Hari Kunzru on Werner Herzog

An article from Hazlitt
Werner Herzog
Hari Kunzru on the German filmmaker Werner Herzog (via 3:AM Magazine): 'Few film directors seem as directly present in their work as Werner Herzog. Not only does he have an instantly-recognizable aesthetic, but unlike most European auteurs of his generation, he has become a familiar face in front of the camera. We are so accustomed to seeing him—playing football with Peruvian indians, arguing with Klaus Kinski, eating his own shoe at Chez Panisse—that we might mistake him for just another "personality," one of the celebrities who parade past at various scales, from cellphone to Times Square, on our screens. Directors are required to be showmen, particularly directors of documentaries, who always have to hustle to finance and screen their work. But Herzog’s presence, his insistence on being in the middle of things, is something more like an artistic strategy—which is to say it’s the very opposite of a strategy, unless it’s possible to be both strategic and uncalculated, canny and impulsive at the same time.' [Read More]

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Joan Mitchell Foundation

Organisation promoting the life and work of the abstract expressionist painter

From the Joan Mitchell Foundation:
Joan Mitchell was born in Chicago in 1925. After graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1947, she was awarded a Ryerson Traveling Fellowship, which took her to France for a year in 1948-49, and it was there that her paintings moved toward abstraction. Returning to New York, she participated in the famous “Ninth Street Show” in 1951, and soon established a reputation as one of the leading younger American Abstract Expressionist painters. She exhibited regularly in New York throughout the next four decades and maintained close friendships with many New York School painters and poets.

In 1955 she began dividing her time between New York and France, and in 1968 she settled in Vétheuil, a small town in the countryside outside of Paris, where she worked continuously until her death in 1992. During the almost 50 years of her painting life, as Abstract Expressionism was eclipsed by successive styles, Mitchell’s commitment to the tenets of gestural abstraction remained firm and uncompromising. Summing up her achievement, Klaus Kertess wrote, “She transformed the gestural painterliness of Abstract Expressionism into a vocabulary so completely her own that it could become ours as well. And her total absorption of the lessons of Matisse and van Gogh led to a mastery of color inseparable from the movement of light and paint. Her ability to reflect the flow of her consciousness in that of nature, and in paint, is all but unparalleled.” [Read More]
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The Melancholy Worlds of Béla Tarr

Harvard Film Archive profiles the Hungarian filmmaker
A still from The Man from London (dir. Béla Tarr, 2007)
From the Harvard Film Archive: 'Béla Tarr (b. 1955) is the ultimate auteurist’s auteur, an artist who ascended from a cult director little known outside of his native Hungary to one of the most revered figures in world cinema today, all the while stoking an enflamed cinephilia among his growing legion of passionate followers. His 1988 film Damnation offered the first full expression of the unique style defined by Tarr across the four extraordinary features he directed since then, all sharing brooding black and white cinematography, elaborately choreographed extended tracking shots, a hypnotic rhythm and enigmatic stories imbued with a sense of impending doom. In each film Tarr pushes these unmistakable qualities to a seemingly insurmountable extreme, giving way to the mesmerizing monumentality of his audacious seven-and-a-half-hour epic Sátántangó and the stark minimalism of his brilliant summary work The Turin Horse, Tarr’s latest and declared last film.' [Read More]

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Teju Cole on Sebald's Poetry

A review in the New Yorker
W. G. Sebald
Teju Cole, author of Open City, looks over W. G. Sebald's poetry: 'Throughout his career, W. G. Sebald wrote poems that were strikingly similar to his prose. His tone, in both genres, was always understated but possessed of a mournful grandeur. To this he added a willful blurring of literary boundaries and, in fact, almost all his writing, and not just the poetry and prose, comprised history, memoir, biography, autobiography, art criticism, scholarly arcana, and invention. This expert mixing of forms owed a great deal to his reading of the seventeenth-century melancholics Robert Burton and Thomas Browne, and Sebald’s looping sentences were an intentional homage to nineteenth-century German-language writers like Adalbert Stifter and Gottfried Keller. But so strongly has the style come to be associated with Sebald’s own work that even books that preceded his, such as those by Robert Walser and Thomas Bernhard, can seem, from our perspective as readers of English translations, simply “Sebaldian.”' [Read More]

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The Lost Futures of Chris Marker

A career retrospective by J. Hoberman (NYRB)
A still from Chris Marker's La Jetée (1962)
J. Hoberman (New York Review of Books) on the work of French filmmaker Chris Marker: 'At once unsentimentally au courant and fixated on that past, Marker was the Janus of world cinema. His unclassifiable documentaries treat memory as the stuff of science fiction, a notion he shared with his early associate Alain Resnais. Hardly a Luddite, Marker thrived on technological paradox. A half-hour succession of still images evoking motion pictures as time travel, La Jetée could have been made for Eadweard Muybridge’s nineteenth-century zoopraxiscope.' [Read More]

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Alexandra Popoff, The Wives: The Women Behind Russia's Literary Giants

New book explores the role writer's wives played in the creation of Russian masterpieces
Leo and Sophia Tolstoy, 1906.
Yelena Akhtiorskaya reviews Alexandra Popoff's new book, The Wives: The Women Behind Russia's Literary Giants. A fascinating subject that is often overlooked: 'Alexandra Popoff’s book is a look at Russian writers’ wives—greatest hits edition—the women who brought us the men who brought us the classics. Included are Anna Dostoevsky and Sophia Tolstoy (the originals), Véra Nabokov, Nadezhda Mandelstam, Elena Bulgakov, and Natalya Solzhenitsyn, each of them paired with a handy epithet—Nursemaid of Talent (Mrs. Tolstoy) or Mysterious Margarita (guess who). The central argument of The Wives is twofold: that great writers have demanding habits, and that the women who tended to those habits deserve recognition.' [Read More]

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The Guardian interviews László Krasznahorkai

Krasznahorkai on writing, modern society and Sátántango
László Krasznahorkai
Richard Lea (The Guardian) interviews acclaimed Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai: 'Perched on the end of the bed in László Krasznahorkai's hotel room, I realise that I'm in the clutches of a formal dilemma. The Hungarian writer is sitting in the armchair by the window, the morning after bewitching an Edinburgh festival audience with an electrifying reading from his novel Sátántango. He's discussing his disenchantment with the paragraph break and the full stop, expounding why the prose of his novels surges across the page in what his translator George Szirtes calls a "slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type". Slowly, patiently, with unstoppable momentum, he explains in his ramshackle English that the full stop is all very well for other writers, but it is not for him.' [Read More]

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Jackson Pollock: Lights, Camera, Paint! (1951)

A film by Hans Namuth

(via Open Culture)

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ICA, London · 31 August 2012 - 2 September 2012
David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth (dir. Nicholas Roeg, 1976)
From ICA (via 3:AM Magazine): 'Legendary rock star David Bowie has been involved in films as long as he has been making music. We celebrate the best of his celluloid appearances with Bowiefest: 3 days of screenings, talks and Q+As.' [Read More]

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Ludwig Wittgenstein and Architecture

Pier Paolo Tamburelli reviews a book on the house Wittgenstein built for his sister
Daniele Pisani L'architettura è un gesto. Ludwig Wittgenstein architetto [Architecture is a Gesture: Ludwig Wittgenstein, architect]
Daniele Pisani L'architettura è un gesto. Ludwig Wittgenstein architetto [Architecture is a Gesture: Ludwig Wittgenstein, architect]
Daniele Pisani L'architettura è un gesto. Ludwig Wittgenstein architetto [Architecture is a Gesture: Ludwig Wittgenstein, architect]
Pier Paolo Tamburelli (Domus) reviews Daniele Pisani's Italian language publication L'architettura è un gesto. Ludwig Wittgenstein architetto [Architecture is a Gesture: Ludwig Wittgenstein, architect]: 'With great earnestness, Daniele Pisani tells the story of the Kundmanngasse house, designed by Paul Engelmann and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and built by Wittgenstein in the period from 1926 to 1928. Pisani quietly puts together all the pieces necessary for understanding the house and its role in the evolution of Wittgenstein's thought. He accurately describes the philosopher's biography as well as that of his sisters who were involved in the project (Margaret, but also Hermine), providing us with information about the Wittgenstein family and the political and cultural situation in Vienna at the time. He reconstructs the era's architectural debate in which the story of the house is (reluctantly) placed. The quiet tone and the accuracy of the story help eliminate the many legends that have accumulated over time about the house. The Kundmanngasse house is in fact a favourite subject for architects' philosophical dilettantism (second to this is only the exegesis, "Building, Dwelling, Thinking" by Martin Heidegger) as well as for philosphers' architectural dilettantism (think of the crazy interpretations that see in the house a petrified philosophy, a logic transformed into a house—hausgewordene Logik' [Read More]

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Paul Auster on Winter Journal

An 18-minute interview with NPR's Terry Gross
Paul Auster
Paul Auster discusses his recent memoir, Winter Journal with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air: 'Auster says he first approached the book as a "history" of his body — and it shows. Winter Journal contains a sensory catalog — including sexual feelings, a bursting bladder and scars — of some of the abuses and pleasures his body has been through. Auster traces his first awareness of his body's quirks to age 4, when he was mistakenly diagnosed with celiac disease. As a result, he had to live solely on bananas for two years.' [Read More]

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Listening to William S. Burroughs

An article from The White Review
William S. Burroughs
Charlie Fox (The White Review) on the spectral sounds of William S. Burroughs' voice recordings: 'The first time I heard William Burroughs’ voice (inside my head) came during my childhood, which was sadly symmetrical with Burroughs’ own, shaken by feelings of otherness and isolation and often bored into a kind of catatonia. It was Christmas Day 2004 and somebody had given me Naked Lunch as a gift. I read it and felt sick, a winter fever slowly heating up page by page. I reached the hospital where Doctor Benway’s disembodied voice sounded like ‘music down a windy street’. Here a man has his reflexes tested by the good doctor and soon begins to froth at the mouth uncontrollably despite, Benway tells us, ‘a complete absence of brain activity’. Then ‘the man drops to his knees, throws back his head and barks’. The imagined sound of this human bark shot through me. I threw the book down and ran to the bathroom to be sick. But I was hooked. Language was a virus. I heard the voice itself much later, through the illicit network that soon infected my computer and gobbled up its insides. It was a voice with icicles in its veins, strangely untethered from the earth. The same feeling comes over me each time I hear it, a sensation that I’m listening to a voice which is, in a secret way, closer to a ghost than anything else. Junky concludes with Burroughs looking for the ‘final fix’ of yage, heading towards the Amazon jungle. He and his work return transformed: an entire unmapped terrain is described with the visionary intensity of an incantation, coming through a voice and body bewitched by evil spirits. His early work as a pure recording medium (let the spectral suggestion of that word flicker for a moment) is abandoned. Now ‘the whole room is exploding out into space’.' [Read More]

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W. G. Sebald on Writing, Memory and Modern Culture

An interview with amazon.co.uk
W. G. Sebald
Toby Green (amazon.co.uk) talks to W. G. Sebald about 'memory, modern culture and the truth of writing':
Beginning with Vertigo, what was it that made you actually start the writing when you did?

I was in my mid-forties when I produced my first scribblings which were non-academic. I went down to London. Completely randomly, I had picked out a book by an Austrian writer, Konrad Baier, which I had not looked at for some time. The book had a footnote about a botanist who had been on Bering's Alaskan expedition. When I got to London, I went to the British Museum on a complete whim and read about it. I could not see how I could possibly write an essay or a monograph on this, but it so fascinated me that I just wrote it down in a longhand prose poem. I had no intentions to publish it. It was very liberating at the time, because it was so intensely private.

At the beginning of Vertigo, you follow the young Stendhal in Napoleon's army and introduce the central theme of the book: the unknowability of the past and memory's unreliability. As a writer you must draw on memory--do you feel that all the stories we tell are fictions, or do some stories have more truth than others?

Seen from the outside, some stories have more truth than others, but the truth value of the story does not depend on its actual truth content. The truth value depends on how it is framed and phrased. If a story is aesthetically right, then it is probably also morally right. You cannot really translate one to one from reality. If you try to do that, in order to get at a truth value through writing, you have to falsify and lie. And that is one of the moral quandaries of the whole business.

That's a theme that is evident in your books, what you term in The Emigrants "the questionable business of writing"--why do people write?

One doesn't know why one does it. You have no idea. If someone asks, you have to own up and say that you have no idea what your motives are. It could be a compulsive habit with neurotic dimensions. Or it could be vanity.

Do you think that exhibitionism comes into it?

Oh yes--that is the less savoury side, along with the mercenary considerations.

So how do you find that you are viewed, as a writer?

Usually with a mixture of admiration and contempt! But there are of course some noble motives--trying to say something that is true, and being analytical about oneself. That's all very laudable, but even these are mixed up with less savoury motives, and the commodification of literature has just made the whole thing worse.

Is that a contemporary phenomenon?

Chateaubriand was as vain and ambitious in the eighteenth century as anyone today. And there have always been exceptions, people like Kafka--every line in his diary is so straight and sincere. [Read More]
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Granta Interview: Nick Papadimitriou

'Deep topographer' talks about his new book
Nick Papadimitriou
Granta talks to Nick Papadimitriou about his new book, Scarp:
This is your first book but it has had a long gestation period, both in terms of the writing time and the vast amount of walking you’ve done along this unusual and captivating landmass. To what extent do you find the two activities, of composing sentences and putting one foot in front of the other, are linked for you?

When I first began walking concertedly back in the late 1980s, I found that the torrent of inner voices I habitually heard began to organise itself in relation to the landscapes I passed through, the things I saw, the sensory experience of weather and light that buffeted me and the responses triggered by these. It was as if the land was trying to transmit a message through me, or as if I wanted to communicate to some as yet undiscovered loved one what it was I saw. This statement may seem to be unduly poetic or high-flown but it is the need to convey magnitude that concerns me here. It was inevitable that some sort of art would rise out of the encounter and Scarp is my first, faltering communiqué. However, this is only part of the story. Frequently I refuse to keep notes or other records of walks undertaken and as a result the memories of these fade and ultimately pass down into the land, and are forgotten. At some level I think this is as it should be. [Read More]
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Samuel Beckett the Sportsman

How theatre became an 'extreme physical feat'
Billie Whitelaw as Mouth in Samuel Beckett's Not I
Writing for The Guardian, Samuel Beckett's authorised biographer James Knowlson reflects on the role that sport plays in the writer's work: 'At first glance, sport seems out of place in Beckett's world. His characters emerge as physical derelicts, down-and-outs, failures ("Fail again, fail better"). In his Waiting for Godot monologue, Lucky speaks of "sports of all sorts autumn summer winter winter tennis of all kinds, hockey of all sorts", only to point out that "in spite of the tennis" man still "shrinks and dwindles". Beckett looks beyond the exhilaration and triumph to the decline and debility that awaits us all, even record-breakers.' [Read More]

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W. G. Sebald on his life and work

A 2001 interview with The Guardian
W. G. Sebald
Maya Jaggi reports on her meeting with writer and academic W. G. Sebald in September 2001: 'Under lowering skies in East Anglia, days after the Manhattan apocalypse, Max Sebald is troubled by Hitler's fantasy of setting New York ablaze, as the blitz did London. The spectre of the past haunts Sebald, a German born under the Third Reich, though he was a babe-in-arms on VE Day. "I was born in May 1944 in a place the war didn't get to," he says of the Bavarian village of Wertach im Algäu. "Then you find out it was the same month when Kafka's sister was deported to Auschwitz. It's bizarre; you're pushed in a pram through the flowering meadows, and a few hundred miles to the east these horrendous things are happening. It's the chronological contiguity that makes you think it is something to do with you."' [Read More]

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The Notion of Affinity: Cixous, Ronell and Butler

A panel discussion held on 24 October 2011

From The European Graduate School: 'Judith Butler, Hélène Cixous, and Avital Ronell approach the notion of affinity through a discussion of disruptive kinship. Villa Gillet and The New School, School of Writing. October 24, 2011' [Source]

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Will Self on Nick Papadimitriou

British writer and critic on Papadimitriou and his work
Photograph: Nick Papadimitriou. Source.
Writing in Granta, Will Self describes his friendship with Nick Papadimitriou, and his opinion of his work (the article includes an extract from Papadimitriou's recent novel, Scarp): 'I first met Nicholas Papadimitriou in the mid-1980s. We were both lost young men at that time - now we’re lost middle aged men. Nick lived in Child's Hill, North London, where he still does to this day - I was based in Barnsbury, near Islington, and latterly Shepherd’s Bush. We crossed and recrossed London frequently on purposeless walks that we would’ve called derives in the manner of the French Situationists - if we’d ever heard of such things. I also had a Hillman Hunter car, complete with veneered dashboard, and in this we drove to the city’s outer limits - we were both obsessed by these liminal zones, where the city declined into a series of disjointed entrepots of urbanity. We dubbed them ‘interzones’ after the William Burroughs fiction of the same name. I remember visits to the marshes where Belmarsh Prison now lowers, to Thamesmead and to the Ultima Thule of the Isle of Grain – the haunt of Magwitch and Marlow’s shades, of Dickens and Conrad, those great proto-psychogeographers. Nick was a man of passions, of poetry and of certainties: the ground beneath his feet. Already he disdained the Moloch of the man-machine matrix and went his own way, weaving along, a figure emerging from the interwar period, clothed in Symbolist verse, wreathed in tobacco smoke.' [Read More]

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Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir

'It is a small book [...] but its influence would be hard to overstate'
Ludwig Wittgenstein, photographed in Swansea.
Carl Elliott (The Chronicle of Higher Education) reviews Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, by Norman Malcolm: 'It is a small book, published over half a century ago, but its influence would be hard to overstate. Not many philosophical books have created as many disciples. If philosophers were evangelists (and some are), Malcolm’s memoir would be the Gospel of John, a strange, beautiful little book that you leave in hotel rooms and hand out door to door. I read it again this week for the first time in many years, and it was still as gripping as I remembered it. What accounts for its lasting appeal?' [Read More]

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Gustave Flaubert's Personal Effects

An illustration by Joanna Neborsky
Illustration: Joanna Neborsky. Source. (Click image to enlarge)
Joanna Neborsky has illustrated a list of the objects found in Gustave Flaubert's home 12 days after he died. The original list was compiled by M. Lemoel on May 20, 1880. You can read the complete list on The Paris Review website. [Read More]

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BBC Arena Documentary: T. S. Eliot

A 2009 documentary detailing Eliot's life and work

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W. G. Sebald on Robert Walser

On Sebald's essay, Le Promeneur Solitaire
In an article dating back to 2009, Vertigo discusses W. G. Sebald's essay on Robert Walser, Le Promeneur Solitaire, which is now available to read in English: 'Some artists obfuscate when it comes to talking about those who influenced them, while others readily identify their own artistic forerunners for us. When W.G. Sebald reflected back on Robert Walser’s writings in an essay first published in 1998, he also traced a deliberate path connecting his own writing with Walser’s. The essay, Le Promeneur Solitaire, which recently appeared in English in the guise of an Introduction to the new translation of Walser’s novel The Tanners (New Directions, 2009), is every bit as revelatory about Sebald as it is about Walser.' [Read More]

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David Tucker on Samuel Beckett

An interview with the author of Samuel Beckett and Arnold Geulincx
Samuel Beckett at home in his Paris study
Following the publication of his fascinating new book, Samuel Beckett and Arnold Geulincx: Tracing a Literary Fantasia, David Tucker talks to Continuum about his enduring interest in Beckett's work:
What originally inspired you to study Samuel Beckett? What does he mean to you professionally? And personally?

When I first read Beckett I was very suddenly and wholly captivated by what appeared to be somehow impossible objects - his books seemed like they just somehow couldn’t exist, but evidently they did. In 1970 Leo Bersani wrote that “The metaphysical pathos of Beckett’s work is that it exists”, and I’ve wondered if that might get close to the sort of presentiment I had that first time reading Beckett. There was something paradoxical about his major prose works, though not in a solely formal, experimental way, but on an affective level. I was aged about twenty, so there you have it; impossible beauty and outmoded terms like ‘authenticity’.

“Professionally” Beckett means a vibrant and supportive community of scholars, and a lot of high-quality work.

In fifty years time, what will resonate with future generations about the life, works and philosophy of Samuel Beckett?

Tough one. Not least because many other truly great authors, like Dante, Shakespeare or Joyce for instance, often had a wide, inclusive approach to experience and the world. So we can go to them on virtually any topic and find it there somehow. Beckett famously strove, paradoxically, for kinds of incapacity (something that’s also central to Geulincx’s thought). I think he’ll always be a lesson in singular creative vision and originality, and hopefully this would temper any of the broad grey miserablism that sometimes accompanies his reputation. [Read More]
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Simon Critchley on Contemporary Art

An article for The Brooklyn Rail
Al Held, 'The Big A' (1962)
Philosopher Simon Critchley shares his thoughts on contemporary art: '[...] despite such confusions of reference and the horrors of the contemporary art business model—or perhaps even because of it—I want to defend contemporary art, up to a point. It is simply a fact that contemporary art has become the central placeholder for the articulation of cultural meanings—good, bad, or indifferent. I am middle-aged enough to remember when literature, especially the novel, played this role and when cultural gatekeepers were literary critics, or social critics, often from literary backgrounds. That world is gone. The novel has become a quaint, emotively life-changing, and utterly marginal phenomenon. The heroic critics of the past are no more. I watched this change happen slowly when I still lived in England in the sensation-soaked 1990s and recall, as a kind of cultural marker, the opening of Tate Modern in 2000 and immensely long lines queuing up to see a vast spider by Louise Bourgeois in the Turbine Hall. It was clear that something had shifted in the culture.' [Read More]

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Franz Kafka: 'A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us'

An extract from Kafka's Letters to Friends, Family and Editors

From a letter by Franz Kafka to his schoolmate Oskar Pollak, 27 January 1904 (translated by Richard and Clara Winston): 'I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.'

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BBC Newsnight meets Nick Papadimitriou

Television interview first broadcast in February 2011
Nick Papadimitriou. Image: BBC Newsnight
From BBC Newsnight: 'The writer Nick Papadimitriou has spent decades taking walks to explore the urban environment, and documenting these journeys and the items he finds on them in minute detail. / The BBC's Arts editor Will Gompertz has been to meet him.' [Watch the interview]

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Joyce Carol Oates, Black Dahlia & White Rose

An interview with The New York Times T Magazine
Joyce Carol Oates. Photograph: Marion Ettinger/Corbis Outline
American writer and critic Joyce Carol Oates talks to Stephen Heyman about her new short story collection, Black Dahlia & White Rose, and the representation of violence in her work:
Are you still asked why there’s so much violence in your work? Thirty years ago you said that question was ”ignorant,” “insulting” and “sexist.”

I’m still asked the question constantly. And it seems so strange because I don’t think they’d ask a question like that of most male writers, or they wouldn’t ask that of someone who’s covering the war in Afghanistan or who’s writing about the Third Reich or Mao’s China. It seems disingenuous to ask a writer why she, or he, is writing about a violent subject when the world and history are filled with violence. But I’m sure my friends get the same kinds of questions, too. My friend Edmund White is probably asked why he writes about his love affairs. And Anne Tyler is probably asked, “Why do you always write about housewives?” [Read More]
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Beckett and Brain Science: Free Warwick Symposium

Milburn House, University of Warwick · 18 September 2012
Design: Rhys Tranter

Beckett and Brain Science Project

A one-day symposium at Milburn House, University of Warwick
18 September 2012

The symposium will hear from psychiatrists and doctors who use Beckett’s work to reflect on their own clinical understanding and practice, and in their teaching. Beckett’s work in performance will offer a practical challenge to epistemologies and classifications current in medicine. Experts in the fields of psychiatry, neurology, philosophy and the theatre will then explore the ways in which theatre and literature can offer insights into mental and neurological disorders.


09.45 - 10.15 Coffee and Registration
10.15 - 10.30 Welcome / Introduction
10.30 - 11.00 Not I Event by Fail Better Productions
11.00 - 12.30 Parallel Session:
  • Not I Workshop: Medical School (chair: Jonathan Heron/Matthew Broome)
  • Not I Seminar: (chair: Elizabeth Barry and expert witnesses). This seminar will reflect on Beckett's play in relation to Gilles Deleuze's piece 'He Stuttered', which will be pre-circulated.
12.30 - 12.45 Feedback
12.45 - 01.30 Lunch
01.30 - 02.45 Panel 1: Theatre and Brain Science
Jonathan Heron (chair)
Dr Kirsten Shepherd-Barr (University of Oxford)
Dr Hunter Groninger (National Institutes of Health, Maryland/ University of Virginia)
02.45 - 03.30 Panel 2: Psychiatry and the Humanities
Dr Matthew Broome (chair/ interlocutor)
Prof. Femi Oyebode (University of Birmingham)
Dr Angela Woods (Durham University)
03.30 - 04.00 Tea
04.30 - 05.15 Round-table discussion: 
Beckett and Brain Science: Theory and Practice
Dr Elizabeth Barry (chair)
Dr Jonathan Cole (University of Southampton)
Dr Hunter Groninger (NIH/Virginia)
Dr Ulrika Maude (University of Reading)
Prof. Femi Oyebode (Birmingham)
Dr Laura Salisbury (Birkbeck, University of London)


The event is free, but places are limited and booking is essential. To reserve a place, please contact Elizabeth Barry at e.c.barry@warwick.ac.uk.


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J. M. Coetzee on Robert Walser

Coetzee reviews The Robber and Jacob von Gunten
Robert Walser
In a 2000 article for the New York Review of Books, J. M. Coetzee reviews Robert Walser's The Robber (translated by Susan Bernofsky) and Jakob von Gunten (translated by Christopher Middleton):
On Christmas Day, 1956, the police of the town of Herisau in eastern Switzerland were called out: children had stumbled upon the body of a man, frozen to death, in a snowy field. Arriving at the scene, the police took photographs and had the body removed.

The dead man was easily identified: Robert Walser, aged seventy-eight, missing from a local mental hospital. In his earlier years Walser had won something of a reputation, in Switzerland and even in Germany, as a writer. Some of his books were still in print; there had even been a biography of him published. During a quarter of a century in mental institutions, however, his own writing had dried up. Long country walks—like the one on which he had died—had been his main recreation.

The police photographs showed an old man in overcoat and boots lying sprawled in the snow, his eyes open, his jaw slack. These photographs have been widely (and shamelessly) reproduced in the critical literature on Walser that has burgeoned since the 1960s. 1 Walser’s so-called madness, his lonely death, and the posthumously discovered cache of his secret writings were the pillars on which a legend of Walser as a scandalously neglected genius was erected. Even the sudden interest in Walser became part of the scandal. “I ask myself,” wrote the novelist Elias Canetti in 1973, “whether, among those who build their leisurely, secure, dead regular academic life on that of a writer who had lived in misery and despair, there is one who is ashamed of himself.” [Read More]
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Grant Gee on Sebald and Joy Division

An interview with The White Review
A still from Grant Gee's documentary, Patience (After Sebald) (2012)
Evan Harris (The White Review) interviews Grant Gee about his documentaries, Patience (After Sebald) and Joy Division: 'Grant has previously made two feature length documentaries: Joy Division, which chronicles the band’s life; and the ambient Meeting People is Easy, for which Grant was nominated for a Grammy, which follows Radiohead as they tour OK Computer. He has made numerous short films and had a productive period in the 90s making music videos for famous bands, most of which he admits are mediocre, apart from the iconic No Surprises by Radiohead, of which he is justly proud. I meet him in the BFI cafe. The large glass windows are showing a sneak peek of spring: an oceanic sky and the Southbank’s brutalist concrete solar-cast copper. Grant is affable and earnest, thinking carefully about his responses, giving them length and depth. He is modest about his career and apologises several times for rambling, which he does not.' [Read More]

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Nick Papadimitriou, Scarp

The Guardian reviews debut work of a London walker
Nick Papadimitriou
Tim Dee (The Guardian) reviews 'deep topographer' Nick Papadimitriou's new book, Scarp:
A mostly crap scrap of the neither-here-nor-there London exurbia is the subject of Nick Papadimitriou's wonder Scarp. Through decades of walks from his council flat just inside the hellish ring of the north circular, he has fallen deeply for the low bumps of the 17-mile north Middlesex/south Hertfordshire escarpment. Here he is almost on common ground and up against the capital's modern saints of dystopic psychogeography: the master of the meaningful roundabout JG Ballard (Concrete Island), and the leggy pair of Will Self (Walking to Hollywood) and Iain Sinclair (whose M25 – in London Orbital – is the unspoken tarmac hedge to Papadimitriou's ambition and stride to the north of his scarp). There are a host of others too – a proper ministry of silly walks – but Papadimitriou is his own man.

His methodology might be bonkers but it is very engaging. Years of study and dreaming in the spare bedroom of his flat have given birth to a series of fantastic journeys – trips, more like – through the ages of the scarp and into and out of its living and its dead, its creatures and plants, its buildings and routeways, its residents and its passers-by. The whole shebang is channelled into what Papadimitriou calls "deep topography". But the loopy incredibility of all this is redeemed by his indomitable playfulness. That he is relaxed about taking his own character along with him on his walks also helps a lot. He is good fun. [Read More]
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Walking in the Footsteps of W. G. Sebald

An Interview with The Guardian

Stuart Jeffries and Grant Gee retrace the Suffolk coast walk that inspired W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn [Watch the video]

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Roland Barthes, Mythologies: The Complete Edition

Badmington reviews a new, illustrated edition of Barthes' famous essay collection
Roland Barthes, Mythologies: The Complete Edition, in a New Translation
In the new edition of the TLS (17 & 24 August 2012), Neil Badmington reviews Roland Barthes' Mythologies: The Complete Edition, in a New Translation, translated from the French by Richard Howard and Annette Lavers. Here is an extract:
When I reviewed Barthes's Mourning Diary in the TLS (July 15, 2011), I identified inaccuracies in Howard's translation. There are more here. The first sentence of "Astrology" gives "three billion" for "trois cent milliards" (three hundred billion), for example, while the opening paragraph of "Toys" lacks any reference to Barthes's claim that "l'adulte français voit l'Enfant comme un autre lui-même" ("the French adult sees the Child as another self"). Meanwhile, "Ainsi sont réunis les chiffres de la légende et ceux de la modernité" ("Thus are united the ciphers of legend and those of modernity") somehow becomes "Every winning clue to both Legend and Modernity" in the piece on Abbé Pierre. New errors even bruise the reproduction of Lavers's "Myth Today", which Howard unfortunately calls "minutely exact" in his translator's note: a line from The German Ideology now refers to "historical vital progress" instead of "historical vital process"; there is a jarring reference to "a mystical schema", not "a mythical schema"; and paragraph breaks are altered.

Howard is to be praised, however, for his editorial footnotes, as these provide historical context with which modern readers might be unfamiliar. For example, "Wine and Milk", which was first published in 1955, gains a fuller bouquet in the light of the following explanation: "In 1954, President Pierre Mendès-France introduced a health campaign promoting milk to fight against malnutrition and alcoholism". Equally illuminating are the fourteen photographic plates found towards the centre of the book. Here for the first time in an English edition of Mythologies it is possible actually to study, among other things, "the lovely and touching iconography of the Abbé Pierre", ornamental cookery in Elle in 1955, and the "Promethean hero" Louison Bobet ascending Mont Ventoux in the great epic of the Tour de France in the same year. While the inclusion of these images does not match the majesty of the illustrated Mythologies published in folio format by Éditions de Seuil in 2010, it nonetheless allows us to see something of the culture condemned by Barthes in the 1950s.
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Robert Walser, The Walk

'Kafka's closest twin brother'
Robert Walser
Andrew Scrima (The Rumpus) reviews Robert Walser's The Walk, translated by Susan Bernofsky:
Among Walser’s early admirers were Robert Musil, Hermann Hesse, Stefan Zweig, and Franz Kafka; indeed, many years later, Martin Walser (who is unrelated to the late Swiss writer) called him “Kafka’s closest twin brother.” In his 1929 essay on Robert Walser, Walter Benjamin asserted that everything the author had to say was essentially overshadowed by the significance of writing itself. “The moment he takes a pen to hand, he is seized by a desperado mood. Everything seems lost to him, a gush of words comes pouring out in which each sentence has the sole purpose of rendering the previous one forgotten.” This “shame,” this “chaste, artful clumsiness” is transformed into “garlands of language” with thought stumbling through them in the form of a “pickpocket, a scallywag, and a genius, like the heroes […] that come out of the night where it is at its blackest.” Flickering in this blackness, however, are “meager lanterns of hope.”

Yet the hope that shines forth in the moments of self-knowledge, transcendence, and grace Walser describes is anything but meager. On the contrary, it is exultation the writer feels when he perceives the sublime in the tiniest details of everyday life. As the narrator passes through the gentle countryside, he enters a rapturous state in which he attains to an almost holy connection with the present: “I felt as if someone were calling me by name, or as if someone were kissing and soothing me […] the soul of the world had opened, and I fantasized that everything wicked, distressing and painful was on the point of vanishing […]. All notion of the future paled and the past dissolved. In the glowing present I myself glowed. […] The earth became a dream; I myself had become an inward being, and I walked as in an inward world. […] In the sweet light of love I believed I was able to recognize—or required to feel—that the inward self is the only self which really exists.” Yet the terrifying Tomzack, the destitute giant who has crossed the narrator’s path only a short time before, is surely a mirror image of the author, who must have intimated the fate in store for him. One can’t help wondering what effect Walser, who spent the last twenty-seven years of his life in an asylum, might have had on modern literature (or even European history) if his writing had found a wider public. In a remark that was perhaps less a naïve belief in the power of literature to save humanity from its own catastrophes than a reflection on the unbridgeable distance between Walser’s unique sensibility and the cultural climates that evolved during the rise of Nazi Germany and in the aftermath of the war, Hermann Hesse once claimed that “if poets like Robert Walser could be counted among our foremost intellects, there wouldn’t be any war. If he had 100,000 readers, the world would be a better place.”

In his essay “Le promeneur solitaire,” Sebald describes the difficulty in categorizing Robert Walser: on the one hand he was oppressed by shadows and on the other radiated amicability. He composed humorous works out of sheer desperation in an elusive prose teeming with fleeting images and ephemeral figures. The self remained missing or hidden behind an array of passers-by; he almost always wrote the same thing, yet never repeated himself. Sebald points out that Walser’s writing tended towards a radical minimalism and abbreviation from the very beginning, while simultaneously exhibiting a contrary propensity for the minutely described detail, the playful arabesque. [Read More]
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Simon Critchley on Religion and Philosophy

An interview with Religious Dispatches
Simon Critchley
Beatrice Marovich (Religious Dispatches) interviews Simon Critchley about his recent work, The Faith of the Faithless: 'What can an atheist do with theology? Quite a lot, as it turns out. The philosopher Simon Critchley is clear about the fact that, while he doesn’t believe in any gods, neither does he find it necessary to give up on theology.' [Read More]

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Political Theology talks to Simon Critchley

A conversation about Critchley's recent work, The Faith of the Faithless

From Political Theology: 'Simon Critchley discusses his new book, The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology, with Dave True of Political Theology. Along the way Critchley touches on an array of topics: his respect for religion, the experimental nature of free thought, what love has to do with a politics of resistance, the genius of the Occupy Movement, nonviolence and its limits, the wisdom of Antonio Gramsci, and the illusions of Marxism.' [Read More]

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