14 January 11 | Chad W. Post

Absinthe 14 arrived in yesterday’s mail, and is loaded with interesting authors and pieces, including:

  • An excerpt from Wieslaw Mysliwski’s Stone Upon Stone, which was translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston and recently published by Archipelago books. (Actually using this in the “Translation & World Literature” class I’m teaching this spring.) Since there’s nothing about issue 14 on the “Absinthe website” quite yet, below is a description of the novel from Archipelago. And click here to hear the Reading the World Podcast episode featuring Bill Johnston.

Myśliwski’s grand epic in the rural tradition—a profound and irreverent stream of memory cutting through the rich and varied terrain of one man’s connection to the land, to his family and community, to women, to tradition, to God, to death, and to what it means to be alive. Wise and impetuous, plain-spoken and compassionate Szymek, recalls his youth in their village, his time as a guerrilla soldier, as a wedding official, barber, policeman, lover, drinker, and caretaker for his invalid brother. Filled with interwoven stories and voices, by turns hilarious and moving, Szymek’s narrative exudes the profound wisdom of one who has suffered, yet who loves life to the very core.

  • An excerpt from Agnomia by Robert Gal, translated from the Slovakian by Michaela Freeman and Jim Freeman, and opening interestingly enough:

They select some man, sufficiently experiment with him and only then identify him as the object of the experiment. They slip him hidden meanings of his multisense expressions which, for them, are univocal. They let him deal with it for years. What they tie in a knot through definition in a moment, he is forced to spend years untying through conscientious interpretation. In the meantime, their definitions are petrified solid. His interpretations appear, as if they were made of butter and deliberately throw them on his head, so that they could laugh at these babbles.

  • A bit about Mateiu Caragiale’s The Rakes of the Old Court, which was published in 1929 and was recently voted “the Romanian novel of the twentieth century.” This bit from the intro by Paul Cernat makes it sound pretty interesting:

For those who wish to gain a closer knowledge of the peculiarities of the Balkan mindset, a reading of this text, which has the value of an emblem of national identity, is, I might say, obligatory. Of course, we are dealing with a “Balkanism” that has been filtered through the work of Huysmans and Edgar Allen Poe, captured in a hypnotic narrative whose density of meanings has led literary theorist Matei Calinescu to compare it with Borges’ El Aleph. It is an unusual narrative, whose effects are those of an addictive literary drug.

There’s also a piece by Thomas E. Kennedy called “A Visit to Hunger 120 Years Later,” and book reviews of The Other City by Mchal Ajvaz (reviewed by Jeff Waxman) and When a Poet Sees a Chestnut Tree by Jean-Pierre Rosnay (reviewed by John Taylor).

As mentioned above, the Absinthe site for issue 14 is still coming together, but you can order the issue by clicking here.

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