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Somehow, Cleveland has survived, with her gray banner unfurled -- the banner of Archangelsk and Detroit, of Kharkov and Liverpool -- the banner of men and women who would settle the most ignominious parts of the earth, and there, with the hubris born neither of faith nor ideology but biology and longing, bring into the world their whimpering replacements.

Gary Shteyngart


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Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Gün, Freely

Well this is a little surprising: in discussing the translations of The Black Book, McGaha very strongly recommends Güneli Gün's translation over Freely's later reworking. Wow! I didn't know much about Gün's translation besides that I'd heard it was unreadable -- and I know I had a lot of trouble with her translation of The Black BookThe New Life. But McGaha's recommendation, and his side-by-side comparison of the two treatments of the first paragraph, makes me want to find out more.

posted afternoon of July 27th, 2008: 2 responses
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Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Dante and Mohammed

I found a paper by Otfried Lieberknecht describing Dante's encounter with Mohammed in the eighth circle of Hell, with reference to the idea that Dante borrowed the idea for his Commedia from the Islamic tradition of Kitab al-Miraj. It is called "A Medieval Christian View of Islam: Dante's Encounter with Mohammed in Inferno XXVIII". Seems like it will be a very useful resource in approaching Pamuk's The New Life.

Also: Jews and Muslims in Dante's Vision, by Jesper Hede, Aarhus University, Denmark.

posted morning of May 28th, 2008: Respond
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Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Commedia

It occurs to me that I ought to read the rest of the Divine Comedy when I finish the Inferno, then read La Vita Nuova, and then I would probably have enough background to understand and like The New Life. Who knows, maybe I'll do it. I wonder if Dante's other works are available in reputable translations?

Update: Hmm, well seems like given that I like the terza rima, the Dorothy Sayers translation may be the only way to go for Purgatory and Paradise. All the other translations appear to be in prose or blank verse.

...Except Lawrence Binyon, which also has rhyme. Guess I will go to a bookstore and look at some of them side by side.

posted evening of May 13th, 2008: Respond
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Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Reading order

Tyler Cowen says of Pamuk's books that "The Black Book is the one to read last, once you know the others." I wonder how true this is, and why. I am, coincidentally, reading The Black Book last (leaving aside that I never finished The New Life -- Cowen thinks I would understand it better if I had knowledge of "how Dante appropriated Islamic theological writings for his own ends," which is certainly possible), and it does seem like a good position in the reading order for it. On the other hand I have recommended it to some friends who have not read any Pamuk, principally on the basis of their liking Pynchon -- this book seems to me to have a lot in common with Pynchon's writing, which I don't think any of Pamuk's other books do, particularly much.

I think Snow is a great book to have read first -- principally because I relate very strongly to the lines from its first few pages that I quoted here -- Ka driving into the blizzard is (in certain ways) like me starting to read Snow.

posted evening of April 5th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about The Black Book

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

With the sojourn in Güdül, The New Life is starting to feel more like a book than it was before. I mean it is still very weird and different from other books -- but I now have the sensation that I'm reading a novel, which I didn't really before. I'm seeing some intimations of Snow -- the narrator's reaction to the town is a bit reminiscent of Ka in Kars; his desire for Janan is like Ka's desire for İpek -- and this though they are very different characters individually and pairwise; and the militant fundamentalism in Güdül, and the sense that the place is on the edge of breaking down -- these are some bits that I think come out more fully in Snow.

posted evening of December 15th, 2007: Respond
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Monday, December third, 2007

... I said to myself: the young traveler was so determined to find the unknown realm, he let himself be transported without respite on roads that would take him to the threshold.

With this line, at the end of the third chapter, I feel like I am starting to get a handle on The New Life -- that it is the narrative this character has conjured up for himself to distance himself from disappointment and lack of fulfilment in his own life.

This book seems to me like it would make a great movie -- there is a definite cinematic feeling to some of the descriptive passages.* But I guess in the adaptation, the book which leads the main character to intimations of a new reality would need to be changed to a movie on videocassette or some such.

*What I mean to say is, I think the narration fetishizes visual impressions -- like for instance, the narrator describes the experience of reading the book several times in terms of light pouring out of the book. (Another argument for using a videotape instead of a book?) I often get the impression that the only connection between the world in his head and the world outside his head, is the portal of his eyes.

posted evening of December third, 2007: Respond

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

It has happened to all of us: one day, one ordinary day when we imagine we're making our routine rounds in the world with ticket stubs and tobacco shreds in our pockets, our heads full of news items, traffic noise, troublesome monologues, we suddenly realize we are already someplace else, that we are not actually where our feet have taken us.
        -- The New Life

My reaction to this line is sort of characteristic of how I've been reading The New Life -- I'm reading along sort of lacksadaisically, thinking about different things without focus,* and then I stumble on something like this that just blows me away.

What I take away from this reading may be a disjointed collection of beautiful quotes.


*I'm trying to reconcile this with my reaction to the opening passage and have not quite figured out how to yet... The whole opening couple of pages was a moment of genius but I haven't quite figured out how to read the book as a whole yet.

posted afternoon of November 18th, 2007: Respond
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Saturday, November 17th, 2007

The opening passage of The New Life

Reading this book is a puzzle -- every time I set it down & then pick it back up I am having to start from the beginning, reciting the words like poetry trying to burn them into my consciousness, "trying to find my path" into the book. -- Because I am trying to understand the transition from narrator reading, p. 1-7, to narrator with his mother on p 8 and outside on p 9 ff.

posted evening of November 17th, 2007: Respond

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Good timing

Check out the opening passage of Pamuk's The New Life. I am going to quote it at length a bit because it's blowing my mind:

I read a book one day and my whole life was changed. Even on the first page I was so affected by the book's intensity I felt my body sever itself and pull away from the chair where I sat reading the book that lay before me on the table. But even though I felt my body dissociating, my entire being remained so concertedly at the table that the book worked its influence not only on my soul but on every aspect of my identity. It was such a powerful influence that the light surging from the pages illumined my face; its incandescence dazzled my intellect but also endowed it with brilliant lucidity. This was the kind of light within which I could recast myself; I could lose my way in this light; I already sensed in the light the shadows of an existence I had yet to know and embrace...

So it was that as I read my point of view was transformed by the book, and the book was transformed by my point of view. My dazzled eyes could no longer distinguish the world that existed within the book from the book that existed within the world... I began to understand that everything the book had initially whispered to me, then pounded into me, and eventually forced on me relentlessly had always been present, there, lying deep in my soul.

This is making me think -- I had already been thinking, based on some essays in Other Colors -- that Pamuk reads books the same way I do. (Irony alert -- that is just a rephrasing of what Pamuk is saying I should say -- but I'm sticking with it.) This passage that I'm quoting is what I wanted to say before about identifying with a text. (Well I should hasten to add -- I've never experienced it quite as intensely as the narrator is doing here -- but the idea's the same.) I'm not actually sure if I'm going to keep on reading this book right now -- but it is a really nice piece of information to have on hand.

posted evening of November 15th, 2007: Respond

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

More Pamuk

I went over to Montclair Book Center today and picked up a wealth of Pamuk: The White Castle, The New Life, The Black Book, and his new collection of essays, Other Colors.

First thing I read was his notes on My Name is Red, written during an airplane flight immediately after he finished checking the final copy. He says he is worried about the outer story of the novel, "that the mystery plot, the detective story, was forced, and that my heart wasn't in it, but it would be too late to make changes." I can totally understand him feeling that way -- it seems to me like it must have been a huge amount of work integrating the two stories and getting the product to flow naturally. He offers his aplogies to "my poor miniaturists" for "the intrusion of a political detective plot that would make my novel easy to read." But he doesn't need to worry about it (well obviously, duh, he won the Nobel Prize...), the outer story not only makes the book easier to read, but adds layers of meaning and beauty to it.

I posted at KIDLIT about reading some of these essays to Sylvia.

posted evening of September 20th, 2007: Respond
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