Posts Tagged ‘Lunar Savings Time’
“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
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!
A wonderful new review of Alex Epstein’s Lunar Savings Time (translated by Becka McKay)—since the Review of Contemporary Fiction is only available in print, I’ll just go ahead and share the review here, with many thanks to the RCF:
As I write this, Borders is closing its doors for good, while The Onion has composed a mock obituary for the “Last Literate Person on Earth,” dead at ninety-eight. Literary writers, it seems, no longer fret over how to capture the kaleidoscopic reality of the new century, but instead wonder why they should bother trying in the first place. In his latest collection, Lunar Savings Time, Israeli author Alex Epstein has, if not answered these questions, at least illuminated a new path toward the literary amid the detritus of print and digital culture. The picture that emerges from this mosaic of narrative—many not more than a page in lengthy—is by no means bleak. Epstein’s very short fictions delineate the enormous imaginative space that is contained within the book—a virtual reality that encompasses past and present, the obscure and the viral simultaneously within its modest pages. The result is alchemy rather than entropy: “And it was winter. The Zen monk updated his Facebook status: ‘In the evening it snowed. In the night I dreamed it was snowing.’ And finally, spring: the ghost’s water broke.” Epstein doesn’t bemoan the ephemeral excess of the digital age; his poetic narratives invite the reader to be more attentive for its plentiful (and inevitable) moments of unexpected beauty, as in “On the Writer’s Conference”: “The writer from the moon has a British accent. He reads a novella set in India. Every time he pronounces the word elephant, the refined audience blushes with pleasure. After him, A Brazilian writer lectures on ‘The Nightlife of the Short Story.’ In a plaza outside the auditorium, a young woman plump from love is smoking the last cigarette of the evening. In [a] moment she will throw the butt into the sky.”
—Pedro Ponce, Review of Contemporary Fiction, Dalkey Archive Press, Fall 2011 (Vol. XXXI, No. 3)
Three Percent has just posted a very nice review of Lunar Savings Time: “Like Borges, Epstein reinvents the truth, the real, and even history, by fictionalizing them (which is not to say that his stories don’t include many real facts).” And in the both the intro and the review, note the lovely, and true, praise for Becka Mara McKay, “one of the friendliest and funniest and most talented of all contemporary translators.” Indeed!
Becka has also just participated in Arabic Literature in English‘s excellent series of “rules for translators,” contributing “Ten Rules for Making New Translators” that focus on how to teach translation. Check out the whole series, which has been a treat to read.
But in the meantime there’s been lots of news! A quick recap: Sunetra Gupta’s So Good in Black has been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, the Washington Times (“Sunetra Gupta writes of ambiguities brilliantly”), and most recently and at length in the Common (Amherst College’s new literary magazine, and so an exciting new addition to our local scene).
Alex Epstein’s newest, Lunar Savings Time, translated by Becka Mara McKay, has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly (“Consistently provocative”… “Best read first in gulps, and then in savory sips”), and by Bill Marx over at Arts Fuse, as well as here at the Complete Review.
Also have a look at this interview I had a lot of fun doing with Alex at the Kenyon Review.
Since we’ve been a little slow here, I’d suggest you might like to “like” us on Facebook, which will keep you updated with all things Clockroot when we’re slow on the blog.
To say that fiction like Epstein’s requires a new way of reading, and it does, is not to say that it’s difficult or unwelcoming. The work leads you along, gradually recalibrating your accustomed response time. The brevity has the effect of concentrating the attention: you grow more alert, eased into the ultra-receptive mindset engendered by a good haiku or zen koan. Before you know it, the longer stories – those of a full page and more – come to feel almost like novels. You become hyper-aware of how much can be fit into a small space – and by extension, how much of conventional fiction is, by strictest definition, unnecessary.
It can’t be said of many writers that they’d be equally at home among contemporary McSweeney’s-style pranksters and the august lineage of Kafka, Borges and Bruno Schulz, but Alex Epstein is just such a find.
Read in full here.