw Milosz. New York. 1973. Macmillan. keywords: Literature Poland Translated Literary Criticism History. 570 pages. Jacket design by Jeanyee Wong.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   In THE HISTORY OF POLISH LITERATURE Czeslaw Milosz, an outstanding Polish poet and literary historian, presents the only up-to-date chronicle of a fertile literature long neglected by the English-speaking world. Mr. Milosz includes literature from every age, from medieval Latin poems to the experimental poetry of today, quoting the original text along with his English translation. The Golden Age of Polish vernacular opens amid the flames of religious controversy engendered by Hus, Luther, and Calvin. In the ‘Italianate' sixteenth century appear Mikolaj Rej, earthy symbol of ‘merry old Poland,’ and the enchanting, bucolic poetry of Jan Kochanowski. Amid the graceful grotesquerie of the Baroque emerges the mysticism of Maciej Sarbiewski, the ‘Christian Horace’ known abroad as the Divine Casimire, in contrast to the gay madrigals, serene love lyrics, and Polish Christmas carols so popular still today. Following the mock-heroic epics and satires of the eighteenth century come the classical perfection and Romantic spirit of Mickiewicz, the Goethe of Poland, as well as symbolist visions of European history in the writings of rebels, exiles, and enemies of the monarchic order. In the wake of the Industrial Revolution arise the compassionate humor and rare integrity of Boleslaw Prus, who foresaw the ominous rise of German nationalism. The twentieth century catapults Poland into years of terror under Nazi occupation, and out of the crush of war and the despair of postwar devastation emerge the theater of the absurd and the shattered forms of the ‘new wave’ poets. Mr. Milosz combines the historian's perspective with a deep understanding of a vibrant, passionate people and their strange fate. He explores with depth and objectivity the Polish response to a unique national experience - including the bizarre, the funny, the tragic, and the earthy. Illustrated with photographs and line drawings, THE HISTORY OF POLISH LITERATURE introduces us to a vivid and significant part of the heritage of Western civilization.

 

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(06/06/2009) A Guide To Philosophy In Six Hours & Fifteen Minutes by Witold Gombrowicz. New Haven. 2004. Yale University Press. Translated From The French By Benjamin Ivry. keywords: Philosophy Poland Eastern Europe Literature Translated. 111 pages. Jacket illustration Sketch by Witold Gombrowicz. 030010409x.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Witold Gombrowicz, novelist, essayist, and playwright, was one of the most important Polish writers of the twentieth century. A candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968, he was described by Milan Kundera as ‘one of the great novelists of our century’ and by John Updike as ‘one of the profoundest of the late moderns. ’ Gombrowicz’s works were considered scandalous and subversive by the ruling powers in Poland and were banned for nearly forty years. He spent his last years in France teaching philosophy; this book is a series of reflections based on his lectures. Gombrowicz discusses Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Heidegger in six ‘one-hour’ essays and addresses Marxism in a shorter ‘fifteen-minute’ piece. The text-a small literary gem full of sardonic wit, brilliant insights, and provocative criticism-constructs the philosophical lineage of his work.

Witold Marian Gombrowicz was a Polish novelist and dramatist. His works are characterized by deep psychological analysis, a certain sense of paradox and an absurd, anti-nationalist flavor. In 1937 he published his first novel, Ferdydurke, which presented many of his usual themes: the problems of immaturity and youth, the creation of identity in interactions with others, and an ironic, critical examination of class roles in Polish society and culture. He gained fame only during the last years of his life but is now considered one of the foremost figures of Polish literature. Gombrowicz was born in Maloszyce, in Congress Poland, Russian Empire to a wealthy gentry family. He was the youngest of four children of Jan and Antonina In 1911 his family moved to Warsaw. After completing his education at Saint Stanislaus Kostka’s Gymnasium in 1922, he studied law at Warsaw University He spent a year in Paris where, he studied at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales. He was less than diligent in his studies, but his time in France brought him in constant contact with other young intellectuals. He also visited the Mediterranean. When he returned to Poland he began applying for legal positions with little success. In the 1920s he started writing, but soon rejected the legendary novel, whose form and subject matter were supposed to manifest his ‘worse’ and darker side of nature. Similarly, his attempt to write a popular novel in collaboration with Tadeusz Kepinski turned out to be a failure. At the turn of the 20’s and 30’s he started to write short stories, which were later printed under the title Memoirs Of A Time Of Immaturity. From the moment of this literary debut, his reviews and columns started appearing in the press, mainly in the ‘Kurier Poranny He met with other young writers and intellectuals forming an artistic café society in ‘Zodiak’ and ‘Ziemianska’, both in Warsaw. The publication of Ferdydurke, his first novel, brought him acclaim in literary circles. Just before the outbreak of the Second World War, Gombrowicz took part in the maiden voyage of the famous Polish cruise liner, Chrobry, to South America. When he found out about the outbreak of war in Europe, he decided to wait in Buenos Aires till the war was over but was actually to stay there until 1963 - often, especially during the war, in great poverty. At the end of the 40s Gombrowicz was trying to gain a position among Argentine literary circles by publishing articles, giving lectures in Fray Mocho café, and finally, by publishing in 1947, a Spanish translation of Ferdydurke written with the help of Gombrowicz’s friends. Today, this version of the novel is considered to be a significant literary event in the history of Argentine literature; however, when published it did not bring any great renown to the author, nor did the publication of Gombrowicz’s drama ‘Slub’ in Spanish in 1948. From December 1947 to May 1955 Gombrowicz worked as a bank clerk in Banco Polaco, the Argentine branch of PeKaO SA Bank. In 1950 he started exchanging letters with Jerzy Giedroyc and from 1951 he started having works published in the Parisian journal ‘Culture,’ where, in 1953, fragments of ‘Dziennik’ appeared. In the same year he published a volume of work which included the drama ‘Slub’ and the novel ‘Trans-Atlantyk’, where the subject of national identity on emigration was controversially raised. After October 1956 four books written by Gombrowicz appeared in Poland and they brought him great renown despite the fact that the authorities did not allow the publication of ‘Dziennik’, and later organized a slanderous campaign against Gombrowicz in 1963 who was then staying in West Berlin. In the 1960s Gombrowicz became recognized globally and many of his works were translated, including ‘Pornografia’ and ‘Kosmos’ His dramas were staged in many theatres all around the world, especially in France, Germany and Sweden. In 1963 he returned to Europe, where he received a scholarship from the Ford Foundation during his stay in Berlin, and in 1964 he spent three months in Royaumont abbey near Paris, where he employed Rita Labrosse, a Canadian from Montreal who studied contemporary literature, as his secretary. In 1964 he moved to Vence near Nice in the south of France, where he spent the rest of his life. There he enjoyed the fame which culminated in May 1967 with the International Publishers Prize and six months before his death, married Rita Labrosse. Gombrowicz wrote in Polish, however, in view of his decision not to allow his works to be published in his native country until the ban on the unabridged version of ‘Dziennik’, in which he described the Polish authorities slanderous attacks on him, was lifted he remained a largely unknown figure to the general reading public until the first half of the 1970s. Despite this, his works were printed in Polish by the Paris Literary Institute of Jerzy Giedroyc and translated into more than 30 languages. Morover, his dramas were repeatedly staged in the most important theatres in the whole world by the prominent directors such as: Jorge Lavelli, Alf Sjoeberg, Ingmar Bergman along with Jerzy Jarocki and Jerzy Grzegorzewski in Poland.

 

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(06/05/2009) Enchanted Hunters: The Power Of Stories In Childhood by Maria Tatar. New York. 2009. Norton. keywords: Folklore Childhood Reading Literature. 296 pages. Jacket design by The Design Works Group, Jason Gabbert. 9780393066012.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Highly illuminating for parents, vital for students and book lovers alike, ENCHANTED HUNTERS transforms our understanding of why children should read. Ever wondered why little children love listening to stories, why older ones get lost in certain books? In this enthralling work, Maria Tatar challenges many of our assumptions about childhood reading. Much as our culture pays lip service to the importance of literature, we rarely examine the creative and cognitive benefits of reading from infancy through adolescence by exploring how beauty and horror operate in C. S. Lewis's THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, Philip Pullman's HIS DARK MATERIALS, J. K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER novels, and many other narratives, Tatar provides a delightful work for parents, teachers, and general readers, not just examining how and what children read but also showing through vivid examples how literature transports and transforms children with its intoxicating, captivating, and occasionally terrifying energy. In the tradition of Bruno Bettelheim's landmark THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT, Tatar's book is not only a compelling journey into the world of childhood but a trip back for adult readers as well.

Maria Tatar is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, where she teaches courses on folklore and literature. She is the author of THE ANNOTATED BROTHERS GRIMM and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 

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(06/03/2009) Clotel or, The President's Daughter by William Wells Brown. New York. 1969. Citadel Press. Introduction & Notes by William Edward Farrison. keywords: Black Literature America. 254 pages. Jacket design by Todd Ash.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   One of the unique books in American literature is this novel written by an escaped Negro slave. Until he was twenty-one years old William Wells Brown could neither read nor write; all the more remarkable, then, is this dramatic and frequently moving story. Brown based his novel on the oft-repeated claim that Thomas Jefferson, who wrote magnificently about human freedom while continuing to buy, work, and sell slaves, had fathered many slave children. According to the legend, one of these children, a beautiful young girl, was later sold at auction. Brown utilized this material for a bitter attack on the system of slavery, and, whether the Jefferson story is true or not, it is certainly true that many slave-owners did sell their own children on the block. Included in this volume is Brown's own narrative of his life as a slave and his escape to Canada and from thence to England. Professor Farrison's Introduction presents the historical background of CLOTEL. The present edition is textually the same as the first edition, which was published in London in 1853.

William Edward Farrison is Professor of English at North Carolina College at Durham.

 

 

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(06/02/2009) The Fat Man and Infinity & Other Writings by Antonio Lobo Antunes. New York. 2009. Norton. Translated From The Portuguese & With An Introduction By Margaret Jull Costa. keywords: Literature Portugal Translated. 396 pages. Jacket design by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich. 9780393061987.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   A lyrical, searing work of autobiography, reflection, and fiction, evoking García Márquez's memoirs and Pamuk's ISTANBUL. António Lobo Antunes's sole ambition from the age of seven was to be a writer. Here, in THE FAT MAN AND INFINITY, ‘the heir to Conrad and Faulkner’ reflects on the fractured paradise of his childhood—the world of prim, hypocritical, class-riven Lisbon in midcentury. His Proust-like memoirs, written over thirty years in chronicle form, pass through the filter of an adult who has known war and pain, and bear witness to the people whom he loved and who have gone into the dark. Stunningly translated by Margaret Jull Costa, in prose that glides like poetry, this is a modern-day chronicle of Portugal's imperfect past and arresting present, seen through the eyes of a master fiction writer, one on a short list to win a Nobel Prize. Readers particularly touched by Frank McCourt's ANGELA'S ASHES will be drawn to this journey into the heart of one of our greatest living writers.

António Lobo Antunes is the author of twenty-five novels and the recipient of the 2005 Jerusalem Prize. He lives in Lisbon, Portugal.

Margaret Jull Costa is the award-winning translator of the work of Fernando Pessoa, José Saramago, and Javier Marias.

 

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(06/01/2009) Song Of The Heart: Selected Poems by Ramon Lopez Velarde. Austin. 1995. University Of Texas Press. Translated From The Spanish By Margaret Sayers Peden. Art by Juan Soriano. Texas Pan American Series. keywords: Poetry Mexico Latin America South America Translated Literature. 104 pages. 0292746865.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Ramon Lopez Velarde was one of the most Mexican of Mexican poets, whose sense of history found expression in many poems, including his best-known ‘La suave patria’ This bilingual collection, drawn primarily from Poesias completas y el minutero, offers English-language readers our first book-length introduction to his poetry. Often called a ‘poet of the provinces,’ Lopez Velarde gives us a glimpse into a slower and more gentle way of life. His poems present the contrast between city and hometown and between urban and pastoral landscapes. Through these contrasts runs the thread of religious faith, while urgency of language informs the entire body of his poetic production. Original, specially commissioned drawings by noted contemporary Mexican artist Juan Soriano complement the poems. This combination of poetry and art speaks to universal emotions; indeed the poetry of Lopez Velarde belongs to everyone who sings the Song of the Heart.

Ramón López Velarde was a Mexican poet. His work is generally considered to be postmodern, but is unique for its subject matter. He achieved great fame in his native land, to the point of being considered Mexico's national poet. López Velarde was born in Jerez, Zacatecas. He was the first of nine children of José Guadalupe López Velarde, a lawyer from Jalisco, and Trinidad Berumen Llamas, who came from a local landowning family. José, after an unsuccessful law career, had founded a Catholic school in Jerez. In 1900, Ramón was sent to a seminary in Zacatecas, where he remained for two years; later, when his family moved, he transferred to a seminary in Aguascalientes. In 1905 he abandoned the seminary in favor of a career in the law. During his years in the seminary, Velarde had spent his holidays in Jerez. During one of these trips, he met Josefa de los Ríos, a distant relative eight years his senior, who made a deep impression on him. The earliest poem ascribed to Velarde, ‘Fuensanta’ is believed to have been inspired by her. In 1906 he collaborated on the literary review Bohemio, published in Aguascalientes by some of his friends, under the pseudonym of ‘Ricardo Wencer Olivares’. The Bohemio group sided with Manuel Caballero, a Catholic Integralist opposed to literary modernism, during the controversy surrounding the 1907 reappearance of the polemical Revista Azul. However, their intervention had no appreciable effect on Mexican literary culture. In January 1908 Velarde began his law studies at the University of San Luis Potosí. Soon after, his father died, leaving the family, which had returned to Jerez, in a desperate financial situation. Thanks to the support of his maternal uncles, Velarde was able to continue his studies. He continued to collaborate on various publications in Aguascalientes and later in Guadalajara Bohemia had ceased to exist by 1907. In San Luis Potosí Velarde read modernist poetry, especially that of Amado Nervo and Andrés González Blanco. This radically changed his aesthetic sensibilities, transforming him into a fervent defender of modernism. In 1910 he began to write what would later become La sangre devota. During the years of the Mexican Revolution, López Velarde openly supported the political reforms of Francisco Madero, whom he met personally in 1910. In 1911 he received his law degree and became a judge in the small town of Venado. However, he left his position at the end of the year and traveled to Mexico City, hoping that Madero, the new president of the republic, might offer him a position in his government. Madero made no such offer, perhaps because of Velarde's militant Catholicism. Eduardo J. Correa, his old mentor, hired him in 1912 to collaborate on La Nación, a monthly Catholic journal in Mexico City. Velarde wrote poems, reviews, and political commentary about Mexico's new state of affairs. He attacked, among others, Emiliano Zapata. He left the journal soon after the revolt of February 9, 1913, which brought Victoriano Huerta to power. Trying to escape the political turmoil of Mexico City, he returned to San Luis Potosí. He began his courtship of María de Nevares, which he would continue for the rest of his life, unsuccessfully. At the beginning of 1914 he settled permanently in Mexico City. In the middle of 1915 the rise to power of Venustiano Carranza began a period of relative tranquility. Mexican poetry was currently dominated by the postmodernism of Enrique González Martínez, for whom Velarde had little admiration. He preferred the work of José Juan Tablada, who was also his good friend. During this period he was also interested in the work of the Argentine modernist Leopoldo Lugones, who left a decisive influence on Velarde's later work. In 1915 López Velarde began to write more personal poems, marked by their nostalgia for his native Jerez, and for his first love, ‘Fuensanta’. In 1916 he published his first book, La sangre devota, which he dedicated to ‘the spirits’ of the Mexican poets Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera and Manuel José Othón, and was well-received by the Mexican literary community. The book - and even its title - concerned the Catholic liturgy, which was associated with the idealized world of the author's childhood in Jerez, and identified as the only refuge from his turbulent city life. The poem ‘Viaje al terruño’ is fundamentally an attempt to evoke a return to childhood. Nevertheless, this nostalgia for the past is not free of a certain ironic distance, as in the poem ‘Tenías un rebozo de seda. ’ he remembers himself as a ‘seminarian, without Baudelaire, without rhyme, and without a sense of smell’. In 1917, Josefa de los Ríos, the inspiration for ‘Fuensanta’, died. Velarde began to work on his next book, Zozobra, which would not be published for another two years. Between March and July of that year he collaborated with González Martínez on the review Pegaso. Despite receiving increasing criticism for his Catholicism and provincialism, Velarde's literary prestige also began to rise. In 1919 Velarde published Zozobra, considered by the majority of critics to be his major work. It was heavily ironic, and drew both from his provincial upbringing and his recent experiences in the city. The influence of Lugones was evident in the book's tendency to avoid common settings, the use of vocabulary then considered unpoetical, the unusual adjective use, unexpected metaphors, the use of word games, the frequency of proparoxytones, and the humorous use of rhyme. In this sense, the work also resembled that of the Uruguayan poet Julio Herrera y Reissig. Zozobra consists of forty poems arranged cyclically, begun by the line ‘Hoy como nunca’, saying goodbye to Fuensanta and Jerez, and ending with the poem ‘Humildemente’, which marks a symbolic return to his origins. Zozobra was strongly criticized by González Martínez. In 1920 the revolt of Alvaro Obregón brought an end to the government of Carranza, which for Velarde had been a period of stability and great productivity. But after a brief period of unrest in Velarde's life, José Vasconcelos was named minister of education, and promised a cultural renovation of the country. Velarde wrote for two journals promoted by Vasconcelos, México Moderno and El Maestro. In the latter, Velarde published one of his best-known essays, ‘Novedad de la Patria’, where he expounded on the ideas of his earlier poems. Also appearing in El Maestro was ‘La suave patria’, which would cement Velarde's reputation as Mexico's national poet. Velarde died on June 19, 1921, soon after turning thirty-three. His death was officially attributed to pneumonia, although it was speculated that syphilis might have been to blame. He left behind an unfinished book, El son del corazón, which would not be published until 1932. After his death, at Vasconcelos' quiet urging, López Velarde was given great honors, and held up as the national poet. His work, especially ‘La suave patria’, was presented as the ultimate expression of post-revolutionary Mexican culture. This official appropriation did not preclude others from championing his work. The poets known as the Contemporáneos saw Velarde, together with Tablada, as the beginning of modern Mexican poetry. Xavier Villaurrutia, in particular, insisted on the centrality of Velarde in the history of Mexican poetry, and compared him to Charles Baudelaire. The first complete study of Velarde was made by American author Allen W. Phillips in 1961. This formed the basis for a subsequent study by Octavio Paz, included in his book Cuadrivio, in which he argued the modernity of López Velarde, comparing him to Jules Laforgue, Leopoldo Lugones and Julio Herrera. Other critics, such as Gabriel Zaid, centered their analysis on Velarde's formative years and his strong Catholicism. On 1989, on Velarde's one hundredth birthday, Mexican author Guillermo Sheridan published a new biography of the poet, titled Un corazón adicto: la vida de Ramón López Velarde, which remains the most complete biography of Velarde to date. Velarde's oeuvre, like that of José Juan Tablada, marks a moment of transition between modernism and the avant-garde. His work was marked by the appearance of isms in the ambition of Hispanic authors to take a novel approach to poetic language. At the same time, his work was framed by duality, whether it be the Mexican struggle between rural traditions and the new culture of the cities, or his own struggle between asceticism and pagan sensuality. Despite his importance, he remains a virtual unknown outside his own country. Corecipient of the first Gregory Kolovakos Award in 1992,

Margaret Sayers Peden is a distinguished critic and translator of Latin American literature.

 

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(05/31/2009) Poems Of Gunter Grass by Gunter Grass. Baltimore. 1969. Penguin Books. Translated from the German by Michael Hamburger & Christopher Middleton. keywords: Poetry Literature Germany Translated. 88 pages. Cover photo of Gunter Grass by Hans Rama.

The Penguin Modern European Poets offered a series of collections designed to present, in verse translations, the work of significant poets of the 20th century for readers unfamiliar with the original languages. The series includes: Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Rainer Maria Rilke, Guillaume Apollinaire, Jacques Prevert, Quasmodo, Greek poets -Cavafy, Elytis, Gatsos, and Seferis, Miroslav Holub, Zbigniew Herbert, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Gunter Grass, Vasko Popa, Sandor Weores, Ferenc Juhasz, Johannes Bobrowski, Horst Bienek, Eugenio Montale, Vladimir Holan, Anna Akhmatova, Gunnar Ekelof, Paul Celan, Amichai, Kovner, Sachs, Cesare Pavese, the Czech poets, Nezval, Bartusek, and Hanzlik, Ungaretti, Fernando Pessoa, and even Joseph Brodsky.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Gunter Grass, famous as a novelist, is here presented as a poet in a selection from his three published volumes. Grass's belief that an artist, however committed he may be in life, should be only a jester in art, is admirably practised in these poems in which fantasy, ingenuity and humour are substitutes for didacticism, and no word, thing or idea is too sacrosanct to be played with. Even in the recent controversial political poems, which come close to blurring his division between life and art, Grass's tremendous zest and sensuous response are felt. Penguin Modern European Poets is designed to present, in verse translations, the work of significant poets of this century for readers unfamiliar with the original languages. The series already includes Yevtushenko, Rilke, Apollinaire, Prevert, Quasimodo, a volume of Greek poets, Holub, Herbert and Enzensberger.

 

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(05/30/2009) Women's Indian Captivity Narratives by Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola. New York. 1998. Penguin Books. Edited With An Introduction And Notes by Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola. keywords: History America Native American Women Captivity. 356 pages. Cover painting: John Vandedyn, ‘Death of Jane McCrea’. Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford. Purchased by the Wadsworth Atheneum. 0140436715.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Ten extraordinary tales from America's most intriguing and enduring literary genre. Enthralling generations of readers, the narrative of capture by Native Americans is arguably the first American literary form dominated by women's experiences. Many such captivity narratives were fact-based but often transformed by authors or editors into spellbinding adventure stories, sentimental tales, spiritual autobiographies, or anti-Indian propaganda. For this pioneering collection, Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola has selected ten compete narratives that span two hundred years (1682-1892) and show literary as well as geographical diversity. From Mary Rowlandson's famous account and Hannah Dustan's infamous escape (after she scalped her captors), to Sarah Wakefield's passionate critique of white society and Mary Jemison's permanent transculturation to Indian life, a variety of experiences is represented here. Derounian-Stodola's fascinating introduction to the history and influence of the genre shows it to be a foundation text of American culture with enduring popular appeal.

 

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(05/29/2009) A Man Of Letters: Selected Essays by V. S. Pritchett. New York. 1986. Random House. keywords: Literature England Essays. 305 pages. 0394549821.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   A selection of his finest work over 40 years ranging from Smollett and Peacock to Evelyn Waugh and Cyril Connelly. Also included are essays in major British and European authors, including Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson, Laurence Sterne, Thomas Day, Walter Scott, and many others.

V.S. Pritchett, who was born on December 16, 1900, in Ipswich, England, to Sawdon and Beatrice (Martin) Pritchett, told the story of his life in two volumes. The first of these is A CAB AT THE DOOR: A MEMOIR (the British subtitle is CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH, 1900-1920), and the second is MIDNIGHT OIL (1971). His account of his life is humorous at times and rather detached. His father, a religious seeker, found refuge in later years in Christian Science. Micawber-like, Sawdon Pritchett was optimistic about the get-rich-quick schemes which left the family in straitened circumstances and which accounted for the title, A CAB AT THE DOOR. The family had to move frequently, with disastrous consequences for Pritchett's formal education. The mother, Beatrice Martin, was a sometimes vain and sometimes foolish woman of a decent lower class family. Pritchett loved literature and read Dickens and Hardy. He felt that he lacked grounding in mathematics and science. When his father, in 1915, decided that the son must learn a trade, the youth was upset at having his education interrupted. Though he didn't like his work in the leather trade, he did enjoy meeting and associating with people. At 20 he left for Paris. He continued to read not only British authors and poets but the more important modern French ones. He acquired a fluency in French of which he was very proud. It was almost by chance that he submitted three pieces for publication in 1921. The Christian Science Monitor published one of these, and his career was launched. During his two-year stay in Paris he made friends with other young people, though he was rather shy and certainly innocent by today's standards. He longed for the love of a young woman and ultimately lost his innocence. Evidently there was something about this short, shy youth that brought out the maternal instinct in older women: more than once he was mothered and advised by a woman older than himself. In 1923 he returned to London and was asked by the Christian Science Monitor to write a series of articles about Ireland. The extended visit to Ireland, as well as a subsequent visit to Spain, led to a series of travel books written over a span of nearly 40 years. Pritchett traveled to various parts of Ireland to acquire first-hand material for his articles and in the process developed an admiration for the Irish, though an occasional dreariness of the landscape depressed him. When he visited Spain he was impressed with the country, and it provided him with the setting for some of his stories and furnished him with journalistic material. He published his first novel, Clare Drummer, in 1929 and a collection of short stories, THE SPANISH VIRGIN AND OTHER STORIES, in 1930. Neither book was a critical success. These were followed by another novel, ELOPEMENT INTO EXILE - or SHIRLEY SANZ, to give it its British title. This book was not a critical success either. NOTHING LIKE LEATHER, which appeared in 1935, traces the material success and moral disintegration of Matthew Burkle when by dint of hard work he begins to rise in the leather tannery where he is employed. The industrial town in which the novel is set is vividly and realistically described. In 1935 DEAD MAN LEADING appeared. Its setting - the jungles of Brazil - was more exotic. As in Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS, there is a symbolic journey motif, and two of the men who make the journey, Philips and Johnson, attempt to find in Wright a father figure. After 15 years, in 1951, another novel, MR. BELUNCLE, appeared. Like Pritchett's own father, Beluncle, the protagonist, is searching for religious fulfillment. Brendan Gill, writing in the New Yorker, admitted that the novel amused, yet he thought it only partially successful because he found it also ‘forced and cold.’ In MIDNIGHT OIL Pritchett mentions in passing that his father thought that he saw himself in the novel, and the author nowhere denies that the protagonist was based on his father, whose penchant for schemes of easy wealth has already been mentioned. It may be that the objectivity that can be achieved by the lapse of time between actual events and their recollection had not yet been reached. Certainly Pritchett's biography of the great 19th-century novelist Honoré de Balzac deserves mention. Though Millicent Bell pointed out that in BALZAC (1974) he broke no new ground, she found him good at ‘describing persons and scenes’ and considered that he wrote ‘in a sinewy and witty style.’ There can be no doubt that his sympathies lie with his subject, and Balzac's lover, Madame Hanska, who might have treated the author more handsomely than she did (though she did fulfill on his deathbed her promise to marry him), comes out a decided second best. In reviewing his COLLECTED STORIES (1982), Valentine Cunningham, who called Pritchett ‘the best living English author, ‘ commented that he was ‘always on the alert for the illustrative moment, ‘ that he turned ‘human moments into epiphanies, ‘ and that he was ‘celebrating the heroicism of banal life.’ The last comment rings true, for the lives examined are only seemingly banal and the deep current beneath them is all. Cunningham singled out for special praise ‘ Many Are Disappointed’; however, another superior story, ‘Blind Love, ‘ which deals with a blind man and his housekeeper who hides from the world a disfiguring birthmark that the blind man cannot see, truly illustrates that a rich and turbulent life can exist beneath an outwardly placid, banal one. In 1983 MORE COLLECTED STORIES was published. Both this collection and the earlier one go back many years. A MAN OF LETTERS: SELECTED ESSAYS by Pritchett was published in 1986. As a literary critic Pritchett was incisive, and in a happy choice of phrase he could lay bare for the reader an author's method of approaching his subject. In THE MYTH MAKERS: LITERARY ESSAYS (1979) he said of Jean Genet that ‘he proceeds from criminal ritual to the literary without losing his innate interest in violence, ‘ and again, ‘Genet is the natural product of an age of violence, a cult figure for those who feel guilty because they have escaped martyrdom.’ In his essay on Gustave Flaubert he says of MADAME BOVARY ‘She is dignified by a real fate - not by a false word 'Fate, ' one of the clichés Flaubert derided, ‘ and he described Flaubert himself as ‘her fellow adolescent.’ Of Gabriel Garcia Márquez's method in ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, he said that ‘Marquez seems to be sailing down the blood stream of his people, ‘ and spoke of ‘the slippery comedies and tragedies of daily life’ as depicted in that novel. In an essay on the British writer Henry Yorke, Pritchett called the author ‘sensitive to that rarity which is buried in people who outwardly might be commonplace, ‘ and he went on to say that he thought that Yorke's characters ‘were living in the imagination and this made him a master of comedy of what can only be called the human underground.’ These words aptly fit Pritchett's own method and characters. Pritchett himself preferred his travel books, short stories, and novels to his reviews, but he was wrong to so belittle his talents as a critic, and his critical ability, if anything, grew with the passage of time. Cunningham shared Pritchett's own belief that the short stories he wrote in the 1920s were merely ‘apprenticeship work’ and that he came into his own in the 1930s. At his very best he endowed his stories with an interest and understanding of the human condition that will be felt by readers yet unborn. Even into his eighties, Pritchett took on an enormous workload, writing reviews nearly full time and publishing his final biography, of Chekhov, in 1988. V.S. Pritchett died in London's Whittingham Hospital on March 21, 1997, at the age of 96.

 

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(05/28/2009) An Ordinary Life by Karel Capek. London. 1936. Allen & Unwin. Translated From The Czech By M. & R. Weatherall. keywords: Literature Czech Translated. 246 pages.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   At the end of a quiet and industrious life a station master decides to write his autobiography. At first all goes well and the story is smooth and delightful. But the author would not be Karel Capek if he left it at that. In the middle of his work the honest station master discovers to his horror that his apparently respectable and conventional life contains treacherous undercurrents. As a result of this the autobiography threatens to blow up in a Freudian cataclysm. The author's sanity and humanity, however, manage to tame the demons and spread peace over the troubled waters. The book is the third part of a trilogy of which the first was HORDUBAL and the second METEOR. The unity of these books is purely ideological, and their story is not continuous.

 

 

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