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Me and Sylvia, smiling for the camera (August 2005)


Jeremy's journal

He'd had the sense, moments earlier, that Caroline was on the verge of accusing him of being "depressed," and he was afraid that if the idea that he was depressed gained currency, he would forfeit his right to his opinions. He would forfeit his moral certainties; every word he spoke would become a symptom of disease; he would never win an argument.

Jonathan Franzen

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Saturday, March 25th

The Disconnected

Most exciting bit of literary news I've heard in a long time came across my desk the other day -- Oğuz Atay's Tutunamayanlar will be published in English translation this month! This novel was a huge influence on Pamuk at the beginning of his career, and has repeatedly been cited as one of the books most in need of a translation into English.

The translation is by Atay's friend (and the book's dedicatee) Sevin Seydi; an excerpt previously won the Dryden Translation Competition. Here is Olric Press's flyer:

Oğuz Atay: The Disconnected [Tutunamayanlar]

translated by Sevin Seydi

715- pages, hardback only, 1/200 copies, published 17 March 2017.
ISBN: 978-0-9955543-0-6

Olric Press is pleased to announce for its first publication a major work in the canon of world literature. The Disconnected was the first book of Oğuz Atay (1934-1977), and was before its time. First published in 1972, it was a cult book among younger writers (Orhan Pamuk, for example, has recorded that he read it twice in the year it came out), but Atay never saw a second printing before his premature death. Since it was reprinted in 1984 it has gone through more than 70 editions, and is widely reckoned to be the most important book in modern Turkish literature.

“My life was a game, but I wanted it to be taken seriously,” says Selim, the anti-hero of the novel. But the game has a terrible end with his suicide, and his friend Turgut’s quest to understand this is the story of the book. He meets friends whom Selim had kept separate from each other, he finds documents in a kaleidoscopic variety of styles, sometimes hugely funny, sometimes very moving, as Selim rails against the ugliness of his world whether in satire or in a howl of anguish, taking refuge in words and loneliness. Under layers of fantasy is the central concept of the Disconnected, Tutunamayanlar, literally ‘those who cannot hold on’, poor souls among whom he counts himself, whose sole virtue is that they do not fit into society as it is constituted. He will be their messiah, at whose second coming they will change places with the comfortable of the world. Confronted with this Turgut sees the faultline in his conventional middle class life, and that he too is one of the Disconnected: he takes a train into Anatolia and ‘vanishes’. What could have been a bleak vision of alienation is transformed by the power of language and the imagination.

In 2002 UNESCO put The Disconnected at the head of their list of Turkish books of which translation was essential, warning that it would be very difficult. A German translation in 2016 was well received (e.g., Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 26 June, found it astonishing that this masterpiece should wait 45 years to appear in German), and needed three printings in six months. But English was the language Atay knew and loved, and his confrontation with literature in English, notably Hamlet and the King James version of the gospels, is a feature of the book. An English translation is therefore called for, and by good chance one has long existed. Sevin Seydi (to whom the original was dedicated) made a rough translation page by page as Atay was actually writing the book, almost as a game with the author, and discussed it with him. After 40 years living, studying, working, marrying in England she has thoroughly revised it, and it should be the definitive version.

This limited edition, with paper and binding of archival quality, is available at £50 or $75 post paid.
Available only from the publisher. Please contact
Olric Press, 13 Shirlock Road, London NW3 2HR, UK
(44) 207 485 9801

posted morning of March 25th: 1 response
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Friday, July 26th, 2013

Pamuk y Death in the Andes

Aprecio la observación de Pamuk en "Mario Vargas Llosa y la litaratura del tercer mundo" (ensayo de su collección Otros Colores) de como Vargas Llosa hace uso de una yuxtaposición Faulkneriana de escenarios varios y saltas en tiempo. Me intriga mucho la manera en que esas escenas se van desenrollando.

Lo que Vargas Llosa en Santuario alaba — la yuxtaposición de escenarios y las saltas en tiempo — queda aún más en evidencia en las novelas de Vargas Llosa mismo. Hace con maestría uso de esa estrategia — cortando despiadosamente entre las voces, los cuentos, los diálogos — en Death in the Andes.

posted evening of July 26th, 2013: Respond
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Monday, November 12th, 2012

Sessiz Ev

Surprised I missed this! Pamuk's second novel has been published in English translation as Silent House. Nice to hear. NY Times review here.

posted afternoon of November 12th, 2012: Respond
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Friday, August third, 2012

Peter, dropping names

(This post is a continuation of the earlier Peter's Voice thread -- I am trying among other things to make my reading of La universidad desconocida be Peter's reading, trying to get in his head and read through his eyes and hope to fully realize his character. Hope that anybody's going to be interested in reading about this guy and the books he is reading and translating; but of course this hope has always been intrinsic to the READIN project...)

Walking down Partition Street in the light summer rain and watching the lightning across the river past Rhinebeck. A really impressive storm but it's far enough off, the air's not moving here. You have to strain to make out the thunder. Nice -- I'm glad to fantasize the soundtrack and just watch the show, glad to get a little wet, glad to get home and inside and dry off.

Laura's a little spacey tonight. Dale and them had a gig down at Tierney's, we smoked some grass on the way over there and she really got into it --the intoxication goes very nicely with Megan's chops on the washboard, with Dale singing "Rag Mama Rag," it must be said... a lovely time but all too short as they only had a half-hour set. The other acts? Nothing really that interesting, so here we are back home and Laura's prowling catlike by the bookcase. I'm smiling and asking her what she's reading.

-- Eh, nothing's really grabbed my attention much since Snow.

I grin, and flash on the "Love and Happiness" scene and Al Green singing, and feel the little twinge of uncertainty that's always present around Pamuk, like I'm not really getting it or am getting the wrong thing. (And hm, I should really mention that song to Dale...) -- Want to check out some poetry I've been working on? I found these pretty intense old Chilean poems over at Calixto's blog... and don't mention, or perhaps it goes without saying in this context, these poems from Ávala seem to me like good trip material -- but I've mentioned Chile, and Laura would rather listen to Bolaño. Nice --I open The Unknown University at random and hit on "El dinero"; and it seems to me like this is the perfect poem for today, being as I am in receipt of a check from the Reality Fusion job, feeling confident about our rent for the next few months, even about a shopping trip over to Amazon...

Still not much headway on the literary translation thing. But I remain hopeful; how could I not be, with Laura snuggled against me here on the couch as I read to her.

posted evening of August third, 2012: 7 responses
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Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Prologue and opening

The Pacific is really a tranquil ocean now, as white as a large basin of milk. The waves have warned it that the earth is approaching. I try to measure the distance between two waves. Or is it time that separates them, not distance? Answering this question would solve my own mystery. The ocean is undrinkable, but it drinks us. ...

What will the new day illuminate? I'd like to give you a very fast answer because I'm losing the words to tell you, the survivors, this tale.

I started looking at Carlos Fuentes' Destiny and Desire (tr. Edith Grossman) this weekend -- I must say this book is going to take me a long, long time to read. It is a thick enough book to be sure, more than 500 pages; but what is slowing it down for me is the inability to start anywhere else besides the first page when I pick the book up. I've read the opening pages several times over now and they are not losing any of their appeal.

Fun bit of intertextuality -- last thing I remember reading that is narrated by a murder victim, was the opening chapter of My Name is Red. So Destiny and Desire (a title I find corny, oh well) is starting out with a very positive association... Fuentes is a bit of a hole in my literary experience -- I made a couple of stabs fairly recently at Artemio Cruz but got nowhere -- this new book sure seems at first impressions like it will be a good place to start.

posted evening of March 11th, 2012: Respond
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Thursday, December 15th, 2011

How to Read Novels

by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
El espectador
December 8, 2011
Although I’ve been doing it non-stop for thirty years, in spite of living my life surrounded by other people who are always doing it, I still think there are few activities so intriguing as the reading of novels.

I keep wondering why we do it: why would an adult devote his time, his mental energies, his moral intelligence to reading about things that never happened to people who never existed; how could this activity be so important, so vital, that this person would voluntarily withdraw from real life to carry it out. I've come across a few answers over the years, some of them in conversations with other addicted readers, but mostly in books here and there along the way. And indeed, the most recent of these books is truly marvelous: The Naïve and Sentimental Novelist consists of six essays in which Orhan Pamuk seeks to answer one crucial question: What happens to us when we read (and write) novels? This book is the most illuminating, most stimulating, most abundant examination of this difficult topic that I've read in years. I can do no less than to offer this urgent call to readers.

"I have learned by experience that there are many ways to read a novel," says Pamuk. "We read sometimes logically, sometimes with our eyes, sometimes with our imagination, sometimes with a small part of our mind, sometimes the way we want to, sometimes the way the book wants us to, and sometimes with every fiber of our being." In other words: there are no two identical readers of the same novel; not even two identical readings. And this fact, which seems so obvious, is what can explain the effects, the intimate, unpredictable effects the novel can have on us. What are these effects? Pamuk says we read the way we drive a car, pressing the pedals and shifting gears while watching the signals and traffic and the landscape around us: our intellect moves in a thousand and one directions in every instant. With part of our mind we do the simplest thing: follow the story. But readers of "serious" novels are doing something more: are looking constantly for the secret center of the novel, for that revelation the novel seeks to bring to light, which cannot be summarized, which can only be expressed just as the novel expresses it. Sábato was once asked what he meant to say in On Heroes and Tombs. Sábato replied, "If I could have said it any other way, I would never have written the book."

To read a novel is to leave behind a Cartesian understanding of the world. We know these things never happened, but we believe in them as if they had happened; we know they are the product of someone else's imagination, but we live through them as if they were a part of our own experience. "Our ability to believe simultaneously in contradictory states," according to Pamuk, is an essential characteristic of the reader of novels; another one is the urge to understand, not to judge, the characters. "At the heart of the novelist's craft lies an optimism," says Pamuk, "which thinks that the knowledge we gather from our everyday experience, if given proper form, can become valuable knowledge about reality." As readers, we share in this belief: that a good novel is a means of bringing a little bit of order to the chaos which reigns around us, of beginning to understand it. And that’s no small thing.

Vásquez (who I think is my favorite new author that I found out about this year) writes a weekly column for Bogotá-based newspaper El espectador. Many thanks to Mr. Vásquez for allowing me to post this translation here, and especially to Anne McLean for helping me to contact him and for passing an editorial eye over my effort. It reads much more smoothly with her suggestions incorporated.

posted evening of December 15th, 2011: 1 response
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Sunday, August first, 2010


In today's New York Times, Orhan Pamuk describes the view of Istanbul that he sees through his office window -- the Blue Mosque and behind it the opening of the Bosporus. "To the popular question inquisitive guests and visiting journalists ask — 'Doesn’t this wonderful view distract you?' — my answer is no. But I know some part of me is always busy with some part of the landscape, following the movements of the seagulls, trees and shadows, spotting boats and checking to see that the world is always there..." Illustration by Matteo Pericoli.

posted morning of August first, 2010: Respond

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Conversations With History

Last November, Harry Kreisler of UC Berkeley's Institute for International Studies interviewed Orhan Pamuk about his new novel and about the novel's relationship with history:


posted morning of June 8th, 2010: Respond
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Sunday, May 9th, 2010

The Museum

Slowly, slowly, it developed: the idea of finding real objects, then giving it to the imaginary people, which then would later be exhibited in the museum, then the love story began to develop in my mind. With this novel, I was also collecting objects, say an old lottery ticket; and thinking that I would in fact integrate this, make it a part of my novel.

So some of the novel came from the objects you were finding.

Some of it; and sometimes it would be the other way around, that I would write the novel (as of course stories have their own course), and then I would come -- I needed an object, but I don't have the object, and I would leave, since I didn't want to stop writing, enjoying writing the novel, I would leave it with dot-dot-dot, and look for an appropriate object, or wait for it. I was taking my time...

At the Guardian, Richard Lea interviews Orhan Pamuk about the process of composing The Museum of Innocence, and building the Museum of Innocence; Pamuk notes that "the Museum is not an illustration, will not be an illustration of the novel; and neither the novel is a description of the Museum. They are separate entities, intertwined, representing the same story."

Embedding is disabled; but go watch the interview at the Guardian site, it's great.

posted morning of May 9th, 2010: Respond

Sunday, January third, 2010

Adam Shatz has published "Wanting to Be Something Else", a review of Museum of Innocence, in the new London Review of Books -- this is the best, most thoroughly developed writing about Pamuk I can remember reading since McGaha. Shatz traces themes of alienation and longing in Pamuk's writing from The White Castle through The Black Book, My Name is Red, and Snow up to the current book, examining what drives his books, where they succeed and where they fall short. This piece is required reading for anyone interested in understanding Pamuk's fiction.

posted morning of January third, 2010: Respond

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