John Alvey’s review of Nabile Farès’ Discovery of the New World is now up at The Modern Novel. We recommend this thoroughly researched and prepared article as a fitting introduction to Farès’ magnum opus. In appreciation, we’re giving 20% off the paperback OR the ebook, for the month of October. Check it out here.
We’re gratified to see so many reviews and essays concerning Lavender Ink and Diálogos books in recent days. Here is one, on Hank Lazer’s Thinking in Jewish, by Ariel Resnikoff at Jacket2. Resnikoff opens with:
Hank Lazer’s shape-writing walks a very narrow bridge, which is — as the Hasidic mystic, Reb Nahman of Breslov teaches — the world itself, hung across a shattering vessel, swung in awesome cosmic doubt. … Lazer’s praxis performs, in projected transcendent fragmented potentials, the stakes of a modern translingual jewish poetics that is both wholly contemporary, and yet elementally steeped in a thinking far older than capital J Judaism proper.
which will give you some idea of the depth of this critical writing. The essay was selected by Jerome Rothenberg, who says this about it:
Resnikoff’s short essay … focuses on Hank Lazer’s experiments with “shape writing” as they emerge here in a specifically Jewish context. While other contexts could be cited as well (including the well-known modernism of Guilliaume Apollinaire’s calligrams) the linkage to the verbo-visual side of one of the world’s great mystical traditions is certainly worth nothing. It is however Lazer’s own radical poesis that stands out and that Resnikoff chooses to explore & to celebrate
Check out this one and the many more listed below.
The international literary journal Asymptote has recently published an extensive review of Miloš Crnjanski’s A Novel of London. This essay by international best-selling author Vesna Goldsworthy is a crash course in Crnjanski, as well as a knowledgable analysis of Will Firth’s translation:
Miloš Crnjanski’s A Novel of London (1971) is one of the key works of twentieth century Serbian fiction. Given the novel’s significance in the former Yugoslavia, its powerful and enduringly relevant story of East–West migration and exile, and its meticulously evoked setting based on the author’s first-hand experience of London during and immediately after World War Two, it might seem surprising—shocking even—that Crnjanski’s work remained unpublished in English for so long. Yet all too often that is the fate of even the most important literature from small languages and small countries.
This belated English version appears half a century after the original, largely as a result of the personal endeavours of Will Firth, one of the pre-eminent translators of writing from the former Yugoslavia. I would love to say that it has been eagerly awaited. That may be true for the small number of Crnjanski scholars in the West, and for those members of the Serbian diaspora who already knew the novel. However, in the twelve months since its publication by the New Orleans-based publisher Diálogos, Crnjanski’s masterpiece has, so far as I know, yet to be mentioned on the pages of a literary review, let alone properly reviewed, barring a piece from the novel’s translator in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
The essay delves in some detail into the problematic world of publishing such monumental works from smaller countries:
As the Danish scholar Cay Dollerup observes in “Translation as Intercultural Communication,” most translation from small languages is “an imposition.” It is “deliberate, and driven by the source culture,” rather than arising from any demand or desire in the recipient culture—in this case, that of the Anglosphere. … Moreover, the fruit of the translator’s labour, like an unwanted gift, is often met with either polite indifference or perfunctory praise from potential readers who say they want more literature in translation but choose to spend their time in other ways. It is a given that no one makes money out of the enterprise. Sales of two hundred copies are considered a success even for the widely reviewed titles by those foreign authors who are still alive and available for readings and interviews in fluent English. Worse still, the study of literature remains largely compartmentalized by language: A Novel of London could only hope to appear on most university reading lists in the original, restricting it to the few students of Serbian.
On the brighter side (for us publishers), Goldsworthy notes:
In addition to a thorough introduction by David Norris, the leading scholar of Crnjanski in the West, the Diálogos edition carries a prefatory note on translating A Novel of London by Will Firth. In the process of translating, Firth has also added a vast apparatus of foot- and end-notes, creating what amounts to a critical edition and a valuable contribution to the study of the author and his work.
Our gratitude goes to Vesna Goldsworthy for this essay, a notable contribution in itself.
…Cixous reminds us that “we need the books that hurt us,” books that “strike us like terrible events,” written by writers who “play with fire . . . sometimes go as far as catching fire, as far as being seized by fire.” Daniell is just such a writer, committed to a dangerous, difficult, fiery truth-telling, offering readers a descent into her and hence our own depths, where we too might find the “beautiful things” we may never have known we needed.
The live (well, Zoom) event at the New Orleans Poetry Festival was Sunday, April 25, 2 PM CDT, when Diálogos Presented Readings from Recent Translations and Roundtable on Translating Experimental Works. This reading/roundtable featured poets and their translators, with bilingual readings and discussions of the works and the translation process. On hand:
- Giancarlo Huapaya and Ilana Dann Luna, author and translator of Sub Verse Workshop
- Antonio Ángel Agudelo and Claudia Routon, author and translator of Sky Chess
- G. J. Racz, translator of the late Eduardo Chirinos’ A Brief History of Music & Fourteen Forms of Melancholy
- Olivier Cadiot, Anna Fitzgerald, and Cole Swenson, author, translator and introduction author of A Mage in Summer
See the archive recording of the event here:
Lavender Ink / Diálogos is proud to be one of the founding organizers of The New Orleans Poetry Festival. The fest returns after a one-year Covid hiatus with a full month of online programming this April. The opening event features a hybrid performance of readings from the new anthology I Am New Orleans, and programming continues with readings, workshops and roundtables every day for the entire month. Everything is free and open to all to Zoom in. See the complete calendar and access events at nolapoetry.com.
Throughout these poems that move from the idyllic-seeming promise of childhood to the speaker’s children’s too often harrowing experiences of adulthood, it becomes quickly clear that we are in a realm of literature approached only in its highest and most serious forms, that is, the realm of tragedy.
This book will resonate to many of us with its treatment of very contemporary issues in the South and beyond, which is no doubt why it won the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Poetry Award.
“Pure incomprehensible jibberish” is how a Goodreads reviewer classified Nabile Farès’ Exile and Helplessness, one of the three novels collected in the trilogy just released by Diálogos, Discovery of the New World. Despite this chilly reception on Goodreads, we consider the release of this work—for the first time in English, and for the first time under one cover—to be one of our crowning achievements. Master translator and expert in North African letters Peter Thompson labored more than a decade with the translation of this often challenging text, including multiple meetings and consultations with Farès himself, prior to his death in 2016. Though it may not be a smash hit on Goodreads, Discovery of the New World should rank as a discovery of the first order for anglophone students of postcolonial literature.
Pierre Joris says in the preface to the book:
The first thing that hits me every time I open or reopen one of Nabile Farès’ books is the immediacy of the intense struggle — simultaneously, the glorious success — of a text that stays at white heat by bending/bedding itself between what some would call the “genres” of poetry & prose.
Farès work is not so much incomprehensible as it is uncategorizable, which some of us see as an accomplishment rather than a failure.
Our North African collection was further enhanced, recently, by the release of the equally uncategorizable Agadir, by Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine, translated by Pierre Joris and Jake Syersak. A recent review in Banipal said:
ln Agadir, Khaïr-Eddine has created “a dynamic, original, a revolutionary conception of writing” in which “literature is a beautiful weapon”. lt is at once a novella, a poem, a play, an extraordinary manifesto and, as he once called it, a “political essay”, in which a myriad of voices, including that of a narrator, speak out.
For a limited time, buy both these titles, either in paperback or ebook, and use coupon code “northafrica” to receive a 25% cart discount on checkout.
Dead Roosters and Other Stories – recently published by Lavender Ink – is a striking collection of hardscrabble lives and dreams deferred. When I read Michael Clayton’s debut collection Larry Brown came to mind. In fact, bestselling author Amanda Boyden … compares him to Flannery O’Connor and Breece D’J Pancake.
Read the entire interview here.
Two extensive and informative interviews have recently been published with Lavender Ink / Diálogos author/translators.
First, Leslie Tate begins an interview with Mark Statman on the topics of Exile Home, fatherhood, translation, Mark’s move into happy exile from Brooklyn to Oaxaca, and most everything else. Part 1 of a long interview.
Next, please check out this tandem interview with A Novel of London translator Will Firth and 2020 European Union Prize for Literature winner, Stefan Bošković at Asymptote, in which Jovanka Kalaba questions each about literature, politics, language, and the current state of Balkan letters.
COVID19 SUTRAS is full of tenderness, empathy, anger, despair, sadness — the ping-pong ball of feelings bouncing this way and that. Lazer, in his isolation, slows down all of this so he can examine these states of being, while attempting to understand consciousness and what it means to be alive and alert to this mutating, contagious world, yourself both within it and not.
Yau compares the book, quite fruitfully, with William Carlos Williams’s Spring and All, which was also written on the fringe of a pandemic, the Spanish Flu, which ravaged the US and the world after World War I. Read Yau’s review here.