Liu Xia: “June 2nd, 1989” (Two Excerpts)

This isn’t good weather
I said to myself
standing under the lush sun.

* * *

 

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I didn’t have a chance to say a word before you became a character
in the news, everyone looking up to you
as I was worn down
at the edge of the crowd
just smoking
and watching the sky.

(from the collection Empty Chairs, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern, published by Graywolf Press in a bilingual edition in 2015)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Tuesday: St. John of the Cross

In self’s historical novel (so far, 291 pp), she incorporates poetry.

Here’s a poem she’s including in a chapter called Enigma.

The poem is by St. John of the Cross, in a translation by Catholic scholar Paul Mariani:

Everything about me

Sends word of your myriad graces.

And yet everything hurts,

everything leaves me dying,

stammering on about I don’t know

what’s what.

St. John of the Cross was born Juan de Yepes y Alvarez, in Fontiveros, Avila, Spain in 1542.  He became a Carmelite monk in 1563. His feast day is 14 December.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Quote of the Day: Joan Acocella on Rescuing Luther’s Bibles From a 2004 Fire

The book historian Stephan Fussel, in the explanatory paperback that accompanies the two-volume facsimile, reports that in 2004, when a fire swept through the Duchess Anna Amalia Library, in Weimar, where this copy was housed, it was “rescued, undamaged, with not a second to lose, thanks to the courageous intervention of library director Dr. Michael Knoche.” I hope that Dr. Knoche himself ran out with the two volumes in his arms. I don’t know what the price of a calf is these days, but the price of this facsimile is sixty dollars.

The New Yorker, 30 October 2017

Martin Luther: Importance

Excerpts from The Hammer: How Martin Luther Changed the World, by New Yorker critic-at-large Joan Acocella (The New Yorker, 30 October 2017)

The crucial text is his Bible: the New Testament, translated from the original Greek and published in 1523, followed by the Old Testament, in 1534, translated from the Hebrew. Had he not created Protestantism, this book would be the culminating achievement of Luther’s life.

*     *     *

Luther very consciously sought a fresh, vigorous idiom. For his Bible’s vocabulary, he said, “we must ask the mother in the home, the children on the street,” and, like other writers with such aims — William Blake, for example — he ended up with something songlike. He loved alliteration — Der Herr ist mein Hirte (“The Lord is my shepherd”); Dein Stecken und Stab (“thy rod and thy staff”) — and he loved repetition and forceful rhythms.

*     *     *

The books also featured a hundred and twenty-eight woodcut illustrations, all by one artist from the Cranach workshop, known to us only as Master MS.

*     *     *

The three-thousand copy first edition of the New Testament, though it was not cheap (it cost about as much as a calf), sold out immediately.

Still Reading: SUBMISSION, p. 161

Context: France is undergoing deep and rapid change. For one, the newly elected president is Muslim.

Been a long time since self has read a political novel.

Maybe it was too soon to give up after all — witness these two girls, and my father’s surprising late-life transformation. And maybe, if I kept seeing Rachida on a regular basis, we’d end up having feelings for each other. At least, there was no reason to absolutely rule it out.

  • — p. 161, Submission, by Michel Houellebecq, translated from the French by Lorin Stein

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: SOLARIS, by Stanislaw Lem

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Stanislaw Lem was self’s first science fiction. She stumbled across it in a bookstore on Harvard Square. This translation (from the French) was by Joanna Kilmartin and Steve Cox.

Opening page:

At 19:00, ship’s time, I made my way to the launching bay. The men around the shaft stood aside to let me pass, and I climbed down into the capsule.

Inside the narrow cockpit, there was scarcely room to move. I attached the hose to the valve on my spacesuit and it inflated rapidly. From then on, I was incapable of making the smallest movement. There I stood, or rather hung suspended, enveloped in my pneumatic suit and yoke to the metal hull.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Houellebecq: SUBMISSION, p. 128

  • He was born in 1922, if you can believe it. Exactly a hundred years ago. He joined the Resistance early on, in late June 1940. Even in his day, French patriotism was an idea whose time had passed. You could say that it was born at the Battle of Valmy, in 1792, and that it began to die in 1917, in the trenches of Verdun. That’s hardly more than a century — not long, if you think about it. Today, who believes in French patriotism? The National Front claims to, but their belief is so insecure, so desperate.

2nd Michel Houellebecq Sentence of the Day: Still SUBMISSION, still p. 72

Paris, 201x:

All of a sudden, as I stood in front of the Rapid ‘Jus (whose concoctions kept getting more and more complicated: they had coconut-passion fruit-guava, mango-lychee-guarana, and a dozen other flavors, all with bewildering vitamin ingredients), I thought of Bruno Deslandes.

Stay tuned.

Michel Houellebecq: SUBMISSION, p. 72

  • Hidden all day in impenetrable black burqas, rich Saudi women transformed themselves by night into birds of Paradise with their corsets, their see-through bras, their G-strings with multicolored lace and rhinestones.

There you have it, folks: Paris in the year 201x.

Stay tuned.

Michel Houellebecq: SUBMISSION, p. 35

Submission is self’s third Michel Houellebecq novel (translated from the French by Lorin Stein), and by far the shortest.

What she remembers of the other two is that they had this stream-of-consciousness raunchiness thing going on. So French.

This one is interesting because people actually e-mail and text, there is talk of terrorist attacks around Paris, and the characters seem to know a lot more about mosques, halal, Israel, Dubai, and so forth.

Self’s favorite parts, though, are the ruminations. For example, p. 35:

  • Animals live without feeling the least need of justification, as do the crushing majority of men. They live because they live, and then I suppose they die because they die, and for them that’s all there is to it. If only as a Huysmanist, I felt obliged to do a little better.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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