The Quarterly Conversation – Issue 33 – Fall 2013 is out now with an always interesting mix of articles. These are the ones that caught my eye:
By Morten Høi Jensen
A groundbreaking new volume published by New Directions, Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature, offers unprecedented insight into the writer’s lifelong relationship to the English language, as well as an affecting portrait of the Argentine master as lecturer. These twenty-five classes on English literature were recorded by a small group of students in 1966 and later edited by two leading Borges scholars, Martín Arias and Martín Hadis. They have now finally been rendered into English by the incomparable Katherine Silver.
Interview by Alex Zucker
But back to Belarus and how I wrote The Devil’s Workshop. So at about four in the morning, a taxi driver was taking me from my hotel to the airport in Minsk. Unfortunately he was pretty drunk, so as soon as we got out of the city he asked me to take over. I refused, since due to my psychopathic history I still don’t have a driver’s license. He didn’t understand, so we got into this huge argument, and by the time I finally convinced him to keep going—I said if he wouldn’t drive, we might as well just go lie down in a snow-filled ditch by the side of the road—I saw my plane lifting off into the clouds over the little airport out on the tundra.
Translated by Katherine Silver
One thing led to another, and that was just the beginning. I’m talking about the head resting in the plate of cannelloni. Heavy, still, and deaf, and attached to Pedro Akira’s compact body by a strong and manly neck. Oblivious to all the consequences this stillness began to unleash outside the Italian restaurant, in other heads and along other streets, more primary than secondary. Consequences transformed into actions that now, seen from here, from this requisite distance, seem like terrified ants running away from each other, ants fleeing from their own shadows. But that came later, five hours after the first memorable event of the day already briefly described—the breaking of the string on my double bass—which doesn’t seem worth mentioning but really is, and the reason shall soon be seen by those who are listening to this.
Review by Scott Esposito
Most visions of the afterlife entail some kind of deliverance from the burdens imposed by memory—after all, what heaven could be more fitting than one where we transcend our Earthly failures? Spanish author Carlos Rojas ingeniously shows us the arch obverse of that in The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico García Lorca Ascends to Hell: the inferno as an eternity with our regrets. Here, the titular poet is found in a hell that resembles an infinitely long spiral where each soul exists in a sort of solitary confinement with his or her own memories projected onto a personal stage, complete with rows of seats for the lonely spectator.
Review by Eric Lundgren
The No World Concerto, Spanish novelist A.G. Porta’s first novel to be translated into English, is a complex fictional riff on games, possible worlds, and the art of fiction itself. Porta is best known among English-language readers as an early collaborator with Roberto Bolaño, and, like Bolaño, he pays tribute to the innovations of the high modernists without exactly emulating them. The No World Concerto is structured as a Matryoshka doll, or as a hall of mirrors, fuguing seamlessly between authorial narration, third-person reportage, and inner monologue, a structure that becomes head-clutchingly complex when you consider that its two protagonists are writers with fictions in progress. The novel is set in Paris, but a Paris that resembles a half-constructed film set, referred to throughout as “the neighboring country’s capital,” with even the tactile pleasures of the place-names stripped away. Getting lost in this novel is a more dire possibility than the phrase usually implies.