Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Honoring Burton Pike

One of my former fellow students from CUNY Graduate Center had the brilliant idea about a year and a half ago to make a Festschrift for our Doktorvater and Professor, Burton Pike. We gathered some likely contributors and a team of editors (Peter Constantine, Robert Cowan, and Henry Gifford) and some wonderful contributions of translations with commentaries; essays on translation, on literature, on the city in literature, on communication; and some laudations by people who had known and been touched by Burt. Add two interviews with Burton and two pieces of his own writing, and voila. We did it! It is really a marvelous book, if I do say so myself, filled with thoughtful and intriguing writing in honor of a man who was one of the kindest, wisest, most charming persons I ever had the pleasure to know. Burton died before the book could come out, but he knew of its progress toward publication and was, despite his usual modesty, glad of it. And now we are glad we did it, with the help of Peter Lang publishers. And you can get a copy for yourselves! https://www.peterlang.com/document/1297889 The excerpt on Peter Lang's site provides a table of contents of the rich bouquet of flowers we cast at Burton's feet. For all he has done for translation, for the field of literature study, to make the world a more gracious, more intelligent, more bearable place to live. With love and thanks, Genese

Thursday, March 24, 2022

New Previously Untranslated Musil in New Issue of Fiction Magazine

From Musil's "Story of a Regiment," based on his experiences as a soldier in WWI: "The night was dark enough to slice; anyone who groped between the houses cut with his eyes against the darkness like wood. Further off, where the field lifted, there were small dark yellow stars that gave off no light, but it was still somewhat better; a dull, uncertain illumination spread from out of the distance of space and diluted the night. Sometimes black bushes wandered slowly there in trenches or furrows or stood awkwardly still; patrols. Small messages crept or ran around the compound, signaled by the telephone’s tooting—as melancholy as the whistle of a steamboat arriving in the night. Out of these there synthesized a mosaic of small often contradictory reports, and from out of the night the enemy grew in the candlelight, as they stood across the great road to the north of the mountain, with their flanks pressed against strongly defended heights, working with feverish urgency on the arrangement of their formations. The attack was planned for the next day. But in the night the patrols reported that a fog had invaded. Then rain. The wind swept through the trenches and ditches like wet rags; then the fumes swept through the houses. Then the rain; then it stayed put in between the houses." This and other wonderful Musil pieces, previously untranslated, can be read in full in the new issue of Fiction Magazine, edited by Mark Mirsky. Mark, who edited Musil's Diaries in English, has been publishing Musil in his journal for over 25 years and published my first translations there. You can order of copy of this issue (and copies of other issues with Musil in them, translated by myself, Burton Pike, and others) on their website: https://www.fictioninc.com/
Or consider subscribing to this legendary journal!

Monday, March 21, 2022

Two New Musil Books Forthcoming

Really one brand new one and another coming out in paperback for the first time: Robert Musil: Literature and Politics: Literature and Politics presents Robert Musil’s writings on the relationship between literature and politics from World War I through World War II and elucidates his personal struggle to bear witness during the Age of Totalitarianism. In essays, addresses, aphorisms, and unpublished notes on contemporary events, Musil charts the increasing dangers to artists and ethical thinkers of extreme ideological conscription, the subtle and not so subtle changes in public and political discourse, the epoch-making events and dire existential threats of his times. Musil acts as a cultural seismographer, interrogating causes and symptoms in himself and his world, as he moves between Nazi Germany and pre- and post-Anschluß Austria, ultimately escaping to Switzerland where he and his Jewish wife, Martha, lived in exile until his death in 1942. The writings question concepts of race, identity, and nation, and untangle the complex relationship between nation and artist and between the individual and the collective, celebrating the rich and irreducible nature of individual creative work as the bulwark of a free, ethical, and pluralistic society. Klaus Amann provides an invaluable introduction to Musil’s political thought and his struggle, during the war years, to come to terms, to survive, and to find some way to bear witness. Amann recounts Musil’s political trajectory, from fairly indifferent aesthete to socially-engaged supporter of the Weimar Republic and its liberal reforms, to critic of Nazi and Communist Totalitarianisms, and as prescient sceptic about the “cultural optimism” of the Soviet experiment. Musil’s ultimate stance — as a thinker who radically resists taking final stances — is that politics endangers culture and humanity by dictating to artists how they should write, think, paint, compose, and by instrumentalizing art in the interest of ideology. This is not merely an aesthetic position, but a committed belief in the essential ethical nature of art and in art’s fundamental role as a timeless, supra-national force. Translated with an introduction by Genese Grill. This is the fourth Musil publication presented by Contra Mundum Press. And my monograph, The World as Metaphor in Robert Musil's The Man without Qualities: Possibility as Reality:

Monday, May 31, 2021

More Reviews of Theater Symptoms

Natasha Randall writes: 

Musil felt strongly that the crucial function of the arts was to incite aesthetic and ethical revelation, to disrupt a widespread moral stasis: “the most meaningful moments are those wherein we are enlivened by some mysterious thought that carries us beyond ourselves and into the vastness of the universal”. But to his dismay, and hence the titular “symptoms”, Musil saw corruption in Europe’s cultural sphere in the 1920s, a commodification, sensationalism, and a diluting of culture into the “culture industry”. He writes about the distinction between “illustrative” theatre (a theatre of tropes, artificiality and mimesis) and “creative” theatre (a living drama, a singular and complex experience). Musil, ever a master of imagery, gives it to us as “the vast difference between ossification and growth”. 

Read More Here:


Ionna Kostopoula writes: 

But what does Musil diagnose exactly? The inversion of the German Symptomen-Theater into Theater Symptoms in English harks back to the genos-eidos relation: We can, on the one hand, imagine the accumulated symptoms as cases, concrete examples, and elements of dysfunctional plays, and, on the other hand, a theater of symptoms with an inherent pathology, where the roots of the problem might go deeper than they seem. This is a differentiation crucial to Musil, who sensibly reacts to the public outcry by Viennese theater directors that appeared in the newspaper Der Wiener Tag of April 20th, 1924. From their point of view, they diagnose the crisis but also see the recovery of theater. Yet they do not seem to bother seeking the cause of this crisis. In The “Decline” of the Theater (Theater Symptoms III), Musil responds with: 

    In Vienna — dependent upon the state of the market, the disastrous franc speculation, and     the like — there is suddenly a new condition, which they call the decline of the theater. I     don’t believe in it. What is remarkable about this situation is not the continuing course of     this crisis, but the circumstances surrounding its outbreak.

Read More Here:


Maura Del Serra writes:

Questo terzo volume degli scritti completi del grande romanziere, drammaturgo, critico e saggista austriaco (1880-1942), esponente di punta del modernismo europeo, curata e tradotta in inglese con appassionata e documentata fedeltà dalla studiosa Genese Grill per la raffinata ed eclettica Contra Mundum Press, costituisce un prezioso contributo alla conoscenza dell’articolata e poliedrica opera di Musil. Un prezioso longseller non solo per la koinè anglofona – genetica od acquisita – del nostro mondo culturale globalizzato, ma, in primis, per i cultori europei ed italiani dell’alta letteratura, filosofia, drammaturgia e saggistica moderna, nei suoi fondamenti etici, espressivi e stilistici.

Read More Here:


Thursday, January 28, 2021

David Auerbach's Review of Theater Symptoms in The LA Review of Books

"THEATER SYMPTOMS: Plays and Writings on Drama is the mother lode for Robert Musil aficionados, a vital piece of the author’s canon. Containing the major play The Utopians, other dramatic material and fragments, and Musil’s theater criticism, much of it translated into English for the first time, this anthology shows Musil to be a writer of far greater range than is often assumed.

Musil was likely the most sheerly intelligent of modernist writers (which is not to say the most talented). His work entrances with its combination of rigor and passion (“precision and soul,” as he put it), yet it is also marked by significant lacunae. His magnum opus The Man Without Qualities, two sections of which were published in 1930 and 1933, was left unfinished at the author’s death in 1942. How to square that massive achievement with Musil’s equally brilliant, but radically different, earlier works, such as The Confusions of Young Törless (1906), a novella, or Unions (1911), a collection of stories? Above all, how to reconcile Musil’s deep engagement with sociological and political theorizing with his spiritual and aesthetic yearnings? Most of Musil’s contemporaries fell on one side or the other of this dichotomy: Hermann Broch tended toward the sociological, for example, while Thomas Mann embraced the aesthetic. Musil is one of the very few to have attempted to straddle this line, and for that reason alone his work is immensely valuable."



Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Publication Day Interview and Special Discount Purchase Rate: Theater Symptoms: Plays and Writings on Drama

 It's publication day for Theater Symptoms: Plays and Writings on Drama, so here is an interview about translating the book:


Also, Contra Mundum Press is offering a 23% off special until December 17th if you buy both Theater Symptoms and Unions. You can get them both for $40. flat by sending money through Paypal at info@contramundum.net

Visit Contra Mundum's web site for other delicious books to order! https://www.contramundumpress.com/