Saturday, September 29, 2018



This is a sort of teaser for the very long essay that THE HOLLINS CRITIC  asked me to write on...

                          TRUTH AND FACTS
        An essay on ANNIVERSARIES by Uwe Johnson

ANNIVERSARIES is published by New York Review Books and will be available in October... look to Amazon...

Uwe J.[Johnson] last and solitary 10 years in England always fascinate me. Shortly after his death I met a bookseller in Richmond that knew him. And when Sebald invited me to a symposium in Norwich I met there the late Michael Hamburger that was his friend. Speculations [About Jakob]... a very innovative work. I keep a very good Spanish translation, Conjeturas..., from 1973, annotated, with a critical introduction and bibliography. No publisher will do this kind of work in Spain anymore. And his Spanish translations are out of print. But I believe Zamyatin was right: the future of Russian literature, and of literature, for short, is in its past. The rich past will erase the pastime. And the eyes of a new and real reader will follow the lines and the lives of St. Patrick's Day...

(from a letter from Julian Rios (author of LARVA) to the writer of this essay)

The tendency of every age is to bury as many classics as it revives.  If unable to discover our own urgent meanings in a creation of the past, we hope to find ample redress in its competitive neighbors.  A masterpiece cannot be produced once and for all; it must be constantly reproduced.  Its first author is a man. Its later one--- time, social time, history
                                              ----Philip Rahv


         ANNIVERSARIES by Uwe Johnson is a great American novel though written in German but now available in a complete, precise and very readable translation by Damion Searls.

I began writing this essay about Uwe Johnson’s ANNIVERSARIES on September 1, 2018, the 79th anniversary of the beginning of World War Two and I am writing the essay in a small town in New Jersey, home to a former Michelin tire factory that closed in 1930 though the main street is still crossed by Pershing, Haig, Foch and Joffre streets with a little side avenue named for Petain and an American Legion hall named for Joyce Kilmer as is the elementary school.  Everything remains and is forgotten.
I had thought more provocatively to have started my essay with:  ANNIVERSARIES  by Uwe Johnson is one of the greatest New York City novels  and of course it begins at a New Jersey beach town and will end at a Danish beach town.

Or, Uwe Johnson’s ANNIVERARIES From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl (giving its complete title) is the freshly translated, definitive and complete 1668 page novel constantly centered on the year of 1967-68 in the life of a German woman living at West 96th Street in Manhattan remembering or being placed in times that include both the Nazi past and the then present divided Germanys, while constantly mirroring those lives in a daily reading and quoting from The New York Times. 

I am unsure of including this note as there is already a PS to my essay... but it seems necessary... Johnson always acknowldged that William Faulkner was THE great American writer as indeed does much of the world. Faulkner is the only modern American writer who can be thought of a member of the World Republic of Letters as  Pascale Casanova mentions in her book with that title

--  From the essay by Evelyn Scott on William Faulkner’s THE SOUND AND THE FURY: “William Faulkner has that general perspective  in viewing particular events which lifts the specific incident to the dignity of catholic  significance, while all the vividness of an unduplicated personal drama is retained.  He senses the characteristic copmulsions to action that make a fate.”  [this is from a photo copy of the actual original booklet that the publisher issued for the publication of the novel]  

Of course Johnson’s name could be substituted for Faulkner.