Posts Tagged ‘Blue Has No South’
“While the word counts of Alex Epstein’s ‘microfictions’ may rarely reach triple digits, the seven stories this week, from his new collection, For My Next Illusion I Will Use Wings, occupy the space of something much larger,” writes editor Benjamin Samuel, and notes that “The refined nature of these stories is so unusual, so remarkable, that we’re departing from Recommended Reading’s normal publication schedule. Instead of one story a week, starting October 10, we’re publishing one microfiction a day for seven days, each accompanied by a beautiful illustration by David Polonsky. Later, they’ll all be available together online, and in Kindle and ePub formats.”
I was hired in 2009 to teach translation in Florida Atlantic University’s MFA program—something that had never been offered in the MFA curriculum. To encourage as many students as possible to register for the translation workshop, I decided that I would not require that they know a second language. Working from the premise that proficiency and flexibility in English were the most important requirements for students in this particular workshop—and that together we would find resources to assist their understanding the various source languages—the translation workshop has, over the last three years, produced some remarkable projects. These include:
- A translation/stage adaptation of The Tale of Genji set in a postapocalyptic Japan
- A hybrid form that I am still searching for a way to name that consists of a translation of a Strindberg short story woven together with a lyric essay about the translator’s process
- Translations of Hawaiian petroglyphs
- A plan for a scratch-and-sniff, pop-up book translation of the Song of Songs
- A graphic version of Don Quixote
- An adaptation of a feminist Senegalese novel as a series of blog entries written by an African-American woman from Alabama
Years ago at BEA we were told that Twitter would save independent publishing. Well, not that exactly, but close enough—everywhere we turned the word was “Twitter.” And we’ve been on Twitter ever since, to some degree, although often not quite sure what to make of it: optimistic but bemused. Today, however, I should officially note that any last doubts have been dispelled. Not only has Alex Epstein recently been conducting great new experiments in how Facebook and Twitter can become sites for literature, but today we had another encounter that wouldn’t have been possible, really, before these sorts of venues: a lovely note from Sherman Alexie (!), praising Alex Epstein: “Today, I fell in love with his very short stories.” A very nice glow with which to start the week.
My new book, For My Next Illusion I Will Use Wings, will be published in print in Hebrew in a couple of months. But at the beginning of January 2012 I decided to try something new, and published a free digital copy of it on… Facebook.
The idea of publishing an entire new collection of very short stories on Facebook was, in part, an experiment to see how literature can become more social.
Alex Epstein writes this morning to say that his newest stories are all available digitally, for free, on Facebook (!). You can read them on any computer, iPad, smartphone, what have you—you don’t even have to be on Facebook. (Of course, you have to be able to read Hebrew. So I guess I’m really just taking his word for it that these are what he says they are…) Behold:
Several writers I have long admired impressed me anew with their latest books — among them Kate Bernheimer, Peter S. Beagle, Goncalo Tavares, Cesar Aira, and Karen Russell — but let me concentrate on two authors whose names I had never heard before this year:
First is the Israeli writer Alex Epstein, two of whose collections were recently translated into English by the poet Becka Mara McKay and published by Clockroot Press: Blue Has No South and Lunar Savings Time. If you took the short forms and odd structural techniques of Lydia Davis and wedded them to the fantastic impulses of Ray Bradbury, you would get something like these books, which together contain some two hundred strange, pliant, elliptical, yet surprisingly tender treatments of angels, rain, lullabies, minotaurs, moons, zen masters, literature, and time travel. A glimpse at the titles should be enough to tell you whether they are the kind of stories you would enjoy: “On the Mourning Customs of Elephants,” “The Number of Steps on the Moon,” “An Instruction Manual for a Rented Time Machine,” “The Angel Who Photographed God.”
Read the rest here!
These often hysterically funny short fictions – occasionally teetering on the brink of becoming prose poetry and presented in a delightful, slightly odd-sized book - are, shockingly, the first time this major Argentinian poet, playwright, essayist and director has been translated into English, by Emily Toder. As with Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud’s A Life On Paper, this makes me furious. Why has it taken so long? But enough of fury, let us move on to enjoyment with a tinge of philosophical enquiry, which is really what Dr. Pi himself is after.
… I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book, which entertains but does more than that. These stories are both ordered and chaotic, dream-like and yet truthful. Through humour, sheer oddness and philosophical musings, Bayley conveys back to us something of our world, in which nothing ends neatly, no-one can really save the day, and when it comes down to it, everything should be put on hold in order to spend time with a “young brunette with bare, powerful legs, shorts, and a striped T-shirt” on a tandem bike.
Read in full here.
And on Blue Has No South: “a collection that tests out our notions of story, stretches them, and leaves us wanting to dip back into the collection again and again”—read the full review here. There’s also a wonderful interview with Alex Epstein:
TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing [these stories]?AE: At the beginning no, I just wanted to see if I could find a different form for my art, much more focused and dense. To tell a story with few words as possible, a story that sometimes catches just one emotional movement between two people, and sometimes tries to grasp the whole world. After a while I started to think about the “absence of words” as of a material, and was able to aim for a collection of such micro fiction. There is still something deep that draws me toward this.
The latest issue of the Kenyon Review Online features seven stories from Alex Epstein’s new collection, Lunar Savings Time, which we’ll be publishing this spring, also in Becka McKay’s superb translation. Fans of Blue Has No South, take note. And everyone else—well, just read the stories:
On the Metamorphosis
Once upon a time there was a tree who, of all the trees in the forest, fell in love all the way to his roots with a woman who passed through the forest. The metamorphosis was his only escape: he had to turn into a man and go out into the world to find her. (He was stabbed during a fight in a port city in the east. When he started to bleed he could no longer feel his legs. He didn’t die. He boarded a ship that was lost in the Straits of Gibraltar. When he drowned he found a remedy in the intoxication of the depths. He didn’t die. In one of the versions of this legend, which ends after many years of wandering and hardship, the tree returns to the forest of his birth, where he hangs himself.) He could not forget her, even when the wind blew.
Read the rest here.
Bear with me while I surf the old news wave for a moment, but a curious document sprang up a while back over at Open Letter Books in promotion of Bragi Ólafsson’s new book, The Ambassador. As described at the Three Percent blog:
It’s an incredibly fun book centering around the journey of Icelandic poet Sturla Jon Jonsson to [a] poetry festival in Lithuania where he loses his overcoat, steals someone else’s, is accused of plagiarism, and gets drunk a lot. While he’s there, he also receives The Season of Poetry, a small book featuring poems from the various festival participants.
In the novel, this book is referenced, and a few of the festival-goers are described, but not very many, which is what led translator Lytton Smith to come up with the fun idea of having American poets and translators recreate this poetry collection. Each of the participants invented a poet, and a poem by that poet that they then supposedly translated into English . . . In other words, this is a collection of fake poets, falsely translated, and plays off of the themes of truth, fiction, and plagiarism that run throughout the novel.
The bizarre and entertaining collection is available in .pdf, .epub, and Kindle editions and includes a “translation from the Greek” by Becka Mara McKay (Alex Epstein’s Blue Has No South and the forthcoming Lunar Savings Time, Spring 2011) and M. Oliver, “the pseudonym of a writer and translator living in Athens” — If you say so! Other contributers include Jason Grunebaum, Sawako Nakayasu, Ravi Shankar, Matthew Zapruder, and more. Check it out.
(And don’t forget the reading tonight at Schoen Books: Emily Toder, Nick Rattner, and Mart del Pozo at 7:30!)