There is a deep misunderstanding of the process of meaning. Most images and photographs today reflect the misery and the violence of human condition. But all this affects us less and less, just because it is over signified. In order for the meaning, for the message to affect us, the image has to exist on its own, to impose its original language. In order for the real to be transferred to our imagination, or our imagination transferred to the real, it must be a counter-transference upon the image, and this countertransference has to be resoluted, worked through (in terms of psychoanalysis). Today we see misery and violence becoming a leitmotiv of publicity just by the way of images. Toscani for example is reintegrating sex and Aids, war and death into fashion. And why not ? Jubilating ad-images are no less obscene than the pessimistic ones) But at one condition to show the violence of publicity itself, the violence of fashion, the violence of the medium. What actually publishers are not able even to try to do. However, fashion and high society are themselves a kind of spectacle of death. The world’s misery is quite so visible, quite so transparent in the line and the face of any top-model as on the skeletal body of an african boy. The same cruelty is to be perceived everywhere, if one only knows how to look at it.
Read more in the link.
Once more, I am standing outside of 70 High Street, Lewes. The figure in black who crossed the landing before disappearing into the brickwork is nowhere to be seen, save that of a memory that from time to time I might again experience in my body. In the moonlight, the house reveals itself in a partial glimpse. The place has a life of its own, quite apart from the manner in which it is experienced by me. And yet, without the living, there are no ghosts. If the ghost of a place resists the category of cultural symbol and is equally ill-at-ease in being a fault or excess in perception, then this does not mean it inhabits the mind alone, therefore denying its reality in the external world. Rather, something takes place between the viewer and the spectre that renders the dialogue between the living and the semi-living possible. This ambiguity is inherent in our relationship with places, be it in the ruins of an abandoned fort or in the harshly lit tunnels of a subway station at night. In each case, the genius loci reveals itself as precisely that which resists our understanding and instead constitutes a place as both the site of a haunting but also the haunt to which we return time and again.
[via The White Review]
….Now, in the same way that we have seen how Johnson is similar to Don Quixote, we have to think that just as Sancho is the companion Quixote sometimes treats badly, we see Boswell in that same relation to Dr. Johnson: a sometimes stupid and loyal companion. There are characters whose role is to bring out the hero’s personality. In other words, often authors need a character who serves as a framework for and a contrast to the deeds of his hero. This is Sancho, and that character in Boswell’s work is Boswell himself. That is, Boswell appears as a despicable character. But it seems impossible to me that Boswell didn’t realize this. And this shows that Boswell positioned himself in contrast to Johnson. The fact that Boswell himself tells anecdotes in which he appears ridiculous makes him not seem ridiculous at all, for if he wrote them down, he did it because he saw that the purpose of the anecdote was to make Johnson stand out.
New Directions are releasing Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature, which features 25 lectures by Borges translated into English for the first time, and NYRB has posted this excerpt.
On the fragmented novel.
Click the link.
[via fractious fiction]
So—if I’m Groucho—would I be inclined to remove obstacles to international comprehension? Would I understand how to pivot a joke from English to French, or—if I were Bassem—from Egyptian Arabic to English? Would I have to worry about the English equivalent of Emad Eldeen Adeeb instructing me to buy tiger-themed bed sheets, too? (And seriously? Tiger themed?) I know I’d be tempted to take the Bakhtinian route and lean into the fact that an act of translation would be taking place—that someone could achieve English as She Is Spoke by intention rather than by accident (and that’s not the only way to lean into this, but it’s the first example that came to mind)—but I’m not so sure if that’s the best, most fruitful way to do it.
On translating humour. [via The Paris Review]
Incidentally, I just reached the translating humour chapter in David Bellos’s Is That a Fish in Your Ear? yesterday.
When ideas and projects are circulated, they are texts in constant transformation. One of the most evident impacts of these formats, from one point of view, is the inadequacy and destabilization of the idea of the author, and, from another, of projects and documents. I ask myself if something similar would be possible in literature. I think the answer is both yes and no. On the one hand, I imagine, many of the things that are likely being done now under the rubric of “digital humanities” may be considered literature, insofar as they create their own reader. On the other hand, I am not sure that a precise subjectivity is constituted around those formats. That is, a subjectivity that permits us to configure an idea of a reader more or less convergent with that modality.
“What Comes Next”, an essay by Sergio Chejfec, is in the latest edition of The Quarterly Conversation. [via The Quarterly Conversation]
Do we as readers subconsciously make these “corrections”? How far can they go? One of the things that always surprises me when talking about Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway is how little attention is given to the fact that this novel presents the suicide of one of its characters as a gift of individual to collective, on a par with, or at least comparable to, the party that Mrs. Dalloway throws for her well-to-do friends, or indeed the writing of the book itself. These are not fashionable or “safe” thoughts. At the crucial moment, when Septimus Warren Smith, feeling threatened by another doctor’s visit, throws himself from the window onto the railings below, he yells “I’ll give it to you!” The Italian translation offers, “Lo volete voi,” which in English literally is “It’s you who want it!” or, more idiomatically, “You asked for it!” Was the translator aware she had altered the text?
Tim Parks talks a little bit about translation. [via NYRB]
Despising teaching as much as he loved writing, Hirschman longed to spend time at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. In 1971, he asked whether he could visit there for the following year. He was indeed invited and the move became permanent. At the institute, Hirschman became keenly interested in the origins of capitalism and embarked on the project that became The Passions and the Interests. In that work, he rejected the nostalgia, current at the time, for a supposedly lost world of republican virtue, free of commercial avarice. He also rejected the suggestion, prominent then and now in the economics profession, that markets simply take human beings as they are, with their inevitable self-interest.
Instead he observed that the early theorists of free markets thought that commerce would transform people, by cooling our passions and making us gentler. In the words of Samuel Ricard in 1704, commercial interactions would encourage citizens “to be honest, to acquire manners, to be prudent and reserved in both talk and action.” At the same time, however, Hirschman worried that efforts to focus people on economic gain could “have the side effect of killing the civic spirit and of thereby opening the door to tyranny.”
There is a lengthy article on Albert Hirschman and Jeremy Adelman’s Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman over at NYRB. [via NYRB]
Austen scholar David Selwyn dies at the age of 61. [via The Guardian]