Photographs taken in Paris, 1984
|Gerald Thomas talking with Samuel Beckett. Paris, 1984.|
|Gerald Thomas talking with Samuel Beckett. Paris, 1984.|
Also at A Piece of Monologue:
|Gerald Thomas talking with Samuel Beckett. Paris, 1984.|
|Gerald Thomas talking with Samuel Beckett. Paris, 1984.|
|Leo Tolstoy. Portrait: Gay Nikolay Nikolayevich (1884, The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)|
From my grandfather I had acquired the habit of rising early, almost always before five. It is a ritual I still preserve. Despite the unremitting force of inertia and in full consciousness of the pointlessness of everything we do, the seasons are met with the same unchanging discipline every day. For long periods I live in isolation, isolated both in mind and in body. I am able to cope with myself by subjecting myself completely and unswervingly to my needs. Periods of absolute productivity alternate with others in which I am utterly unproductive. Subject to every vagary of my own nature and of the universe - whatever it is - I can get through live only with the help of a precise daily routine. I am able to exist only by dint of standing up to myself - in fact, of consistently opposing myself. When I am writing I read nothing, and when I am reading I write nothing. For long periods I read and write nothing, finding both equally repugnant. There are long periods when I detest both reading and writing, and then I fall prey to inactivity, which means brooding obsessively on my extremely personal plight, both as an object of curiosity and as a confirmation of everything I am today, of what I have become over the years in circumstances which are as routine as they are unnatural, artificial, and indeed perverse.Also at A Piece of Monologue:
Thomas Bernhard, Gathering Evidence: A MemoirTranslated by David McLintock
|George Craig, Writing Beckett's Letters|
|Slavoj Žižek's Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? and Revolution at the Gates|
|Alain Badiou, Wittgenstein's Antiphilosophy|
Scarcely any other moral thinker of our day is as politically clear sighted and courageously polemical, so prepared to put notions of truth and universality back on the agenda… Badiou has launched a transformative new intervention, which deserves to provoke a persisting response.
Badiou is at his strongest in pointing to the inconsistencies of a facile multiculturalism, the pluralism of the food court and the shopping mall, which wilts in the face of any genuine expression of cultural hostility to liberal values.
Alain Badiou could be the most important philosopher alive today
Irish Left Review
Badiou is by turns speculative, provocative…and droll.
Times Literary Supplement
In the Company of Strangers shows how a reconception of family and kinship underlies the revolutionary experiments of the modernist novel. While stories of marriage and long-lost relatives were a mainstay of classic Victorian fiction, Barry McCrea suggests that rival countercurrents within these family plots set the stage for the formal innovations of Joyce and Proust. Tracing the challenges to the family plot mounted by figures such as Fagin, Sherlock Holmes, Leopold Bloom, and Charles Swann, McCrea tells the story of how bonds generated by chance encounters between strangers come to take over the role of organizing narrative time and give shape to fictional worlds—a task and power that was once the preserve of the genealogical family. By investigating how the question of family is a hidden key to modernist structure and style, In the Company of Strangers explores the formal narrative potential of queerness and in doing so rewrites the history of the modern novel. [Read More]
|Ukranian translator Svetlana Geier. Photograph: Cinema Guild|
Puttering around her old-fashioned home, translator Svetlana Geier compares the intricacy of Dostoevsky's writing to what used be to termed "women's work," like cooking and lace-making. "Text" and "textile" have the same root, she notes. But the huge novels that give The Woman with the Five Elephants its title aren't just intricately crafted. They're also full of murder and madness. What does this stooped Freiburg great-grandmother know of such things?Also at A Piece of Monologue:
Quite a bit, Vadim Jendreyko's quietly astonishing documentary reveals. Born in Kiev, Geier lived through Stalinist repression and Nazi invasion. She survived the latter thanks to her knowledge of German, which her mother called her "dowry." In the film, the 85-year-old is shown balancing between two cultures, both of which have left her many bitter memories.
Dostoevsky was arrested and sentenced to death in 1849, almost a century before Geier's father was purged by Stalin. Neither died in government custody, but Geier's father returned from prison battered and dying. Her mother was working to support the family, so Geier was assigned the hopeless task of nursing him back to health. She was 15.
Two years later, German troops occupied Kiev. One of Geier's childhood friends was among the 30,000 Jews massacred by the SS at Babi Yar, just outside the city. Yet Geier was rescued by the invaders, who gave her a scholarship to study in Freiburg despite her lack of Germanic ancestry. She never left.
For this cinematic portrait, Geier undertakes her first trip back to the Ukraine since 1943, accompanied by a solicitous granddaughter — and haunted by her son's current health. The journey yields some evocative moments, but mostly Geier finds her old haunts unrecognizable or simply impossible to locate. When she addresses some Kiev high school students, the gap seems unbridgeable. [Read More]
|Patricia Highsmith, November 20, 1975. Image: AFP/Getty Images|
|Illustration: Kathryn Rathke|
|Howard Markel, The Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted and the Miracle Drug, Cocaine|
|Shiberhur's 2011 production of Franz Kafka's 'In the Penal Colony'|
|A still from Chris Petit's The Unmade films of JG Ballard (1990)|
|A still from Harely Cockliss' The Atrocity Exhibition (1970). J. G. Ballard pictured left.|
|James Joyce's family passport|
As Raymond Federman once wrote, ‘everybody is writing a novel these days,’ even if, and perhaps because, ‘nobody knows why.’ We live in a world where the wish to write, or, more often, to have written, speaks only of some other, inner wish, whose sense is left unspoken. The novel, real or projected, achieved or abandoned, exists in the mind of its writer less as a literary object than as a wish underwritten by other wishes. In this sense, The Preparation of the Novel takes the measure not of a set of texts, but of a nested structure of desires.Also at A Piece of Monologue:
‘By the end of the 1970s,’ writes Kate Briggs in her preface to these lectures, ‘apparently “everyone knew” that Roland Barthes was writing a novel.’ Yet at the time of his death in 1980, Barthes had barely begun to plan his “Vita Nova”; the book remained a sketched hypothesis. This volume, comprising his third and final set of lectures at the Collège de France, could be said to plot the gulf between the project’s, any project’s, intention — its biographical or existential coordinates, conceived as a dense network of points — and its terminus as a felt form, whether fully grown or aborted, or both at once.
‘Will I really write a Novel?’ Barthes enquires at the outset of the course. ‘I’ll answer this and only this. I’ll proceed as if I were going to write one.’ He will prepare as if preparation were an end in itself, inhabiting the mad fantasy of a writing that falls short of its own composition, ‘pushing that fantasy as far as it will go.’ Only then will he breach or break, or get broken into, the recognition (kenshō) that writing is nothing but its wants and longings, that ‘the product is indistinguishable from the production, the practice from the drive.’ This is the reason why he must preserve the indeterminacy of each of the terms in his title. He speaks of a preparation that is neither ‘of’ nor ‘for’ a novel, and of a novel that is not a novel, nor a set of notes for a novel never to be written. [Read More]
|Rembrandt, The Money Changer (1627)|
After Beckett’s death, in 1989, his nephew, Edward, discovered six notebooks in a trunk: diaries from his first German phase, a six-month journey through the country in 1936-7.Also at A Piece of Monologue:
It was a sensational find: 500 handwritten pages of the only diary Beckett ever kept, extracts of which were first published in Prof James Knowlson’s 1996 biography, Damned to Fame.
Since then the diaries, though studied and cited by academics, have remained unpublished and are a matter of speculation, dispute and friction among Beckett scholars. How best to reconcile the known Beckett, the Irish Nobel Prize literary laureate who lived in France, with the unknown, “German” Beckett?
“The idea of Beckett as the Irish Frenchman is deeply entrenched and may be difficult to dislodge, both in academic and non-academic circles,” says Dr Mark Nixon, a Beckett scholar and the head of the Beckett International Foundation at the University of Reading.
But, slowly, efforts are gaining momentum to establish Germany next to Ireland and France as part of a triumvirate of Beckett’s cultural influences.
For Beckett scholars Germany is no longer just a place where his work was well received after he became a name, but a cultural spring from which Beckett drank thirstily in his formative years.
Erika Tophoven produced Beckett’s Berlin, in 2005, an illuminating and accessible volume putting his first stay in the capital in its historical context. Last month Nixon published the first critical analysis of Beckett’s German diaries. Now Beckett’s German publisher, Suhrkamp, has secured agreement with Edward Beckett, executor of the estate, to publish a three-volume annotated edition of the diaries.
Two decades after his death, what Knowlson calls Beckett’s “artistic pilgrimage” has moved into the limelight, offering an intriguing portrait of the artist as a young Germanophile.
“People will be surprised,” says Knowlson, “at how much Germany had an impact on him and how much some of his later attitudes – politically as well as aesthetically – were nurtured and moulded at this stage.”
“He is formulating an aesthetic,” says Knowlson. “He is going into a whole zone of being that has not been explored by artists, the zone of loneliness, the inner world, probing into the inner world, probing a whole area of ignorance and impotence, and I think that began in Germany.” Although he spent much time alone – “how I ADORE solitude” – Beckett left his Baedeker guidebook bubble and forced himself to meet locals to improve his spoken German.
“How absurd,” he wrote, “the struggle to learn to be silent in another language.”
After learning French and Italian he began a serious effort to teach himself German around 1930. To his friends’ amusement, he was soon ploughing through heavy fare such as the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.
“Beckett liked the precision of the German language, which the French language didn’t have,” says Nixon. “He liked reading Schopenhauer for his style rather than content.”
Before his departure for Germany he began an exhaustive course of German art and culture while trying to teach himself German. In a lengthy trawl of German literature, he studied closely Goethe’s use of the autobiographical in his work just as he, Beckett, was struggling with his own “self-writing”.
He had much to do in his tour: after visiting public galleries, often dismayed at works deemed “degenerate” and removed by the Nazis, he had introductions to meet artists forbidden from exhibiting.
Despite the intense earnestness of his endeavour, a sociable and humorous Beckett emerges from the diaries, too. In Hamburg, his first stop, the diary is filled with bar jokes and lewd remarks spotted on toilet walls. Scribbled over a men’s urinal: “Come closer to prevent envy arising.”
Artist Roswitha Quadflieg, who used Hamburg diary extracts in a 2006 exhibition in the city, says, “It was all so exhausting for him because trying to register, filter, retain everything.” Her show caused a sensation, she says, because Beckett’s youthful diary entries were such a contrast to what she calls the humourless “grey eminence” that emerged from the later German translations of his work.
Beyond his deep immersion in the language, his German trip infused Beckett with a rich store of images he would draw on throughout his career, stored in a “photographic memory”, says Knowlson. The stage set of Krapp’s Last Tape , he suggests, is a “virtual reproduction” of Rembrandt’s The Moneychanger , which Beckett saw in Berlin.
In Dresden, Beckett records in his diary a “pleasant predilection” for a painting by Caspar David Friedrich, Two Men Observing the Moon , reflected in the staging of Waiting for Godot.
On his final stop, in Munich, Beckett records a memorable encounter with Karl Valentin, a tragic comedian located somewhere between Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, whose trademark shambling style may equally have fed into Godot.
Beckett left Nazi Germany on April 1st, 1936, physically and emotionally exhausted, but with a rich cultural-linguistic collage forming in his head. It changed him as an artist and left indelible marks on him as a man, too. [Read More]
|J. G. Ballard|
“This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do not publish!”Also at A Piece of Monologue:
It was with these ironic words that an editor at J.G. Ballard’s publisher futilely urged the suppression of Crash over a quarter-century ago, a book which many have since come to see as a visionary masterpiece. Though perhaps the first, this unnamed editor was by no means the last person to be discomfited by Ballard’s nightmarish, frequently grotesque tale of a small cadre of car-crash fetishists prone to getting their sexual kicks by staging smashups which resulted in very-real injuries and deaths. And given the impending release of horror director David Cronenberg’s film adaptation, it seems a certainty that the moral outrage is due for an exponential increase; media mogul Ted Turner and British cabinet minister Virginia Bottomley have already registered their howls of righteous indignation.
Considering his being “beyond psychiatric help,” the amiable, articulate, and consummately-logical James Graham Ballard has managed pretty well: His output to date consists of fifteen novels, seventeen collections of stories and essays, and substantial critical work for esteemed British newspapers such as the Guardian, London Times, and The Independent. Moreover, Ballard has come to be seen as one of science fiction’s principal intellectual luminaries, and his work as perhaps the best argument for the genre’s consideration as “serious” literature. The prophetic Crash, with its prescient foreshadowing of western culture’s latter-day fixation upon violence as entertainment, attests to the author’s acuity as a social critic.[Read More]
|Paul Auster, Book of Illusions|
|J. G. Ballard's former home in Shepperton|
|Andrew Councill for The New York Times|
Underground, not far from the handsome Great Hall at the Folger Shakespeare Library where a fascinating exhibition is on display, just beyond the institution’s reading rooms, down its back stairs and through a vault door that seems far more imposing than the “rocks impregnable” Shakespeare invoked in a sonnet, there is a wall on which more than 70 volumes lie flat on mounted shelves.Also at A Piece of Monologue:
Each book has a different color; each has different dimensions. Some are boxed, others bound in goatskin. But once they were nearly identical. Each was printed in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death. And despite the motley array, these shelves hold one-third of the world’s surviving copies of a book that one scholar called “the greatest contribution made in a single volume to the secular literature of any age or country.”
That book is the Shakespeare First Folio. Beginning in 1893, and for the next 35 years, 82 copies were obsessively purchased by the library’s founder, Henry Clay Folger. Only 232 such folios still exist anywhere. And since the highest price paid for one was more than $6 million in 2001, the fiscal value of Folger’s collection may be getting closer to the worth of the literary riches found within.[Read More]
The Harry Ransom Center celebrates the 100th anniversary of American playwright Tennessee Williams' birth with the exhibition "Becoming Tennessee Williams." The exhibition runs from Feb. 1 to July 31 at the Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin.
Featuring more than 250 items, the exhibition draws on the Ransom Center's extensive collection of Williams manuscripts, correspondence, photographs and artwork to explore the idea, act and process of artistic creation, illuminating how Thomas Lanier Williams became Tennessee Williams.
With his plays "The Glass Menagerie" (1945) and "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1947), Williams (1911–1983) reinvented the American theater.
"There is no more influential 20th-century American playwright than Tennessee Williams," said Charlotte Canning, curator of the exhibition and professor in the Department of Theater and Dance at The University of Texas at Austin. "He inspired future generations of writers as diverse as Suzan-Lori Parks, Tony Kushner, David Mamet and John Waters, and his plays remain among the most produced in the world."
Williams peopled his plays with characters grafted from life onto imagination. As he explained to his literary agent, Audrey Wood: "I have only one major theme for my work, which is the destructive impact of society on the non-conformist individual."
His keen insights gave rise to a body of work unequaled by almost any other 20th-century playwright. Although he was also a gifted poet and short story writer, it was the metamorphic possibilities of live performance that most inspired him.
The exhibition is organized into five sections that explore the "Battle of Angels" theme in Williams' works; the creative process behind "The Glass Menagerie," the development of "A Streetcar Named Desire" and the character of Blanche DuBois, themes of masculinity in Williams' work and the adaptation of his plays from stage to screen. [Read More]
Robert Pippin: Hegel is the first to argue that philosophy has an historical and a diagnostic task. A traditional understanding of philosophy is distinguished by two central, normative questions, and its conviction that these questions can be answered by the exercise of pure human reason: What ought we to think, and what ought we to do? To Hegel, this conception of philosophy is insufficient and, in the Kantian sense, un-critical—that is, not aware of the conditions of its own possibility. Instead, Hegel argues that philosophy’s task is the comprehension of its own time in thought. That’s an extremely powerful and influential formulation, although it is not at all clear exactly what it means. Certainly, Hegel has in mind the self-justification of the use of coercive violence by a single authority in the state against all other members, otherwise known as politics. Under what justification could the coercive power of law, the ability to take away one’s freedom, operate? Hegel was skeptical of the “pure,” practically rational inquiry into this problem undertaken, say, by Plato’s Republic or Hobbes’s Leviathan. Human rationality, to Hegel, is not a faculty possessed by human beings, like sensibility or the imagination, which they exercise in isolation as monadic units. He thinks of rationality as the considerations we offer each other when our actions affect what others would otherwise be able to do. Rationality is a social practice and it has a history, as do the elements connected with it, such as the concept of subject or agent. [Read More]
|François Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock|
|Dorothy Parker in 1943. Photograph: George Platt Lynes|
WESTERN UNIONSource: Letters of Note
1945 JUN 28 PM 4 37
NBQ209 78=NUJ NEWYORK NY 28 422P
PASCAL COVICI.VIKING PRESS=
18 EAST 48 ST=
THIS IS INSTEAD OF TELEPHONING BECAUSE I CANT LOOK YOU IN THE VOICE. I SIMPLY CANNOT GET THAT THING DONE YET NEVER HAVE DONE SUCH HARD NIGHT AND DAY WORK NEVER HAVE SO WANTED ANYTHING TO BE GOOD AND ALL I HAVE IS A PILE OF PAPER COVERED WITH WRONG WORDS. CAN ONLY KEEP AT IT AND HOPE TO HEAVEN TO GET IT DONE. DONT KNOW WHY IT IS SO TERRIBLY DIFFICULT OR I SO TERRIBLY INCOMPETANT=
|Artwork for Albert Camus' The Outsider. Image: Matthew Richardson|
In London last night, House of Illustration and The Folio Society announced the winner for their inaugural Book Illustration Competition: Matthew Richardson. Richardson, winner of the ’Getting inside The Outsider’ competition, won a £4000 commission to complete the illustrations in a new edition of Camus’s L’Étranger. Below are a few of the images by Richardson and the other contest finalists. For more illustrations and illustrator information visit House of Illustration. [Read More]
Kafka’s “A Message From the Emperor” made its first appearance in the Prague Zionist journal Die Selbstwehr (“Self-defense”) in September 1919, the year the thirty-six-year-old Kafka composed his famous letter to his father. Hauntingly oblique, the story weaves together child-like hopefulness and stoical resignation, metaphysical yearning and psychological insight, a seemingly Chinese tale and covert Jewish themes. When the composer Martin Bresnick asked me for a new version that he could set to music, I was mindful of the fact that Kafka often read his stories aloud with the “rhythmic sweep, dramatic fire, and a spontaneity such as no actor achieves” (Max Brod). I wanted to create a text that could be read aloud in English since the very sound of Kafka’s German and the pattern of his syntax evoke the at-first unimpeded progress of the emperor’s messenger and then the obstacles that begin to clog his path. [Read More]Also at A Piece of Monologue:
|W. H. Auden|
|Screenshots of the Penguin Classics: Complete Annotated Listing iPod application|
|Daphne du Maurier. Photograph: Edward Gooch/Hulton|