Thursday, September 17, 2015

Two New Musil Studies

I have received a notice of a fascinating piece by Thomas Harrison on Musil's essayism, which I am happy to pass on to you all. Harrison is one of my favorite Musil scholars.Enjoy!

And, in other Musil publication news,  Karl Corino, Musil's eminent biographer, has a new book about Musil and Italy out, illustrated with photographs and documents from his voluminous archive. In German, of course. With Martha Musil's  self-portrait on the cover, also of course. 

Friday, May 15, 2015


 The new edition of Hyperion: The Future of Aesthetics is out (or "up"). And it is really astonishing. Not only does it include my translation of Hofmannsthal's own answer to his Lord Chandos Letter, "Letters from a Returning One," but also a marvelous essay by Nancy Kline on translating Eluard and Char, a fascinating introduction and translation by Rainer J. Hanshe of Blaise Cendrar's "I Killed," an essay by Andrey Bely on Friedrich Nietzsche, and a translation by Fulya Pekar of the Turkish author,  Ferit Edgü, but also excerpts from Contra Mundum's forthcoming edition of Otto Dix letters, plus much much more (I am only beginning to explore its riches). It is beautifully designed and edited, and the theme of translation and of the challenges and pleasures of verbal communication runs through the whole like a red thread, illustrated by these two epigraphs:

Les beaux livres sont écrits dans une sorte de langue étrangère. Sous
chaque mot chacun de nous met son sens ou du moins son image qui
est souvent un contresens. Mais les beaux livres, tous les contresens
qu’on fait sont beaux. — Proust, Contre Sainte-Beuve

For a translator, the supreme authority should be the author's
personal style. But most translators obey another authority: that of
the conventional version of “good French” (or good German, good
English, et cetera), namely, the French (the German, et cetera) we
learn in school. The translator considers himself the ambassador
from that authority to the foreign author. That is the error: every
author of some value transgresses against “good style,” and in that
transgression lies the originality (and hence the raison d'être) of his
art. The translator's primary effort should be to understand that
transgression. This is not difficult when it is obvious, as for example
with Rabelais, or Joyce, or Celine. But there are authors whose
transgression against “good style” is subtle, barely visible, hidden,
discreet; as such, it is not easy to grasp. In such a case, it is all the
more important to do so. — Milan Kundera, Testaments Betrayed

Here is the link. Enjoy! And do shower Rainer with accolades when you are finished. It can be a strangely silent world, the world of words, and it always helps to hear a murmur, an echo, a stammer or stutter of recognition from the wide, wide world.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Book Launch Party and Reading

Please Join us for a book launch party and reading of my new translation of Robert Musil's small prose, Thought Flights (Contra Mundum Press, April, 2015) at the glamorous Zinc Bar, at 82 West Third Street, New York New York, on Sunday, May 10th, at 5 p.m., accompanied by Stephen Callahan reading from Seities, his collection of prose pieces in progress.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015

Thought Flights: Robert Musil's Small Prose will be Available in April from Contra Mundum Press. Cover Design by Alessandro Segalini.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My newest essay, "Ethics and Aesthetics are One: The Earnestness of High Modernism in Wittgenstein and Musil" is up on Numero Cinq.  Here is a link to the whole text:

But meanwhile, here is an appetizer: 

These two thinkers lived almost side-by-side on Rasmofskygasse in Vienna for about a year sometime between 1920 and 1921, possibly without ever making each other’s acquaintance. They were both snobs who craved discourse; both were scientists who had more faith in art than in philosophical logic; both were individualists who were suspicious of collectivism and resisted joining groups or being categorized into positions or ideologies[4]. They both rejected externally-imposed morals and social judgments in favor of a personal rigorous ethics and conduct of life. They both had ambivalent relationships with the scientific positivists of the Vienna Circle. In contrast to the members of this circle, both wanted to connect philosophy and science with aesthetics and ethics and make it meaningful for human life[5]. Both resisted theory in favor of experimental empiricism. Both had mystical experiences as soldiers in World War One, leading to puzzling relationships with something they both sometimes called “God”; both were mathematicians suspicious of mathematics; both were engineers and inventors; empiricists and idealists; pragmatists and utopians. Both looked to anthropology to present alternative possible ways to live; both loved Dostoevsky; both worked and wrote in a non-linear,[6] inter-disciplinary fashion; both liked to go to the movies. Both of them were obsessed with using language precisely; but both rejected language skepticism, while acknowledging the limits of language and knowledge; and both saw metaphor as the best possible mode of expressing certain experiences and truths. Both were so committed to the experimental method and a resistance to closure or final solutions that they were almost pathologically unable to finish their works. They are exemplars of a special breed of idealist-realists—a group of people who throughout history have simultaneously hugged the surface of the real “what is” while reaching for the ideal “what could be”; thinkers who have labored to establish what can and cannot be known or spoken, thinkers who have eschewed what Musil called “Schleudermystik” (wishy-washy mysticism) and Wittgenstein called “transcendental twaddle,” and, at the same time, kept at bay a nihilistic relativism or void of all values. (Other thinkers in this cadre include Thoreau, Blake, Novalis, and Nietzsche).