Rosmarie Waldrop - the narrator writes to her sister, trying to come to terms with her ancestry: What did her parents, two "ordinary people" in Nazi Germany, really stand for? As Andrea and Doria bear witness to an encroaching evil, the sunken-ship wordplay suggests that together they are a vehicle for exploring a submerged consciousness


Rosmarie Waldrop, The Hanky of Pippin's Daughter and a Form / of Taking / It All, Northwestern University Press, 2001.

read it at Google Books

These two novels explore the themes of physical and emotional exile and "between-ness." In The Hanky of Pippen's Daughter, a German woman tries to come to terms with her ancestry. What did her parents, two "ordinary people" in Nazi Germany, really stand for? How does their bad marriage resonate in the lives of their daughters? Can we really know the past or its place in our lives?

Written as an epic collage, A Form/of Taking/It All measures the subjective experience of the narrator against the historic, scientific, and political discourses that control her personal experiences.
Letters between two sisters who grew up in Nazi Germany, explore their family history and assess their complicity with Nazism

These two novels, long out of print, explore the themes of physical and emotional exile and "between-ness". Each is relevant, accessible, and written with a rich blend of poetic language and withering critique. In The Hanky of Pippen's Daughter, the narrator writes to her sister, trying to come to terms with her ancestry: What did her parents, two "ordinary people" in Nazi Germany, really stand for? How does their bad marriage resonate in the lives of their daughters? The Hanky asks whether we can really know the past or its place in our lives.In A Form / of Taking / It All, Waldrop measures the highly subjective experience of her narrator in contemporary Mexico City against the historical, scientific, and political discourses that control her personal experience. Written as an epic collage, A Form / of Taking / It All is an innovative presentation of such disparate elements as Columbus's discoveries and the formulation of quantum theory, presented in an elaborate web of interactions that stretch the bounds of language.

"Readers will find in this ambitious, at times brilliant fiction a passionate articulation of a painful and guilt-ridden memory." --New York Times Book Review

"It is not the least of Waldrop's talents that she is very, very funny, and she sharpens her black humor to a knifelike edge that makes the punchlines hurt . . . [The Hanky of Pippen's Daughter] is stunning, an incisive portrayal of the proposition that the history of lies is the vital task of history itself." --Village Voice

"Rosmarie Waldrop's haunting, superbly intelligent, evocative and strange, reverberates in the memory for a long time, a song for the dead, a judgment."—Angela Carter

Writing from America to her sister in Germany, the protagonist of this shattering first novel reconstructs the life of her parents—in the author’s words, “just those ‘ordinary people’ who helped Hitler rise.” Unflinching in her appraisal, she imagines how her father’s latent anti-Semitism was triggered by his wife’s affair with a Jew, who was later sent to a concentration camp. The tone darkens as the narrator realizes that she and her sisters are living out variants of their mother’s sexual model.

“Wonderfully, relentlessly absorbing, Hanky’s several overlapping tales leave one marvelling at the beauty, economy and humor with which Waldrop interweaves the complex tensions of Hitler’s Germany in a family drama of repeated infidelity. Delightfully rich and bawdy and as strong-willed as its characters.” -Lydia Davis

“Rosmarie Waldrop’s haunting novel, superbly intelligent, evocative and strange, reverberates in the memory for a long time, a song for the dead, a judgment.” -Angela Carter

MUCH has been written about the desire to suppress the nightmarish memories of World War II and the Holocaust in postwar Europe, particularly among Germans. The poet Rosmarie Waldrop creates a voice for expressing those memories in her unusual and intelligent first novel, ''The Hanky of Pippin's Daughter.'' In this epistolary narrative she is concerned with how to get at the story of twin sisters, one in West Germany and one set-tled in Providence, R.I., who attempt to sort out the sins of their elders by retelling their past. The central event of their childhood is their mother's infidelity within two months of her wedding day.
''Consult any novel: she had to have her experiences,'' Doria writes to her twin Andrea in wry defense of Frederika, their mother. How well Ms. Waldrop knows the rich literary ancestry of adulterous wives. But this is not just any novel about a woman's unfaithfulness. Set in small-town Germany between the world wars, the domestic scandal of the ordinary Seifert family intertwines with Hitler's rise to power; marital betrayal is a metaphor for what is happening in the state. Everyday detail progresses to a haunting echo: ''Auschwitz, Maidanek, Treblinka.''
Amazingly enough, this heavy theme is treated with a light hand. As Andrea and Doria bear witness to an encroaching evil, the sunken-ship wordplay suggests that together they are a vehicle for exploring a submerged consciousness. The text itself is broken up not by the customary salutations and chronology of letters, but by boldface headings; each section is a vignette or a dramatic monologue and the whole novel forms a poetic sequence from which a discourse about origins - psychological, legendary and historic - unfolds.
The hanky in the title is a resonant image of the coincidental nature of any historical moment. As Doria tells the legend of her birthplace: ''A hanky dropped from a window of castle Schwanberg by the daughter of Pippin the Short. . . . The wind carried the bit of cloth down the mountain side. . . . Down by the river, the Main, shepherd Kitz found it crumpled and soggy with dew. The town of Kitzingen was built on the spot.'' Though Doria seeks a nobility to her background, she notes with irony that the castle has become an old folks' home and even the garbage man in Providence is called Pippin.
The novel makes no attempt to resolve the characters' continued ambivalence and moral amnesia. But readers will find in this ambitious, at times brilliant fiction a passionate articulation of a painful and guilt-ridden memory. - Regina Weinreich

In poet Rosmarie Waldrop’s first novel, The Hanky of Pippin’s Daughter, an excavation of familial relations and memories of childhood in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power, epistolary exchanges substitute for dialogue as two sisters write to each other about their parents’ bad marriage and their mother’s possible affair with a Jewish man who has disappeared in the war. All the while the narrator copies out and mails letters, trying to close in on a past she thought she had abandoned, she realizes that “As my memory lumbers toward them, the parents retreat a little farther each time. They leave an image I pounce on, happy for a moment till I realize it’s a decoy. A decoy I have manufactured.” Broken into sections with titles like “Portrait of Frederika as a Control Tower,” Waldrop’s examination of a private domestic war inside a world war might be considered in relation to Gertrude Stein’s Lifting Belly, the celebration of an erotic love life inside the same world war.
Image result for Rosmarie Waldrop, Curves to the Apple: The Reproduction of Profiles, Lawn of Excluded Middle, Reluctant Gravities,

Rosmarie Waldrop, Curves to the Apple: The Reproduction of Profiles, Lawn of Excluded Middle, Reluctant Gravities, New Directions, 2006.               

Three pivotal works conceived by the avant-garde poet as a trilogy and now together in one volume at last.
Rosmarie Waldrop's Curves to the Apple brings together three highly praised and influential titles: The Reproduction of Profiles, Lawn of Excluded Middle, and Reluctant Gravities. Though originally published separately, these prose poems have always been intended as a loose trilogy of thought and feelingor of thought manifested as feeling. The author comments: "Just as the title Curves to the Apple combines the organic and geometry (not to mention myth and history of science) the poems navigate the conflicting, but inextricable claims of body and mind, especially the female body and feelings in a space of logic and physics. The poems could all be called dialogic, reaching out across a synaptic (sometimes humorous) gap to a possible 'you' (though it may be rhetorical, another point of view in the same mind). But while the 'I' dominates the first two volumes, the third gives both voices equal space and chance."

Collecting three influential volumes of Rosmarie Waldrop’s prose poetry—The Reproduction of Profiles (1987), Lawn of Excluded Middle (1993), and Reluctant Gravities (1999)—Curves to the Apple stands as a testament to the poet’s thirty-year inquiry into language and philosophy and solidifies her stature as one of the leading voices in contemporary American poetry. Throughout the trilogy, Waldrop employs the prose poem as “an alternate, less linear logic” to test, explore, and map the “conflicting, but inextricable, claims of body and mind, feeling and logic.” Often extending out of—or in tension with—Wittgensteinian propositions and the scientific complications of quantum physics, Waldrop’s poetics of inquiry is enacted in sentences that deftly slide on a continuum between language and reality, the quotidian concrete and philosophical abstract. “Way down the deserted street,” she writes, “I thought I saw a bus which, with luck, might get me out of this sentence which might go on forever, knotting phrase onto phrase with fire hydrants and parking meters, and still not take me to my language waiting, surely, around some corner.” Waldrop further dramatizes this play between opposites through the poems’ first- and second- person singular pronouns—which “do not so much represent characters as frame the synaptic space between them.” It is in this space where desire and philosophical dialogue are transmuted one into the other and where Eve’s apple and Newton’s apple are collapsed into the gravitational attraction of binaries—two bodies, two minds, two voices—separated by a great emptiness. In this attempt to navigate the gap between “I” and “you,” self and other, self and world, Waldrop’s nimble poetics of “gap gardening” provides the emotional and ethical center of the three-book sequence, though ultimately that “extra space between us” seems impossible to bridge: “Your space was framed so differently from mine,” Waldrop writes, “that it located your ‘here’ around the curve of the horizon, unreachable by even my longest sentence.” - Andy Frazee
Image result for Rosmarie Waldrop, Driven to Abstraction
Rosmarie Waldrop, Driven to Abstraction, New Directions, 2010.               
read it at Google Books

Even in a state of geometrical grace we cannot see time as it is, only as it passes. So the river shows us while softly disfiguring our waterlogged bodies on the way to vast projects of war.―Rosmarie Waldrop

Driven to Abstraction is Rosmarie Waldrop’s sixth collection of poetry with New Directions. The first of its two sections, “Sway-Backed Powerlines,” consists of five sequences of prose poems whose subject matter ranges from voyages of discovery and the second Iraq war to geometry, memory, and the music of John Cage. Part two, the title sequence, investigates the tendency to abstraction in our lives which, in the West, began with the Renaissance introduction of zero into arithmetic, the vanishing point into perspective, and imaginary money in economics. Driven by the tension between abstraction and the concrete, and written in the shadow of ongoing wars, these poems are among Waldrop’s most engaging and thrilling works to date, the writing of a master poet at the height of her creative powers.

“One of the leading voices in contemporary American poetry.”- Boston Review

“Rosmarie Waldrop should be recognized as a national treasure.”- The Providence Journal

“Rosmarie Waldrop is one of America’s finest formalists. She is a poet capable of very direct address, of narrative when she wants it, of pointed humor, and of profound pathos. But her process of syntactic expropriation provides the open latticework across which her stunning lyrics creep.”
- No: A Journal of the Arts

Rosmarie Waldrop was born in Germany in 1935. It was while performing flute and piano in a youth orchestra there that she met Keith Waldrop, whom she subsequently married. They returned to the United States, where she obtained a PhD. In 1961, she and Keith began Burning Deck Magazine, which morphed into Burning Deck Press. In the subsequent years, she has published numerous books of poetry, translation, and criticism, as well as two novels. Influenced by such writers as Claude Royet-Journoud, Anne-Marie Albiach, and Edmond Jabés, whose works she has translated, she says of her writing:
The fact that I am a woman clearly shapes my writing: thematically, in attitude, in awareness of social conditioning, marginality—but does not determine it exclusively. The writer, male or female, is only one partner in the process of writing. Language, in its full range, is the other, and is beyond gender. In spite of Lacan’s attempt at appropriation and in spite of our language declaring that “man” means human being. The language a poet enters into belongs as much to the mothers as to the fathers.
With this as our background, we will begin the examination of Driven to Abstraction, which is divided into two parts: “Sway-Backed Powerlines,” consisting of short multi-part prose poems written between 2004 and 2008, and “Driven to Distraction,” written in a similar but longer prose poem format.
“Sway-Backed Powerlines” consists of several poems that are written in an abstract, geometric manner. We are immediately introduced to this with the first poem, “All Electrons are (not) Alike”:
A view of the sea is the beginning of the journey. An image of Columbus, starting out from the abyss, enter the left hemisphere. Profusion of languages out of the blue. Bluster, blur, blubber. My father was troubled by inklings of Babel and multiplication on his table.
Waldrop’s wit is delightful, as can be seen in her use of the word “hemisphere.” The left hemisphere is the rational, non-creative part of the brain. It is also, on a world map, the position of North America. Is this a comment on Waldrop’s adopted country? In her second poem, “A Little Useless Geometry & Other Matters,” we find in the subsection “From Figure to Proposition”:
If the eye of god is a triangle that allows him to see beyond lines (of soldiers?), then is atheism denying geometry? When you’ve specified that a cross is more than an obstructed vertical much remains to be said. (About hairs?) Words come tumbling out before I can pose them for the camera or polish the lens.
These two passages present sufficient material to make us realize that Waldrop’s paragraphs obey much different principles that do prose paragraphs. They are not ruled by the laws of logic. Things move through intuition and the resonance of what came before, becoming a collage of concepts. There is no doubt in Waldrop’s paragraphs that this is a new form, sitting somewhere between poetry and prose (which often is not the case with prose poetry).
“Driven to Distraction” is presented in four parts, the first of which is titled “Zero, or, Opening Position.” Each of the four parts concerns the concept of zero. The untitled opening poem contains the following:
First there was counting, that is, primitive semiotic activity. Much later, a sign connected to nothing, that is, the void, that is, a place where no thing is, that is, systematic ambiguity. Between absence of thing and absence of sign, a distance to travel. And add a charm against the evil eye.
Here is a history of literary theory, beginning with Saussure’s General Theory and William Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity and continuing into Barthes’s Mythologies and Semiotics. Does Waldrop break the taboo against abstraction? She definitely extends it to as wide a point as possible in this “stanza,” but by following it with “The fingers of the right hand wander over the private parts and the fingers of the left feel the nipples”, she pulls us back from the abyss. But as she goes deeper into this section, we begin to question her direction. For example, she concludes “Zero, the Corrosive Number” with:
Once we have eaten of the fruit we cannot be. Like one who has not. Cannot vomit up the fruit and kill the ox that drank the water that put out the fire that burnt the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the serpent that crossed the coordinates.
This rendition of “This Old Man” calls to mind Coleman Hawkins, who, in the midst of a great jazz solo, once quoted “Mary had a Little Lamb.”It’s unprepared, unwanted, and destructive of the magic that came before. Kind of “cutesy”—and we don’t want cutesy when reading great poetry, poetry that is classic in the tautness of its lines. In the final part of this section, “Absence of Origin,” we come across what cannot be considered anything but prose—and abstract political prose at that:
One thirty-fifth of an ounce of gold for a dollar. The treasury was obliged. Till 1973, when the U.S. government canceled. Such obligation. Since then exact resemblance for exact resemblance, exact same bill for exact same bill. And nothing, neither gold nor silver, in back of the mirror. (If there had been would it reveal scenes of Vietnam? Reasons of the fourfold increase in the price of oil?)
What began as a flirting with the edge between poetry and prose, abstraction and concreteness, has deteriorated into the latter categories, much to the regret of the reader who began by admiring Waldrop’s boldness. At the end, one is left with a feeling of sadness that Waldrop could have let such a thing happen. -


Rosmarie Waldrop’s newest book, “Driven to Abstraction,” reads like a well-worn worry stone—a postmodern, metaphysical worry stone, but a worry stone nonetheless. That’s not to say that the concerns of this book aren’t noble or important, but rather that they come across as obsessive meditations rooted in the recapitulation of ideas and not in an effort to achieve definite ends. As such, Waldrop negotiates the question of place in this collection by examining it metaphysically, through systems of knowledge, rather than orienting it in specific, discrete knowable environments. Throughout this book, Waldrop explores the question, “How can we know our place in the world?” by asking “How do we know anything?”
“Driven to Abstraction” is composed of two sections: “Sway-Backed Powerlines (2004-2008)” and “Driven to Abstraction,” the title section. The first concerns itself with Everything, examining various systems of knowledge, while the second section meditates on Nothing, examining the concept of zero.
“Sway-Backed Powerlines” is composed of five sequences with such titles as “All Electrons Are (Not) Alike,” “A Little Useless Geometry & Other Matters,” and “Time Ravel.” In Waldrop’s everything section, she worries over cartography, mathematics, music, language, and so on. She splices images of Christopher Columbus with personal memories and bits of philosophical reference—Heidegger’s “Being and Time,” for example. Or John Cage’s musical compositions are considered next to images of the Iraq War and examinations of the way sound works in the human brain and ear. Taken together, these poems read like an academic brain dump, and nothing has been excluded. They seem to be searching through the vast chatter of the brain for something definite or meaningful, but meaning and definition are difficult to come by in “Driven to Abstraction,” and this elusiveness is ultimately Waldrop’s point.
The series of poems are written in prose poem style, fiercely resisting definition as either prose or poetry. While the rambling, conversational tone Waldrop employs along with the complete rejection of verse lineation place this work firmly in the not-poetry camp, the highly aural, stylized, and playful language veer the work into the not-prose camp. These prose poems are true hybrids in a way most other examples of the form often aren’t. Furthermore, the playfulness of her language also resists clear meaning. She jams phrases together: “It’s then I think therefore I am beside the point,” in “Point”; or “What do you mean, body bags under my eyes!” in “Volume.” She interjects series of sonically related words amid more coherent sentences or phrases. For example, the curious phrase, “Curls, fur, furbelow, furious, further,” appears in poem “3” of “All Electrons are (Not) Alike.” Or trailing along the bottom of the pages throughout the series, “Music is an Oversimplification of the Situation We are In,” we see an alphabetical list of words, from “a” to “zero.”
In moments, these scattered, jarring poems seem to reach for meaning. Amidst all this chatter, when Waldrop drops lines like, “Anything, they say, is bearable as long as light pours down over the city,” the poem, “Volume,” seems to open up and allow that light to pour into the experience of reading. Or she poses vividly honest questions like in the series “Time Ravel.” Poem “4” asks, “How can I remember my parents if I need to run my hands over my body to make sure it is there”; and poem “6” asks, “What does it mean to recall the past if I have little sense of the present?” It is in these moments that we get to the central questions of the book—How do we know our place in a world so filled with noise? How do we know anything when knowledge is so fickle? How do we know each other when we cannot know ourselves?
The book’s second section, “Driven to Abstraction,” puts away the questions about systems of knowledge and focuses on nothing, zero, the vanishing point. Some of the brain chatter of the first section is hushed. The prose here shifts from being tight blocks of text to prosaic sentences, strung out with paragraph breaks and bits of white space. Some of the language play, which appeared in the first section, has been toned down. But for being about nothing, this section is neither quiet nor still. Semiotics, Aristotle, and algebra all show up within the first poem. Later there is a history of perspective in painting and a history of currency. Throughout this section, Waldrop considers our philosophical understanding of zero and methods of counting. In the poem, “Zero, Or Opening Position,” Waldrop writes, “Welcome the abstract and its anxiety. It’s where the important things happen.” But exactly what these “important things” could be is difficult to pin down. Whereas the first section, “Sway-Backed Powerlines,” was about trying to find something definite among the noise of the world, among the endless expanse of everything, Waldrop’s search for meaning in zero in this second section has all the same breadth of the first sequence but lacks the depth that appeared in its brightest moments, when Waldrop was willing to suspend the metaphysical, intellectual exploration to ground the poem in the physical world. However, there is one notable exception. Early in the sequence, Waldrop asks about writing’s equivalent to painting’s vanishing point.
And what is the zero that marks the place of one-who-writes? A page like snow? … The moment the Greeks added vowels to the alphabet so we don’t have to draw on anything outside to construe it?
Shapes not found in nature. To take us out of body.
But I long for it. The body. Even if blue veins run from the knees to the ankles and the feet are swollen and bulge out of the shoes. And how can I long for something that is right there?
This momentary honesty in “Interlude: Cyclops Eye” comes the closest to showing Waldrop’s greatest strength in this collection, the dogged desire for something transcendent or definite in the midst of the uncertainty of existence. However, rather than continuing to reach for the body, Waldrop leaves the subject hanging in order to come to the conclusion that nothing is everything and everything is nothing. In “Nothing is Round,” she writes:
Zero knots its shape around a void. A hole a man might fall into if he can’t see straight. Ring, circle (vicious?), loop that separates in from out. And is also the egg, hence generation. All and nothing in one pregnant contradiction.
This instinct to come full circle is philosophically interesting. Waldrop poses provocative questions, certainly. I understand the desire to comprehend nothing when faced with the vast immensity of humanity and its chatter. And I understand the desire to return to the chatter when faced with in inconceivability of nothing. But Waldrop’s philosophical leaps fall flat in comparison to her moments of reaching for the definite in the figure of the body, what I see as the most deeply important and resonant aspect of this chaotic and ambitious work. Furthermore, these philosophical leaps seem flippant in the face of the horror of recent history, as Waldrop recalls it in this text. Near the middle of the book, Waldrop stumbles, stutters. She writes:
4,000 to 6,000 civilians have been killed in Fallujah.
It is impossible to describe the fact that corresponds to this sentence, without simply
repeating the sentence.
A cat chases a yellow butterfly. My father sneezes.
In the face of such unknowable numbers, we see Waldrop’s desire to know something definite. We see why the definite that she desires to know is none other than the human body. Here is the weight of the desire to know another. In the most powerful moments of this book, Waldrop shows us that we can locate our place in the world by seeking after the physical place of the human body; but by pushing away this desire in favor of philosophical somersaults, Waldrop’s work runs the risk of not just sidestepping knowledge of the self or other; it runs the risk of looking at horror and then deciding it’s best to look away. Considerately, however, she provides us with an opportunity to reject her philosophical turning away, as the last words of the book read, “Contradict as needed.” - Shiloh Booker

The poet Rosmarie Waldrop successfully engages in concision of a different sort in Driven to Abstraction, her newest collection of poems from New Directions (2010).  For years Waldrop has been perfecting the art of the prose poem, and her skill allows her to compress into 20 or so sentences, with great lyricism and no loss of argument, what many a prose writer or poet would labor pages over.  Her poems in this volume cover a great deal of ground, from the immediate—the most recent Iraq War—to the more distant—life with her father during her childhood in Germany—to the abstract, taking up and extending Ong's idea but in a variety of practices beyond the literary—literally, the introduction of abstraction, via the introduction, during the Renaissance, of zero into Europe, the debut of the perspectival vanishing point in visual art, and the concept of money in economics. Her method is juxtaposition, the judicious image, careful deployment of rhetoric and figuration, and an attentiveness to the visual and aural powers of language that when artfully explored can do double or triple work. At times Waldrop achieves a synthesis that manages to pair concretion with abstraction, springing forth a resonance that startles and sticks:
When I was ten I read Westerns by Karl May and with him crossed the border between Mexico and Canada. Columbus erased heathen names like Guanahí. Christened the islands to come king of the promised land.  As Adam, who "called the animals by their true names," was thereby to command them. San Salvador, salve, salvage, salvo. The power to name is power. Especially when backed by guns.
Here, in the seventh section of the book's opening poem, "All Electrons Are (Not) Alike," we touch upon and transcend time, the personal and the public, the religious and the secular, languages themselves, with no loss of Waldrop's wry political critique of one of the key master narratives of the West, reproduced, as she cites, via the fictions of the beloved German author of Westerns. Waldrop does this in each successive section, examining geometry, time, and the disastrous 2003 invasion, against which "everywhere people wind clocks to prevent this from happening" (79), sometimes loosening her paragraphs into stanzaic formulations that lose little of their power. In "Music Is An Oversimplification of the Situation We Are In," written in memory of John Cage, Waldrop creates a contrapuntal effect by placing a seemingly unrelated, alphabetized series of words at the bottom of the page beneath each prose poem. I thought of the conversation this approach created with several of Cage's talks and prose pieces, and with the work of a very different figure, Walter Abish's Alphabetical Africa and In the Future Perfect, but also found myself wanting to hear these pieces performed aloud. Waldrop's art wrenches clarity out of disorientation, and rather than distraction, drives us, inimitably towards the keenest attention, to words, her words, and the world. - John Keene

A view of the sea is the beginning of the journey. An image of Columbus, starting out from the abyss, enters the left hemisphere. Profusion of languages out of the blue. Bluster, blur, blubber. My father was troubled by inklings of Babel and multiplication on his table. Afraid that an overload of simultaneous neural firings would result in an epileptic convulsion. The explorers' attention, like the foot of a snail, held on to the planks of their vessels, not communicating. Too intent on the physical fact, waves, whales, or poison arrows. Later, though, poured forth stories never dreamed of by the natives. As if languages were kidnapped as easily as green shady land profuse of flowers.

As Dante followed Virgil, so Columbus, Marco Polo. In those days spring came before summer, but the world was neither round nor infinite. Actual observations served to confirm what he already knew. True, clue, loop and thimbles, line up to the mast. If they did not, he rolled his eyeballs, duplicating the movement of the heavenly bodies. As if there were no transmission of impulse from cell to cell. Repair work is hard, of doubtful and intricate nature, as when a gap appears between two planks or the yarn breaks that was to haul you through the maze. What signifies? he asked. The temperature of the hand or that it held a scepter? Is it the nature of the mind to reach toward the future, to anticipate events about to happen? Stance, chance, all hands on deck. And though I do not understande their language yet I know their king offered me his island for mine own.

Triangulation: greed, religion, stunned surprise. Cabeza de Vaca "passed through many and dissimilar tongues. Our Lord granted us favor with the people who spoke them for they always understood us, and we them." All electrons are alike, a sunny surmise, surf, surface. Not raked by interpretation. With a flavor of asymmetry. Like the electric shock from a battery of Leyden jars administered to 700 Carthusian monks joined hand to hand. Later. Under Louis XV. No note of bruises, blunt instruments. Do we need to open and shut the window when it is transparent from the start? Or a special organ for what trickles through the hourglass? Enough to stretch your hand westward at the right moment and pull down the sun.

Pigafetta in the Philippines. Antonio, the exception. Amid sharks and shattered masts sharpened his pencil. For if a man has not learned a language can he have memories? Pointed at parts of the body and shaped a body of words: samput, paha, bassag bassag, buttock, thigh, shank, the "shameful" parts, utin and bilat, as well as ginger, garlic, cinnamon. The natives stared at the document. Unblinking. Trying, my father thought, to distinguish its parchment body from blemishes in ink rather than title, preamble, or appendices. Perhaps rather troubled with doubt. Scorching air may refute grammatical relationship as much as movement from Vicenza to Mactan, though the speed of nerve signals increases if the organism gets warm, and the creature becomes excited, perhaps delirious. Yet when an object has never been seen back home what good is a word? You have to bring the thing itself and empty your bag to make conversation.

Absence of meaning cracks the mirror. Yet every shard shows Columbus unfurling the royal standard on October 12, while the wind blows from the East by authority, custom and general consent. Curls, fur, furbelow, furious, further. Whereas my father was disturbed by Being and Time, it's in the face of uncovered nakedness Columbus issued the required proclamations. And was not contradicted. And named the islands. Was this the patter of administrative order with a gold standard? Or more self-interest than alternate fear and attention, wonder and universal grammar? Wonder is not registered in heart and blood, but occurs strictly in the brain. Hence it escapes moral categories, hatches heresies from the smell of lemons and fineness of metals. But does not leave a mark on the land, not even a patch cleared of plants not dwarfed by grafting or trained upon a trellis.

Take Diaz's memory congealed in time as in a chunk of amber, ambush. This city where the sun rolled over the water and through gold and silver that outshone it. Display delirious as the love-making of flowers. Up the 140 steps of the great pyramid. To meet you by the altar where blood is blood. The supply extravagant for all the brain's complexity. This splendor, says Diaz, of which no trace remains. Likewise closed ranks raked up to make a Spanish noche triste. Time does not cross precisely calibrated spaces. It flows across three months of siege. Irregularly like a river. Of blood. Noise noisome, nauseous, noxious to distant peripheries. Spears, arrows, stones, bullets, the clash of arms, the cries of warriors, war drums, conches, flutes, and cymbals. Then when the pile of dead is higher than the ruins of the temple, yet does not yield electric current, when Spaniards, walking over the dead bodies, take possession (from "seat" quasi positio). The replete sun. At the same fixed time. Amid dead silence.

Merchants of language travel with paper currency. Columbus's fleet had no priest, but had a recorder. Transactions with eternity less pressing than 'legality' secured by writing. The power to name. When I was ten I read Westerns by Karl May and with him crossed the border between Mexico and Canada. Columbus erased heathen names like Guanahani. Christened the islands to become king of the promised land. As Adam, who "called the animals by their true names," was thereby to command them. San Salvador. Salvation, salve, salvage, salvo. The power to name is power. Especially when backed by guns.

The history of discoveries is his story of traps, mishaps, constant hurt. Of loaded dice. Outcome like reflection of clouds on ice. And once he set foot back on the continent of the past tense, the kingdom of certainty: what had Columbus found? For Ferdinand and Isabella who hoped to travel to the Indies? A packet of islands off China, vulgar pebbles a dog might worry in hot weather. Though pearls for eyes that see his steering wheel environ a round earth turning on its axis like a wheel of fortune on which more than limbs are broken. The rhythm of the midriff so closely linked to vapors of the mind. Diaphragm, frenzy, frantic, phrenology (discredited), and schizophrenia. And on the next page, my father says, a wall is still a wall, but rivers and crocodiles enlarge the landscape.
Image result for Rosmarie Waldrop, Blindsight,
Rosmarie Waldrop, Blindsight, New Directions, 2003.
read it at Google Books

"This influential avant-garde doyenne...handily manages the paradox of the lucid enigma....She maintains a distinctly American voice--quick-witted, conversational, and visually concrete...a poetry that pleases no less than it puzzles."

Waldrop is the author of more than 15 collections of poetry and 20 books of translations (including Edmond JabŠs's seminal The Book of Questions) and a professor at Brown University who has mentored an entire generation of poets. She takes her latest title from a neurological condition in which a person sees more than they are aware of-but adds an intersubjective twist. Addressing the various arcs of life and mortality, the book is intricately sectioned, with parts either dedicated to or containing epigraphs from peers and former students such as Charles Bernstein, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Cole Swenson, Jennifer Moxley, with individual poems within the sections dedicated to more of Waldrop's poet acquaintances, creating a complex layering of poetic connections and perceptions. "H"lderlin Hybrids" is a sort of tribute to the German master, while the second section of the book, "As Were," experimentally recreates lives of figures such as da Vinci, Goethe and Mallarm‚. Waldrop also draws from contemporaries to create collaged poems indelibly marked with her own philosophical, and often deeply beautiful, language, infused with doubt: "taking your hand, or someone's/ for fear that writing/ though waiting for it, would/ make me a shadow,/ or from fatigue, worthy/ of the dark." - Publishers Weekly

Blindsight collects four poetry-sequences. The sequences are prose-poems, but the style and approach varies in each.
       The first and longest section is of Hölderlin Hybrids, and, as might be expected, sharp, short sentences and word-clusters dominate. At its extreme, a section goes:
Tendons. Muscle. Sweat. Interrupt their conversation. A man. A man by the sea. A woman. The earth and its inhabitants. Antigone. Antibody. Anathema. Discrimination, fine. What is a body ? Moves. Passes water. Again and again.
       Elsewhere, sentences are allowed to play out more, but a Hölderlin-like abruptness prevails.
       The second section, As Were, imagines the other lives of artists -- Leonardo da Vinci as anatomist, Montaigne as mayor, Mallarmé as philologist, Kafka as son, and the like. The most approachable of the poems, based as they are on the at least vaguely familiar, they offer the thrill of recognition as well as creatively imagined visions of these figures.
       Blindsight offers a sequence of prose poems of similar length, but without clearly being anchored to the familiar remain the most elusive. The first stanza of "Certainties", for example, goes:
A frame supports what would, on its own, collapse. Apple trees pilfered from a novel, the firmest possible squeeze of the hand. the same skin in and out. But we can laugh to dissolve the already. Though there are things that elude us, there for the money.
       Appealing, but perhaps that frame isn't all that sturdy.....
       Finally, Cornell Boxes (as in Joseph Cornell's boxes) presents 'boxed' poems, each with four stanzas, each with four sentences and with four footnotes. While largely accessible -- and in poems such as the John Hawkes-homage, "Jack in the Box" very effective --, the footnotes, in particular, prove a bit confounding, more outgrowths or little spurs than traditional explanatory notes.

       Waldrop's poems read well, but too much seems wilfully kept at a distance. Waldrop notes that "major sources" for the collection include everything from Angela Carter's Saints and Strangers to Hans Reichenbach's The Philosophy of Space and Time, but the connexion is not made obvious to the casual reader. It's perhaps a sign of success, that she's covered her influences so well, and yet so much is so obviously referential that the reader may well feel left out.
       An interesting but not entirely satisfying collection.

- http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/poetryus/waldropr1.htm

Otto Julius Bierbaum - a Gnostic steppingstone between German Romanticism and the nascent Expressionism that had not yet taken root. It presents a vision of the grotesque not just as a way of life, but as a godly path to a higher vision, even when it appears to be but a manifestation of evil.

Image result for Otto Julius Bierbaum, Samalio Pardulus,
Otto Julius Bierbaum, Samalio Pardulus, Trans. by W. C. Bamberger, Illustrations by Alfred Kubin, Wakefield Press, 2019.[1908.]

“He stepped very close to me, and his eyes were terrible as he said, ‘Hear this, man from Tuscany, and remember it, because it is the truth: God was dead when He created the world’”

Buried in an isolated castle on the outskirts of a city in the Albanian mountains, the wildly ugly painter of blasphemies, Samalio Pardulus, executes works too monstrous to bear viewing, and espouses a philosophy that posits a grotesque world that reflects the ravings of a dead, grotesque god. Told through the horrified account of Messer Giacomo (a mediocre artist at once repulsed and uncontrollably fascinated by the events unfolding around him), Samalio Pardulus describes the simultaneous descent and ascent of the titular anti-hero into a passionate perversion of Catholicism in which love and madness become one, as a dark, incestuous incubus settles into a doomed family.
When it was first published, Otto Julius Bierbaum’s 1908 Gothic novella, the first of his “Sonderbare Geschichte” (weird stories), offered a Gnostic steppingstone between German Romanticism and the nascent Expressionism that had not yet taken root. It presents a vision of the grotesque not just as a way of life, but as a godly path to a higher vision, even when it appears to be but a manifestation of evil.
This first English edition includes the full set of illustrations by Alfred Kubin from the book’s 1911 German edition.

Otto Julius Bierbaum (1865–1910) was a German novelist, poet, journalist, and editor. His 1897 novel Stilpe inspired the first cabaret venue in Berlin a few years later; his last novel, the 1909 Yankeedoodlefahrt, produced a German proverb still in use today: “Humor is when you laugh anyway.”

The Samalio Pardulus of the title is a monstrous figure, a larger than life "wild ugly man" from an old and powerful family who:
did no take part in the life of his day, was deaf to every feeling those people called happiness or unhappiness. He cared nothing for pleasure itself.
     He knew only one desire: to be alone and to create around himself a new world of forms of his imagination, which made a powerful bid to present itself in images.
       His father's personal secretary, an exiled Florentine named Messer Giacomo, teaches him to paint, but Samalio Pardulus isn't satisfied with his teacher's tame brushwork and has much grander visions and ambitions:
His desire was to bring to light his innermost visions, render the wavering steady, the scattered insubstantial.
       Samalio Pardulus is related based on eyewitness Messer Giacomo's account in his: "diario (which, incidentally, was also boring because it was so monotonous)" -- much of it verbatim, but the editorial voice (neutral, in contrast to Messer Giacomo's) and hand nevertheless also prominent.
       Samalio Pardulus' art is dark and grotesque -- "full of the reviling of life, which in this art does not seem to be of God, rather of the devil" -- and he justifies it by claiming: "we are allowed to do what He is allowed to do: everything". And he certainly doesn't seem to accept any limits, pushing boundaries where he can.
       There is also true, sublime beauty in Samalio Pardulus' life -- but it seems out of reach: he has a sister, Bianca Maria: "who is as beautiful as he is ugly" -- and he apparently: "burns with an unseemly love" for her. She seems to emphatically not reciprocate these feelings, and is engaged to marry -- but then things go wrong. Very wrong. Soon, "eerie things were happening nightly at the castle in the forest".
       Bianca Maria and Samalio Pardulus' father, the Count, is confronted with the worst when he is called back home from a visit to Rome. Accompanied by a quivering Messer Giacomo, he is driven to extremes -- stamping out a horror, while also forced to recognize that he had failed to see what his son was capable of, and that: "art, practiced with this proud, heroic devotion, belongs among the greatest human things, among those that carry us over all depths and fog".
       If Samalio Pardulus achieved the highest of art, it is nevertheless anything but a happy ending: the Count has gazed into the abyss (and will continue to do so until his death), and his children have been crushed within it; the Countess is off to a monastery -- and, the one small blessing, dilettante Messer Giacomo vows never to pick up a brush again.
       A nicely overheated gothic grotesque, Samalio Pardulus is a dark tale of art, passion, and god. The lovely little Wakefield Press edition -- truly pocket-sized -- includes the Alfred Kubin illustrations made for the 1911 edition of the original, the black charcoal-dominated pictures a beautiful complement to the story, truly illustrating it, the shadowy technique showing and suggesting just enough, the final tableau of brother and sister a convincing portrait of that scene.
       A lovely-horrible little volume. - M.A.Orthofer

Gaston de Pawlowski was the France’s Albert Einstein of humor. a dizzying catalog of absurd imaginary gadgets and “improvements” to everyday life. An early satire on consumer society and the cult of the inventor

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Gaston de Pawlowski, Journey to the Land of the Fourth Dimension, Trans. by Brian Stableford, Hollywood Comics, 2009.

Written between 1895 and 1912, Gaston de Pawlowski's Journey to the Land of the Fourth Dimension predates by almost 20 years Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men. In this prodigious future history, we shall visit the singular era of the Leviathan, when a colossal entity enveloped men like cells in a gigantic body, the time of the Scientific Tyranny, when the Savants ruled supreme, and finally the Great Idealist Renaissance, or Age of the Golden Eagle, when the fourth dimension becomes familiar to all men. We shall meet homunculi and supermen, intelligent machines and giant microbes.

"Much primitive futuristic fiction now seems banal and unadventurous in its anticipations, but there is nothing banal about Pawlowski's future history. The surreal quality of his futuristic vignettes-especially those dealing with "atomic dissociation" and future biotechnologies in the Scientific Era-has been given an extra edge by actual advances in modern science." Brian Stableford.

This volume also contains the preface to the 1923 edition by Pawlowski in which the author explores and attempts to come to terms, philosophically and scientifically, with the impact of Einsteinian psychics upon his work.

Gaston de Pawlowski, New Inventions and Latest Innovations, Trans. by Amanda DeMarco, Wakefield Press, forthcoming

A friend to Alfred Jarry, Alphonse Allais, and Guillaume Apollinaire (and a later inspiration to Marcel Duchamp), Gaston de Pawlowski was the France’s Albert Einstein of humor. First published in book form in 1916, New Inventions and Latest Innovations collects in one volume the endless inventions Pawlowski imagined and wrote up for Le Rire rouge, forming a dizzying catalog of absurd imaginary gadgets and “improvements” to everyday life. An early satire on consumer society and the cult of the inventor, the collection would also become a noteworthy precursor to the sort of imaginary science that would influence the Collège de ’Pataphysique.

Gaston de Pawlowski (1874-1933) French publisher and author active from 1894, much of his early work being humorous, and many of his early short pieces being spoof descriptions of impossible or unlikely Inventions. Of greater sf interest is Voyage au pays de la quatrième dimension (1912; exp 1923; trans Brian Stableford as Journey to the Land of the Fourth Dimension 2009), a complex, episodic Future History, on lines that anticipate Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men (1930); the disjunctive narrative touches upon a range of eras, including one known as Leviathan, when humanity has been absorbed into something resembling a Hive Mind, climaxing in the Age of the Golden Eagle, when the fourth Dimension is accessible both aesthetically and as a usable understanding of the physical world. Supermen, sometimes short-lived, are frequently found throughout, as are miracles of science. The first edition tends to the exorbitant, aerates the depicted future; the second edition, which Stableford translates, darkens that vision, almost certainly because World War One intervened. [JC] http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/de_pawlowski_gaston

Ermanno Cavazzoni - his books push the novel to its very limits — “like outpourings of the maniacal”. Here we have the dream as paranoia and the vain struggle to understand the rules that govern life. Here we have the dream as a bizarre library in which the fragility of human knowledge is emphasised again and again

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Ermanno Cavazzoni, The Nocturnal Library, Trans. by Allan Cameron, Vagabond Voices, 2013.

Ermanno Cavazzoni admits that his books push the novel to its very limits — “like outpourings of the maniacal”, he says. “That’s how they come to me, you must understand.”
Here in The Nocturnal Library, we have the maniacal that we all know from our own dreams: a dreamer’s lack of control and a dreamer’s dogged acceptance of the absurd. Here we have the dream as paranoia and the vain struggle to understand the rules that govern life. Here we have the dream as a bizarre library in which the fragility of human knowledge is emphasised again and again.
Jerome, who perhaps represents the archetypal man of learning, is bound up in his world of books and suffers from crippling insomnia. He has to study for an exam, and his troubles are compounded by bad toothache, or at least these are the dominating themes of his dream. The reality of wakefulness only appears in the last paragraph of the last chapter.
But this is not primarily a book about dreams. Amongst other things, it is a book about the arrogance and illogicality of power and bureaucracy, and the relationship between the world of intellectual order and the chaos of nature, dominated as it is by mutual disregard and the latter’s inevitable victory in the long term.
And above all, this is a book in which fantasy reigns for its own sake and goes wherever the author’s creative impulse takes it. That is how his novels come to him, and you have to understand that! If you do, you will enjoy this exotic book.

A fantastic evocation of life and learning in a dream sequence: Jerome, who has to sit an exam and suffers from toothache, enters a nighmarish library in which everything conspires to frustrate his desperate attempts to revise. Cavazzoni creates an entire world in this dream, whose absurd perhaps comments on the more muted absurdity of reality. The library contains geological and natural realities that plague the organic matter of which the books are made, demonstrating or at least suggesting the futility of human learning. In some parts of the building the books have turned into peat. Cavazzoni admits that his books pushe the novel to its very limits - "like outpourings of the maniacal," he says. "That's how they come to me, you must understand." 

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Ermanno Cavazzoni, Voice Of The Moon, Trans. by Ed Emery, Serpent's Tail, 1990.          

The madness particular to all those who come under the influence of the city of Padua is celebrated in this novel by Italian writer Ermanno Cavazzoni. Savini, the central character, finds himself the victim of even more alarming circumstances at the time of the full moon.

Savini is exploring the countryside to gather information about a strange phenomenon: people have been finding messages in bottles at the bottoms of wells and hearing voices coming up from these wells. What follows is a belabored account of Savini's discovery that people are really actors and their houses made of cardboard, that they will come out, put on a show and then laugh about what a fool they have made of the audience. Savini meets up with a prefect, and together they set out to expose these actors as well as the hidden creatures they believe are residing at the brink of reality, latching on to human thoughts and bodies. As the novel unfolds in a surreal succession of episodes, we encounter a man who has intimate relationships with his kitchen appliances and a woman who is able to transform herself into a cockerel as part of a mating ritual. Although the Italian author's writing is amusing, the action is repetitious and the appeal of the characters is severely limited by their unrelenting paranoia about the bizarre and ultimately meaningless happenings around them. This novel was recently made into a movie by Federico Fellini. - Publishers Weely

Fellini the Lunatic and His Last Film 'Voice of the Moon'

Brief Lives of Idiots: Cavazzoni, Ermanno, Richards, Jamie: 9781939663535:  Amazon.com: Books

Ermanno Cavazzoni, Brief Lives of Idiots, Trans by Jamie Richards, Wakefield Press, 2021.

A parody of the Lives of the Saints from the Middle Ages, Brief Lives of Idiots offers us a perfect month of 31 portraits of contemporary idiots drawn from real life: fools unable to recognize their family, who fail miserably in their attempts at suicide, are convinced that Christ was an extraterrestrial, or find the experience of a concentration camp to not be so bad

"(T)hese sketches are modeled after the hagiographic lives of the saints, except that the willfulness and pertinacity that led to glorious martyrdom are here the traits of simple pig-headed stupidity. (...) Don't ask me why, but the image of young Renato compulsively hitting himself with rocks seems a fitting conclusion to 2020." - Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

Brief Lives of Idiots is indeed a collection of pieces about people who are, in various ways, mentally enfeebled, ranging from those whose intellectual growth has been stunted to those who become preöccupied with an idée fixe to a few examples of people simply acting very foolishly. (Yes, the chapters focusing on those with actual physical disability in the form of limited mental capacities -- such as one on 'The Republic of Born Idiots', about the Bastuzzis, "a community of idiots left to their own devices" -- can make for somewhat discomfiting reading nowadays, but most of the pieces feature characters whose idiocy is of a different nature.)

As Cavazzoni explains in a 'To the Reader'-preface:

What follows is one calendar month. Each day holds the life of a kind of saint, who experiences agony and ecstasy the way traditional saints do.

There are thirty-one pieces in this sort of calendar of lives, in imitation of a typical 'lives of the saints'-collection but with a rather different (and, in some ways, not so different) cast of figures. Most of the entries do center around individuals, though in some -- as with the aforementioned Bastuzzi family -- the portraits do extend beyond a single individual. Bolstering the cyclical calendar-feel, every seventh entry is of a somewhat different form, basically not dedicated to an individual idiot but rather focused, more or less, on suicides; most of these include several, rather than just a single example.

The idiocy of most of the lives described here is one of some kind of foolishness. The figures tend to the obsessive or repetitive, focused on one thing or idea, often to the bitter end: 'The Martyr to Feet' finds a Dr.Dialisi's life destroyed after buying a pair of shoes that struck his fancy but proved painfully too small for his feet: he can't let go, or have them fixed, and: "whereas he used to be a man without any interests or desires, from then on he became a man who thought of nothing but his shoes". As happens with several of the fools in this collection, it's an obsession that eventually kills him.

Some of the characters seem to have led relatively normal, full lives before cracking, while others have always been this way; either way, the conclusion of one of the pieces goes for almost all of them:

That was her life. Nothing else happened.

If some get stuck in their loop of obsessed sameness, others' foolishness manifests itself in suddenly new-found ambitions. The opening tale finds a Mr. Pigozzi reading about someone's 1976 escape from East Germany in a homemade airplane made from old car parts -- and:

Since Pigozzi had an old Fiat and didn't get along with his wife and daughter, he started playing with the idea of taking off one day and never coming back.

Typically, however, his efforts fall short; Pigozzi proves not to be, as the title of the piece had suggested, 'The Aeronautical Expert'. Part of the fun of Cavazzoni's pieces is not merely in his characters' failures, but in how they fail; not only is Pigozzi's escape-attempt a complete failure, it isn't even recognized for its grandeur and ambition: one witness doesn't recognize his would-be plane as a flying machine and simply thought: "he was trying to mow the lawn" with some newfangled machine, while his family then tells everyone that his spectacular crash was a simple car accident.

The suicide-pieces are slightly different from the rest, but particularly good fun. Each of the four is a variation on the theme, with the first, for example, describing 'Working Suicides' -- people who kill themselves in some work-related way, down to the creative:

A professor of Roman law provoked a nervous student so much during an exam that the latter grabbed the gavel on his desk and hit him in the face and then the temple. The professor had wanted to die for some time; he said no one needed Roman law anymore and that it only served to torture professors and students from generation to generation.

Here too, as well, Cavazzoni finds cruel twists to take the wind out of the sails of the suicides' hoped for moment of significance and glory, as in:

A poet who composed meaningless poems using a calculator committed suicide by gas inhalation to give his poetry a general sense of drama. But the police report simply states he left the gas on, possibly by accident.

The second set of suicides collects 'Collateral Suicides', where the hapless ones trying to do away with themselves manage to inadvertently take someone with them; a third set focuses on 'Near Suicides', where most of the figures have second thoughts at the last moment; while the final one describes 'Star-Crossed Suicides', yet another example of would-be suicide going all wrong.

The foolishness of the idiots collected here ranges from a man obsessed by the speed at which the earth is moving through space -- an insane 108,000 kilometers an hour, after all -- to 'Luigi Pierini, Calculating Prodigy' (who can't quite do enough with his remarkable talent) to 'The Failed Whore'. The one who can't get over how fast the earth is moving can't help but conclude that: "We're a bunch of nuts" -- but he means all of mankind, unperturbed by the speed at which everything is going by; of course, in reality he is the odd man out, just like the rest of these idiots, fixated on something in a way that sets them apart from going on with life as normal, as most everyone else is able to do.

The variations are entertaining, and some are very clever -- and one truly haunts, described in 'Memories of Concentration Camp Survivors'. The fool in that case spent two years at Mauthausen during the Second World War -- without recognizing that as such, or his experiences as unusual. Even his own emaciated condition, and that of the other prisoners, doesn't strike him as strange:

He was very thin when he went in, since everybody in Pescarolo had been thin for ages, as it's such an underdeveloped area. The other people in the concentration camp were thin too. He didn't know where they were from, so he thought it was just a general attribute of the population.

A neat little collection, especially for dipping into, a few pieces at a time. - M.A.Orthofer


Image result for ermanno cavazzoni,

Non-Italian readers probably don't know Ermanno Cavazzoni at all. Even many italian readers probably don't know him (Italians are not great book readers). Here is a brief description of Cavazzoni in English. And here is a Cavazzoni's short story - a funny, absurd, fairytale writing - translated to English.
Cavazzoni writes not so popular books. He gained some popularity when Federico Fellini in 1990 made a film out of his book "Il poema dei lunatici" (English translation "Voice of the moon"). A few more of Cavazzoni's books are translated to English.
I read all of his books and so when I knew a new Cavazzoni's novel was out I bought it as soon as I could. The new book is "La galassia dei dementi" (The Galaxy of Madmen) and, unexpectedly, it is a very long novel that looks like a sci-fiction one. I have not read yet the 660 pages of this novel but I know it is not what we can identify as "sci-fiction", even if it is set in the year 6ooo A.W. (After the Invention of the Wheel - but the date of the invention of the wheel is not exactly known, and it's placed around the 4th-5th millenniun BC, so...).
Anyway, I just want to introduce to you this important italian writer. What kind of reader can appreciate Cavazzoni's books? As I said, his novel are not the very popular kind. He writes absurd, weird and somehow funny stories using a very simple language. People who like writers like Cortazar, Borges, Perec, Queneau - or the american Nicholson Baker - could appreciate Cavazzoni too, probably.
A list of titles of Cavazzoni's books can help you to understand what I mean:
  • The Poem of Lunatics
  • Short Lives of Idiots
  • The Useless Writers
  • Eulogy of Beginners
  • Natural History of Giants
  • The Limbo of Fantastications
  • A Guide to Fantastic Animals
  • The Valley of Thieves
  • The Lonely Thinker
I dedicated a painting in my graphic novel "Giants" to Cavazzoni. This one:


Oleg Woolf - Reminiscent of Bruno Schulz, a vivid, surreal evocation of a liminal world. The characters follow the trajectories of elementary particles, disappearing in one dimension only to reappear in another.”

Oleg Woolf, Bessarabian Stamps: Stories , Trans. by Boris Dralyuk, Phoneme Media, 2015. Reminiscent of Bruno Schulz’s Street of Crocod...