You can read the whole thing here, but here are a few highlights.
Jennifer Solheim: In your beautiful introduction, Kazim, you write, “_L’Amour_, never before translated into English, is at the heart of a constellation of texts, both verbal and visual, by Marguerite Duras, sometimes called the India Cycle.” So what is the story behind the translation of L’Amour? Why now? Did you approach Open Letter Books, or did they approach you? Why hasn’t it been translated previously?
Kazim Ali: I was a Duras lover, very enamored of her prose style, which seemed even more powerful in her middle-period (1965 – 1984, roughly) when she started recycling plots throughout her books. I happened upon L’Amour in a Paris bookstore and found it immediately charming and powerful—in fact, kind of a classic example of this spare disembodied style that she was cultivating. It almost reads like a treatment for a film, so it makes complete sense to me that after writing this book she more or less abandoned fiction for film. During the thirteen years that followed she did write four short prose narratives—the most well known of these is The Malady of Death—but essentially did not write another novel until The Lover.
I can’t say why no one had attempted a translation yet. It is a very experimental prose style and a very experimental novel in that not much really happens. Yet it has been written about by countless critics, all of whom were doing their own translations of the small excerpts they wished to discuss. I had approached a couple of different publishers, but this is a quirky book, even for Duras, who is quirky all on her own. Open Letter was very excited and enthusiastic about the book. They are doing a wonderful job and are devoted completely to literature in translation. They have another Duras book in their catalog (The Sailor from Gibraltar) and signed us up almost immediately.
JS: Since L’Amour is a centerpiece of the India Cycle, did the English translations of the other works in the cycle inform you? Were there stylistic or other elements in the translations that you decided you wanted to preserve or eschew?
KA: During the translation process I read every other translation I could find. Duras does sound a certain way in English through the excellent work of Barbara Bray. The few other Duras translations that exist have a different sense. Bray did an odd thing, which is that she did not “Anglicize” the syntax very much, so the sentences still have that sometimes ornate overdone word order of a French sentence. In L’Amour Duras writes very simply, very plainly. So I found an inspiration in Gertrude Stein’s English. But unlike Stein, Duras is in love with the comma—her sentences can just keep going and going. So it took a draft or two to get the hang of the rhythme du sens, so to speak. Which—eventually—seemed really important and related to the constant sound of waves that permeates life at the ocean; meaning the sentence structure and grammar was part of the meaning—it couldn’t be changed.
Read the rest here.
The publisher’s blurb for Oleg Pavlov’s The Matiushin Case promises the prospective reader “a Crime and Punishment for today,” the sort of comparison that is almost always guaranteed to do a disservice to both the legendary dead and the ambitious. . .
One hundred years have passed since the start of World War I and it is difficult to believe that there are still novels, considered classics in their own countries, that have never been published in English. Perhaps it was the. . .
In the London of Hédi Kaddour’s Little Grey Lies, translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan, peace has settled, but the tensions, fears, and anger of the Great War remain, even if tucked away behind stories and lies. Directly ahead, as those. . .
One of the greatest services—or disservices, depending on your viewpoint—Bertrand Russell ever performed for popular philosophy was humanizing its biggest thinkers in his History. No longer were they Platonic ideals, the clean-shaven exemplars of the kind of homely truisms that. . .
The best way to review Alejandra Pizarnik’s slim collection, A Musical Hell, published by New Directions as part of their Poetry Pamphlet series, is to begin by stating that it is poetry with a capital P: serious, dense, and, some. . .
Upon completing Albertine Sarrazin’s Astragal I was left to wonder why it ever fell from print. Aside from the location, Astragal could pass as the great American novel. Its edginess and rawness capture the angst and desires we all had. . .
When my eyes first crossed the back cover of Fabio Genovesi’s novel Live Bait, I was caught by a blurb nestled between accolades, a few words from a reviewer for La Repubblica stating that the novel was, however magically, “[b]eyond. . .
“I preferred the war to the plague,” writes Curzio Malaparte in his 1949 novel, The Skin. He speaks of World War II and the destruction it has wrought on Italy, the city of Naples in particular. But the plague he. . .
With the steady rise of feminist scholarship and criticism in recent decades, it is little wonder that the work of Louise Labé should be attracting, as Richard Sieburth tells us in the Afterword to his translation, a “wide and thriving”. . .
In Conversations, we find ourselves again in the protagonist’s conscious and subconscious, which is mostly likely that of Mr. César Aira and consistent with prototypical Aira style. This style never fails because each time Aira is able to develop a. . .