For anyone who’s not a subscriber to the Open Letter newsletter, here’s this week’s entry. (You can sign up by entering your e-mail into the box on the upper right hand side of the Open Letter homepage.)
This week’s Open Letter update is pretty simple and straightforward. To celebrate the release of Jerzy Pilch’s The Mighty Angel, we’re giving away ten copies of the finished book to our newsletter subscribers, Three Percent readers, and members for our Facebook group.
You can register for the giveaway by simply e-mailing me at email@example.com with “Pilch” in the subject line and your name and complete mailing address in the body of the e-mail.
The Mighty Angel is a wonderful book about an alcoholic Polish writer named Jerzy who goes in and out of the alco ward over and over, always feeling that some woman will help him clean up his life, but always ending up back at The Mighty Angel in no time. It’s a touching novel, but also one infused with a great sense of humor (i.e., chapter 4the one about plagiarizing alcoholic autobiographies), much like Pilch’s other books. (We’re currently considering another title of his for publication: A Thousand Peaceful Cities, which features Mr. Trabaone of the most brilliant unhinged characters I’ve come across in some time.)
To whet your appetite, attached below is a small sample (a longer, different excerpt is available online).
Chapter 12: All the Washing Machines in the World
The eternally postponed notion of repairing my old washing machine or buying a new one eventually perished of its own accord, to a large extent independently of my foibles. In my life I’ve drunk away a vast amount of money, I’ve spent a fortune on vodka, but the reprehensible moment of drinking away a sum set aside for the repair of my washing machine has never occurred. I make this confession not with pride in my heart but with a sense of abasement. For the fact that I never drank away a sum of money set aside for the repair of my washing machine arises from the fact that I never set aside any sum of money for the repair of my washing machine in the first place. Before I ever managed to set aside a particular sum for the repair of the washing machine, I drank it away along with all the other sums of money not yet set aside for any special purpose. I drank away the money before I’d had time to set it aside for something else; therefore I can say, seemingly contradicting myself (yet only seemingly, for in the former case there was only a small quantifier, while in this case there is a large one), I can say then that in fact I did drink away the money for the repair of the washing machine. I drank away the money for a whole series of repairs, I drank away the money for all possible repairs. What am I saying, repairs? I drank away the money for an entire new washing machine, I drank away a whole series of new washing machines, I drank away a thousand new washing machines, I drank away a million new automatic washing machines, I drank away a billion state-of-the-art washing machines. I drank away all the washing machines in the world.
What kind of soul does a man have when he knows he has drunk away all the washing machines in the world? My answer is this: He has a winged soul, and his mind spins like the rotating drum in the final stages of the spin cycle. When you sense upon your heart the burden of a thousand drunk-away washing machines, it is unbearable. But when you lift your tormented gaze and see flocks of white-winged washing machines soaring across the watery heavens like squadrons of papal helicopters, you understand that you have been given more than others. You have been given an uncommon gift, and if you manage to survive, if you do not perish beforehand, you can begin a voyage in search of all the lost washing machines, and evenyes indeedin search of all lost objects in general.
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
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The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .
Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .
“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .
What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .