Like Esterhazy’s books, the speech is playful and intelligent, and engaged with ideas of History. Here’s a sample of an interesting bit from the end:
Europe is the land of variety – of various people, various languages, various traditions. Today’s individual sees a lot of the world, and when he does, he sees that his domestic customs, habits, ideals and myths are not necessarily superior to the others. As Henry James said, a person turns into a citizen of the world when all manner of customs appear equally shallow in his eyes. On the other hand, a tourist – and most of us are tourists – is not suited for getting to know things; a tourist is a man wedded to superficiality; a tourist sees only clichés: the Italians are loud and eat cats, the French are arrogant and eat snails, the Germans are fat and eat cabbage, and the Hungarians… but let’s not go into that, plus they eat gulyás. As for the Swiss, they don’t even exist.
The one thing that definitely exists is fiction. Only the implausible is real. A novel, words. A world made up of words says more about ourselves and others than all the accurate information gathered by a conscientious tourist. The real accuracy is the novel’s accuracy; it is knowledge that can be put to good use, the knowledge of the Dutch horsts and the knowledge of the Swiss plains. Writing a Hungarian novel about these things this could be the so-called Lucerne Plan, to look at the world with this lack of constraint, this freedom, and with this constraint and boundary. – with this beautiful European complexity.
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. . .
You are not ashamed of what you do, but of what they see you do. Without realizing it, life can be an accumulation of secrets that permeates every last minute of our routine . . .
The narrative history of. . .
Literature in translation often comes with a certain pedigree. In this little corner of the world, with so few books making it into this comforting nook, it is often those of the highest quality that cross through, and attention is. . .
Alessandro Baricco’s Mr. Gwyn is a set of two loosely interlinked novellas that play with narrative and the construction of character. Ably translated by Ann Goldstein, Mr. Gwyn plays some subtle metafictional games as Baricco delves into what it means. . .