Wednesday, January 9, 2019

DEBILITATING SELF-ABSORPTION


                                                    



(THIS IS AN augmented and slightly different post of the previous one)  

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Last week I signed the contract for the Bulgarian translation of my 1987 novel THE CORPSE DREAM OF N. PETKOV.  It is scheduled to appear in Sofia in the Spring from CIELA a large Bulgarian publisher which also owns a chain of bookstores in Bulgaria.  

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In preparation for this publication I found two letters which read the book from first  an American point of view and what is new with this post a second letter reads the book from a Polish point of view which concerns itself with the self-absorption of countries and in particular in the East.

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I found a letter from David Rattray who some might remember as poet, as the first major translator of Artaud--- still the best--- and DIFFICULT DEATH a disturbing novel by Rene Creval in particular.  

Semiotext published a wonderful collection of  David's writings put together by Chris Kraus, HOW I BECAME ONE OF THE INVISIBLE

David read my novel and sent me the following letter which also included a page of typos in the book that should be fixed in a new edition which happened when Northwestern University Press did the paperback version:

June 18, 1987
Dear Tom, The Corpse Dream of N. Petkov is a tour de force.  I was riveted as they say, although it is a tale I wouldn't want to identify with, I guess I am forced to, willy-nilly.  The 12-minute interior monologue of a man being strangled, compressed into 120 pages or less---I count the dozen-odd pages of documents  as something that  might flash past in a split second--- then the many pages of your autobiographical track, and the interviews, which further whittle it down--- less than half is straight Petkov--- so I tried to imagine all this as a speeded-up tape actually being spoken in the 12 minutes and I believe it is possible even if in a Martian Donald Duck falsetto--- provided Piko's thoughts and rejoinders run in tandem, and the author's voice and documents are flashed onto a wall--- it would fit ---a tight fit, but so is that noose or loop as you consistently call it.  Like Piko I am a raki man; it takes one to appreciate one. The ignoble is also in a state of humiliation.  Apart from this book I had never read a line about Petkov that fool who persisted in showing character. The dream of dying in one's bed with one's hand held is in the papers, on TV, in Reader's Digest. The puff of wind exploding the speck of ash into the air is the reality hitherto reserved for the few, now made available for all.  Have you heard of Bogdan Borkowski's film Le Poeme which shows a dissection in progress to a sound track consisting of an actor's voice declaiming Rimbaud'sDrunken Boat in impassioned tones?   For the man being hanged to imagine a major earthquake reminds me of Kleist's  novella "The Earthquake in Chile" in which the young man has just climbed  upon a stool n his dungeon cell to hang himself on a noose he has fashioned somehow, when the first giant tremor of the great earthquake of sixteen-something causes the building to collapse and lands him unscathed in the street.  Therefore I at first misread your line "An earthquake would get him out of there."  Obviously you are referring to getting Dimitrov out of the saddle, not Petkov out of the noose.  I loved the Hyperborean or Austral icecap fantasy on p62.  Having spent half my life worrying  the lie that creeps i when we are speaking and the abyss between thought, word, and ear, I have to plead for Gosho and Petko and their liking for the sound of their own voice.  Maybe that was their direction finder  as it is in a way our direction finder when we share in meetings.  We are all as blind as bats in many ways, and I read that that is precisely how bats do find their way through the maze of pitch blackness--- the sound of their own voice bouncing off obstacles---  it is shows them where to go and where not to go.  "Fly my little bird but remember no bird makes a nest in a cloud."  I was put in mind of Gilbert White in Selkirk the speculation on whether sparrows migrate south in winter or were ravished up into the empyrean where they somehow levitated on the highest clouds.  I really loved your book.
                                             DAVID (Rattray)



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A letter from Tomasz Mirkowicz who I was introduced to by Steve Moore who had met Tomasz at Joseph McElroy's loft in New York City.  He was one of the most distinguished translators of American fiction...you must remember he was working during the long drawn out changes in Poland in the late 1980s... (his Wikepedia bio follows) 

                                                                    
                                                 WARSAW    31 January 1987

Dear Thomas ,
My apologies for responding so late, but I was out of Warsaw when your book and letter came... Driving is hell (in the winter here) and even using a word processor  is hard, since because of the electricity shortages my screen gets kind of wobbly during most of the day, and I've even lost a few pages when the current was cut outright.
I was fascinated by your book [THE CORPSE DREAM OF N. PETKOV] and vast questions it opens, how little is remembered  and how little do we now of what has been happening elsewhere; much as we here try to restructure  our own history and not allow it be forgotten, know quite a bit about Russia Hungary, Czechoslovakia, nobody I asked has ever heard of Petkov--- the name draws a blank, and so does recent Bulgarian history, other than what we get in the papers.  The standard opinion is that Bulgarias love Russians (the only country with no Russian troops), and somehow no one has questioned this concept.  And--- not suprising ---it's really sad how the histories of each country in the block resemble each other:we too had a Petkov, but he was lucky to escape across the border in the boot of a foreign diplomat's car.  And he too is forgotten, and so are others... SO in a sense your book is not only about Bulgaria and Petkov, he is more of an archetype standing for the countless figures unjustly murdered and unjustly forgotten.  I'd like to talk to you about this sometime.  And I hope the book is a success when it comes out.  It deserves it! (And I'll be letting some friends read it here.)

Here is a machine translated Tomasz Mirkowicz entry in Wikipedia:

Tomasz Mirkowicz [edytuj]

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Tomasz Mirkowicz (born 1953 in Warsaw , died on May 7, 2003 ) - Polish translator of English-language literature, literary critic and writer. As a critic, he specialized in American postmodernism . During the martial law he actively supported the democratic opposition - Zbigniew Bujak was hiding in his apartment.
He translated, among others Ken Kesey 's Ken- ONE FLEW OTHER THE COOCOO'S NEST , 1984 George Orwell , Midnight Cowboy James Leo Herlihy , and the prose of Alistair MacLean , Stephen King , Robert Ludlum, and Charles Bukowski . He also translated from English. English novel The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski .
He translated two books by Marek Hłasko into English.

Book author [ edit | edit code ]

  • Geography lesson: lipograms
  • Pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Egypt: a lipocephalous novel (1999)
  • an extensive 3-part article The Golden Age of the American Novel (" Ex Libris " 1994 from nru 60)

2 comments:

Kurt said...

Hi - don't know how to best contact you so I will try here - Just finished reading and am re-reading your Hollins University - The Hollins Critic issue "Truth and Facts: An Essay on Anniversaries by Uwe Johnson.

Thank you so much for writing that. I'm intrigued by the book - I had read some buzz about it last year and on a trip to Durham, NC, purchased the book at The Regulator Bookshop and I am eager to get started on it.

Thanks for the wonderful introduction to the author and the book and I look forward to following you know that I know about you!

Kurt
(kdnavrat at mail dot com)

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