5/13/14

Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz - Through the door of a Swiss inn the reader steps into a painting. Two men talk to each other and before long the writer - someone like them, one of them - begins to address us. Thus commences the fugue that is Beauty on Earth, in which the coming of a beautiful orphan to her uncle's inn brings a gradual chaos upon his town



Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, Beauty on Earth. Trans. by Michelle Bailat-Jones. Onesuch Press, 2014. [1927.]

C. F. Ramuz (1878-1947) is one of French-speaking Switzerland's best-known writers. The territory of his 22 novels can usually be located in a mountainous village, somewhere between Heaven and Earth. This mythical novel, originally published in 1927, inhabits both realms as its troubling tale unfolds. The village cannot remain the same after the unexpected appearance of destabilizing beauty in the form of a niece whose father has died in Cuba. Emotions rise to the surface. Innocence becomes comical. Desire turns to cynicism. Mediocrity prevails. However natural or simple things may appear on the surface, a gnawing complexity hovers like a cloud. In the end, otherness cannot be integrated into this small world. Indeed, the known world becomes a kind of "elsewhere."

It is no accident that Beauty on Earth is only the second Ramuz novel to appear in English in the past 50 years. (Blake Robinson's translation of The Young Man from Savoy appeared in 2008.) Not only do Ramuz's stories seem to be less relevant than they are, the "action" is a slow crescendo and the language, too, is deceptively simple. Perhaps because of the rare opportunity this publication represents, Michelle Bailat-Jones clearly decided to stay as close to the original as possible, sometimes sacrificing the logical flow of "correct" English in order to convey Ramuz's incantatory voice. She follows his shifts in verb tense, captures repetitious echoes, and finds countless solutions for vivid imagery. When English is simply inadequate, she allows the French to stand, as when she uses "vaudaire" for the strong wind known in the Swiss canton of the Vaud. Every word counts here, just as every word counted in the original writing of this tale. "The ‘pianissimos’ take all of your strength," Ramuz said. In this virtuoso performance, Bailat-Jones has earned her own applause. In honoring the "master" of mythical realism, his music becomes hers. - Patti M. Marxsen
 


Beauty on Earth was first published in 1927 and it is the story of a Cuban orphan, Juliette, who must come to live with her uncle Milliquet in a small village on the shores of Lake Geneva. He is a local café owner, greedy and inept, and he has a horrid wife; Juliette’s life in this village is doomed from the start. She is so different from these stuffy Swiss villagers, so beautiful, so exotic, that they literally do not know what to do with her. With her beauty.
Unfortunately, the quickest and most common response is an attempt to possess her. And as the story proceeds, a series of men try their hardest (in quite different ways) to do exactly this.
The book is populated with a range of wonderful characters—from Chauvy, the town drunk, to Rouge, the gruff but sweet fisherman; from Ravinet, the malicious Savoyard, to Maurice, the Mayor’s son. And my favorite—Emilie. I won’t tell you about her because I want you to read her for yourself. More than Juliette, I think of her as the novel’s emotional pinpoint. Each scene in which she features broke my heart (several times, as I translated and revised and revised and revised). And while Ramuz has been criticized for keeping his distance (and therefore the readers) from his supposed main-character Juliette, he shows with Emilie exactly how deep he is able to go into one of his creations.
So that distance from Juliette is done on purpose and is there for a reason. I leave it to you to speculate why.
I don’t want to write too much more about the book, for fear that I will unwittingly give away all of its hidden treasures, but I’ll leave you with an excerpt, from one of the story’s quiet moments, when the first difficulties have seemingly fallen away, just before everything falls apart:

As for the girl, she’d gone on fishing with us. She’d gone on having a place among us, when she got into the boat, leaving each morning with us to go raise the nets. She held onto the rudder; Rouge telling her, “Right…left…straight on…” she pulled one of the ropes, or the other, seated on the rear bench. In the beautiful weather that lasted all of the rest of that month and for much of the next, they set out together, the three of them, and this space where she found herself, it belongs to us. It seemed she was right where she should have been: look carefully, beneath the mountain, look carefully, among the stones and the sand, or on this water that is gray at first, then lemon yellow, then orange yellow; then it looks as though we are navigating through a field of clover, upsetting the stems with the oars. She was completely at home here, maybe, for awhile, because there was no one else here; which means that there was no one but her and us; her and us, and these things and us. - Michelle Bailat-Jones

How to move from book blogging to something better?  Michele Bailat-Jones has done it. She started around the time I did, calling herself the Incurable Logophile, but soon enough, as we all had hoped, Swiss doctors found a cure, and she changed the blog’s name to pieces and got serious about literary translation.  Her first book was recently published, the 1927 Beauty on Earth by Swiss novelist Charles Ferdinand Ramuz.
Bailat-Jones has championed Ramuz at her blog.  I am not sure I would have heard of him otherwise (although Orthofer has him), which is a disgrace, as I can prove objectively using citation counts from the MLA International Bibliography.  Since 1990, there have been 125 articles, books, and so on about Ramuz, 158 about fellow Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and – guess how many about Robert Walser – have you guessed?  – 172 on Mister Bigshot Walser.  Of course the Ramuz scholarship is entirely French.  Disgraceful.  But Bailat-Jones has given us this corrective example.
In Beauty on Earth, a beautiful orphaned teenage girl moves to a small Swiss town to live with her uncle.  She is so very beautiful that she ruins the lives of many of the men she meets.  The story has some curious similarities to Max Beerbohm’s elegant, ludicrous Zuleika Dobson (1911), whatever differences in tone, technique, and purpose the books might have.  Juliette brings out the worst in men, even when they mean to help her; she does so not by any action or behavior but simply by existing.  Dorothy W. aka Rebecca H. at Of Books and Bicycles reviewed the book earlier today.  She fills out the plot.
This Ramuz passage is close to a statement of purpose:
Everything was making itself more beautiful, everything was making itself more than beautiful, like a rivalry.  All these things making themselves more beautiful, always more beautiful, the water, the mountain, the sky, all that is liquid, all that is neither solid nor liquid, but it all holds together; it was like an agreement, a continual exchange from one thing to another thing, and between everything that exists.  And around her and because of her – what he is thinking and telling himself up there.  There is a place for beauty…  (95, the ellipses belong to Ramuz)
The “he” who is “up there” is one (just one) of Juliette’s stalkers, at this point spying on her.  Is he really at the same time experiencing this transcendent vision of beauty on earth?  Ramuz portrays the town, on the shore of Lake Geneva, surrounded by the Alps, as the most beautiful place on earth.  Some of the descriptive writing is a great treat:
We saw the entire cavalry of waves jump into their saddles.  We watched the horsemen come with their white flags.  (179)
So there is a constant ironic interplay between the destructive beauty of the girl and the beauty of the landscape, to which most of the men are inured.  Or perhaps they are so deeply immersed in beauty that they experience some kind of allergic reaction when too much additional beauty enters their world.  Juliette herself turns out to be a devotee of beauty as well, but her allergen is music.
The strangest aspect of the book is the shifting point of view and pronouns.  “He” turns into “we” with ease, and the meaning of  “we” can shift suddenly.  Anyone struck by the “we” that narrates the beginning of Madame Bovary will recognize how Ramuz is playfully extending Flaubert’s idea.  Bailat-Jones writes about the challenges the technique presented to her translation in a little essay at NecessaryFiction.  Dorothy \ Rebecca discusses this as well, although I have to say I think every sentence with the word “reader” in it is wrong.  The shifts in point of view do not disorient but rather orient the reader.  This reader.  Me.
Bailat-Jones says she found it disorienting, too, but luckily she fought the “temptation” to “smooth this out.”  Thank you, well done, thank you. - wutheringexpectations.blogspot.com/2013/09/everything-was-making-itself-more.html

It all begins with language. How do these words work together? Who is speaking and how does this person speak? What does that voice sound like in my head?
Translating is not so different from writing fiction, except that the voice comes from a different location, is both outside of me (because I haven’t written it) and inside of me (because I am reading and re-writing it).
I first read Beauty on Earth without any idea that I might translate it. This is years ago now and the only thing I remember from this reading was the excitement of recognizing places close to where I had just moved in Switzerland—Ramuz’s descriptions of the mountains, of the lake, and especially of the weather felt very true to this new life I was leading in a small village near the Lavaux vineyards. This was a careless read, fast and joyous. Exciting because it was a discovery of a writer whose work I knew I would go on to read as much of as possible.
But once I knew I wanted to translate the book, I read it again. This time with calculation and a deeper curiosity, already trying out a few sentences in English, looking past the story and wondering about how this book had been written, wondering about its smooth arc as well as the stops and angles that break it up into a careful structure.
Reading and re-reading is, at least for me, the best research into a translation. I have to start to know the text, to have a feel for what is coming next so that when I start working on a scene or a description in English, I know what comes before it and what comes after it. I need to have the book’s chronology and emotional shifting already imprinted a little in my memory before I can feel comfortable moving it all into a new language.
Particularities of Beauty on Earth:
There were moments while working on Beauty on Earth that I had to stop, go back, and start to read again. Part of this had to do with Ramuz’s insane shifts in perspective. At times it is hard to know whose voice he is using or where exactly the narrator is situated with respect to the story and the characters. He can change POV between sentences. Something that makes his work so unique is that there are times that, in the middle of a scene, when you think you’re reading a very comfortable 3rd person, he suddenly shifts into a chorus-like voice and a few lines later, into a first person plural. It can be really jarring—and my temptation as a writer (and what I did in my first few drafts) was to smooth this out. But I had to check myself, because this is part of his world and is just as disorienting for a French-language reader. I eventually developed a coding system, circling the various pronouns with different colors so that I could see their pattern on the page and check and double-check how I was handling them in English.
About halfway through my translation I remembered that I had a copy of Ramuz’s complete journals and perhaps Ramuz had written about the novel. Unfortunately, he wrote very little in his journal about the genesis of Beauty on Earth. At the end of September 1926, he mentions that he’s made notes and an outline for a project he is calling at that point, Beauté Terrestre. He writes, “All other work put aside.” His journal is empty then until the end of November. But I was stuck a little on Beauté Terrestre, thinking about this title compared to its published title of La Beauté sur la Terre. It’s interesting to me that either way, in English the title can really only be Beauty on Earth. Interesting because I think Beauté Terrestre is a weaker title, a bit softer, a bit less appropriate for a book that is essentially a criticism of society’s inability to understand/know/handle real beauty. In that sense, the English title is also a bit weaker than the French. “La Beauté” is an ideal as well as possibly a person. And it sounds so much more definitive.
Beauty on Earth is set in a small village, and much of the action occurs out on Lake Geneva or on the hillsides surrounding the village. This meant that the book contains tons of references to plants and trees and other elements of the natural world, very specific words—and some of them particular to Swiss French—I hadn’t come across before. I kept this short list of (beautiful) words taped next to my desk:

  • biolle/bouleau (birch)
  • molasse (molasse – sandstones)
  • saponaire (soapwort)
  • mélilot (sweet clover)
  • prêles (horsetail ferns)
  • angéliques (wild celery/garden angelica)
  • vernes/aulnes (alders)
  • fauvette (warbler)
  • chardonneret (goldfinch)
  • bergeronnette (wagtail)
And finally, although this falls into the accidental research category, Beauty on Earth is about a young woman named Juliette, orphaned in Cuba upon the deaths of her Cuban mother and Swiss father, who must then travel to Switzerland to live with her uncle and work in the café he owns and runs on the shores of Lake Geneva. So in the simplest sense, much of the novel is about a foreigner who comes to settle in a small Swiss village and her disorientation and dislocation from the home she knew before. As it happens, I’ve been researching this very experience for the past eight years. - Michelle Bailat-Jones
Beauty on Earth (new translation by Michelle Bailat-Jones) begins with a letter, one in which Milliquet, a Swiss café owner, learns of a rather unusual bequest.  His brother, who emigrated to Cuba, has recently died, and along with a few hundred dollars he wishes his brother to take possession of the niece.  While the dollars never eventuate, Juliette does, and her arrival is a catalyst for all kinds of events in the sleepy town.
The reason for the uproar is that the quiet Juliette, as well as being an outsider, is beautiful, strikingly so, and her appearance casts a spell on the men of the village from their very first sight of her:

"All of a sudden we stopped laughing.  We grew timid.  This was when she raised her head.  If we had started to say something, we grew quiet.  And now they no longer dared look her in the face, because it felt then like a long knitting needle entering your heart."
p.25 (Onesuch Press, 2013)

Unable to avoid the attentions of the café patrons, she escapes to live with Rouge, an elderly fisherman, in his house down by the lake.  However, if she thought this was the end of her troubles, she was sorely mistaken, for the men of the village simply can't bring themselves to leave her in peace...
It's a fascinating story, both familiar and unpredictable.  Juliette, transported from Cuba and dropped onto the shores of Lake Geneva, is an exotic element, and in such a small, traditional location, she can do nothing but disturb the status quo.  In truth, she is anything but a heart-breaker, being rather withdrawn and shy.  Initially, she locks herself in her room and prefers dark, unflashy clothing, and it must be said that her beauty is never explicitly stated - it is simply assumed from the locals' behaviour.
Nevertheless, the men are driven wild.  The customers at the café only want to be served by her, turning away Miliquet and his helpers when they dare to approach, carafe in hand.  The mayor's son, Maurice Busset, simply abandons his fiancée once he's caught sight of Juliette, just one of the hordes of men desperate to snatch her away from Rouge, jealous of his possession.  Rouge himself, while more grandfatherly in his attentions, eventually becomes possessive and protective, taking to arms to protect his charge (or perhaps his interest in her).
Juliette, however, has no interest in the men; she just wants to live life in peace and enjoy herself.  She loves the lake and fishing as it reminds her of home, and several people share the thought that: "Oh, she is exactly where she should be!" (p.101)

Rouge helps replace her father (Uncle Milliquet was only interested in the money and the increased trade her looks brought...), and her love for music is catered for by another outsider, a hunchback with an accordion.  They're all happy for a while, but with the male blood pressure rising, it's unlikely to last...
Beauty on Earth is a beautiful(!) book containing some fascinating writing.  The translator's brief foreword explains certain peculiarities of style, many of which I had already picked up on.  Ramuz enjoys using an unusual jumble of tenses (past and present) and chooses a mix of direct action and the comments of those narrating.  In fact, it is the identification of the narrator which is most interesting, as Ramuz switches from you to we to they with alarming frequency.  If you add to that a penchant for short sentences, idiosyncratic punctuation and some casual repetition, it's no wonder that it took me a while to adjust - but I did, and I enjoyed it :)
Part of the attraction of the book is also the description of the environment.  The action takes place in wonderful surroundings, and the book is full of descriptions of the lake, the trees and the hills.  The beauty of the title is apparent not just in Juliette, but also in the place she finds herself:

"He had seen that at this moment the mountains were touched on their side by the sun dipping down, at the same time the light turned less white; there was a color like honey between the walls of rock.  Lower down, on the slope of the fields, it was like powdered gold; above the woods, like warm cinders.  Everything was making itself beautiful, everything was making itself more than beautiful, like a rivalry.  All these things making themselves more beautiful, always more beautiful, the water, the mountain, the sky, all that is liquid, all that is solid, all that is neither solid nor liquid, but it all holds together; it was like an agreement, a continual exchange from one thing to another thing, and between everything that exists.  And around her, and because of her - what he is thinking and telling himself up there.  There is a place for beauty..." (p.95)
Perhaps in such an idyllic spot, the beauty Juliette brings is simply too much for one village to bear...
Beauty on Earth is a book which is probably very little read in English (despite an earlier translation), but it's a wonderful way to spend a few hours.  It has all the elements of a standard tragedy, but it's fairly unique in the way it unfolds.  It's also unusual in that its centrepiece is probably the least developed character in the novel.  Juliette is less a person than an idea, the symbol of beauty, and her story shows that beauty is not always such a good thing.  As Valerie Trueblood says in her introduction, it can be a form of natural disaster - as well as bringing joy, it can cause great destruction... - Tony Malone


I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of Charles Ferdinand Ramuz’s 1927 novel Beauty on Earth, newly translated by Michelle Bailat-Jones, who writes the blog Pieces. Ramuz is a Swiss writer, not well known here in the U.S., and it’s exciting to see that his work is now available. The novel tells the story of a young woman, Juliette, who comes to live with her uncle in a small Swiss town after her father’s death. She grew up in Cuba, and so has a large change ahead of her. The focus of the novel is not on her experience of this change, however, or at least not on her inward experience, for we see her mainly from the outside as she arrives in the town, an unusual and surprising figure to whom the villagers don’t know how to respond. The novel is focused more on the experiences of the uncle, Milliquet, a café owner, and Rouge, a fisherman, as well as a handful of other townspeople. It’s a story of a stranger coming in and disrupting what appears to be a quiet, peaceful place, revealing tensions lying beneath the surface. It’s Juliette’s beauty that the town finds so disruptive; she captivates all — or at least many — of the people who meet her. Her beauty provokes them to want to possess her. The fact that Juliette provokes such possessiveness and that we never learn much about her inner life suggests that she is meant to be a symbol for human longing for the unattainable. One of the most intriguing aspects of the book is the narrative voice and the novel’s point of view. The book starts off in a straightforward third person objective point of view, but the narrator quickly shifts to first person plural, and from there on, moves back and forth between first and third, and sometimes shifts into second. It’s disorienting for readers, as sometimes we’re outside the scene looking in, and sometimes, through the narrator’s use of “we,” are in the scene itself, one of the townspeople, taking part in the action. Sometimes, when the narrator uses “you,” we are being addressed directly. Readers never quite know where they are, what their place is, and are therefore not allowed to sit in judgment on the townspeople from afar. Readers are implicated in the desire to possess Juliette, and, just like the townspeople, are frustrated in any attempt to know her. Ramuz’s writing — and Michelle’s translation — is beautiful; the lake and village landscapes are gorgeously evoked. I finished the book with a strong sense of the place — its cliffs and waves and storms. The novel’s title refers to Juliette’s disruptive beauty, but it also surely gestures toward the beauty of the landscape. I wish I could visit, although I would not want to be drawn, as Juliette is, into the schemes of the townspeople. The genius of this novel is that Ramuz never lets the reader keep a safe, observing distance. To read this novel is to take part in its struggle, an unsettling, but satisfying, experience. - ofbooksandbikes.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/charles-ferdinand-ramuzs-beauty-on-earth/

The Young Man from Savoy

Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, The Young Man from Savoy. Trans by Blake Robinson. Host Publications, 2008.[1936.]


THE YOUNG MAN FROM SAVOY is the story of Joseph Jacquet, "a young man unlike others." The existence of this village boy, hired out as a hand on a schooner, seems fated to unravel from the moment he glimpses the mesmerizing Miss Anabella, a high-wire artiste with a traveling circus. She becomes the object of Joseph's fantasizing obsession, and a catalyst for the bizarre and brutal acts that ensue. Set at the beginning of the twentieth century in a French mountainside village overlooking Lake Geneva, this tale of all-consuming love plays out against a backdrop that is at once idyllic and askew. Vividly imagined and masterfully wrought, The Young Man from Savoy is a meditative page-turner, a novel whose spare, mutedly lyrical prose stands in contrast to the dramatic tale it recounts. In this remarkable work, acclaimed French Swiss writer C.F. Ramuz has left us a lasting legacy, a work of laconic and unsettling power.

"Ramuz’s storytelling implies more than it describes, and his prose is subtly unsettling: in Savoy he often substitutes “you” for third-person pronouns, and he switches between past and present tense at will, sometimes within the same sentence. The techniques combine to practically force the audience into identifying with the characters while distorting the overall narrative reality, like meeting a group of people who proceed to shake you by the shoulders. (It’s a lot more accessible and fun than it sounds.)" - Tim Feeney

  The main character of this short novel is Joseph Jacquet, a young man working on a cargo ship.
   He's the young man from Savoy; he is a strange young man.
       He's engaged to be married, to Georgette, and has a nice, small-town future to look forward to, but he doesn't seem quite ready for it.
       Joseph works on a sailing ship, but at the beginning of the novel he and the rest of the crew lose their jobs as engine-driven cargo vessels take over. Joseph doesn't seem to mind -- "That's over. Everything's changing" he admits to himself, and even if he's unsteadied by change he can roll with these punches fairly easily --, certainly not as much as some of his co-workers, especially old man Pinget, who is too old to get a new job and whose daughter has stolen his savings. Joseph doesn't really fit in well with the rest of the crew, either; he joins them on occasion, but is just as ready to go his own way. Though he is not quite sure what that way is:
Where is he going ? He doesn't very well know; it's that nothing in the world holds.
       In summary this may sound like a novel about a young man about to settle down who is having second thoughts about everything:
     Her name was Georgette; they had been engaged for over a year and were soon to get married; so there it is, that's all. What is it we are looking for in life ?
       That is the question, of course, and Ramuz does a remarkable job in presenting Joseph's quest for an answer.
       What really sets Joseph off is a visit to the circus, where he is transfixed by Miss Anabella, a high-wire act performer -- "a woman and more than a woman, being only strength, only beauty" -- whose act takes her ever upward -- until she disappears through a hole in the top of the circus tent. Here Joseph finally sees what he thinks he's been looking for; he, too, wants to follow, up to the stars. But the ideal is hard to reach -- the circus moves on, for one.
       Joseph continues his quest -- trying to follow Miss Anabella, but then, when the local barmaid shows some interest, settling for her. Afterwards he realises: "That's not it", and:
He is saying to himself, "There's something we are looking for, only can we get it, that thing -- and what is it ?" Then he was saying to himself, "It's not her." 
       No, it is the abstract Miss Anabella, risen to the stars, just out of reach.
       The practical Georgette isn't pleased by the turn of events, but thinks her love and her future can be salvaged; the barmaid doesn't mean anything to Joseph, she believes -- and though she's right about that, she still has it wrong. Still, for a while he more or less comes to his senses and holds onto Georgette:
     "You're a little crazy," she said.
     "Oh, I know that all right, but it will go away."
     "You're sure it will go away ?"
     He said, "I'm sure; as you yourself can see, I'm here."

       But his restlessness is hard to keep down. "All the same there are beautiful things in life", he says, and he's glimpsed them, he's glimpsed that glimmer of hope, of Miss Arabella , and he can't get over it. Nothing in the world holds him. Not enough.
       At heart, The Young Man from Savoy is very much a Romantic novel, a Werther with a harder edge and with a protagonist lost entirely in an ideal rather than reality. The conclusion is a foregone one -- it is either that, or Joseph giving up and settling down with Georgette after all, and, despite Joseph's wavering and occasional concessions, Ramuz makes it clear that that can't happen --, and yet Ramuz leads the reader to it in a thoroughly compelling way. Joseph's reverie should be annoying, but Ramuz has just the right touch with his character's dreamy uncertainty -- perhaps because, unlike most dreamers in Romantic novels, he is also able to interact with the common folk in a believable fashion.
       Ramuz's world is one where the people turn a blind eye to what they don't want to see and try to keep a specific kind of stability in their world. In the background:
    You could hear old man Pinget talking again: "A bit of rope, and that's it."
       But, despite these warning-cries, no one acts or reaches out. Joseph's transgressions are also ignored and re-interpreted to fit local expectations -- until, finally, he goes too far. It's a dark novel of ideals and the mundane world -- but old man Pinget is a good reminder of how very base this world is: Joseph's reaching for the stars may have been completely unrealistic, but it would have taken very little to save the old man, and even that proved to be too much.
       A remarkable find, and well worthwhile. - www.complete-review.com/reviews/suisse/ramuzcf.htm



Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, When the Mountain Fell. Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1949.


At a book sale last week I picked up a novel on impulse, having never heard of its author, Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, and drawn by its curious title, When the Mountain Fell. Given that title, a blurb on the jacket from French dramatist Paul Claudel calling the book “one of the summits of French prose” both piqued my interest and caused one of my irony receptors to flash for an irreverent moment. Having now read When the Mountain Fell, and putting aside its being in translation rather than in its original 1935 French incarnation, Derborence, I’m inclined to trust that Claudel’s statement is no exaggeration. At home late that night, I opened the book expecting to have a quick look; two hours later I emerged from this exquisite novel as though from a trance. Ramuz’s captivating narrative style is completely compelling; his descriptions of the Swiss Alps in which his story unfolds are ravishing; his grasp of the ways people grapple with disaster displays a profound sensitivity and understanding; the ending of the novel still rings in my mind days later with a precise, poignant, crystalline beauty.

As a title, When the Mountain Fell, even if it’s not Ramuz’s own, sums up the novel succinctly. This is a simple story of catastrophe and human response to it, based on an actual event, a colossal landslide in the early 18th century in Derborence, in the French-speaking corner of Switzerland near the source of the Rhône, which brought half of a mountain down onto the scattered seasonal cabins of herders who had taken their livestock up to a mountain meadow to graze. The resulting rock field dammed a stream and created a lake, spread debris for a distance of five and half kilometers, and buried the area in rock to a depth estimated at 100 meters.
Ramuz focuses on the human element of this catastrophe, the actions and reactions of the valley’s citizens across a wide psychological spectrum, from resigned acceptance to abject grief to madness, relating the landslide’s impact on individual lives as well as on the community of the valley and beyond. His characters, simple country people, employ a laconic, pared-down language that captures the essentiality of rural life, as in the relationship between Antoine and Therese, the young newlyweds at the novel’s center:
He said, “hello”; she said, “hello.” He said “Well now…,” she said,” You see, it’s like this.” They had to meet far from the village, because there were always busybodies around.
This economy of language that leaves a world of things unsaid remains unchanged even in the face of disaster, as when men from neighboring villages and even from the German-speaking side of the range converge on the site of the collapsed mountain:
­­They came. They said nothing at first. They came and said nothing. They looked at the people from Zamperon who said nothing either. Then they nodded their heads slowly.
And they said, “Well?”
The people from Zamperon said, “Yes,” and nodded their heads.
But the ostensible simplicity of When the Mountain Fell masks far more complexity than appears on its surface. Ramuz’s sentences are short. His paragraphs are short. What he does within such constraints can be quietly dazzling. Frequently, perspective shifts subtly between observer and observed, as when Therese, while a storm rages outside, sits dazed within her home, grappling with a ghostly vision she’s had of her husband, a scene we see from her eyes and, a split second later, as though eyes have turned to look at her:
The lightening flashed again. Suddenly there was a window opposite her in the kitchen wall, then it was no longer there.
A blinding white square, it sprang into being, vanished, flashed out again, and with it Therese too was first brilliantly lighted, then swallowed up in darkness , then lighted up again.
Ramuz’s sentences perform similar acrobatics in delicately flipping perspective between interior thought and exterior phenomena, or in juxtaposing elements that suggest, in the wake of the calamity, consciousnesses struggling between extremes of belief and disbelief, between profound anguish and the irreverent indifference of particular material things latched onto in the mind’s desperate grasp for solidity and succor. At times Ramuz replays, “Rashoman” style, an entire scene as viewed first from one character’s perspective then from another’s, even aligning this along a back and forth tension between the buried meadow up the mountain and the women, children and elderly men left in the village below. Perspective looks up the mountain then back down, as though strung along an invisible cord binding the village to the disaster which has taken so many of the town’s most vital men, as though to emphasize the empathic ways in which the living ache for the dead, longing to identify, whether out of grief or hope, or out of both, with those they love, with those they have lost.
The tremendous sense of loss is amplified and thrown into sharp relief through Ramuz’s contrasting, rapturous descriptions of the natural world. Beyond and above the sharp, cruel rocks, everything seems divinely luminous and alive:
It was as if they were standing at the bottom of a well, except that the steep walls were fissured from top to bottom by narrow gorges, each with is tiny waterfall hanging in a wavering white line. Their gaze swept evenly around the rim, then halted where Serpahin’s forefinger still pointed at the sky.
It was up there right on the edge of the parapet at its highest point. Just there the rock jutted out into space, and towering along its whole width was the rim of the glacier. Something up there was shining softly: a luminous fringe, faintly transparent, with gleams of blue and green and a sheen like phosphorescence – it was the broken edge of the ice, and in that enchanted hour of the night it too was filled with infinite silence and infinite peace. Nothing stirred anywhere under the impalpable white down of moonlight which seemed to drift effortlessly on the night air and settle in thin sheets on every smooth surface.
When the Mountain Fell contains a few elements of what in less adept hands I’d be tempted to call “Christian kitsch” – Bible beams breaking through clefts in cliffs and clouds to illuminate polished crosses, symbolic incarnations of good and evil, suggestions of Christian allegory. But what Ramuz accomplishes, almost miraculously, is simply and seamlessly to bring the reader inside the religiosity of the community he describes, conveying how belief - or incredulity - can shape and constitute perception of reality. Rather than imposing a theological vision, Ramuz simultaneously keeps us outside as observers and inside as participants in the community’s small, sincere rituals and gestures of faith, which have a particular poignancy in the world he creates around his good people, a world actually at odds with a reassuring God and where faith is, almost literally, teetering on an abyss. On the surface When the Mountain Fell may appear an anachronism, out of step literarily with a decade that gave birth to works of such striking modernism as Celine’s Journey to the End of Night, Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. Yet Ramuz’s story contains, in addition to its subtle, controlled experiments with syntax and perspective, a canny questioning of perception itself – throughout his novel there’s a delicate infusion of dreams, hallucinations, visions, and superstitions capable of altering reality – but above all a deep sense of existential indeterminacy and of the indefinite and indefinable. A simple description of a precipice along a mountain path contains all the power of an existential void:
And suddenly the ground falls away from beneath your feet.
All at once the line of grass against the sky, which dips slightly in the middle, is outlining its hollow curve over nothingness itself. You have arrived. A chasm opens abruptly below you, like an immense oval basket with precipitous sides over which you have to lean, because although you are yourself six thousand feet up, the bottom is seventeen or eighteen hundred feet below you, straight down.
You bend over, you lean your head forward a little. Or else lie down flat, and look over the edge into the depths.
A breath of cold air blows into your face.
In like manner, even the descriptions of the rock field - “stones, and more stones, and still more stones” - come across as both literal and conceptual, a “waste land” at once geological and as existential as the one that gave a title to T. S. Eliot's poem. Everything in When the Mountain Fell works to suggest a grandeur of existence far beyond the intimacy of the place and time; Ramuz's story could take place as easily in 1935 as in the early 18th century. This lends When the Mountain Fell an eternal, allegorical quality, and, in the context of when it was written, a deeply sensitive prescience. If the minimalist speech of the mountain people carries within it a world of meaning and understanding, then so does Ramuz’s ostensibly simple narrative. For such a small book, it seems vast and echoing, radiating out from that instant of catastrophe as though touching all the world’s catastrophes. And, though the calamitous events in a small, peaceful, Swiss mountain village in the 18th century seem at first far removed from the tumultuous period in which When the Mountain Fell was written, no other novel I’ve read from the time has seemed to communicate so profoundly an anticipation of the imminent catastrophe facing 1930's Europe, of the mountain about to fall on it. - seraillon.blogspot.com/2012/10/when-mountain-fell.html
 
Charles Ferdinand Ramuz was born in Lausanne in 1878, hung out in Paris with the artsy Big Boys from 1903 to 1914, then gratefully came home and never left again. He is doubtless the premier Swiss French writer, and in the course of his long career – he died in 1947 in Pully, near Lausanne – he created a very large body of extraordinary works. In my own non-expert view, his most outstanding achievement was his creation of a melding of an "artless" Swiss mountain peasant way of thought and expression with a structural idiom based upon the sophisticated mindset of Greek drama and the force of expressionist French poetry. I’ve not read all of his books, and I don’t read French as a native might, but my favorites are definitely Derborence (1934) and Le grande peur dans la montagne (1926), both of which brilliantly capture pre-modern high-mountain life in almost a post-modern idiom.
Derborence is still a wonderful place (though the chef of the low-cost lodgings there, in Godey, seems frequently to fall off the back porch drunk, leaving the desperate waitress to offer lodgers only salads and the cheese fondue). Situated at about 1450 meters in a vast hollow behind the massif of the Diablerets, the "mountain of the devils" (3208m), but looking squintingly out southward through a really vicious gorge towards Sion and the valley of the Rhône, Derborence has been a high mountain pasturage since Roman times, used in summer by the peasants of the villages high above Sion in the canton of Valais. The Pas de Chevilles, however, leads steeply up westward over towards Bex in the canton of Vaud [map below], and the Col de Sanetsch leads northwards over towards Gsteig and Gstaad in the canton of Bern.
In the 18th century, extremely large pieces of the Diablerets and its glaciers broke off and descended upon Derborence, to everyone’s instant regret. There, every summer, grazers brought up their cows and sheep and lived in teeny rustic little huts, shoving the animals around and living on bread and cheese inexorably hardening and wishing TV had been invented. Moms, and kids, and all the old dads and grandmoms stayed back in the villages down below. The back half of the mountain collapsed and squooshed people, cows, sheep, trees, shrubs, in fact, everything. It was recorded at the time that, months later, a sole survivor wriggled his way out of the rocks and slabs and went home. This is the simple record upon which Ramuz built his superb story.
In Derborence, Ramuz created an astonishing fake peasant form of speech, at once authentically peasanty-sounding and at the same time highly poetic and artificial – distant, removed, observational, repetitive when necessary, but of course extremely emotive and even sentimental at times. Well, in fact, VERY sentimental at times. That’s okay with me, I reckon he’s earned the sentimentality by virtue of the stark realism of the peasant way of life. (Don't you grad students give me T. S. Eliot's "objective correlative" at this point, I'm trying to be serious!)
And the narrative voice is sometimes astonishing - in a single sentence, the narrator's voice can observe a person, then become the person observing something else, then observe the person observing something else and responding to it, with no confusion or delay for the reader, only a perfect sense of suitability and rightness and a small flash of insight, as the story carries on without a hitch. And the frequent use of the second-person, telling you the reader what you can see and hear -- it's almost cinematic. The hard, minute observational character of some of the narration reminds one often of Alain Robbe-Grillet, an apparently-emotionless attention to physical detail which in fact evokes great emotion.
But for me, the most devastating narrative technique is Ramuz's use of repetition, drawn from Greek drama I suppose, which creates a sense of inevitability, of fate: "it was the 22nd of June", "it was 9 o'clock, the 22nd of June" -- it reminds you of the knocking on the door in MacBeth -- you are in the hands of an artist, and you have only to follow where he leads you.
Ramuz first published Derborence in 1934, with the good offices of his friend the publisher Mermod in Lausanne, and then sat in Lausanne cafés scribbling changes in the margins of every new reprinting of the story between 1936 and 1947. An English translation by Sarah Fisher Scott was published in 1947 by Pantheon Books, then a distinguished independent publisher but now probably owned by Disney or AOL or Coca-Cola or Hyundai Motors, under the title When the Mountain Fell. Ms Scott’s translation is competent, but it was based only upon the first edition, without the benefit of C.-F.’s compulsive café afterthoughts and inspired whims in his later corrections. More importantly, it’s also a misguided effort to retell the story in a colloquial and natural kind of American English, which reads well enough in its own way, but in the case of Ramuz's incantatory prose, it’s a big big mistake.
The present translation was made in the early 1980s for a girlfriend long departed and takes cognizance of all of Ramuz’s additions and corrections in all subsequent reprintings (though a handful have been rejected as not helpful). The original intention was to publish this new translation with superb photos of the scene, but somewhere I lost both the photos and the energy to pursue it. All the Derborence photos I can find now have got either me or my semi-friends in them or lots of telephone wires or the concrete dam at Godey, so perhaps one needs to go back there soon and do the job properly. So here's just the stunning low-key poetry of Ramuz (anglicized and dwighticized) -- the photos may be coming along later.
Rights and permissions. I haven’t got any . . . but don’t sue me, I haven’t got any money either, and you’d just be wasting your time. Ramuz’s original copyright has expired, but in the early 1980s a Swiss film director, Francis Reusser, made a wonderful film of the story, with Bruno Cremer and Isabel Otero in it, Switzerland’s entry in the Cannes film festival in 1985, and because I figured that this guy who made the film must have bought up some of the rights, somehow I never got round to sorting out the legal side of things and seeking a publisher. And – in the meantime – I moved house a dizaine of times and lost the photos I’d taken to illustrate the splendid tale. - - www.dpeck.info/write/derborence1.htm

 
C.F. Ramuz,  Riversong of the Rhone, Trans. by Patti Marxsen, Onesuch Press, 2015.

John Ruskin first coined the phrase “pathetic fallacy” in the mid-1800s, writing with contempt about how the Romantic poets of that time attributed human emotion to inanimate elements of the natural world. It’s since become a classic literary device and an example of contemporary literary criticism—of how writers in their day responded to and reshaped the interpretation of the works of their peers. There’s some irony, then, in the way that the largely forgotten French-speaking Swiss writer Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz—a contemporary of the so-called Modernists who likewise rejected the tenets of Romanticism—so wholly and purely embraces pathetic fallacy in his work. Two of his most recently rediscovered publications, the novel Beauty on Earth and the book-length prose poem Riversong of the Rhone, in new translations from Onesuch Press by Michelle Bailat-Jones and Patti Marxsen, respectively, show how Ramuz employs this fluid experimentation with language that was emerging during his day to communicate a oneness between man and his environment. Part Longfellow and Tennyson, part Eliot and Whitman, Ramuz straddles a line between the old and new on the level of content and form, and in both he strives to convey the eternal quality of existence and, in particular, beauty.
In work and in life, Ramuz was not one to let his individual inclinations go unheeded. A native of Lausanne (in Vaud), his first trip abroad was to Paris in 1903, where he remained until the outbreak of World War I in 1914—a journey in the opposite direction of many of his more famous peers . His aesthetic preoccupations likewise challenged expectations of a person of his standing and his time; although his family was comfortably middle-class, he focused his prolific writings (nearly thirty publications during his career) on the lives and environments of the poor, of locals in remote villages throughout Europe. His outsider’s point of view may have given him the advantage he needed to see beyond the parochial confines of such worlds, and the modernity he knew from life often became the source of conflict among his characters—human and not. From that external, slightly elevated, and singular vantage point he’s able to tease apart the connections between people and place that those on the ground are too close to fully appreciate.
*
In Beauty on Earth, a short novel set and written in 1927, such omniscient narration is key to gleaning the deep allegorical meaning that the seemingly simple plot belies. Milliquet, a café owner in a lake-side village in Switzerland, one day receives a notice from Cuba that his brother has died. What’s more shocking, though, is that he’s now the legal guardian of his niece, nineteen-year-old Juliette, who can arrive by boat if Milliquet consents to taking her as his charge. To the locals of the sleepy town, who have only brought fish onto land from the water, the arrival of a new person by boat is great news. Great, and frightening. All means of preparation are taken for Juliette’s arrival weeks later in April, whereupon they are introduced to a staggeringly beautiful yet taciturn young woman disoriented by her new surroundings. To her, having come from a place her uncle and his neighbors can barely locate on a map, the village is backward and provincial—the book states plainly “Here everything was small”—and they take her silence as passive mocking.
A somewhat latently resentful fascination with Juliette suffuses the local men’s gossip, but only one man, Milliquet’s friend Rouge, goes further. Despite being old enough to be her grandfather, the fat and ruddy (hence his name) fisherman makes it his duty to look after Juliette in a parental sense and a romantic one. To Rouge, the young creature embodies the beauty of the natural world around him, that which often is taken for granted by himself and others. When Mrs. Milliquet throws her out of their home, Rouge takes her in; when she later sends the police out to take her into government custody (a right that Milliquet has as the keeper of her papers), he hatches a scheme for them to escape together on his boat back to Cuba and away from their societal oppressors.
Not much happens in Beauty on Earth until the final chapters when this escape is set in motion, and in the hands of another writer it would be an extremely bland, predictable narrative lacking in character development or a nuanced philosophical backdrop. Ramuz, however, elevates his game by means of linguistic acrobatics: he uses pronouns, tenses, and devices like metonymy and metaphor to inflect the fabulist novel with meaning that extends beyond the text, literally and figuratively. Translator Bailat-Jones discusses the complications of preserving Ramuz’s intent when bringing his French into English; besides moving between past, present, and conditional tenses at dizzying speeds, he uses the pronouns on, vous, and nous—one, you, and we, which are often in English interchangeable ways of talking about a general subject—to mean different, specific things. He speaks not only of “one” as an abstract third-person, but “one” as an all-encompassing mankind; “you” can be you the reader, plural or singular; and “we” can mean a group of characters speaking a plural second-person or, again, all humanity. Nothing is consistent, as in the following passage:
What is wrong? She doesn’t know. And people were even singing in a boat on the water; bathers at the foot of the cliff were calling to one another with loud voices, with laughter muffled by the water; she goes out, she went to join Rouge; at that moment the church bells had all started to ring.
    We could see, over the forest of pines, the square tower and its roof with the rusted white iron ridges, topped with a red-painted rooster. She came to stand beside Rouge; then he showed her the belltower. Then he showed her other things all around. [. . .] The bells are rung, people sing in the water on their boats;—he watched her from the side. We heard the sound of the dishes from the kitchen [. . .]
    Suddenly, “Isn’t that a pretty sound? It’s just that it’s Sunday today. Everything makes itself beautiful.”
    He continued, “Except for you.”
    He stops speaking, they listened to Sunday.
For a translator, working through these few paragraphs would be quite a task, for there’s the undeniable temptation to make them coherent and logical; to “correct” Ramuz’s inability to keep track of a single time or character for his scene. Bailat-Jones, however, has done due diligence to let us experience the exquisite way he “blurs the distinctions between [characters’] private thoughts and general human reactions or tendencies [. . .] moving the reader into and outside the village and into different characters.” We are at once inside Juliette’s head, concerned about Rouge’s whereabouts; hovering over the trees like God over His earthly kingdom; down among the sounds of the village; watching Juliette observe her new surroundings and also observing them with her. We are in the past, present, and future simultaneously because this beauty of Sunday has, and always will, be the same, just waiting for us to acknowledge it.
Gorgeous descriptions of nature abound throughout Beauty on Earth, and they have value in and of themselves as proof of the book’s title. Yet their greater significance is in how they give Juliette a reason for existing at all, a reason for tearing an irremediable hole in the villagers’ lives and universe. Aside from being a lens on the world around her, Juliette doesn’t have much substance on her own. She speaks very little, does even less, and despite her foreign background has virtually no past to bring with her (metaphorized by her new orphanhood). Her beauty is more compelling for the way it innocently and refreshingly reflects nature, to which nature obligingly responds: a two-way pathetic fallacy. Her disruptive arrival coincides with the riotous reemergence of nature in spring, “that time when the trees were all working together above the paths, working to hide the sky with their leaves [. . .] when in just a few days the grass grows all the way up to your knees, as high as it will grow.” In the same vein, Rouge argues with Milliquet that Juliette should be spared from working (and earning her keep): “Leave her free, and then there’s no risk of extinguishing her . . . It’s like butterfly wings: if you touch them they turn gray . . . let her run about . . . when you don’t know what to do anymore, just send her to me.” A few pages later, she arrives at his house “And the girl unwrapped her shawl from over her beautiful arms; she unwrapped it from around her curved neck”: a butterfly unfurling from her cocoon.
Over the course of the book, Juliette becomes increasingly interchangeable with her surroundings; in this sense, she’s like Ramuz’s pronouns, because through her being and Rouge’s (and “one’s” or “our”) appreciation of it, “we are drawn into beauty’s orbit”—we’re elevated above where a more straightforward narrative would keep our gaze, where “Down here on the earth we don’t see enough of it; we want to possess it.” Instead, we don’t merely possess beauty but, through the observations of this absorbent woman, we become it. Juliette’s transformation culminates at the end of the book, during the village party concurrent with her and Rouge’s planned departure. A violent storm descends upon the festivities, flashes of lightning in dialogue with the fleeting, illuminating, and startling foreigner’s presence:
And the girl also changed the light, the light around her becomes all white. There was this great black sky, but everything around her was lit up (or she was the one lighting it). They were watching her come, and she was still in the bottom of the valley, still fairly far away; she was red against the night. [. . .] And now it seems nothing is in proportion and she is no longer her usual size; the wind has taken her, the wind pushes her, she is lifted up. [. . .]
    We see two flames as long as canes, two white flames in the white day. Fire! Fire! Two flames, each a full meter long; then the two lines of short grass tumble down the hillside, hit against one another.
The landscape is utterly transformed by Juliette, revealing to “we” the party-goers and “we” the readers a previously unknown palette for the familiar landscape. That this is such a violent epiphany suggests on one hand the disastrous results of modernity and society (Juliette as an exotic foreigner, American in their view, being chased by the authorities) interfering in a rural, harmonious community. But on the other hand, it suggests the more radical—Modern, even—idea of beauty in ugliness and change. Juliette’s streaking red, disproportionate figure, the “white flames” that engulf the previously placid sky, are frightening unknowns, but awe-inspiring all the same. And from this place, Ramuz shows us how the beauty of our lives indeed comprises all shades, all that we know and don’t, once we’re cognizant of our inextricability from nature and each other.
*
The allegory of man and nature’s harmony is even more transparent in Ramuz’s earlier (1919) work, the prose poem Chant de notre Rhône. The literal translation of the title is “Song of Our Rhone,” but again here the “our” has meanings beyond the merely second-person-plural possessive. In the poem, the river not only belongs to those living in and from its immediate surroundings, but to a collective humanity that springs from its fecund waters and shores. Often narrated from a higher vantage point (i.e., atop a mountain, above the river’s valley), the poem shows us how in various ways the river and mankind are codependent. During the wine harvest, for instance, the people “gather themselves in the wine that contains them, contains their life, and them, and the best of their acts, at the same time that it contains the sun and the soil from whence it came,—if there were, nevertheless, another wine also born of this land, born of a man of this land, that too would contain him and contain the land.” The narrator of the poem thusly speaks to us with langue d’oc, the medieval “root” language of the Provençal area, and sees with an “All-seeing Eye, a torn opening, eye that looks and eye into which you are looking, and you search within that gaze in response to your own without ever finding its depths.”  
To read a biblical or Christian meaning into this passage, and the entire poem, is one obvious, and not wrong, interpretation. Ramuz describes the river as a source of rejuvenation and perpetual youth, where “everything is new, because everything is fresh and not yet said, ô very old, very young land, the ancient Rhone, always and forever younger than anything else”—an image that evokes a baptismal cleansing of the soul. It is also a “book of blood relations, great book of living flesh, [of which] it is necessary to read your pages to the end”—i.e., the bible, bringing together Old and New Testaments in the voice of God and the body and blood of Christ. We even see places of worship and pietàs, religious rituals that take place along the river’s banks. But rather than a strict, manmade religious system, Ramuz’s faith might be more pantheistic. God is everywhere because beauty is everywhere in His creations, including the literary preservation of said beauty. He worships “Words for the beauty of words, image for the beauty of the image, which is to say for the joy that we derive from images; the Son of God placed there before us as a figure so that he alone might be cherished and venerated.” The writing, then, is a form of prayer, and invocation of a universal song with which all life can harmonize.
Indeed, more so than in Beauty on Earth, and no doubt because of the more explicit poetry of the language, Riversong of the Rhone is fueled by an entrancing, hymn-like music. (One of Ramuz’s few contemporary alliances was Stravinsky, for whom he wrote a libretto in 1918.) Patti Marxsen’s agile translation of the poem reveals a musicality within incantatory repetitions and images of a rocking cradle—an aural and visual evocation of a shared birthplace. Ramuz writes, for instance:
I watch the cradle rocking, a riverbank on each side.
    The side that is Savoy, the other that is the Vaud. 
    Here and now is the cradle: I watch the cradle move, with its border of riverbanks.
    The Savoyard side and the Vaudois.
    I watch the cradle rocking between the two riverbanks joined at the ends, giving the cradle its shape and, at the same time, placing them asymmetrically across from each other.
Here, the cradle is at once connective and discriminating: it links together discrete paragraphs/stanzas into one melodic line while also recognizing the asymmetry of its two footings. In this way, Ramuz introduces the crux of his collective identity that’s as much founded upon individuality as it is unity. Recall that Ramuz himself was from Vaud, and here there’s clearly a first-person narrator observing the scene. And so just as Juliette was a necessary agent for the revelation of the village’s inherent beauty, here the “I” is the only eye fully aware of everything happening along the river’s coursing path—and able to put it to such music, to render the landscape in a verbal painting. Emphasizing that singular perspective is not, then, self-aggrandizing but self-diminishing and in service of a common art that “will announce from the heart of the world who I am and who we are, who all of those assembled here are [. . .] no longer anything other than one single person.”
*
To read Ramuz in 2015 raises many questions about the current state of our literature and our society. Were these two works to be published today, they might be received as naïve and didactic, too simplistic a response to our complicated relationships with other countries, ethnicities, religions, and other broad markers of identity. To say “there is a kinship of the heart in all things” in a way erases the many values of individuality, a central and prized tenet of Western culture. Reading him now, though, also suggests a kind of harmony between two contradictory philosophies of life, an end to the battle between self and society. Rather than posing a threat to the natural world (via pollution, global warming, overpopulation) and to each other (wars, genocides), mankind in Ramuz’s view can perpetually self-generate instead of self-destruct by embracing an inner beauty that is the source of our self-worth and empathy. He reminds his readers that an eternal state of flux is the only way to uncover those hidden layers and webs of selves, where we can stretch ourselves among others for a more whole and transcendent being: “All that changes, and never changes, fusion and union and interdependence, every kind of utility, for all kinds of beauty; for nothing is beautiful that does not, first of all, dwell in life and in the free circulation of life, endlessly creation new destinations and dwelling places.” - Jennifer Kurdyla

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Liberating the Canon - an edited anthology capturing the contemporary emergence of radically innovative and non-conforming forms of literature in the UK and US

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