Berfrois

Giorgio Fontana: Happy Birthday Kafka

Giorgio Fontana: Happy Birthday Kafka

The man who was born one hundred and thirty years ago today in Prague didn't have a simple fate: he lived a restless life, trying to dominate the "immense world in his head". The son of the surly merchant Hermann Kafka, young Franz was a model employee but also...

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‘The language cannot be contemporary’

‘The language cannot be contemporary’

by Justin E. H. Smith I want to say a number of different sorts of thing about Blood Meridian, but I think it will be true to the way Cormac McCarthy himself approached the novel in its creation to move out from the most elementary constituents. Let’s start with apostrophes....

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Song of Whitman

Song of Whitman

Walt Whitman, Camden, New Jersey, 1891. Photograph by Samuel Murray by Justin E. H. Smith I am able to read Walt Whitman only in small doses, for fear of being overpowered by a sort of rapturous assent, tears in my eyes, unable to comprehend how it is even possible...

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To Love a Wall?

To Love a Wall?

Robert Frost’s second book, North of Boston (1914), has almost universally been considered the defining moment of his literary maturation. First published in England when the poet was forty years old, it reflected twenty hard and lonely years of quiet artistic development.

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With perfection, there’s no more discussion…

With perfection, there’s no more discussion…

“A writer in the act of writing must fear neither his own words nor anything else in the world,” Heini tells Algin in Irmgard Keun’s After Midnight. Algin is considering writing a historical novel that will satisfy the stiff submission requirements of the Reich Chamber of Literature. The historical...

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Apples Explode

Apples Explode

James Salter speaking at Tulane University, New Orleans, 2010 From London Review of Books: It isn’t Salter’s language alone that numbers him among the masters, but it is what strikes you first. From Light Years of 1975: ‘On the stands in nearby orchards were hard, yellow apples filled with...

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A Strawberry Vestibule

A Strawberry Vestibule

I have just now fallen upon a darling literary curiosity. It is a little book, a manuscript compilation, and the compiler sent it to me with the request that I say whether I think it ought to be published or not. I said, Yes; but as I slowly grow...

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Passed Times

Passed Times

The 1695 frontispiece to the manuscript pages which, in 1697, were to become the first edition of Perrault’s Histoires ou Contes du temps passé. On the door, behind the old woman telling the tales, is written “Contes de ma mère l’Oye”, Tales of Mother Goose, a subtitle which was...

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The Leaning Sex

The Leaning Sex

Sheryl Sandberg. Photograph by Drew Altizer From The New York Review of Books: I am not the first person to notice that Lean In does not propose any concrete changes to corporate or public policy in order to accommodate women in top jobs, with a single exception. When she...

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Fingio

Fingio

Critics have long held that, even if Cervantes was at least somewhat aware that his work would be successful, this was only because he knew it was funny, and hoped that, in reading it, as he famously wrote in his first preface to Don Quixote, "the melancholy would be...

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Pym’s Heroines

Pym’s Heroines

Barbara Pym. Photograph by Mark Garson via From Ploughshares: Although her novels were well-received and regularly published from 1950 to 1963, and although she continued to produce high-quality work at a steady pace between 1963 and 1977, Pym was devastated by her inability to publish at all throughout the...

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To Read a Book by Virginia Woolf

To Read a Book by Virginia Woolf

Detail of Portrait of Ugolino Martelli, Angelo Bronzino, c.1535 by Virginia Woolf In the first place, I want to emphasise the note of interrogation at the end of my title. Even if I could answer the question for myself, the answer would apply only to me and not to...

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K. Thomas Kahn on Imre Kertész

K. Thomas Kahn on Imre Kertész

Nobel laureate Imre Kertész is certainly no stranger to controversy. His radical reconceptualization of the term “Holocaust” — in whose “unscrupulous employment” he locates “a cowardly and unimaginative glibness” — to extend beyond the scope of the concentration camps and those who perished therein, rhetorically privileges the survivors over...

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