17 February 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Adrian Nathan West joined this week’s podcast to talk about Marianne Fritz and his translation of The Weight of Things, the first novel in the recently launched Reading the World Book Clubs. Additionally, we talked about Twelve Stations by Tomasz Różycki (the RTWBC poetry selection this month), the ABA Winter Institute, this great article about Chris Jackson and how he’s building a black literary movement, and an awful article in Wired by Steve Rushin in which he imagines Super Bowl 100. (There’s some static in this one that pops up a bit. Nothing too bad, but, unfortunately, we couldn’t edit all of it out. Not to worry, though, we’re getting a fix ASAP for the mic glitch.)

Because the Wired piece isn’t online, I want to share a few paragraphs so that we can collectively wallow in the crap:

For its centennial Super Bowl, the NFL returned to its favorite host city, Las Vegas, which first staged the title game 45 years ago. Super Bowl LV shared its initials with Las Vegas but also with Louis Vuitton, the luxury brand that paid handsomely to cover game balls in its handbag leather, embossed with its famous logo. And though that game is now ancient history, 2021 remains important as the year the NFL—following the lead of the rest of the country—abandoned its nominal objections to sports gambling and awarded Steve Wynn the expansion franchise that became the Las Vegas Centurions. [. . .]

Barcelona brought its usual continental flair to the Super Bowl, running a variation of the Left Bank offense made popular in Paris in the 2030s, and it took a 7-0 lead on a leaping catch by All-Pro receiver Michael Davis, whose 60-inch vertical from a natural surface is among the best in the league and whose knees are among the highest-rated by J.D. Power and Associates.

And there’s so so much more to hate on . . . CTE cured by Harvard! People watching from Mars! Ref-bots! Biometric ticketing technology! Ugh. I just pissed off Nate and Kaija by reading too much of this garbage aloud.

This week’s music is Let it Happen by Tame Impala.

Also, just a reminder, since we changed our podcast feed, you may need to unsubscribe and resubscribe to the correct feed in iTunes at that link, or right here:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/three-percent-podcast/id434696686

Or, you can just put this feed link into whichever is your podcast app of choice:
http://threepercent.libsyn.com/rss

And, as always, feel free to send any and all comments or questions to threepercentpodcast@gmail.com.

1 February 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Despite all of my New Year Best Intentions, I fell off last week with posting about the two Reading the World Book Club books for January: The Weight of Things by Marianne Fritz and Twelve Stations by Tomasz Różycki. I did read (and enjoyed!) both books and will be talking about both books tomorrow on a podcast with Tom Roberge and Adrian Nathan West.

Well, in advance of that conversation, I just wanted to remind everyone who happened to read either of these books to send in your comments/questions either to me directly (chad.post [at] rochester.edu) or the podcast (threepercentpodcast [at] gmail.com). You can also post to the Reading the World Book Club Facebook Group or on Twitter using #RTWBC.

There have been a number of comments and posts on the Facebook Group, including Tony Messenger’s review of The Weight of Things:

A wonderfully bleak, dark, foggy tale, set during a further period of human decline after the second world-war, with Biblical references to Sodom and Gomorrah, Christ and the Madonna, this can be read as a straight forward tale, it can also be mulled over, steered through carefully, and is a work that demands a re-read from the moment you finish it. A worthy contender to make the Best Translated Book Award lists for 2016 and another wonderful addition to the world of Women in Translation.

along with one from David Hebblethwaite:

The Weight of Things moves restlessly backwards and forwards in time, which enables the narrative feints that I won’t go into here . . . More fundamentally, though, it disrupts the reader’s feeling of progression: a period of history flattens out into timelessness, a sense that these circumstances cannot be escaped. When I’d finished The Weight of Things, my immediate feeling was one of waking from a beautiful nightmare – but it’s a nightmare that demands to be revisited.

There are a few other comments on there as well—including multiple requests for a discussion of “come-hither-boys” (thanks, Sparks!)—but if you want to add anything, do it now. We’ll include any and all of these tomorrow in the podcast.

Then, it’s on to On the Edge by Rafael Chirbes, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa and Monospace by Anne Parian, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan

7 January 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Before getting into the poetry side of our Reading the World Book Clubs, I just want to remind everyone that you can share your thoughts and comments about these books/posts in three different ways: in the comments section below, on the Reading the World Book Club Facebook Group, and by using #RTWBC on Twitter.

For this intro post, I thought I’d list five reasons why I chose to start the poetry RTWBC with Twelve Stations by Tomasz Różycki, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston.

1.) This is a narrative based poem. I like more abstract poetry that plays with language, forms, meaning, etc., but for my first attempt at running a poetry book, I thought it would be nice to start with something that’s more narrative based. Although based on Bill Johnston’s introduction, the “narrative” aspect of this seems a bit incidental . . .

It’s a sort of mock epic about restoring a Catholic church in what used to be the eastern part Poland and is now the Ukraine. Bill Johnston does a fantastic job explaining the cultural background of this poem, but in short, after World War II, the eastern part of Poland was given to the Soviet Union, whereas Upper and Lower Silesia were incorporated into Poland, becoming the western part of the country. (Oh, those shifting Polish borders.)

To further complicate things, the Germans living in what became western Poland moved back to Germany, and the Poles of what used to be the eastern part of Poland took over their abandoned houses and towns. Which is why the older generation is essentially “returning home” to the Ukraine to restore the church.

2.) The humor. I heard Bill read a part of this at Translation Loaf, and it was incredibly funny in a very Polish sort of way. Rather than try and explain that myself, I’ll let Bill take over:

Różycki’s mock epic has strong affinities with the gawęda, a long-established Polish literary tradition of prose writing in which the pleasure of pure storytelling trumps the need for tidy narratives and overarching plots. The gawęda goes back at least as far as Henryk Rzewuski’s Pamiatki Soplicy (Memoirs of Soplica, 1839) [. . . ] and stretches to the 20th century, where it left deep traces in the work or writers as otherwise diverse as Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969) and Wiesław Myśliwski (b. 1930). Polish audiences know not to expect much in the way of plot resolution in such books; they read for the sheer exuberance of the narratorial voice, for the recounting of endless amusing incidents, and, going deeper, the delight of spendin ghours wiht a writer who is, simply put, good company. [. . .]

Though the form doesn’t draw attention to itself quite the way that, for example, rhymed verse does, a large part of the poem’s pleasure resides in its irrepressible torrent of words. Its comedy inheres as much in the exaggerations, excesses, and playful absurditites of the language itself as in those of the story and the characters.

Definitely a Chad sort of book.

3.) The fact that this is a contemporary work that’s made a huge impact. This poem was originally published in 2004, when Różycki was 34, and won the Kościelski Prize. Since that point, its made its way onto school reading lists, has been adapted for the radio, and has been performed in theaters throughout Poland. This sort of reaction to an epic poem is definitely more likely to happen in a European country than in the U.S., but still, that’s impressive.

4.) Because Bill Johnston. There are so many good Polish translators working today, but I have a personal soft spot for Bill. He’s a great person, incredibly talented, has a wonderful sense of humor, and picks some amazing projects. Over the past decade he’s translated Jerzy Pilch’s The Mighty Angel, which was one of the first books Open Letter ever published; Wiesław Myśliwski’s Stone Upon Stone, which is one of my favorite books of all time; and Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, which is one of the great works of twentieth-century science-fiction.

Oh, and remember this t-shirt? Which served as my indoor soccer team’s jersey for a season, and which I still wear? The front of which looked like this?

(Unfortunately, these are all sold out.)

5.) To give a shout out to Poland. Poland is also the Guest of Honor at BookExpo America in Chicago this summer, and was one of the main organizing forces behind the New Literature from Europe that took place last fall. The Polish Institute is great to work with, and over the past year has taken a lot of great editors over to Poland to learn about their literature and culture. There are so many great Polish writers and great translators from the Polish. And as most of my friends know, I’m mostly Polish! So why not honor this fascinating country and its wonderful literature by featuring one of its most notable contemporary poets?

Overall, I’m really excited that we’re starting the Reading the World Poetry Book Club off with this poem and am looking forward to reading what everyone has to say about this particular book.

22 March 10 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Congrats to Polish poet Tomasz Rozycki for winning the 3 Quarks Daily 2010 Prize in Arts & Literature. Rozycki won for Scorched Maps, a poem that was posted on PEN America with some commentary about the poem’s origins. (And translated by Mira Rosenthal.)

Here’s the actual poem and opening of the commentary:

I took a trip to Ukraine. It was June.
I waded in the fields, all full of dust
and pollen in the air. I searched, but those
I loved had disappeared below the ground,

deeper than decades of ants. I asked
about them everywhere, but grass and leaves
have been growing, bees swarming. So I lay down,
face to the ground, and said this incantation—

you can come out, it’s over. And the ground,
and moles and earthworms in it, shifted, shook,
kingdoms of ants came crawling, bees began
to fly from everywhere. I said come out,

I spoke directly to the ground and felt
the field grow vast and wild around my head.

The poem “Scorched Maps” came out of a trip I took to Ukraine in 2004, when I was invited to a literary festival in Lwów. I took the opportunity to visit the places associated with the history of my family, who were resettled from that area after the Second World War because of the agreement between Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt, who won the war. At that time the borders of Poland were shifted west, and the Poles who lived in the area that was lost to the Soviet Union were transported by freight train west to Pomerania and Silesia, where I live today. These changes affected several million people, who had to abandon their homes, neighbors, traditions, memories, and God knows what else—everything that had happened on that ground for centuries. The Second World War in particular afflicted those living in this area, Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Armenians—everyone who had helped form the unusual mosaic of cultures and languages there over the centuries. They experienced the terror of Soviet occupation—mass executions and the transportation of millions of victims to the Gulag and forced labor camps deep within Russia—which met with the terror of the Nazis as the Germans, in a systematic way during the extermination of the area’s population, prepared their future “living space.” Inconceivably, at the same time a brutal domestic war continued between Ukrainian nationals, who cooperated with Hitler during the period, and the Polish resistance—a war in which neighbors murdered neighbors and the number of victims and the atrocity of what happened calls to mind ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. My family was one of those that experienced all of the terror and mourned each of the victims.

And here’s what 3 Quarks Daily judge Robert Pinsky had to say about it:

Tomasz Rozycki’s poem “Scorched Maps” — translated by Mira Rosenthal into real lines of poetry in English. I will remember this poem about memory and Rozycki’s commentary (same translator) on it. The image of the past and its losses as “subterranean” is familiar. Re-imagined in “Scorched Maps,” the image regains its emotional force: the seeker face-down and speaking to the earth, and the earth along with the lives it contains responding, “vast and wild around my head.”

....
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