10 February 16 | Chad W. Post

The other day I posted some information about Rafael Chirbes and On the Edge, the prose book we’ll be reading this month in the Reading the World Book Clubs. On the poetry side of things, this month we’ll be talking about Monospace by Anne Parian, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan, and since my copy finally arrived (and I finished it last night), I thought I’d get some info up about this as well.

Before getting to that, just a reminder that anyone interested in participating in the Reading the World Book Clubs should feel free to email me their questions and comments. Or, if you’re more of a public sharer, feel free to post them in the comments section below, on Twitter at #RTWBC, or in the Facebook RTWBC Group.

Now, on to Monospace.

The Author.

There’s not a lot of information about Parian available online, at least not in English. There is this YouTube video of her reading, and the short bio from the book itself:

Anne Parian was born in Marseille in 1964 and currently lives in Paris. She is the author of seven books of poetry and hybrid works; she is also a photographer and video artist.

Which, to be honest, is longer than the one I found at P.O.L.:

Née à Marseille en 1964.

Exerce la psychanalyse à Paris.

Her first book, À la recherche du lieu de ma naissance came out in 1994, and her most recent, La Chambre du milieu, is from 2011. Monospace came out in 2007. That’s about all I’ve got.

The Translator.

From the book:

Emma Ramadan has a BA in Comparative Literature from Brown University and a Masters in Cultural Translation from the American University of Paris. Her translation of Anne Garréta’s novel Sphinx was published by Deep Vellum and her poetry has appeared in a number of journals. She recently spent a year in Marrakech translating works by the Moroccan writer Ahmed Bouanani and working with Dar al-Ma’mûn library.

A lot of people reading this will recognize Emma as the translator of Anne Garréta’s Sphinx. According to her website, she’s translating another of Garréta’s books for Deep Vellum, Not One Day, which is slated for a 2017 release. Additionally, she’s also translating The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers by Fouad Laroui for Deep Vellum, and she’s helping put together an issue of Words Without Borders dedicated to Moroccan writing.

As the recipient of a 2013 travel fellowship from the American Literary Translators Association, she’s definitely one of the top up-and-coming translators of French writing. Her dual interest in Moroccan literature and more experimental texts is really interesting as well . . .

The Publisher.

La Presse is an imprint of Fence Books and is dedicated to contemporary French poetry and hybrid-genre work translated by English-language poets. We’re a nano-press; we publish one to three books a year.

If I’m not mistaken, this is all Cole Swensen. Which, given all the other things that she does, explains why they’re publishing only a couple of books a year. So far, La Presse has brought out fourteen titles, with translations by Keith Waldrop, Eleni Sikelianos, Jean-Jacques Poucel, and several other well respected translators.

The books are beautifully produced, well-edited, wonderfully translated. I’m more or less completely outside of the poetry world, but hopefully they’re well-received as well. It’s an impressive project.

The Book.

Here’s the jacket copy:

Monospace is, first and finally, the dream of a garden. There are so many gardens—there is, of course, the story of a perfect one—and perfectly lost. So these pages gather perfumes, trees, benches, buildings, colors, and perspectives all together. They arrange a terrain, a territory, a trench, a tableau. But how, among inevitable ruins, can we create a space that can only take form as it is being described? Monospace repeats the question: “How can we garden space into existence?”

That seems about right. I’m really at a loss about how to talk about poetry books, which is one reason why I wanted to start up this part of the RTWBC—hopefully some smarter people out there, who are more keyed into contemporary poetry, can help me come to better understand and appreciate it.

The book is broken up into three sections (or maybe four, if you count the list of items that prefaces the first one, or maybe five if you count the “Index”): “The Scenery,” “I Begin Again,” and “Repetitions.”

“The Scenery” includes a fair number of footnotes, right from the start. Most of the poem involves descriptions of a landscape, but with more of a focus on the intentionality of creating/describing this landscape.

For example, here’s a simple line from the beginning:

The unique use of frankly unstable seated postures28

28. I prefer folding chairs
to rest or reflect
they perk me up
though they mock me with their garish colors

The second section, “I Begin Again,” does away with the footnotes, while ramping up the intentionality of the construction. (Again, this is my dumb interpretation/reading.)

First problem

a garden is never ideal

it resists the effects appearing without follow-through repeated with
joy

I begin again

the roots spreading out on each side I throw the whole so that it is
reflected
under the radar of perception

of interphenomena of drawings of stains
of style

“Repetitions” is a bit tighter, but similar:

Go off often without looking
or staying
would I look for it
now that I don’t believe it
by collecting comforts
without sufficient aid or ways
unstable
without the support
of that which we
carelessly remember

The book ends with a ten-page index that seems to list the appearance of every word in the book. “drawings: 36, 45, 61, 70, 87; dream: 105; dreams: 21,50,92.” I don’t know what to make of that, except that these are maybe the individual materials for making the “monospace”? (Again, dumb. Don’t read a lot of poetry. Trying my best.)

Another Notable Thing.

According to the note at the end, the book was designed by Erica Mena, who happens to the executive director of the American Literary Translators Association. That’s a nice connection.

So go out and buy the book and send along some comments, questions, interpretations, etc. And if you’re on Facebook, join the RTWBC group! (Or use #RTWBC on the Twitters.)


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
A Greater Music
A Greater Music by Bae Suah
Reviewed by Pierce Alquist

A Greater Music is the first in a line of steady and much-anticipated releases by Bae Suah from key indie presses (this one published by Open Letter). Building off of the interest of 2016 Best Translated Book Award longlist nominee. . .

Read More >

Two Lost Souls: on "Revulsion" and "Cabo De Gata"
Two Lost Souls: on "Revulsion" and "Cabo De Gata" by Horacio Castellanos Moya; Eugen Ruge
Reviewed by Tim Lebeau

The dislocation of individuals from the countries of their birth has long been a common theme in contemporary literature. These two short novels recently translated into English appear firmly rooted in this tradition of ex-pat literature, but their authors eschew. . .

Read More >

Melancholy
Melancholy by László Földényi
Reviewed by Jason Newport

In Melancholy, Hungarian author, critic, and art theorist László Földényi presents a panorama of more than two thousand years of Western historical and cultural perspectives on the human condition known as melancholia. In nine chapters, Földényi contrasts the hero worship. . .

Read More >

The Hatred of Music
The Hatred of Music by Pascal Quignard
Reviewed by Jeanne Bonner

Pascal Quignard’s __The Hatred of Music_ is the densest, most arcane, most complex book I’ve read in ages. It’s also a book that covers a topic so basic, so universal—almost primordial—that just about any reader will be perversely thrilled by. . .

Read More >

Fragile Travelers
Fragile Travelers by Jovanka Živanović
Reviewed by Damian Kelleher

In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempted to highlight the ordinary, tired, and often crass nature of common expressions by italicising them within the text. When Charles, Emma Bovary’s mediocre husband, expresses himself in a manner akin to that of. . .

Read More >

Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei
Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei by Eliot Weinberger
Reviewed by Russell Guilbault

Eliot Weinberger takes big strides across literary history in his genuinely breathtaking short work, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, tracking translations of a short ancient Chinese poem from the publication of Ezra Pound’s Cathay in 1915 to Gary. . .

Read More >

Radio: Wireless Poem in Thirteen Messages
Radio: Wireless Poem in Thirteen Messages by Kyn Taniya
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .

Read More >

The Subsidiary
The Subsidiary by Matías Celedón
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .

Read More >

Thus Bad Begins
Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías
Reviewed by Kristel Thornell

Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .

Read More >

Death by Water
Death by Water by Kenzaburo Oe
Reviewed by Will Eells

Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .

Read More >