Michael Derda on Kafka, Algernon and Other European Writers

Placeholder while loading article actions

Here’s a loud overgeneralization: American writers tend to accuse the liberal lifestyle, while Europeans approach it with a cynical half-smile and perhaps a glance at their libraries. Think Bruce Willis vs. Alan Rickman in Die Hard. Yes, I know this is an old stereotype, but the elegance dedicated to the four books below — a novel, a memoir, a volume of proverbs and a collection of essays — made them irresistibly come to mind. Moreover, two authors worthy of consideration for the Nobel Prize – 73-year-old Zoran Zivkovic and 88-year-old Sez Nottebaum – and two early 20th century authors are Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) and Franz Kafka (1883-1924).

Zoran Zivkovic’s XXIII book, “white room– Translated from Serbian, apparently flawlessly, by Randall A. Major – begins: “Ivana has disappeared. Within a few hours, what started as a missing person case – Zivkovic reported himself to the police – turns into a national, and even international, security crisis, one that could bring the entire Internet to its knees.

Narrative Seduction by Zoran Zivkovic

At first, it seemed like Ivana had simply walked away from her two-year relationship with Zivkovic – until he received the first in a series of emails. It only contains a link to a short video showing Ivana in the middle of the woods. But how could she have traveled to what appears to be Sri Lanka in a few hours without her passport? After consulting with computer experts, Chief Inspector Sanya Mervalevich Zivkovich reported to the concerned that “something is wrong with the … link”. In fact, “it’s not a link at all”, but what exactly it is, no one knows.

As the night goes on, more videos emailed add more mystery. In one, diabetic Ivana eats sweet treats without hesitation; In another case, though not entirely musical, she performs an unknown violin composition as talented. Eventually, Zivkovic recognized a pattern between the videos, but until then, his ultimate meaning eludes him.

I will stop there. Like Zivkovic’s other novels and stories, The White Room is masterfully constructed—it captures the classic units of time, space, and action—and is charmingly mysterious. But this applies to all the fairy tales of the World Fantasy Award winner: in “papyrus trilogyFor example, the murders in the Belgrade library led the investigative investigator to a sinister secret society. If you are a fan of Borges, MC Escher or Haruki Murakami, then you should definitely read Zoran Zivkovic, all of his works are available in great editions of Cadmus Press.

in “533 days(Yale), Dutch writer Ses Nottebaum describes his daily routine on the Spanish island of Menorca. There, following Candide’s advice, he plants his garden but also reads Wittold Jumprovitch, Peter Esterhazy, Julian Green and Theodor Adorno, listens to the music of Haydn, Schoenberg and Morton Feldman, remembers his friendship with novelist Harry Mulisch and reflects on life and compositions. Laura Watkinson’s skilful English translation never reads like one.

as a fiction writer, Notepom You may be known for the thriller and frightening 1994 novel,”Next story“Where a classic scientist sleeps one night in Amsterdam and magically wakes up the next morning in Lisbon. Recently, he directed stories of very personal travels,”Roads to SantiagoRoads to Berlin” And the “Venice. I once enjoyed lunch with this much-traveled scholar, during which he spoke – in perfect English – about his long stay in Japan. In “533 Days”, Nooteboom divided his attention between gardening – there is so much about cacti – and the cultural, but I love him so much when He thinks of the book and writes: “With Borges, as with Kafka, you can always be sure that after only a few lines an idea will come that you cannot ignore. Something is stuck, you have to stop, you have to read it again.”

Is this Kafka?

Definitely an authormutant” And the “the castle“He always needs to read again. And again. This is especially true of the concentrated puzzles of”The likes of Franz Kafka(Princeton). In this newly annotated edition, Rainer Stach—who knows more about Kafka’s life than anyone else alive—provides a data-rich commentary on a facing page for each public note. He is assisted, as usual, by his unqualified translator, Shelley Fresh.

Perhaps the most famous of these aphorisms is also among the shortest, “Ein Kafig ging einen Vogel suchen” – “A cage went in search of a bird.” (Stach refers to the faint aural echoes of ‘Kavig’ and ‘Kafka’. Another classic mini-play says ‘Im Kampf zwischen Dir und der Welt sekundiere der Welt’, which Frisch made ‘in the battle between you and the world,’ is second only to the world As one would like and expect, its translation conforms closely to Kafka’s original formulation, yet I cannot fail to miss the powerful recollection of Edwin Woola Muir’s older version: ‘In the fight between you and the world, support the world.’

While Stach’s notes are invaluable, they tend to be strictly factual, based on bibliographic details and relevant passages from Kafka’s personal writings. In general, his comment avoids final explanations but leaves the reader better able to think of such baffling statements like this:

“You don’t have to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don’t listen until just wait. Don’t wait until you’re completely still and alone. The world will present itself to you to unmask you; you can’t do otherwise; you will writhing before you in ecstasy.”

“Journey to Arcturus” may have sold 596 copies in its first edition, but it deserves a wider audience

As it happens, spiritual ecstasy, possessed by sacred awe, is fascinated by Algernon Blackwood, whose strange and frightening tales—which he called “offensive stories”—includewillow” And the “Windigo. In many of his long works, such asThe man who loved treesor the novelthe centaurThe protagonists experience true trance, surrendering themselves to nature or the existential universe. But then, Blackwood truly believed in the existence of a world beyond our natural senses.

In “The Lure of the Unknown: Essays on the Strange” (Swan River Press), Mike Ashley collects Blackwood’s various essays and talks about many frightening and mystical matters. For example, in “The Psychology of Places,” Blackwood recalls a Canadian guide who once told him, “Never put your camp on the edge of anything; put the tent in or out of the wood, but never on the boundary between the two.” why? Because the border region is where the forces of the forest and the forces of the open meet: “It is not a place of rest, but a place of activity.” This is an essential book for any Blackwood fan.

Michael Derda reviews Style Books every Thursday.

A note to our readers

We are participants in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliate sites.