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(03/09/2008) Dona Flor And Her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado. New York. 1969. Knopf. Translated From the Portuguese By Harriet De Onis. keywords: Literature Translated Brazil Latin America. 555 pages. Jacket design by Paul Bacon. August 1969.

Dona Flor has an impossible choice to make - which husband should she choose? The live, sweet, but somewhat boring one, or the dead, sensuous rascal who haunts her day in and day out. Why not both?

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   With the immediate success in 1962 of GABRIELA, CLOVE AND CINNAMON Americans discovered the robust comedy and storytelling enchantment of Brazil's most famous novelist, Jorge Amado. His new novel is just as wonderful - a book, a story, a heroine to fall in love with. Dona Flor is an adorable woman - with a body made for love, a mind of her own, a cozy disposition, a witty tongue, a kissable face, high moral principles - and she can cook, too. One wants her to have everything. One wants her to escape from her monumental dragon of a mother into the arms of the best of husbands. One wants her to have - because she deserves it - all the honey and spice of life, ecstasy in bed, respect at all times, tenderness and tickles, a comfortable income, laughter, a sense of being always cared for. And she gets it all-but, alas, from two different men! The question: is it possible for a moral woman like Flor to enjoy two husbands at once? Yes! Thanks to the genius of Amado, who has found a way for Dona Flor to have both her husbands - without offending her own delicate scruples, or ours. How this is accomplished is told in a novel that is alive with joy and erotic hilarity, with the piquant color of life in Bahia, with hundreds of marvelous characters, from prominent ladies of high life and low life to political kingpins, underworld kings, poets, professors, babes, bouncers, and the devoted members of the Bahia Amateur Symphony Orchestra. And most marvelous, at its very center, Dona Flor herself - and her two husbands!

 

 

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(03/07/2008) The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles. New York. 1949. New Directions. keywords: Literature America. 318 pages. Cover art by Lustig.

A trio of Americans take an unforgettable journey into North Africa where they will confront the mystery of a foreign culture, alienation, and ultimately, death.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   'The sky hides the night behind it, and shelters the person beneath from the horror that lies above.' In this mood of suspense - half fear and half anticipation - we follow a remarkable new novelist into a strange and fascinating world - a coastal city in North Africa and the great desert behind it, the Sahara, where civilization ends. When Port Moresby and his wife Kit left New York they had a problem to solve together. So perhaps it was a mistake to invite their friend Tunner along on the trip, even if he was their best friend. And perhaps they were even less wise to choose Africa for their journey. The Sahara, they were to find, does not let itself be taken lightly. Is it presumptuous to suggest that Paul Bowles, in THE SHELTERING SKY, may have done for our understanding of Arab Africa something of what E. M. Forster did for India in A PASSAGE TO INDIA? There is more here than an exciting tale; we sense the sinister power of Africa, its prodigality and its squalor, its vitality and its decadence, and we feel the impact which it makes on the outsider who attempts to penetrate its mystery. Another world from ours. And yet not altogether. For in certain ways the dread Sahara can suggest the moral landscape of our own environment.

 

 

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(03/06/2008) Dom Casmurro by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis. New York. 1994. Penguin Books. Translated From The Portuguese & With An Introduction By Robert Scott-Buccleuch. keywords: Literature Brazil Translated Latin America. 216 pages. The cover shows a detail from a contemporary photograph of Gloria, Rio de Janiero reproduced by courtesy of Peter Owen Ltd. 0140446125.

A masterful portrayal of the effects of jealousy by Brazil's greatest novelist.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   DOM CASMURRO is the masterpiece of Brazil's greatest novelist Machado de Assis The narrator Bentinho, now a taciturn lawyer, looks back and tells the story of the sweet anticipations of his youth, his childhood friendship and adolescent love affair with Capitu, their secret meetings and ardent pledges. Escaping from a career in the priesthood favoured by his mother, Bentinho pursued his true vocation in marriage to Capitu. But her infidelity, or so he perceived it, made the marriage a phantom edifice, 'a castle in the air'. Assis is the master of a wonderfully subtle narrative art, vivid, discursive and enriched with many-layered irony. Like Othello, Bentinho may have been deluded by his own passionate jealousy, but this possibility merely gives a greater intensity to Assis's tragedy of love and painful disillusionment. 'Brazil's greatest novelist. comparable with Stendhal or Sterne' - V. S. Pritchett.

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(03/05/2008) Njal's Saga by Magnus Magnusson & Hermann Palsson. Baltimore. 1960. Penguin Books. keywords: Literature Scandinavia Translated Sagas Mythology Iceland. L103. 378 pages. It's hard to beat the Icelanders when you are looking for a tale of feud and revenge.

It's hard to beat the Icelanders when you are looking for a tale of feud and revenge.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

  NJAL'S SAGA, written by an unknown author in the late thirteenth century, is the mightiest of the great Icelandic prose sagas. Based on historical events in Iceland some 300 years earlier, it describes a fifty-year blood feud from its violent beginnings to its tragic end. The spare, simple narrative centers loosely upon the prophetic Njal Thorgeirsson who, with his family, is finally burnt alive in his home by a league of enemies. This translation by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson illuminates for us a grim world in which justice means vengeance and all men are either lucky or doomed.

 

 

 

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(03/03/2008) Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. New York. 1992. Knopf. Newly Translated From The Russian By Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky. keywords: Literature Translated Russia. 564 pages. Jacket illustration by M. V. Dobuzhinsky. Jacket design by Archie Ferguson. 0679405577. February 1992.

A dazzling new translation from the Russian of Dostoevsky's CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Not since CRIME AND PUNISHMENT was first introduced to the English-speaking world eighty years ago has there been a new translation as important as this. Bringing to their task a far stronger combined knowledge of Russian and English than any predecessor, and working in the context of an up-to-date, modern critical understanding of Dostoevsky's unusual and surprising text, Pevear and Volokhonsky capture all the rich stylistic idiosyncrasy of the Russian original. As Mr. Pevear writes in his foreword, 'the life of a novel is not in the conception but in the performance. In every cadence, every tone, the realization of every character and scene of this densely composed 'work of poetry,' Dostoevsky shows his mastery. ' The Pevear- Volokhonsky work brings us as close to experiencing the genius of Dostoevsky's astounding psychological thriller as any translation can. This superlative accomplishment will make Dostoevsky's most widely read novel an entirely fresh experience for new generations of readers.

RICHARD PEVEAR and LARISSA VOLOHONSKY are known for their highly acclaimed translation of THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, which was awarded the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Prize. They are married and live in France.

 

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(03/02/2008) Parables Of Kierkegaard by Soren Kierkegaard. Princeton. 1978. Princeton University Press. keywords: Philosophy Denmark Translated Literature Fables. 186 pages. 0691071748.

Soren Kierkegaard is not always the easiest writer to follow. His parables however provide an interesting avenue to exploring his ideas.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   No writer in the western philosophical tradition has made more persistent use of parables, stories, and narrative metaphors than has Soren Kierkegaard, whose gift of storytelling has imprinted unforgettable images on our minds. The aim of this volume is to bring together a careful selection of these stories for edification, enjoyment, and critical examination. The essential conviction underlying this effort is that Kierkegaard ranks among the best of the great parabolists of the western tradition. The mind of Kierkegaard has been kept alive in the common memory more by his parables than any other part of his authorship. Like all good parables, they have developed an oral tradition. Do not be surprised if you find here parables that you have heard imperfectly retold or partially revised. Now the reader can track down the original. Kierkegaard's parables aim not merely at a change of mind but a change of will. Kierkegaard does not tell his parables with the expectation that his hearers will experience a casual illumination or fascination, but rather that they might say to themselves, 'Aha! I know how that is and it makes a difference in the way I understand myself and make fundamental choices!' Kierkegaard's parables intend to communicate an enriched capacity for self-examination leading to increased moral sensitivity and intensified spirituality. They offer his readers a potential gift, the acceptance of which requires their participation. A parable is not like an easily recognized object that is handed to someone to use, but like a gift that one first needs to open and then has to figure out what to do with it. The parables seek to facilitate a capability that can only be set in motion by the act of self-discovery, but that capability may remain dormant unless the self is jolted out of fixed behavioral routines, which the parables powerfully challenge.

Soren Aabye Kierkegaard was a prolific 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian. Kierkegaard strongly criticized both the Hegelianism of his time, and what he saw as the empty formalities of the Danish church. Much of his work deals with religious problems such as faith in God, the institution of the Christian Church, Christian ethics and theology, and the emotions and feelings of individuals when faced with life choices. His early work was written under various pseudonyms who present their own distinctive viewpoints in a complex dialogue. Kierkegaard left the task of discovering the meaning of the works to the reader, because 'the task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted'. Subsequently, many have interpreted Kierkegaard as an existentialist, neo-orthodoxist, postmodernist, humanist, individualist, etc. Crossing the boundaries of philosophy, theology, psychology, and literature, Kierkegaard came to be regarded as a highly significant and influential figure in contemporary thought. Kierkegaard has been called a philosopher, a theologian, the Father of Existentialism, a literary critic, a humorist, a psychologist, and a poet. Two of his popular ideas are 'subjectivity', and the 'leap to faith,' popularly referred to as the 'leap of faith. ' The leap of faith is his conception of how an individual would believe in God, or how a person would act in love. It is not a rational decision, as it is transcending rationality in favour of something more uncanny, that is, faith. As such he thought that to have faith is at the same time to have doubt. So, for example, for one to truly have faith in God, one would also have to doubt that God exists; the doubt is the rational part of a person's thought, without which the faith would have no real substance. Doubt is an essential element of faith, an underpinning. In plain words, to believe or have faith that God exists, without ever having doubted God's existence or goodness, would not be a faith worth having. For example, it takes no faith to believe that a pencil or a table exists, when one is looking at it and touching it. In the same way, to believe or have faith in God is to know that one has no perceptual or any other access to God, and yet still has faith in God. Kierkegaard also stressed the importance of the self, and the self's relation to the world as being grounded in self-reflection and introspection. He argued in Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments that 'subjectivity is truth' and 'truth is subjectivity. ' This has to do with a distinction between what is objectively true and an individual's subjective relation to that truth. People who in some sense believe the same things may relate to those beliefs quite differently. Two individuals may both believe that many of those around them are poor and deserve help, but this knowledge may lead only one of them to decide to actually help the poor. Kierkegaard primarily discusses subjectivity with regard to religious matters, however. As already noted, he argues that doubt is an element of faith and that it is impossible to gain any objective certainty about religious doctrines such as the existence of God or the life of Christ. The most one could hope for would be the conclusion that it is probable that the Christian doctrines are true, but if a person were to believe such doctrines only to the degree they seemed likely to be true, he or she would not be genuinely religious at all. Faith consists in a subjective relation of absolute commitment to these doctrines. Either/Or, one of Kierkegaard's works, was authored under the pseudonyms 'A' and 'B,' or Judge William, and edited under the pseudonym Victor Eremita. Half of Kierkegaard's authorship was written behind the mask of several pseudonymous characters he created to represent different ways of thinking. This was part of Kierkegaard's indirect communication. According to several passages in his works and journals, such as The Point of View of My Work as an Author, Kierkegaard wrote this way in order to prevent his works from being treated as a philosophical system with a systematic structure. In the Point of View, Kierkegaard wrote: 'In the pseudonymous works, there is not a single word which is mine. I have no opinion about these works except as a third person, no knowledge of their meaning, except as a reader, not the remotest private relation to them. ' Kierkegaard used indirect communication to make it difficult to ascertain whether he actually held any of the views presented in his works. He hoped readers would simply read the work at face value without attributing it to some aspect of his life. Kierkegaard also did not want his readers to treat his work as an authoritative system, but rather look to themselves for interpretation. Early Kierkegaardian scholars, such as Theodor W. Adorno, have disregarded Kierkegaard's intentions and argue the entire authorship should be treated as Kierkegaard's own personal and religious views. This view leads to many confusions and contradictions which make Kierkegaard appear incoherent. However, many later scholars such as the post-structuralists, have respected Kierkegaard's intentions and interpreted his work by attributing the pseudonymous texts to their respective authors. Kierkegaard's final years were taken up with a sustained, outright attack on the Danish People's Church by means of newspaper articles published in The Fatherland and a series of self-published pamphlets called The Moment Kierkegaard was initially called to action after Professor Hans Lassen Martensen gave a speech in church in which he called his recently deceased predecessor Bishop Jakob P. Mynster a 'truth-witness, one of the authentic truth-witnesses. ' Kierkegaard had an affection towards Mynster, but had come to see that his conception of Christianity was in man's interest, rather than God's, and in no way was Mynster's life comparable to that of a 'truth-witness. ' Before the tenth chapter of The Moment could be published, Kierkegaard collapsed on the street and was eventually taken to a hospital. He stayed in the hospital for over a month and refused to receive communion from a pastor, whom Kierkegaard regarded as merely an official and not a servant of God. He said to Emil Boesen, a friend since childhood who kept a record of his conversations with Kierkegaard and was himself a pastor, that his life had been one of great and unknown suffering, which looked like vanity to others but was not. Kierkegaard died in Frederik's Hospital after being there for over a month, possibly from complications from a fall he had taken from a tree when he was a boy. He was interred in the Assistens Kirkegaard in the Norrebro section of Copenhagen. At Kierkegaard's funeral, his nephew Henrik Lund caused a disturbance by protesting that Kierkegaard was being buried by the official church even though in his life he had broken from and denounced it. Lund was later fined.

 

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(03/01/2008) A Harlot High & Low by Honore de Balzac. New York. 1982. Penguin Books. Translated From The French & With An Introduction By Rayner Heppenstall. keywords: Literature France 19th Century Translated. 554 pages. The cover shows a detail from 'Kleptomaniac' by Theodore Gericault, in the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent. 0140442324.

After OLD GORIOT my favorite Balzac novel, particularly because of the shadowy figure of Vautrin, the unscrupulous criminal genius.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

In this splendid example of the 'Scenes of Parisian Life' Balzac brings to bear his encyclopaedic knowledge of finance, fashionable intrigue, and the ramifications both of the underworld and of the police system. The harlot of the title, elevated to the heights of luxury only to be reduced to the depths of misery, is no more than a pawn in what is essentially a duel of wits and ruthlessness fought between criminal masterminds. It is the figure of Vautrin, the Satanic genius at the heart of the web and one of the great characters of world literature, that effortlessly dominates the whole novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(02/28/2008) The New Negro: Readings on Race, Representation, and African American Culture, 1892-1938 by Henry Louis Gates Jr. & Gene Andrew Jarrett. Princeton. 2007. Princeton University Press. keywords: Literature Black America Anthology New Negro. 608 pages. 9780691126524.

A great collection of writings that includes such writers as W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Alain Locke, Carl Van Vechten, Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Wright.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   When African American intellectuals announced the birth of the 'New Negro' around the turn of the twentieth century, they were attempting through a bold act of renaming to change the way blacks were depicted and perceived in America by challenging stereotypes of the Old Negro, and declaring that the New Negro was capable of high achievement, black writers tried to revolutionize how whites viewed blacks--and how blacks viewed themselves. Nothing less than a strategy to re-create the public face of 'the race,' the New Negro became a dominant figure of racial uplift between Reconstruction and World War II, as well as a central idea of the Harlem, or New Negro, Renaissance. Edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Gene Andrew Jarrett, The New Negro collects more than one hundred canonical and lesser-known essays published between 1892 and 1938 that examine the issues of race and representation in African American culture. These readings - by writers including W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Alain Locke, Carl Van Vechten, Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Wright - discuss the trope of the New Negro, and the milieu in which this figure existed, from almost every conceivable angle. Political essays are joined by essays on African American fiction, poetry, drama, music, painting, and sculpture. More than fascinating historical documents, these essays remain essential to the way African American identity and history are still understood today.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University. His most recent books include Finding Oprah's Roots and The Trials of Phillis Wheatley.

Gene Andrew Jarrett is associate professor of English and African American studies at Boston University. He is the author of Deans and Truants: Race and Realism in African American Literature.

 

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(02/27/2008) Tropic Death by Eric Walrond. New York. 1926. Boni & Liveright. keywords: Literature Caribbean Guinea. 283 pages.

Stories from an all-but-unknown African American writer of the 1920s.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   TROPIC DEATH, Eric Walrond's most acclaimed work, consists of ten stories of inhumanity in the American tropics, especially white against black - or imperial power against impoverished native. In 'Subjection,' for example, a white marine shoots a black canal worker. Walrond also explores the effects of modern technology and exploitation on the Caribbean natural environment; 'The Palm Porch' describes the construction of the Panama Canal in terms of its causing 'the gradual death and destruction of the frontier post. ' Walrond writes in an impressionistic style that quickly shifts from one image to another. He depicts cultural impressions more than characters or plot yet illustrates the disorientation and alienation his characters experience. Considered an example of avant-garde writing, TROPIC DEATH has been praised by critics such as W. E. B. DuBois and Langston Hughes.

Eric Walrond born in Georgetown, British Guiana, in 1898, was the son of a Barbadian mother and a Guyanese father. His first eight years were spent in Guiana. But his parents' marital difficulties led Walrond into an almost wayfaring existence. In 1906, his father abandoned Walrond and his mother. His mother moved the two of them to a small village in Barbados to live with their relatives. Walrond began his education in Barbados at St. Stephen's Boys' School, located in Black Rock. Around 1910, Walrond and his mother traveled in search of his father to the Panama Canal Zone, where thousands of west Indians and Guyanese were employed to dig the canal. Walrond and his mother never found his father and they made a home in Colon. It is in Colon where Walrond completed his public and secondary school education between 1913 and 1916. During his education in Colon, Walrond was exposed to the Spanish culture and became bilingual. Around this time he was trained as a secretary and stenographer, and acquired a job as a clerk in the Health Department of the Canal commission at Cristobal. Through the years 1916 and 1918 he began a journalistic career which he pursued while in the United States. Walrond worked as a general reporter, court reporter, and sportswriter for the Panama Star-Herald, 'the most important contemporaneous newspaper in the American tropics. ' Walrond was also associated with the Harlem Renaissance. In the early 1920s he published short stories in periodicals such as the Opportunity, Smart Set, and Vanity Fair. In 1923, he wrote 'On Being a Domestic,' 'Miss Kenny's Marriage,' 'The Stone Rebounds,' and 'The Stone Rebounds. ' Walrond's stories focused on a realistic presentation of racial situations in New York City. In 1924 he focused on a more impressionistic presentation of life in the American tropics. He did not return to the realistic form of writing until 1927, when he wrote 'City Love,' which is the last story he published before he left the United States. His works include - 'On Being Black' ; 'On being a Domestic,' 'Miss Kenny's Marriage,' 'The Stone Rebounds,' 'Cynthia Goes to the Prom,' 'The New Negro Faces America,' 'The Negro Exodus from the South' ; 'Vignettes of the Dusk,' 'The Black City' ; 'A Cholo Romance,' 'Imperator Africanus, Marcus Garvey: Menace or Promise?' ; Tropic Death ; 'City Love'.

 

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(02/25/2008) American Smooth: Poems by Rita Dove. New York. 2004. Norton. keywords: Literature America Poetry Black Women. 143 pages. Jacket Design by Gina Werster. Jacket Photograph: 'A Memory' by Gordon Parks. Author Photograph by Fred Viebahn. 0393059871.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   'Rita Dove's poems about dance educate and excite us. They do so because dance, like poetry - like song - occupies a central place in the poet's life:' - American Poet. Occasion to celebrate: a new collection by the Pulitzer Prize - winning former Poet Laureate, her first since ON THE BUS WITH ROSA PARKS. Dove's magnificent poems pay homage to our kaleidoscopic cultural heritage - from the glorious shimmer of an operatic soprano to Bessie Smith's mournful wail; from paradise lost to angel food cake; from hotshots at the local shooting range to the Negro jazz band in World War I whose music conquered Europe before the Allied advance, Like the ballroom- dancing couple of the title poem, smiling and making the difficult seem effortless, Dove explores the shifting surfaces between perception and intimation. Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Oscar, makes her way through crowds to receive the award, A girl in Harlem studies the flirtations of the adult world so that someday, she, too, can 'pop right out. ' Fred Astaire once proclaimed, 'I just put my feet in the air and move them around:' Like Astaire, Rita Dove, speaking intimately to us as we lean in, is such a master that we never notice the work of creation.

Rita Dove, former Poet Laureate of the United States, is the recipient of many honors, among them the Pulitzer Prize, the National Humanities Medal, and the Heinz Award, Among her recent publications are the poetry collection ON THE BUS WITH ROSA PARKS and the drama THE DARKER FACE OF THE EARTH. She is Commonwealth Professor 0f English at the University of Virginia.

 

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(02/22/2008) The Souls Of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois. Chicago. 1903. McClurg & Company. keywords: Black Literature America. 265 pages.

A landmark book from one of the greatest minds that this country has ever produced.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   'Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience and interest may show the strange meaning of being black. The meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.' Thus the keynote is struck for an extraordinary work which is even more pertinent today than it was when it was first published in 1903. W. E. B. Du Bois was a black- power advocate in an age of absolute white supremacy, and in THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK he previewed the racial strife and conflicts which are exploding today. Over sixty years ago Du Bois urged the establishment of an 'all-black party' and preached the need for black 'conscious self-realization' and for the separate autonomy of the black community. At the same time he stressed the White man's responsibility for correcting racial inequality and pleaded for mutual understanding, for a nonviolent solution to a centuries-old dilemma. As Alvin F. Poussaint declares in one of the two notable introductions to this volume, THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK is 'a monument to the black man's struggle in this country.'

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (February 23, 1868 - August 27, 1963) was a black civil rights activist, leader, Pan-Africanist, sociologist, educator, historian, writer, editor, poet, and scholar. He became a naturalized citizen of Ghana in 1963 at the age of 95. David Levering Lewis, a biographer, wrote, 'In the course of his long, turbulent career, W. E. B. Du Bois attempted virtually every possible solution to the problem of twentieth-century racism -- scholarship, propaganda, integration, national self-determination, human rights, cultural and economic separatism, politics, international communism, expatriation, third world solidarity.' W. E. B. Du Bois was born on Church Street on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, at the south-western edge of Massachusetts, to Alfred Du Bois and Mary Silvina Burghardt Du Bois, whose February 5, 1867, wedding had been announced in the Berkshire Courier. Alfred Du Bois had been born in Haiti. Their son was born 5 months before the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, and added to the U.S. Constitution. Alfred Du Bois was descended from free people of color, including the slave-holding Dr. James Du Bois of Poughkeepsie, New York, a physician. In the Bahamas, James Du Bois had fathered three sons, including Alfred, and a daughter, by his slave mistress. Du Bois was also the great-grandson of Elizabeth Freeman ('Mum Bett'), a slave who successfully sued for her freedom, laying the groundwork for the eventual abolition of slavery in Massachusetts. Du Bois was born free and did not have contact with his biological father. He blamed his maternal grandparents for his father's leaving because they did not take kindly to him. Du Bois was very close to his mother Mary, who was from Massachusetts. Du Bois moved frequently when he was young, after Mary suffered a stroke which left her unable to work. They survived on money from family members and Du Bois' after-school jobs. Du Bois wanted to help his mother as much as possible and believed he could improve their lives through education. Some of the neighborhood whites noticed him, and one allowed Du Bois and his mother to rent a house from him in Great Barrington. While living there, Du Bois performed chores and worked odd jobs. Du Bois did not feel differently because of his skin color while he was in school. In fact, the only times he felt out of place were when out-of-towners would visit Great Barrington. One such incident occurred when a white girl who was new in school refused to take one of his fake calling cards during a game. The girl told him she would not accept it because he was black. He then realized that there would always be some kind of barrier between whites and others. Young Du Bois may have been an outsider because of his status, being poor, not having a father and being extremely intellectual for his age; however, he was very comfortable academically. Many around him recognized his intelligence and encouraged him to further his education with college preparatory courses while in high school. This academic confidence led him to believe that he could use his knowledge to empower African Americans. Du Bois was awarded a degree from Fisk University in 1888. During the summer following graduation from Fisk, Du Bois managed the Fisk Glee Club. The club was employed at a grand luxury summer resort on Lake Minnetonka in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. The resort was a favorite spot for vacationing wealthy American Southerners and European royalty. Du Bois and the other club members doubled as waiters and kitchen workers at the hotel. Observing the drinking, rude and crude behavior and sexual promiscuity of the rich white guests of the hotel left a deep impression on the young Du Bois. Du Bois entered Harvard College in the fall of 1888, having received a $250 scholarship. He earned a bachelor's degree cum laude from Harvard in 1890. In 1892, received a stipend to attend the University of Berlin. While a student in Berlin, he travelled extensively throughout Europe, and came of age intellectually while studying with some of the most prominent social scientists in the German capital, such as Gustav von Schmoller. In 1895, Du Bois became the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University. After teaching at Wilberforce University in Ohio and the University of Pennsylvania, he established the department of sociology at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Du Bois wrote many books, including three major autobiographies. Among his most significant works are The Philadelphia Negro (1899), The Souls of Black Folk (1903), John Brown (1909), Black Reconstruction (1935), and Black Folk, Then and Now (1939). His book The Negro (1915) influenced the work of several pioneer Africanist scholars, such as Drusilla Dunjee Houston and William Leo Hansberry. In 1940, at Atlanta University, Du Bois founded Phylon magazine. In 1946, he wrote The World and Africa: An Inquiry Into the Part that Africa has Played in World History. In 1945, he helped organize the historic Fifth Pan-African Conference in Manchester, England. While prominent white voices denied African American cultural, political and social relevance to American history and civic life, in his epic work, Reconstruction Du Bois documented how black people were central figures in the American Civil War and Reconstruction. He demonstrated the ways Black emancipation--the crux of Reconstruction--promoted a radical restructuring of United States society, as well as how and why the country turned its back on human rights for African Americans in the aftermath of Reconstruction. This theme was taken up later and expanded by Eric Foner and Leon F. Litwack, the two leading contemporary scholars of the Reconstruction era. In total, Du Bois wrote 22 books, including five novels, and helped establish four journals. Du Bois was the most prominent intellectual leader and political activist on behalf of African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. A contemporary of Booker T. Washington, the two carried on a dialogue about segregation and political disenfranchisement. He was labeled 'The Father of Pan-Africanism.' In 1905, Du Bois along with Minnesota attorney Fredrick L. McGhee and others helped to found the Niagara Movement with William Monroe Trotter. The Movement championed, among other things, freedom of speech and criticism, the recognition of the highest and best human training as the monopoly of no caste or race, full male suffrage, a belief in the dignity of labor, and a united effort to realize such ideals under sound leadership. The alliance between Du Bois and Trotter was, however, short-lived, as they had a dispute over whether or not white people should be included in the organization and in the struggle for Civil Rights. Du Bois felt that they should, and with a group of like-minded supporters, he helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. In 1910, he left his teaching post at Atlanta University to work as publications director at the NAACP full-time. He wrote weekly columns in many newspapers, including the Chicago Defender, the Pittsburgh Courier and the New York Amsterdam News, three African-American newspapers, and also the Hearst-owned San Francisco Chronicle. For 25 years, Du Bois worked as Editor-in-Chief of the NAACP publication, The Crisis, which then included the subtitle A Record of the Darker Races. He commented freely and widely on current events and set the agenda for the fledgling NAACP. Its circulation soared from 1,000 in 1910 to more than 100,000 by 1920. Du Bois published Harlem Renaissance writers Langston Hughes and Jean Toomer. As a repository of black thought, the Crisis was initially a monopoly, David Levering Lewis observed. In 1913, Du Bois wrote The Star of Ethiopia, a historical pageant, to promote African-American history and civil rights. The seminal debate between Booker T. Washington and Du Bois played out in the pages of the Crisis with Washington advocating a philosophy of self-help and vocational training for Southern blacks while Du Bois pressed for full educational opportunities. Du Bois thought blacks should seek higher education, preferably liberal arts. Du Bois believed blacks should challenge and question whites on all grounds, but Washington believed assimilating and fitting into the 'American' culture is the best way for Blacks to move up in society. While Washington states that he didn't receive any racist insults until later on his years, Du Bois said Blacks have a 'Double-Conscious' mind in which they have to know when to act 'White' and when to act 'Black'. Booker T. Washington felt that teaching was a duty but Du Bois felt it was a calling. Du Bois became increasingly estranged from Walter Francis White, the executive secretary of the NAACP, and began to question the organization's opposition to racial segregation at all costs. Du Bois thought that this policy, while generally sound, undermined those black institutions that did exist, which Du Bois thought should be defended and improved, rather than attacked as inferior. By the 1930s, Lewis said, the NAACP had become more institutional and Du Bois, increasingly radical, sometimes at odds with leaders such as Walter White and Roy Wilkins. In 1934, after writing two essays in the Crisis suggesting that black separatism could be a useful economic strategy, Du Bois left the magazine to return to teaching at Atlanta University. In 1909, W. E. B. Du Bois addressed the American Historical Association (AHA). According to David Levering Lewis, 'His would be the first and last appearance of an African American on the program until 1940.' In a review of the second book in Lewis's biographies of Du Bois, Michael R. Winston observed that, in understanding American history, one must question 'how black Americans developed the psychological stamina and collective social capacity to cope with the sophisticated system of racial domination that white Americans had anchored deeply in law and custom.' Winston continued, 'Although any reasonable answer is extraordinarily complex, no adequate one can ignore the man (Du Bois) whose genius was for 70 years at the intellectual epicenter of the struggle to destroy white supremacy as public policy and social fact in the United States.' Du Bois was investigated by the FBI, who claimed in May 1942 that '[h]is writing indicates him to be a socialist,' and that he 'has been called a Communist and at the same time criticized by the Communist Party.' Du Bois visited Communist China during the Great Leap Forward. Also, in the March 16, 1953 issue of The National Guardian, Du Bois wrote 'Joseph Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century approach his stature.' Du Bois was chairman of the Peace Information Center at the start of the Korean War. He was among the signers of the Stockholm Peace Pledge, which opposed the use of nuclear weapons. In 1950, at the age of 82, he ran for the U.S. Senate on the American Labor Party ticket in New York and received 4% of the vote. Although he lost, Du Bois remained committed to the progressive labor cause and in 1958, joined Trotskyists, ex-Communists and independent radicals in proposing the creation of a united left-wing coalition to challenge for seats in the elections for the New York state senate and assembly. He was indicted in the United States under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and acquitted for lack of evidence. W. E. B. Du Bois became disillusioned with both black capitalism and racism in the United States. In 1959, Du Bois received the Lenin Peace Prize. In 1961, at the age of 93, he joined the Communist Party USA. Du Bois was invited to Ghana in 1961 by President Kwame Nkrumah to direct the Encyclopedia Africana, a government production, and a long-held dream of his. When, in 1963, he was refused a new U.S. passport, he and his wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois, became citizens of Ghana, renouncing his US citizenship. Du Bois' health had declined in 1962, and on August 27, 1963, he died in Accra, Ghana at the age of ninety-five, one day before Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech. At the March on Washington, Roy Wilkins informed the hundreds of thousands of marchers and called for a moment of silence.

 

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(02/20/2008) Lonely Crusade by Chester Himes. London. 1950. Falcon Press. keywords: Literature Black America. 402 pages. Cover design by A. H. Eisner.

Chester Himes - his writing can be brutal, but it is unrelentingly honest.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This is the second novel by Chester Himes to be published by the Falcon Press. This is what the critics said of his earlier book, IF HE HOLLERS LET HIM GO: 'Mr. Chester Himes writes of his own race, the negroes of the Los Angeles district, and he succeeds in filling his story with more stark brutality and emotional violence than any other treatment of the theme I have read. ' - Sunday Times. The mercilessness and savagery of a born fiction writer show us the faults on both sides. This is a partisan book but written with enough generosity for it to play upon the spiritual values of every reader. ' - Daily Express. Himes maintains his high standard in his new book and we cannot do better than quote the critics once more. This is what the New Yorker wrote of LONELY CRUSADE: 'A bitter story about a thoughtful young negro who becomes a union organizer at a West Coast airplane factory during the recent war. Unlike most novels that explore the difficulties of the black man, this one does not stack the cards too obviously against the hero; the union members cultivate him for political purposes, and his employer is friendly to Communists. The tragedy of this particular man is a psychological one--a growing despair over being black, which hamstrings him in every human relationship.' 

 

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(02/16/2008) The Bern Book: A Record Of A Voyage Of The Mind by Vincent O. Carter. New York. 1973. John Day. keywords: Literature Black America Switzerland Autobiography. 297 pages. Jacket design by Robert Palevitz. 0381982378.

An odd and fascinating book, that may not have been published at all if not for the efforts of writer Herbert Lottman. A thoughtful exploration of expatriation.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   THE BERN BOOK is Vincent Carter's meandering reflection on being the only black man in the town of Bern, Switzerland, where he lived for over 30 years. He had gone there from Kansas City, via Paris Carter had a desperate need to write-but not about black power, which was then the only subject one expected of a black writer. He rather needed to explore himself, as so many other expatriates had done before him. The book is more akin to Robert Burton's 17th-century AN ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLy than to Jimmy Baldwin's THE FIRE NEXT TIME. After a number of attempts to help get Carter's manuscript published, the literary biographer, Herbert Lottman, wrote an essay on this author that appeared in a cultural quarterly. Then, a New York publisher decided to bring out THE BERN BOOK after all-using Lottman's essay as an introduction.

VINCENT O. CARTER was born in Kansas City in 1924. At seventeen he was drafted into the U. S. Army. He landed on a Normandy beachhead and took part in the drive toward Paris. Back in the United States, he earned a college degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and spent a graduate year at Wayne State in Detroit. Eventually he returned to Europe, spending time in Paris, Munich, and Amsterdam before settling in Bern, where he spent the rest of his life in a sort of self-imposed exile. His only work published during his lifetime was THE BERN BOOK: A RECORD OF THE VOYAGE OF THE MIND, a memoir of his life in the Swiss capital during the 1950s. He completed a draft manuscript for SUCH SWEET THUNDER in 1963. Despite receiving enthusiastic support from some in the literary world, the manuscript did not deliver what publishers expected from 'Negro literature' at the time, and after enduring a round of rejections Carter shelved the project. He died in Bern in 1983.

 

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(02/12/2008) If He Hollers Let Him Go by Chester B. Himes. Garden City. 1945. Doubleday Doran & Company. keywords: Mystery Black America Literature. 249 pages.

The American publishing world of the 1950s and early 1960s didn’t quite know what to do with Chester Himes. His early novels pulled few punches regarding subjects like race, sex, injustice, and violence. It is interesting to note that the dustjacket covers of the American editions of his books are about as flat as they could be and don't at all reflect his extraordinary talent. His crime novels on the other hand, which were published in this country as paperback originals, featured cover art as lurid and suggestive as any of the other paperback crime novels then being published… Don’t miss his first novel, IF HE HOLLERS LET HIM GO.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   In this, his first novel, Chester B. Himes takes his place in the vanguard of those realistic writers best exemplified by James M. Cain. A young Negro from Cleveland, he has been a frequent contributor to the magazines, where he has built up a reputation for hard-hitting prose that carries terrific impact. Before attempting this novel he worked in the war industry described so vividly in this book, so what he writes comes from firsthand information rather than from a fertile imagination. Writing with relentless fury, he unfolds the story of the racial tensions inherent in a West Coast shipyard and their effect on Bob Jones, a young Negro from the Middle West who came to the Coast when jobs in war industry first opened up. With two years of college behind him, he has worked himself up to the position of leaderman, a job of authority yet lacking the authority necessary to back it up, a situation fraught with inner conflict. The result is that his contacts with his fellow workers, with the blowzy white blonde from Texas who constantly throws her color in his face, and with the girl he loves, the daughter of wealthy, upper-class Negro parents, bring him only bitterness and frustration. His efforts to fight back, which take the only form he feels is effective - a chip-on-the-shoulder militancy - are doomed from the start and can only bring about a climax ending in the loss of his job, the girl he loves, and his chance to lead a normal life. There is deep honesty in this novel, perhaps too much so, for it touches on areas which are controversial. There is bitterness, too, but it is the bitterness of a man driven so far into frustration that he has lost the way out and can only strike back blindly. In this respect it is not meant to portray a typical race reaction, but rather an individual one. Yet the frustrations described are typical of those suffered by all Negroes, and in this there is perhaps a word of warning for the future.

 

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(02/09/2008) Black No More by George S. Schuyler. New York. 1931. Macauley. keywords: Literature Black America. 250 pages.

George S. Schuyler's brilliance and wit are sometimes overshadowed by the staunch conservativism of his later years and his support of organizations like the John Birch society. What would happen to the race problem in America if black people turned white? Would everybody be happy? These questions and more are answered hilariously in BLACK NO MORE, George S. Schuyler's satiric romp.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   BLACK NO MORE is the story of Max Disher, a dapper black rogue of an insurance man who, through a scientific transformation process, becomes Matthew Fisher, a white man. Matt dreams up a scam that allows him to become the leader of the Knights of Nordica, a white supremacist group, as well as to marry the white woman who rejected him when he was black. BLACK NO MORE is a hysterical exploration of race and all its self-serving definitions. If you can't beat them, turn into them. George Samuel Schuyler, an African American writer known for his conservative views.

George Samuel Schuyler was born in Providence, Rhode Island to George and Eliza Jane Schuyler. His father died when he was young. He spent his early years in Syracuse where his mother moved their family after she remarried. In 1912 Schuyler, at seventeen years of age, enlisted in the US Army and was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. He served in Seattle and Hawaii before going AWOL after a Greek immigrant who was supposed to shine his shoes refused to do so because of his skin color. After turning himself in, Schuyler was convicted by a military court and sentenced to five years in prison. He was released after nine months as a model prisoner. After his discharge, Schuyler moved to New York City where he worked as a handyman, doing odd jobs. During this time he was able to read many books which led to his interest in socialism. He lived for a period in the Phyllis Wheatley hotel which was run by Marcus Garvey's UNIA and attended a few UNIA meetings. Schuyler found he did not agree with Garvey's philosophy and began to write on the subject. Although not entirely engrossed by socialism, Schuyler engaged himself in a circle of socialist friends, including the black socialist group Friends of Negro Freedom. This connection led to Schuyler being employed by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen's magazine, The Messenger, which was the journal of the group. Schuyler's column Shafts and Darts: A Page of Calumny and Satire caught the eye of Ira F. Lewis, manager of the Pittsburgh Courier. In 1924, Schuyler took up a job at the Courier, where he was required to write a weekly column by the mid-1920s, Schuyler had come to disdain socialism. Schuyler believed that socialists were frauds who actually cared very little about negroes. Schuyler's writing caught the eye of H. L. Mencken who wrote 'I am more and more convinced that he [Schuyler] is the most competent editorial writer now in practice in this great free republic. ' In 1926, the Courier sent him on an editorial assignment to the South where Schuyler developed his journalist's routine, first a ride with a cab driver, then a chat with a local barber, bellboy, landlord, and policeman. All that would come before he would interview local town officials. In 1926, Schuyler became the Chief Editorial Writer at the Courier. Also that year, he published an article entitled 'The Negro-Art Hokum'; Langston Hughes's 'The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain' is a response to Schuyler's piece. In 1931 Schuyler published Black No More, which tells the story of a scientist who makes a machine that turns black people to white, a book that has since been reprinted twice. Between 1936 and 1938 he published a weekly serial in the Pittsburgh Courier which he would later collect as a novel he titled Black Empire. Schuyler also published the highly controversial book Slaves Today: A Story of Liberia, a novel about the slave trade created by freed American slaves who settled Liberia in the 1920's. During the McCarthy Era Schuyler moved sharply to the political right and contributed to American Opinion, the journal of the John Birch Society. In 1947 he published The Communist Conspiracy against the Negroes. His autobiography, Black and Conservative, was published in 1966. George Schuyler died in 1977. In 1927, George Schuyler married a liberal white Texan heiress named Josephine Cogdell. Their daughter Philippa Schuyler became a noted child prodigy and concert pianist.

 

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(02/08/2008) The Collected Poetry by Aime Cesaire. The Collected Poetry by Aime Cesaire. Berkeley. 1983. University Of California Press. Translated From The French & With Introduction & Notes By Clayton Eshleman & Annette Smith. keywords: Poetry Caribbean Black Martinique Literature. 408 pages. Jacket art - 'Le vent chaud by Wifredo Lam. 0520043472.

A remarkable collection of Aime Cesaire's poetry from the University of California Press.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   'In Aime Cesaire the great surrealist tradition draws to a close, achieves its definitive meaning and is destroyed: surrealism, a European movement in poetry, is snatched from the Europeans by a black man who turns it against them and assigns a rigorously defined function to it. a Cesaire poem explodes and whirls about itself like a rocket, suns burst forth whirling and exploding like new suns - it perpetually surpasses itself - Jean-Paul Sartre. Born in 1913 on the French-speaking Caribbean island of Martinique, Aime Cesaire went to Paris as a scholarship student at the age of eighteen. There, with Leopold Senghoi later to become famous as a poet and an African statesman, Cesaire, as he put it, 'discovered Africa.' The first fruit of the discovery came on the eve of World War II when, awaiting his return to Martinique, Cesaire wrote a long and brilliant poem, entitled Notebook of a Return to the Native Land. The effect of that work - 'the national anthem of blacks the world ovel' as one critic described it - has been extraordinary. Portions of it have simply entered the language of French-speaking Africa. The Notebook inaugurated Cesaire's long search for negritude, the black cultural archetype that would negate the political and geographical categories of colonialism. The same search continued in a surprising new way when in 1945 he was elected mayor of Martinique and deputy to the French National Assembly, positions he has held to the present day, as a Communist until 1956 and thereafter as the head of his own party. He has remained intensely active in literature, writing, roughly, poetry in the 1950s, drama in the 1960s, and essays throughout. Cesaire was early recognized as a major poet in the surrealist tradition. In 1943, Andre Breton wrote of him: 'It is a black man today who wields the French language as today no white man can. It is a black man who is our guide to the unexplored, making connections as he goes, and almost playfully, that pave our path with electricity. It is a black who is not only a black but all mankind, expressing all its queries, all its anxieties, all its hopes, and all its ecstasies. ' For Smith and Eshleman, Cesaire 'symbolizes and sums up what is probably the twentieth century's most important phenomenon: the powerful surge next to the old and the new world, of a third world both very new and very old. ' Their edition, containing introduction, notes, the French original, and a new translation of Cesaire's poetry - the complex and challenging later work as well as the famous Notebook - will remain the definitive Cesaire in English, a monument to a poet who is, to quote from one of his own works, 'that very ancient yet new being, at once very complex and very simple who at the limit of dream and reality, of day and night, between absence and presence, searches for and receives in the sudden triggering of inner cataclysms the password of connivance and power.'

Clayton Eshleman has published many books of poetry, essays, and translations. He won the National Book Award in 1979 for his translation with Jose Rubia Barcia of Cesar Vallejo: The Complete Posthumous Poetry, and is the editor of Sulfur, a poetry journal. Annette Smith is French, and was born in Algeria in a milieu much involved with the emergence of African nations. She is Associate Professor of French at the California Institute of Technology, and the author of a book and several articles on the relationship between the natural sciences and French literature in the nineteenth century.

 

 

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(02/04/2008) The Autobiography Of An Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson. Boston. 1912. Sherman French & Company. keywords: Black Autobiography Literature.

While this novel in the form of a first person narrative by James Weldon Johnson was published in the early 1900s, it has plenty to say on the subject of race and identity that speaks directly to the contemporary reader.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   First published anonymously in 1912, this resolutely unsentimental novel gave many white readers their first glimpse of the double standard - and double consciousness - that ruled the lives of black people in modern America. Republished in 1927, at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, with an introduction by Carl Van Vechten, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN EX-COLORED MAN became a groundbreaking document of Afro-American culture; the first first-person novel ever written by a black, it became an eloquent model for later novelists ranging from Zora Neale Hurston to Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison. Narrated by a man whose light skin enables him to 'pass' for white, the novel describes a journey through the strata of black society at the turn of the century - from a cigar factory in Jacksonville to an elite gambling club in New York, from genteel aristocrats to the musicians who hammered out the rhythms of ragtime. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN EX-COLORED MAN is a complex and moving examination of the question of race and an unsparing look at what it meant to forge an identity as a man in a culture that recognized nothing but color.

James Weldon Johnson was a writer, poet and distinguished statesman, born in Jacksonville, Florida, where he and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, grew up. Their father was head waiter at a resort hotel there and their mother, who had been born in the Bahamas and educated in New York City, was the first black woman to teach in a public school in Florida. Their parents were both talented musically and the family often made music together. James attended Atlanta University and, on graduation, became principal of Stanton Grammar School in Jacksonville. Over the years, he became a figure in the struggle of African Americans for equal rights. He was the executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1920 through 1931. In 1900 he and his brother J. Rosamond Johnson wrote a song in celebration to be sung by school children. That song, 'Lift Every Voice and Sing,' much to their surprise, became the 'Negro National Anthem' and is still being sung throughout the country. Johnson contributed articles regularly to The Crisis. In 1927, he published the BOOK OF AMERICAN NEGRO POETRY. Dr. James Weldon Johnson was appointed consul to Venezuela. His autobiography is called ALONG THIS WAY: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JAMES WELDON JOHNSON, published in 1933. BLACK MANHATTAN, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN EX-COLORED MAN, and GOD'S TROMBONES are three of his most famous works.

 

 

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(02/03/2008) Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. New York. 1952. Random House. keywords: Literature Black America. 439 pages. Jacket design by E. McKnight Kauffer.

Surely one of the most important American novels of the postwar period. A profoundly epic interpretation of Black and White America.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Ralph Ellison's INVISIBLE MAN is a monumental novel, one that can well be called an epic of modern American Negro life. It is a strange story, in which many extraordinary things happen, some of them shocking and brutal, some of them pitiful and touching - yet always with elements of comedy and irony and burlesque that appear in unexpected places. It is a book that has a great deal to say and which is destined to have a great deal said about it. After a brief prologue, the story begins with a terrifying experience of the hero's high school days, moves quickly to the campus of a Southern Negro college and then to New York's Harlem, where most of the action takes place. The many people that the hero meets in the course of his wanderings are remarkably various, complex and significant. With them he becomes involved in an amazing series of adventures, in which he is sometimes befriended but more often deceived and betrayed--as much by himself and his own illusions as by the duplicity or the blindness of others. INVISIBLE MAN is not only a great triumph of storytelling and characterization; it is a profound and uncompromising interpretation of the Negro's anomalous position in American society.

 

 

 

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(02/01/2008) In Search Of Nella Larsen: A Biography Of The Color Line by George Hutchinson. Cambridge. 2006. Harvard University Press. keywords: Biography Black America Women Literature Harlem Renaissance. 611 pages. Jacket design by Jill Breitbarth. 0674402180.

Nella Larsen was one of the most important writers of the Harlem Renaissance and also one of the most mysterious.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Born to a Danish seamstress and a black West Indian cook in one of the Western Hemisphere's most infamous vice districts, Nella Larsen lived her life in the shadows of America's racial divide. She wrote about that life, was briefly celebrated in her time, then was lost to later generations-only to be rediscovered and hailed by many as the best black novelist of her generation. In his search for Nella Larsen, the 'mystery woman of the Harlem Renaissance,' George Hutchinson exposes the truths and half-truths surrounding this central figure of modern literary studies, as well as the complex reality they mask and mirror. His book is a cultural biography of the color line as it was lived by one person who truly embodied all of its ambiguities and complexities. Author of a landmark study of the Harlem Renaissance, Hutchinson here produces the definitive account of a life long obscured by misinterpretations, fabrications, and omissions. He brings Larsen to life as an often tormented modernist, from the trauma of her childhood to her emergence as a star of the Harlem Renaissance. Showing the links between her experiences and her writings, Hutchinson illuminates the singularity of her achievement and shatters previous notions of her position in the modernist landscape. Revealing the suppressions and misunderstandings that accompany the effort to separate black from white, his book addresses the vast consequences for all Americans of color-line culture's fundamental rule: race trumps family.

 

 

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(01/29/2008) The End Of Lieutenant Boruvka by Josef Skvorecky. New York. 1990. Norton. Translated From The Czech By Paul Wilson. keywords: Literature Translated Czech Eastern Europe Mystery. 185 pages. Jacket design by Linda Kosarin. 0393027856. February 1990.

Join the melancholy Lieutenant Boruvka once again for this third installment in the series by Josef Skvorevcky.

FROM THE PUBLISHER - 

    Third in the series of linked detective tales featuring the 'downbeat Prague cop' of THE MOURNFUL DEMEANOUR OF LIEUTENANT BORUVKA and SINS FOR FATHER KNOX, this collection of six stories takes place around the time of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The stories include a murder in which a famous writer and supporter of Alexander Dubcek is implicated, but evidence uncovered by Boruvka points elsewhere. In a second story the murderer has reached a position of influence by the time our detective comes on the scene. A Soviet army sentry turns out to be responsible for a third murder. In the final story Boruvka must decide whether to jeopardize his career as he pursues an American gangster. In each of these cases, some of which are based on actual events, Boruvka is pitted against his colleagues, the secret police, and even his country. This third volume of tales 'demonstrates Skvorecky's formidable story-telling gifts, sharp wit, and understanding of the human heart' 'Boruvka is, I suppose, in the British or European tradition of developed detective characters-he has problems, he even falls in love. If Woody Allen were stouter, he could play the part. ' -Josef Skvorecky, commenting on his sad-eyed detective.

JOSEF SKVORECKY was born in Bohemia, emigrated to Canada in 1968, and was professor of English at Erindale College, University of Toronto. He and his wife, the novelist Zdena Salivarova, ran a Czech-language publishing house, Sixty-Eight Publishers, in Toronto. Skvorecky's novels include DVORAK IN LOVE, THE ENGINEER OF HUMAN SOULS, COWARDS, MISS SILVER'S PAST, THE BASS SAXOPHONE, THE MOURNFUL DEMEANOUR OF LIEUTENANT BORUVKA, and SINS FOR FATHER KNOX. He is the winner of the 1980 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1984 Governor General's Award for Fiction in Canada.

 

 

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(01/28/2008) Sins For Father Knox by Josef Skvorecky. New York. 1989. Norton. Translated From The Czech By Kaca Polackova Henley. keywords: Mystery Translated Czech Literature Eastern Europe. 268 pages. Jacket design by Linda Kosarin. 0393025128. January 1989.

The second book in Josef Skvorecky's Lieutenant Boruvka series.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Readers of THE MOURNFUL DEMEANOUR OF LIEUTENANT BORUVKA will welcome the second book in the Boruvka series, although the lieutenant appears in only two of the ten stories The heroine in this volume is a nightclub singer called Eve Adam, a garrulous meddler in other people's affairs, Under contract from the State Concert Agency, she sings in various cities around the world. As Eve Adam travels and a crime occurs, each story violates one of the rules of the Detective Story Decalogue by Father Ronald A. Knox, probably the best-known set of rules for writing detective fiction. And so the task for the reader is two-fold: to decide which rule has been broken and to identify the murderer--in Prague, in Stockholm, in Rimini, in Berkeley, and in all the other cities. This book, newly translated, has never before appeared in English. Two more Boruvka books, of quite a different nature but equally remarkable, will follow.

JOSEF SKVORECKY was born in Bohemia, emigrated to Canada in 1968, and was professor of English at Erindale College, University of Toronto. He and his wife, the novelist Zdena Salivarova, ran a Czech-language publishing house, Sixty-Eight Publishers, in Toronto. Skvorecky's novels include DVORAK IN LOVE, THE ENGINEER OF HUMAN SOULS, COWARDS, MISS SILVER'S PAST, THE BASS SAXOPHONE, and THE MOURNFUL DEMEANOUR OF LIEUTENANT BORUVKA. He is the winner of the 1980 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1984 Governor General's Award for Fiction in Canada.

 

 

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(01/27/2008) The Mournful Demeanour Of Lieutenant Boruvka by Josef Skvorecky. New York. 1987. Norton. Translated From The Czech By Rosemary Kavan, Kaca Polackova & George Theiner. keywords: Literature Translated Czech Eastern Europe Mystery. 288 pages. Jacket Design By Linda Kosarin. 0393024709.

The first of Josef Skvorecky's Lieutenant Boruvka mysteries.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   From the internationally acclaimed writer Josef Skvorecky we have the first in a series of linked detective tales featuring a highly intelligent member of the Czechoslovak police force and his agreeable colleagues. Many of the tales are delightful parodies of 'standard' mysteries, and most are set in the author's native Czechoslovakia. Lieutenant Boruvka himself is splendidly realized--a pensive, conscience-stricken man driven to melancholy by the fiendish truths of murder, yet always wide awake to the strange methods of murder he encounters. Twelve bizarre plots involve theatrical people or musicians, and one concerns a band of mountaineers. Its solution reveals pent-up emotions of love, jealousy, and envy. Other cases involve blackmail, apparent suicide, and unusual trajectories for weapons--a wealth of gruesome circumstances, The entire book is intended to be read as a continuous account; in the last tale, the reader learns the secret of Boruvka's past. Never before published in the United States, this unusual volume introduces the sad lieutenant and his developing fortunes to all who relish ingenious puzzles. Three other books will follow, all abounding in the wit and irony that characterize the writing of this remarkable author.

JOSEF SKVORECKY was born in Bohemia, emigrated to Canada in 1968, and was professor of English at Erindale College, University of Toronto. He and his wife, the novelist Zdena Salivarova, ran a Czech-language publishing house, Sixty-Eight Publishers, in Toronto. Skvorecky's novels include THE COWARDS, MISS SILVER'S PAST, THE BASS SAXOPHONE, THE ENGINEER OF HUMAN SOULS, and DVORAK IN LOVE. He is winner of the 1980 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1984 Governor General's Award for fiction in Canada.

 

 

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(01/04/2008) A Tiger For Malgudi by R. K. Narayan. New York. 1983. Viking Press. keywords: Literature India. 176 pages. Jacket design by Carol Lowenstein. Jacket illustration courtesy of The Granger Collection. 0670712604. August 1983.

Explore the philosophical side of tigers with the help of R. K. Narayan.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Raja, the hero and narrator of this wise and humorous novel, is a magnificent specimen - eleven feet from tip to tail, and the terror of Malgudi. He leads a carefree, if predatory, jungle life until he is lured into captivity by his own greed. His subsequent career as a circus performer and film star, which ends when he inadvertently gains the reputation of a man-eater, provides ample opportunity to observe the strange behavior of the bipeds around him. But nothing in his experience of humans has prepared him for his meeting with a holy man known only as the Master, a man whose authority is based on a profound understanding of the natural and spiritual world rather than on brute force. Raja becomes his unlikely disciple, and what seemed to be a simple tale becomes a novel of surprising depth and humanity. R. K. Narayan's skillful blend of observation, philosophy, and humor will come as no surprise to readers already familiar with the works of this master storyteller, whom John Updike has called 'the foremost Indian writer of fiction in English.'

R. K. NARAYAN was born in Madras, India, in 1906. Among his many books are twelve volumes of fiction set in and around the imaginary South Indian city of Malgudi, most recently MALGUDI DAYS In 1981 Mr. Narayan was made an honorary member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

 

 

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(01/03/2008) We'll To The Woods No More by Edouard Dujardin. New York. 1938. New Directions. Translated From The French By Stuart Gilbert. Illustrated By Alice Laughlin. keywords: Literature Translated France.

James Joyce was supposedly influenced by Dujardin's use of the 'interior monologue'. Whether this is true or not, WE'LL TO THE WOODS NO MORE remains a delightful story of a young man's love for a Parisian actress.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

This book retains its importance as the first use of the monologue interieur and the inspiration for the stream-of-consciousness technique perfected by James Joyce. Dujardin's charming tale, told with insight and irony, recounts what goes on in the mind of a young man-about-town in love with a Parisian actress.

 

 

 

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(01/01/2008) The Autobiography Of Ben Franklin & Other Writings. New York. 1961. Signet/New American Library. Edited & With An Introduction by L. Jesse Lemisch. keywords: Signet Classic Paperback Literature America Autobiography History 18th Century. CD74. 350 pages. Cover art by Milton Glaser. September 1961.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Availing himself of the best texts and the latest scholarship in the field, L. Jesse Lemisch presents in this Signet Classic a lively and authentic portrait of Benjamin Franklin, the whole man. Seen through his own eyes and through the eyes of others, here is Franklin the public figure: scientist, inventor, educator, diplomat, politician, humorist. and Franklin the private person: father, husband, friend. Richard B. Morris, Chairman of the History Department of Columbia University, wrote about this book, 'I think that Mr. Lemisch has brought together an extraordinarily interesting collection of material about an extraordinary person. He has done it so skillfully that the reader will easily obtain a fully rounded portrait of the many-sided Franklin, notably the moralist, humanitarian, scientist, and unconventional human being. The notes are lively, balanced, and informative, and heighten the interest in the text.' The Signet Classic edition of THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY uses the definitive Farrand text.

 

 

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(12/31/2007) Resurrection by William Gerhardi. New York. 1934. Harcourt Brace & Company. keywords: Literature England. 372 pages.

'One grows older furtively, under the watchful eyes of friends. But gradually one sees they are accomplices who condone the crime; which turns into a weakness, an indulgence, finally a boast.' - These are the opening lines from William Gerhardi's RESURRECTION, my favorite astral-projection novel.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   A thirty-seven year-old man attends a ball during the course of which he has an out-of-body experience and revisits his entire past. 'Resurrection' is fiction and autobiography merged into one. For though, in its passionate argument for the resurrection of the body, it presents the entire truth of the author's experience, it remains fiction in its technique and in its surface of names and pattern. A brilliant London ball furnishes the setting. Here are encountered the singular and bright individuals whose lives and thoughts have contributed to the reality of the author's existence. Throughout this affair, dancing, falling in love, conversing, eating, he is driven by the powerful conviction that has lately come to him - the conviction that we do not die. This belief so colors and compels each moment, that he has the force to relive his entire life in the course of the evening. More than half of the book is given to an extraordinary recital, during which the author summons up the experiences he had in one year that was unusually crowded with adventure of every sort, a year of travel when he visited America, Greece, Egypt, India. Returning to the ball at last, he returns to his present and to the bewildering contrast that his new belief in an after-life provides. The whole last section is a record of the personal conflict, subtly played out in the setting with which the novel begins. New in treatment as in story, this represents William Gerhardi's most mature contribution to fiction. The style and signature are unmistakable; and they are the same that distinguished such novels as FUTILITY and THE POLYGLOTS.

William Alexander Gerhardie was a British novelist and playwright. Gerhardie was one of the most critically acclaimed English novelists of the 1920s H. G Wells was a ferocious champion of his work. His first novel Futility, was written while he was at Cambridge and drew on his experiences in Russia fighting the Bolsheviks, along with his childhood experiences visiting pre-revolutionary Russia. Some say that it was the first work in English to fully explore the theme of 'waiting' later made famous by Samuel Beckett in WAITING FOR GODOT, but it is probably more apt to recognize a common comic nihilism between those two figures. His next novel, THE POLYGLOTS is probably his masterpiece Again it deals with Russia He collaborated with Hugh Kingsmill on the biography 'The Casanova Fable', his friendship with Hugh being both a source of conflict over women and a great intellectual stimulus. After World War II Gerhardie's star waned, and he became unfashionable, and although he continued to write, he had nothing published after 1939. After a period of poverty-stricken oblivion, he lived to see two 'definitive collected works' published by Macdonald More recently, both Prion and New Directions Press have been reissuing his works. Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest 'Pronounced jer hardy, with the accent on the a: jer-har'dy. This is the way I and my relatives pronounce it, tho I am told it is incorrect. Philologists are of the opinion that it should be pronounced with the g as in Gertrude. I believe they are right. I, however, cling to the family habit of mispronouncing it. But I do so without obstinacy. If the world made it worth my while I would side with the multitude.'

 

 

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(12/14/2007) Memed, My Hawk by Yashar Kemal. New York. 1961. Pantheon Books. Translated From The Turkish By Eduoard Roditi. keywords: Literature Translated Turkey. 371 pages. Jacket design by Richard Powers.

A tale of injustice and revenge from the Turkish master. If you like this book, be sure to read the sequel, THEY BURN THE THISTLES.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This stirring epic of modern Turkey-a tempestuous, romantic tale of rebellion against a still-existing feudal world-is told with the simplicity and awesome sweep of the great folk legends. The hero of the tale is Ince Memed, rebel, brigand, and adventurer. Born in a small village in the Taurus Mountains, where the peasants struggle in servitude to a rich Agha or lord, Memed as a boy tries to escape the hard life in the thistle-choked fields but is brought back to an existence even crueller in hardship than before. Years later he tries to escape again, this time with his lovely childhood sweetheart, Hatche, whom he wants to marry but who has been promised to the nephew of the Agha. The lovers are pursued, Memed kills the nephew and escapes, but Hatche is caught and thrown into prison. Memed now takes to the mountains and soon becomes the most famous bandit throughout the Taurus, helper of the poor and scourge of their oppressors. His chief goals, however, remain: to free Hatche from prison and to settle accounts with the Agha. The story of these exploits in the wild mountains and the wretched villages of the Taurus, peopled by poor farmers, strange and courageous outlaws, intriguing nomads-all under the shadow of the cruel and grasping Agha-rises to true epic proportions as Memed, the protector, the hawk, becomes the renowned avenger of his people.

YASHAR KEMAL himself has become something of a legendary figure in Turkey, where his great novel won for him Turkey’s first literary prize in 1956 and has been read by an unprecedented number of people among a population that is still largely illiterate. He was born in 1922 in a village in Southern Anatolia. At the age of five he witnessed the brutal murder of his father, who was kneeling beside him in prayer in a mosque. The shock of this experience left him with a severe stutter for years. He discovered he could overcome the speech defect by singing the songs of traveling folk singers. In time he became a master of the literature of this rich tradition, and its influence can found in the haunting balladlike quality of his novel. Kemal worked in a factory to earn money for his secondary education, and later held a variety of jobs, from cotton and rice picking to writing petitions for the illiterate poor on a hard-earned typewriter. In 1951 Kemal became a reporter for the leading newspaper in Istanbul. Shortly thereafter he won the prize for the best journalism of the year, and subsequently published a volume of short stories. The publication of MEMED, MY HAWK, plus his profound interest in the pressing problems of land reform and peasant life, has made him one of the most popular and influential writers in Turkey today. His work was a notable inspiration to the group that overthrew the Menderes regime.

 

 

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(12/13/2007) Jacques The Fatalist by Denis Diderot. New York. 1986. Penguin Books. Introduction and Notes by Martin Hall. Translated from the French by Michael Henry. keywords: Penguin Classic Paperback France Literature Translated 18th Century. 261 pages. The cover shows a portrait of Diderot by L. M. van Loo, in the Musee du Louvre, Paris (photo: Giraudon). 0140444726.

JACQUES THE FATALIST is a long, but thoroughly entertaining conversation that is constantly interrupted by one revelatory digression after another.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Denis Diderot is among the great writers of the Enlightenment and in Jacques the Fatalist he challenged the artificialities of the conventional French fiction of the period. The world of Jacques is not a fixed and settled one where events are easily assessed and interpreted; on the contrary, it is a world of dizzying variety and unpredictability. For nothing is quite as it seems and an alarming proliferation of anecdotes, characters and philosophical problems continues to spring up around the apparently central theme of the relationship between Jacques and his master, in a skilled and devastating assault on the supremacy of the stylized novel. ‘[A] feast of intelligence, humour and fantasy. Without Jacques le Fataliste the history of the novel remains obscure and incomplete. its true greatness is only perceptible when it is placed beside DON QUIXOTE, TOM JONES or ULYSSES’ - Milan Kundera.

DENIS DIDEROT was born at Langres in eastern France in 1713, the son of a master-cutler. He was originally destined for the Church, but rebelled and persuaded his father to allow him to complete his education in Paris. For most of his twenties and early thirties, Diderot remained nominally a law student, but in fact led a rather precarious and Bohemian existence. He read extensively during this period, and this is reflected in his early works such as the Pensées philosophiques (1746) and the Lettre sur les aveugles (1749) which show a keen interest in contemporary philosophical issues. During the early 1740s Diderot met three contemporaries of great future significance for himself and for the age: d’Alembert, Condillac and J. J. Rousseau. In 1747 Diderot embarked on the most important task of his life, the editorship of the Encyclopédie, whose publication he oversaw until its completion in 1773. Diderot’s boldest philosophical and scientific speculations are brilliantly summarized in a trilogy of dialogues collectively known as Le Réve de d’Alembert (1769). With Le Neveu de Rameau, begun in 1761, and Jacques le Fataliste, written between approximately 1755 and 1784, Diderot produced his greatest works of prose fiction, works which are highly original and daring, both in their form and in their content. Towards the end of his life, by now one of the most famous French writers, Diderot visited Saint Petersburg at the invitation of one of his most powerful admirers, the empress Catherine the Great, to whom he had promised his extensive library in return for her financial assistance. He died in 1784. This translation is based upon the text of JACQUES LE FATALISTE edited by S. Lecointre and J. Le Galliot, Editions Droz, Paris, 1977.

 

 

 

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(12/12/2007) Paul Celan: Selections by Paul Celan. Berkeley. 2005. University of California Press. Various Translators From The German. Editied & With An Introduction by Pierre Joris. Poets For The Millenium. keywords: Literature Poetry Germany Translated. 231 pages. 0520241681.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The best introduction to the work of Paul Celan, this anthology offers a broad collection of his writing in unsurpassed English translations along with a wealth of commentaries by major writers and philosophers. The present selection is based on Celan’s own 1968 selected poems, though enlarged to include both earlier and later poems, as well as two prose works, The Meridian, Celan’s core statement on poetics, and the narrative Conversation in the Mountains. This volume also includes letters to Celan’s wife, the artist Gisèle Celan-Lestrange; to his friend Erich Einhorn; and to René Char and Jean-Paul Sartre--all appearing here for the first time in English. CONTENTS - Introduction: ‘Polysemy without mask’; Key to Translators; I. POEMS - from Romanian Prose Poems (c. 1947); from Mohn und Gedächtnis/Poppy and Memory (1952); from Von Schwelle zu Schwelle/From Threshold to Threshold (1955); from Sprachgitter/Speech-Grille (1959); from Die Niemandsrose/The Noonesrose (1963); from Atemwende/Breathturn (1967); from Fadensonnen/Threadsuns (1968); from Lichtzwang/Lightduress (1970); from Schneepart/Snowpart (1971); from Zeitgehöft/Timehalo (1976); II. PROSES - Conversation in the Mountains (1959); The Meridian (1960); III. DOCUMENTS - from the Correspondence - Letter #1: To Gisèle Celan-Lestrange (1952); Letter #2: To Gisèle Celan-Lestrange (1952); Letter #3: To René Char (unsent) (1962); Letter #4: To Erich Einhorn (1962); Letter #5: To Jean-Paul Sartre (unsent) (1962); Letter #6: To Erich Einhorn (1962); Letter #7: To Gisèle Celan-Lestrange (1965); Letter #8: To Eric Celan (1968); Letter #9: From Gisèle Celan-Lestrange to Paul (1969); Letter #10: To Gisèle Celan-Lestrange (1970); Das Stundenglass, tief (facsimile); Uber dich hinaus (facsimile; Es wird etwas sein, später (facsimile); IV. ON PAUL CELAN - Paul Celan and Language-Jacques Derrida; Encounters with Paul Celan-E.M. Cioran; For Paul Celan-Andrea Zanzotto; On Paul Celan in Neuchâtel-Friedrich Dürrenmatt; The Memory of Words-Edmond Jabès; Selected Bibliography.

Paul Celan (November 23, 1920 – approximately April 20, 1970) was the most frequently used pseudonym of Paul Antschel, one of the major poets of the post-World War II era. Celan was born in 1920 into a German-speaking Jewish family in Cernauti, Bukovina, then part of Romania (now part of Ukraine). His father, Leo Antschel, was a Zionist who advocated his son’s education in Hebrew at Safah Ivriah, an institution previously convinced of the wisdom of assimilation into Austrian culture, and one which favourably received Chaim Weizmann of the World Zionist Organization in 1927. His mother, Fritzi, was an avid reader of German literature who insisted German be the language of the house. After his Bar Mitzvah in 1933, Celan abandoned Zionism (at least to some extent) and terminated his formal Hebrew education, instead becoming active in Jewish Socialist organizations and fostering support for the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War. His earliest known poem, titled Mother’s Day 1938 was an earnest, if sentimental, profession of love. In 1938, Celan travelled to Tours, France to study medicine (the newly-imposed Jewish quota in Romanian universities and the Anschluss precluded Bucharest and Vienna), but returned to Cernauti in 1939 to study literature and Romance languages. His journey to France took him through Berlin as the events of Kristallnacht unfolded, and also introduced him to his uncle, Bruno Schrager, who later was among the French detainees who died at Birkenau. The Soviet occupation in June 1940 deprived Celan of any lingering illusions about Stalinism and Soviet Communism stemming from his earlier socialist engagements; the Soviets quickly imposed bureaucratic reforms on the university where he was studying Romance philology, and the Red Army brought deportations to Siberia, just as Nazi Germany and Romania brought ghettos, internment, and forced labour a year later. On arrival in July 1941 the German SS Einsatzkommando and their Romanian allies burned down the city’s six-hundred-year-old Great Synagogue. In October, the Romanians deported a large number of Jews after forcing them into a ghetto, where Celan translated William Shakespeare’s Sonnets and continued to write his own poetry, all the while being exposed to traditional Yiddish songs and culture. Before the ghetto was dissolved in the fall of that year, Celan was pressed into labor, first clearing the debris of a demolished post office, and then gathering and destroying Russian books. The local mayor strove to mitigate the harsh circumstances until the governor of Bukovina had the Jews rounded up and deported, starting on a Saturday night in June 1942. Accounts of his whereabouts on that evening vary, but it is certain that Celan was not with his parents when they were taken from their home on June 21 and sent by train to an internment camp in Transnistria, where two-thirds of the deportees perished. Celan’s parents were taken across the Southern Bug and handed over to the Germans, where his father likely perished of typhus and his mother was shot dead after being exhausted by forced labour. Later on, after having himself been taken to the labour camps in the Old Kingdom, Celan would receive reports of his parents’ deaths earlier that year. Celan remained in these labour camps until February 1944, when the Red Army’s advance forced the Romanians to abandon them, whereupon he returned to Cernauti shortly before the Soviets returned to reassert their control. There, he worked briefly as a nurse in the mental hospital. Early versions of Todesfuge were circulated at this time, a poem that clearly relied on accounts coming from the now-liberated camps in Poland. Friends from this period recall expression of immense guilt over his separation from his parents, whom he had tried to convince to go into hiding prior to the deportations, shortly before their death. Considering emigration to Palestine and wary of widespread Soviet antisemitism, Celan left Soviet-occupied territory in 1945 for Bucharest, where he remained until 1947. He was active in the Jewish literary community as both a translator of Russian literature into Romanian, and as a poet, publishing his work under a variety of pseudonyms. The literary scene of the time was richly populated with surrealists — Gellu Naum, Ilarie Voronca, Gherasim Luca, Paul Paun, and Dolfi Trost —, and it was in this period that Celan developed pseudonyms both for himself and his friends, including the one he took as his pen name. A version of Todesfuge appeared as Tangoul Mortii (‘Death Tango‘) in a Romanian translation of May 1947. The surrealist ferment of the time was such that additional remarks had to be published explaining that the dancing and musical performances of the poem were realities of the extermination camp life. Night and Fog, another poem from that era, includes a description of the Auschwitz Orchestra, an institution organized by the SS to assemble and play selections of German dances and popular songs. (The SS man interviewed by Claude Lanzmann for his film Shoah, who rehearsed the songs prisoners were made to sing in the death camp, remarked that no Jews taught the song survived. As Romanian autonomy became increasingly tenuous in the course of that year, Celan fled Romania for Vienna, Austria. It was there that he befriended Ingeborg Bachmann, who had just completed a dissertation on Martin Heidegger. Facing a city divided between occupying powers and with little resemblance to the mythic city it once was, which had harboured the then-shattered Austro-Hungarian Jewish community, he moved to Paris in 1948, where he found a publisher for his first poetry collection, Der Sand aus den Urnen (‘Sand from the Urns’). His first few years in Paris were marked by intense feelings of loneliness and isolation, as expressed in letters to his colleagues, including his longtime friend from Cernauti, Petre Solomon. It was also during this time that he exchanged many letters with Diet Kloos, a Dutch chanteuse. She visited him twice in Paris between 1949 and 1951. In a published edition of these letters, near the end of the exchange, Celan seems to be entertaining an amorous interest in her. In 1952 Celan received an invitation to the semiannual meetings of Group 47. At a 1953 meeting he read his poem Todesfuge (‘Death Fugue’), a depiction of concentration camp life. His reading style, which was based on Hungarian folk poems, was off-putting to the German audience. His poetry was sharply criticized. When Ingeborg Bachmann, with whom Celan had an affair, won the Group’s prize for her collection Die gestundete Zeit (The Extended Hours), Celan (whose work had received only six votes) said ‘After the meeting, only six people remembered my name’. He was not invited again. In November 1951, he met the graphic artist Gisèle Lestrange, in Paris. He would send her many wonderful love letters, influenced by Franz Kafka’s correspondence with Milena Jesenska and Felice Bauer. They married on December 21, 1952 despite the opposition of her aristocratic family, and during the following 18 years they wrote over 700 letters, including a very active exchange with Siegfried Lenz and his wife, Hanna. He made his living as a translator and lecturer in German at the École Normale Supérieure. He was also a pen friend of Nelly Sachs, who later won the Nobel Prize for literature. Celan became a French citizen in 1955 and lived in Paris. Celan’s sense of persecution increased after the widow of his friend the French-German poet Yvan Goll accused him of plagiarising her husband’s work. Celan committed suicide by drowning in the Seine river in late April 1970.

Pierre Joris is the author of many books of poetry as well as a range of anthologies and translations; he recently published A Nomad Poetics, a volume of essays. In 2003 he was Berlin Prize fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. He is Professor of English at the State University of New York, Albany.

 

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(12/11/2007) Buddenbrooks: 2 Volumes by Thomas Mann. New York. 1924. Knopf. Translated From The German By H. T. Lowe-Porter. keywords: Literature Germany Translated. 748 pages.

BUDDENBROOKS may not always receive its proper due since it inevitably must dwell in the shadow of Mann’s masterwork, THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN. It is however an engrossing tale of the decline in fortunes of a middle-class German family in the early 20th century.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   BUDDENBROOKS, first published in Germany in 1900, when Mann was only twenty-five, has become a classic of modern literature - the story of four generations of a wealthy bourgeois family in northern Germany. With consummate skill, Mann draws a rounded picture of middle- class life: births and christenings; marriages, divorces, and deaths; successes and failures. These commonplace occurrences, intrinsically the same, vary slightly as they recur in each succeeding generation. Yet as the Buddenbrooks family eventually succumbs to the seductions of modernity - seductions that are at variance with its own traditions - its downfall becomes certain. In immensity of scope, richness of detail, and fullness of humanity, BUDDENBROOKS surpasses all other modern family chronicles; it has, indeed, proved a model for most of them. Judged as the greatest of Mann’s novels by some critics, it is ranked as among the greatest by all. THOMAS MANN was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1929.

 

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