Tim Parks is the author of many novels, translations, and works of nonfiction, most recently Life and Work: Writers, Readers, and the Conversations Between Them and the novel In Extremis. (November 2017)
The Transferred Life of George Eliot: The Biography of a Novelist
by Philip Davis
A sonnet sequence is traditionally addressed to a lover and recounts a turbulent, romantic love. Mary Anne Evans, writing under the pseudonym George Eliot, is perhaps unique in having dedicated such a sequence to her brother, Isaac Evans. Published in 1869, when the novelist turned fifty, the poems focus on …
The “Mito Americano” and Italian Literary Culture Under Fascism
by Jane Dunnett, with a foreword by Massimo Bacigalupo
What was America to Italy and Italy to America during the twenty years of Fascist rule? Arriving in Italy to live in 1981, and learning Italian very largely by reading the works of writers who had come through Fascism, I soon became familiar with the accepted view of literary life …
by Ramon Saizarbitoria, translated from the Basque by Aritz Branton, and edited by Cecilia Ross
A middle-aged married mother flying from Heathrow to Bilbao becomes fascinated by a bearded man boarding the same plane. When a bag he’s holding breaks, spilling books into the aisle, she gives him a good strong Harrods bag and helps gather the books up. Grateful, and despite the crowd of …
Remarking on a painter he had hired to decorate his house, a man whose habit was to fill in the empty spaces around his central painting with “odd fantastic figures without any grace but what they derive from their variety,” Montaigne draws a comparison with his own writing. “And in …
Parks: So, nothing is stored in the head.
Manzotti: All the objects we encounter, the objects we call experience, continue to be active in our bodies and brains, continue to be our experience. It is the nature of our fantastically complex brains that they allow these encounters to go on, and to go on going on. The encounters are not “stored” and are certainly not static. They are continuing to happen. They are us.
Translators are people who read books for us. Tolstoy wrote in Russian, so someone must read him for us and then write down that reading in our language. Since the book will be fuller and richer the more experience a reader brings to it, we would want our translator to be aware of as much as possible—cultural references, lexical patterns, geographical setting, and historical moment. Aware, too, of our own language and its many resources. Far from being “just subjective,” these differences will be a function of the different experiences these readers bring to the book, since none of us accumulates the same experience.
Manzotti: There is no such a thing as a thought that lies between your body and the Coliseum, or the photo you saw of it, or the article you read about it, no need for some sort of immaterial thinking magic to connect your actions with the external world. Simply, there is your body and there is the external thing your body has been in contact with. Of course, there’s also a lot of neural machinery that allows the world to produce effects through the body, but the experiences we call thoughts are no more, no less, than the external object as it affects the body. Let’s try an experiment. Think of something, right now. Anything.
Very likely, the war years did offer Samuel Beckett images and experiences that, stripped of context, he would make universally powerful, but speculatively reconstructing the context to then color it with the melodrama Beckett assiduously pared away hardly seems a helpful exercise. It is the reductio ad absurdum of this strange form of fiction that would have us consume our literary heroes in a conveniently palatable sauce. We should read our great authors, not mythologize them.