74 Items

Claude Mouchard on Emilio Villa

“Emilio Villa, poète à découvrir enfin ! Et ce qu’on découvre avec bonheur, c’est un poème jaillissant où les définitions de la poésie se font joyeusement imprévisibles et, à chaque fois, d’une évidence neuve, ouvrante, voire jubilante…”

Read the full review of Emilio Villa’s Selected Writings here.


Announcing: Selected Writings

Selected Writings is a new publication whose aim is to introduce English-speaking readers to ‘foreign’ works that use form in conscious, knowing ways, raise searching questions, and whose purviews exceed convention. Although our principal concern is with literature, by finding exemplary works in every field of human endeavor, translating a representative sample of them, and presenting such material, Selected Writings will provide its readers with a sense of the developments in the arts & sciences elsewhere in the world. Additionally, it is meant to serve as a forum to give greater recognition & visibility to the work of the translator, whose presence & efforts still remain peripheral.

At a deeper, more subterranean level, Selected Writings intends to play an unsettling role within the predominant & often staid confines of Anglo-Saxon culture. In our eyes, the introduction of foreign forms — understood in the provocative, volatile, & experimental sense — is a pressing concern in a globalized world that is less cognizant of or interested in ‘foreign’ endeavors.

On a regular basis, Selected Writings will offer some dark matter to trouble the depths, stir the senses, and, to whatever degree possible, disrupt overly ossified cultural paradigms. It will strive to curate not only a body of provocative & vanguard texts, but also to create a community for those who prize formal inventiveness, linguistic temerity, and thinking that is searching & intrepid.



The work published in Selected Writings will include commissioned translations of untranslated works, sample translations of forthcoming books published in English, and submissions from translators & publishers, who we encourage to contact us.

Although our preference is for previously untranslated material, we are open to new translations of previously translated material, especially if existing translations are poor. We are equally interested in material that might not, or most probably won’t, ever be published in its entirety, whether due to economic reasons, the vagaries of the market, ruling tastes, etc.

From Nietzsche to Melville to Proust, Joyce, Stein, Beckett & Nabokov, writers of exception have often had to resort to self-publication or interminable delays due to the general lack of foresight & adventurousness on the part of publishers. Hence, SW also aims to be a forum for material that is considered exemplary but ‘difficult,’ material that may always or for too long remain in oblivion, relegated to the margins. What is too strange, too unwieldy, too transgressive, too against the grain here has voice.

Submissions must include:

* original-language text

* 3,000–5,000-word translation into English

* short introduction on the author & work (lengthier essays are also welcome and can be considered for publication in Hyperion)

* contact information of original publisher

* publication permission from original publisher

* JPG of original front cover image


All submissions will be vetted by editors fluent in the original language. Translators are expected to respond to inquiries and be prepared to act as a liaison between the original publisher and the editors of Selected Writings. Sample translations are published online on a rolling basis.


Address all inquiries or send submissions to: selectedwritings@contramundum.net


A Contra Mundum Press Project

Chief Editor: Gregory Flanders

Co-editors: Rainer J. Hanshe, Erika Mihálycsa

Brooklyn Rail Reading

Please join Brooklyn Rail contributing authors Robert Lopez and Deborah Kuan who will present their fiction while contributing translators Mary Ann Caws & Nancy Kline will present extracts from their translation of Lorand Gaspar’s Earth Absolute & Other Texts followed by translator Donald Nicholson-Smith who will present extracts from his translation of Raoul Vaneigem’s The Revolution of Everyday Life.

7:30PM — 9:30 PM

206 Mercer St.

A free sample of Gaspar’s Earth Absolute is available here.


ROBERT LOPEZ is the author of Part of the World, Kamby Bolongo Mean River, the collection of short fiction, Asunder and his latest collection of short fiction Good People was just released.

DEBORA KUAN is a poet, writer, and critic. Her debut collection of poetry, XING, was published by Saturnalia Books. She is the recipient of a Fulbright creative writing fellowship (Taiwan), University of Iowa Graduate Merit Fellowship, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference scholarship, Santa Fe Art Institute writer’s residency, and two Pushcart Prize nominations. Her fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review, Opium, The Rumpus, and Wigleaf. She has also written about contemporary art, books, and film for Artforum, Art in America, Idiom, Modern Painters, Paper Monument, PDN, and other publications.

MARY ANN CAWS is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature, English, and French at the Graduate School of the City University of New York. Her many areas of interest in twentieth-century avant-garde literature and art include Surrealism, poets Rene Char and Andre Breton, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group, and artists Robert Motherwell, Joseph Cornell, and Pablo Picasso. Conceptually, one of her primary themes has been the relationship between image and text.

NANCY KLINE’s books include a novel, a critical study of René Char’s poetry, a biography of Elizabeth Blackwell, and translations of Char, Paul Eluard, Jules Supervielle, Lorand Gaspar and other modern French poets. Kline’s short stories, essays, memoirs and flash nonfictions have appeared widely. She reviews for the New York Times Sunday Book Review and has received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Grant.

DONALD NICHOLSON-SMITH’s translations include works by Guy Debord, Jean Piaget, Jean-Patrick Manchette, Paco Ignacio Taibo, J.-B. Pontalis & Jean Laplanche, Thierry Jonquet, Henri Lefebvre, and Raoul Vaneigem. Born in Manchester, England, Nicholson-Smith is a longtime denizen of Brooklyn.

Hosted by Rail Fiction Editor Donald Breckenridge

20th C Poetics Rewritten

Kevin Carollo’s stunning review of Emilio Villa’s Selected Poetry in Rain Taxi (spring 2016)

“Hermetically dynamic, anciently postmodern, materially evanescent, marginally liminal, futuristically prehistoric, reclusively performative, vulgarly esoteric, erotically ascetic — and intensely, explosively, delightfully heteroglossic — this translation of the selected poetry of Emilio Villa relentlessly rewrites everything we think we know about twentieth-century poetics. To approach an understanding of Villa’s life work requires reimagining what translation is and how language means. His work, in turn, underscores the impossibility of completion, of a collected whole…

… Siracusa’s introduction to the life and work of this mercurial and sibylline master is excellent. And his deft, albeit necessarily “partial,” translations induce a curious effect, as if his translated Italian compels the English speaker to note the translated part of the heteroglossic, “original” whole.”

Purchase the spring 2016 issue of Rain Taxi to read the full review.

Lengthy sample of the Villa book available here


Join us for an evening of readings by:

Allan Graubard — Gherasim Luca, Self-Shadowing Prey
Genese Grill — Robert Musil, Thought Flights
Nancy Kline — Lorand Gaspar, Earth Absolute
Allan Graubard — Ferit Edgu, Noone
Mary Shaw & François Cornilliat — Claude Mouchard, Entangled, Papers! Notes
Jason Mohaghegh — Ahmad Shamlu, Born Upon the Dark Spear

KGB Bar Sunday Night Fiction

The KGB Bar Sunday Night Fiction showcases the finest in contemporary fiction from new and emerging writers. Curated by Suzanne Dottino


85 E. 4th St., NYC

January 31, 2016
7:00 pm9:00 pm


Samples of all of our books available here

Moody Speculative Cosmology

Critical Inquiry on Frank Chouraqui’s exceptional tr. of Blanqui’s Eternity by the Stars.

A crucial tome for Benjamin, Borges, & Sebald, to name but a few.

“our understanding of Blanqui stands to be permanently altered by Contra Mundum’s new English translation of Eternity by the Stars, a moody speculative cosmology he wrote while imprisoned at the Fort du Taureau in the early days of the Third Republic.” — Andrew Pendakis

Read the full piece here


Richard Foreman in Conversation

Join legendary maestro of the theater, RICHARD FOREMAN, pioneering experimental filmmaker and teacher, KEN JACOBS, and playwright and essayist and theater/culture blogger, GEORGE HUNKA—to celebrate the publication of Richard Foreman’s latest two books:  The Manifestos and Essays (Theater Communications Group) and Plays with Films (the last three plays to be produced at the St. Mark’s Theater, magically brought to the page and published by Contra Mundum Press). 

Event date:

Monday, November 30, 2015 – 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Event address:

McNally Jackson Books

52 Prince St., NYC



Gellu Naum

Hyperion Gellu Naum Centenary Issue

Essays in English, French, & Romanian

+ tr’s of poems & more

Curated by Valery Oisteanu

Hyperion: On the Future of Aesthetics

Available on ISSUU.COM

Forgotten Modernist Masterpiece

Paul Griffiths on Szentkuthy’s PRAE, Tim Wilkinson’s “colossally laudable” translation, & so much more, in the TLS (Sept. 25, 2015)

“What if we found that something had long been missing from the great canon of modernist ancestors? What if, besides Proust and Musil and Joyce and Kafka, there were some other writer who had reconsidered what prose could be about — reconsidered how prose could be about anything at all? What if this other writer’s work were so dense as to be almost totally impenetrable, which is why it had been overlooked so long, but we were now coming to realize that the impenetrability‚ — being in the presence, as a reader, of a vast rockface with almost no footing — was entirely the point? What if, in other words, Miklos Szentkuthy?”

Republished in The Wall St. Journal

Italo Calvino in NYRB

The Movies of My Youth

An excerpt from Calvino’s intro to Fellini’s

Making a Film (Contra Mundum Press, 2015)

Adapted from “A Spectator’s Autobiography,” Federico Fellini: Making a Film, translated by Christopher Burton White

Part of a continuing NYR Daily series on life-changing films.

August 29, 2015, 9:46 am

Fringe Elements

Monica Carter on Adrian Nathan West’s tr. of Josef Winkler’s Natura Morta

“With proponents such as Elfriede Jelinek and Thomas Bernhard, it’s difficult to understand why Josef Winkler hasn’t garnered more of an English-speaking audience. He’s won many literary prizes in Germany and his native Austria, including the Alfred Döblin Prize for his novella, Natura Morta, in 2001. Winkler hasn’t had many works translated into English but thankfully, that seems to be changing with the release of When the Time Comes in 2013, Natura Morta in 2014 and Graveyard of Bitter Oranges in 2015, both by Contra Mundum Press and translated by Adrian West.

In Natura Morta, a novella that reads like a demonic script version of Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin directed by Michael Haneke, Winkler stays true to his themes of Catholicism, homoeroticism and death. In just over ninety pages, his indefatigable sensory detail pulses and throbs, rots and stinks, foams and drips, sweats and sticks so that the reader cannot escape the suffocating reality of the Roman marketplace, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.”

Read the full piece here: Three Percent


Shenanigans: Robert Musil

Robert Musil’s Thought Flights reviewed by mark Jay Mirsky

“There are writers who draw readers into their magnetic fields so that everything they write is of interest—because the author’s dreams, thoughts, questions, do not simply mirror the reader’s but take him or her through the looking glass into a secret world. Literature in this sense is not an entertainment, but an initiation. … Thought Flights, the most recent publication of Musil’s work is such a valuable addition to his published work. The handsome edition of Contra Mundum Press has a long, thoughtful introduction by Genese Grill. She speaks both to the complexity of translating Musil and to the psychology of his prose, particularly in the feullitons, short pieces which make up a significant number of the pieces in this collection. They may seem at first glance as Grill remarks, using a critical phrase of Musil’s like “soap bubbles,” or “shenanigans,” Spielerei, but in fact like his major opus, The Man without Qualities, they attempt to explore “the other condition.” She defines Spielerei in her introduction as, “timeless states hovering between decision and act, like Kafka’s.” —  Mark Jay Mirsky

Full review here: Numéro Cinq (July 2015)


Genese Grill & Musil

CCTV’s footage of Genese Grill reading from Robert Musil’s THOUGHT FLIGHTS now available online

Event held at Crow Bookshop of Burlington, VT





Robert Musil in Vermont

Join translator Genese Grill for readings from Robert Musil’s THOUGHT FLIGHTS
Book signing to follow
When: Thu., June 18, 2015, 8:30-10:30 p.m.
Phone: 802-863-4649
Price: Free

Crow Bookshop

14 Church St., Burlington, VT



Musil Book Launch

Join the book launch party and reading of the new translation (by Genese Grill) of Robert Musil’s small prose, Thought Flights (2015) at the glamorous Zinc Bar on Sunday, May 10th, at 5 p.m.

Accompanied by Stephen Callahan reading from Seities, his collection of prose pieces in progress.

For more information visit:

Zinc Bar
2 West 3rd Street
New York City

Fellini Book Launch & Screening

Federico Fellini’s Fare un film (1980) is the most comprehensive collection of the idiosyncratic Italian director’s writings available in any language. The contents were culled from a variety of sources long out of print, including interviews, autobiographical pieces, and materials that initially appeared as supplements to published screenplays.

The German publisher Diogenes Verlag AG released the first version of the text as Aufsätze und Notizen in 1974, and an English translation with the title of Fellini on Fellini followed in 1976. While Fellini was not directly involved with the German or English publications, friends and colleagues convinced the director to edit the contents of the compilation considerably before it was published in Italian by the Einaudi press as Fare un film (Making a Film) in 1980.

The new translation from Contra Mundum Press will make this authoritative collection, expanded, reworked, and approved by Federico Fellini, available to readers of English for the first time.


Christopher Burton-White (translator)

Natasha Senjanovic (journalist)

Wendy Keys (Film Society Lincoln Center)

Followed by the screening of the film Toby Dammitt (1968)


Italian Cultural Institute of New York

686 Park Ave


Robert Kelly Reading

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The poet Robert Kelly conducts his annual reading in honor of the birthday of his wife, the renowned translator Charlotte Mandell, at Bard Hall, November 22, 7pm. 

Poet, fiction writer, playwright, and more, his most recent publications are Oedipus after Colonus and Other Plays(drcicerobooks) and Winter Music, texts to the photo work of Susan Quasha (T-space Editions). His collaboration with the painter Nathlie Provosty, The Color Mill, will be published Fall 2014 (Spuyten Duyvil) as will his Collected Essays, edited by Pierre Joris and Peter Cockelbergh (Contra Mundum).

Full details here: Robert Kelly Birthday Reading for Charlotte Mandell

Emilio Villa Review

Flavio Ermini, “Where Poetry Dwells — The Linguistic Substance of Chaos”

“Emilio Villa’s poetry reveals a movement toward an extremely remote past, prior to the constitution of forms. This backward movement — a reverse that closely resembles a resolute advancement — does not neglect the language of origins or the pre-verbal images of the unconscious. Villa’s poetry relies on inaudible words in order to go beyond what we call beginning. This becomes clear when reading The Selected Poetry of Emilio Villa. … The issue Villa poses with his poetics can be summarized in the following question: where will this persistent return to origins take us? The word closest to the beginning — that is, the word inherent in poetry’s thought — demonstrates that we are made up of gestures and events based on Eden’s undifferentiated state. The poem “Words” shows this, proving that the essence of origins escapes the cognitive investigations of science; it challenges etymologies. Villa is unequivocal when he demonstrates that the original language is accessible only up to a certain point. Then — going even further back in time — one must deal with the a-temporality of chaos. We have always thought of the beginning as a transition from chaos to form. Yet Villa goes beyond this concept.” 

Read the full review in: EQUIPèCO no. 41, Anno XI (Autunno 2014)



Natura Morta Review

Natura Morta reads well against the seminal Teuton-among-the-Italians novella,Death in Venice, but where Mann’s tale of boy love, death, and discomfiting weather pits the Apollonian against the Dionysian, Winkler’s riposte is complete bacchanal. In Natura Morta, Apollo, if he appears at all, is but a coin smeared with blood, shit, and sweat as soon as it is tendered. The two novellas bear the conversation; Winkler has won an embarrassment of awards and stands almost as tall as his predecessor in countries other than this one.

Winkler has fallen victim to our market’s provincialism regarding literature in translation and we owe tremendous thanks to Adrian West and Contra Mundum Press for bringing the text to such vivid life. Natura Morta deserves hyperbolic praise. It should be studied, passed among friends, argued over, and stolen from shamelessly and thoroughly. Winkler has stripped fiction bare and approached the line that separates composition from reality itself. Delight and horror contest on every page. And what’s more, at the book’s end, after Piccoletto is hit by a fire engine, dies, and is given a funeral, in one short, final paragraph, a story, a symbol, a character, and a theme miraculously emerge. A name, a mere coordinate, becomes a man. And this man, in inconsolable, Orphic grief, wandering aimlessly among weathered tombs with a bouquet of red broom (an object from the very first image in the book), invents a new and ancient narrative by whimpering to no one that can hear: “buona notte, anima mia!” The reader is stricken, as though by the birth of a star.”

Read the full review here: William Emery, The Collagist (October 2014).

Robert Kelly Book Launch

Join Nathlie Provosty, Pierre Joris, & Robert Kelly

for a book reading & launch at Red Bull Studios (NYC)

Celebrating the release of

THE COLOR MILL (Spuyten Duyvil)

& A VOICE FULL OF CITIES (Contra Mundum)



4 PM

Red Bull Studios

220 W. 18th St.



Review: Szentkuthy

“With [Towards the One & Only Metaphor], the second of Szentkuthy’s works made available in English by Contra Mundum Press, after Marginalia on Casanova, the author begins to take on more of a shape. Towards the One and Only Metaphor (1935) pre-dates the Marginalia — itself only the first volume in the larger-scale project of the St. Orpheus Breviary — and in his Introduction Rainer J. Hanshe notes it is, in part: “a response to criticisms directed against Prae,” Szentkuthy’s first novel — a volume not yet available to English-speaking readers (though it is expected soon); the bigger picture will require more patience, but like the Marginalia this volume stands strongly on its own, too.

. . .

Impressively, Tim Wilkinson’s translation manages to retain and convey much of the sense of language(-play) here — with English-in-the-original words and phrases printed in a different font, helpful in a text that effortlessly traverses languages.

. . .

While there’s very much a sense of this being one building-block of a larger œuvre — far too much of which remains, as yet, inaccessible to English-reading audiences — Towards the One and Only Metaphor is nevertheless a rewarding text on its own, a fascinating and diverse personal catalogue from the pen of an exceptionally cultured writer (which manifests itself both in his style, and in the substance of his writing).”

Michael A. Orthofer, Complete Review (29 August 2014). Read the entire review here.

For another essay on TooM, see “To Humanize & Dehumanize: Imitation, True Contrasts, and the Faustian Pact,” Hungarian Literature Online (December 16, 2013)

Grant Award: Musil

Honored to announce that we received a grant from the Austrian

Ministry of Arts, Culture, and Education to aid our publication of

Robert Musil’s Short Prose, which is to be translated by

Genese Grill.


Forthcoming in 2015! Excerpts available soon.



Blanqui: review & interview

From the interview with translator Frank Chouraqui:

Q: Though Blanqui avoids ethics throughout Eternity by the Stars, it is possible to read it as implying an ethics suitable for a perennially unsuccessful insurrectionist. If there is no progress, only an infinity of worlds extending throughout time and space, then the locus of meaning cannot be the future effects of any action, but only the action itself. He has produced a valorization of his chosen struggle that is impervious to a thousand defeats, even to the certainty of permanent defeat.

FC: Yes, you put it in a very subtle manner, and the issue is very subtle. I think it is one of the main features of Blanqui’s vision that revolution is an end in itself, and yet, he keeps hoping for a political life that actually embodies, fosters, and protects universal brotherhood. The way you formulate this question reveals the potential tensions between these two projects, and they are the tensions at work in Eternity too.

The bottom line, I think, is: should we identify value with actuality? For Blanqui, this precludes revolution. Of course, the problem is now to identify value with revolution, but this precludes victory. For any victory would mean the end of revolution. 

If such is the case, it means that fueling revolution with such existing, crowd-moving aspirations as peace, justice, and brotherhood is a travesty, for all that revolution can offer is continuous strife. In this context, the cosmological view may seem to offer an alternative, for in Blanqui’s calculation, what we find is the identity of actuality and potentiality: all that is possible is actual. If this discovery is used powerfully, one can value revolution no longer for what it can lead to, but for the very fact that it exists.

The problem, of course, as Nietzsche pointed out, and many leftist thinkers since, is that the actual project of the revolution cannot be the same as the project of the masses, for the masses seek peace, and the revolution seeks strife. I don’t think Blanqui really ever came to a final position on the question. What we can say—and it is already quite a lot—is that he embodied the question in ways that stand in themselves as a contribution to radical thought. His life poses the question that runs throughout radicalism: is any good politics a dead politics, a politics that exceeds human demands and therefore refuses to be contested from within? If given human aspirations must be taken into account, the answer will be yes. If revolution has a value superior to that of any human aspiration, no.”

Rolling Thunder (spring 2014) 121–127. Link to pdf of ToC. Full issue not accessible online.

Natura Morta review

“With rare exceptions the sentences are beautifully balanced (much also to the credit of translator West), and as laden with visuals as a feast table in the era of the Dutch masters was loaded down with victuals. The omniscient narrator is flawlessly neutral, allowing the images, the minimal action, and the character’s reactions to the events of this single day in a Roman square tell the story. I was reminded slightly of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s dispassionate voice, but Winkler, despite complete emotional disengagement—even when narrating in gruesome detail a butcher splitting open the head of the lamb or a hare—somehow conveys more warmth than Robbe-Grillet. … With its open love of the sensuous, [Natura Morta] lingers curiously long in the mind, staining memory a subtle hue in the way that, hours after the sun has disappeared behind the horizon, the sky still holds its glow.”

For the complete review: Vincent Czyz, The Arts Fuse (June 2, 2014).

Josef Winkler in NYC




Join acclaimed Austrian author Josef Winkler and special guests at this unique literary-musical event. Winkler will read from his work in German and his translator Adrian West will read the corresponding texts in English. Fulya Peker will perform one of her Modern Mythologies, a performance based on Winkler’s Natura Morta.


Born a farmer’s son in 1953 in Austria’s southernmost province, Carinthia, and without any formal higher education, JOSEF WINKLER is one of Austria’s most notable contemporary authors. The self-taught writer’s first novel Menschenkind was published by Suhrkamp in 1979 paving the way for an exceptional literary career.

Today, Winkler’s books have been translated into 16 different languages. He received numerous awards, including the most prestigious awards in German-language literature such as the “Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis,” the “Großer Österreichischer Staatspreis für Literatur,” and the “Georg-Büchner-Preis.” For Natura Morta, he received the Alfred Döblin Prize (2001).

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   * 

ADRIAN WEST’S translations include the long poem cycle Alma Venus by Pere Gimferrer and Büchner-prize–winning novelist Josef Winkler’s Natura Morta and When the Time Comes. His essays, translations, and fiction have been published in numerous print and online journals, including McSweeney’s3:AM, and Words Without Borders. He lives with the cinema critic Beatriz Leal Riesco.

FULYA PEKER is a Turkish born NY based theaterist & poet. She has performed in works by: Richard Foreman, John Zorn, Object Collection, Robert Ashley, butoh master Katsura Kan, and was featured in David Michalek’s Portraits in Dramatic Time at Lincoln Center. Peker has developed experimental vocal and physical notations and choreographies and gives workshops on avant-garde theater, ritualistic theater, and butoh. Visit her site at: fulyapeker.com

For the complete listing and further info: Austrian Cultural Forum


*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *  

JOSEF WINKLER will also be participating in the PEN World Voices Festival


Participants: Siri Hustvedt, GeeRt Mak, Sjon, and Josef Winkler
Moderated by: John Freeman and Morgan Meis

Public Theater, WED April 30 at 7:00 PM

In the first of two speed-chess style interviews, writer-editors Morgan Meis and John Freeman speak with acclaimed Festival participants from across the globe. Each writer – Iceland’s Sjon, Austria’s Josef Winkler, the Netherland’s Geert Mak, and the United States’ own Siri Hustvedt — is a master from his or her own country. Don’t miss the chance to hear these fine writers speak about topics including religion, art, and craft.

For complete info: Public Theater




Winkler & PEN World Voices Festival

A Literary Quartet

With: Sjon, Siri Hustvedt, Geert Mak, Josef Winkler, moderated by John Freeman and Morgan Meis

Wednesday 30th April

7–8:30 pm

The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, NYC

In the first of two speed-chess style interviews, writer-editors Morgan Meis and John Freeman speak with acclaimed Festival participants from across the globe.  Each writer — Iceland’s Sjon, Austria’s Josef Winkler, the Netherland’s Geert Mak, and the United States’ own Siri Hustvedt — is a master from his or her own country. Don’t miss the chance to hear these fine writers speak about topics including religion, art, and craft.


* * *

For more on Josef Winkler, see the following links:

“I am the eternal altar boy” (interview with Winkler): Signandsight

Bernard Banoun & Adrian West discuss translating Winkler & more: Quarterly Conversation

An excerpt from Winkler’s Natura Morta: A Roman Novella in BODY: POETRY.PROSE.WORD

K. Thomas Kahn reviews When the Time Comes & Natura Morta: Numero Cinq

Excerpts from Graveyard of Bitter Oranges: Paris Review



In Conversation: On Winkler


Essay by Bernard Banoun and Adrian West

“Winkler became a sort of instant obsession for me—it was maybe a month after reading Natura Morta that I had bought everything he had written, and I began translating him that fall—and second because a marked characteristic of his work is the unwillingness or incapacity to depart from a fairly limited number of themes. The backgrounds change, but whether he is in Roppongi, Mexico City, or Varanasi, the same images crop up like ghosts: the pig with its throat slit, the two boys who hanged themselves together, his aunt lifting him up over the coffin to look down at the dead face of his grandmother. I tend to relate these to two phenomena well-known in psychology: the so-called “intrusive memories” common to trauma sufferers and what is known as memory-rehearsal, an act by which our recollections of the past become more refined, sharp-edged, and potent. A curious aspect of Winkler’s writing is his ability to impress his own concerns onto the reader. I, at least, do not grow bored seeing the same scenes played out again, though I have read all of his books, and some of them several times; the fine-grained differences, the way the contours of an event harden or soften over time, is fascinating to me. Proust is the great writer of memory and time, but with the possible exception of Albertine disparue, I don’t know that he delves so deeply into the evolutions of memory in time, and this seems to me one of Winkler’s signal contributions. I suppose these memories take the place of protagonists in Winkler’s writings, they have a kind of disembodied reality and serve to maintain tension in the novels.”

To read the full dialogue-essay:

Quarterly Conversation (March 10, 2014)

Szentkuthy: TLS Review

“In the first pages of a notebook he kept in the summer of 1934, Miklós Szentkuthy lies sweating in bed. He stares at “the lathes of the roller blinds” in his bedroom, the spreading “milky-blue leaves” of houseplants. Budapest is hot, “fermenting at daybreak,” but it is not just the city’s heat that makes him sweat: he is also sick with fever. Waves of ultra-hot particles blast out of the sun, loosening the “foliage hawsers of the trees” in Budapest; a wavelet of toxicity is excreted by Szentkuthy’s gall bladder, heightening and disordering his sensations. The sphere of outer heat is nothing less than the world; the sphere of inner heat is little more than a sickbed. Yet both types of heat are physical, primordial, real — which, then, is more essential: the sun over Budapest, or his distempered gland? By which he means, metonymically: the outer perspective, the “not-I,” the systematic; or the inner perspective, the “I,” the impressionistic? Szentkuthy pursues this question with inventiveness and flair over the 300-page notebook he published in 1935, in 112 numbered sections, as Towards the One & Only Metaphor (Az egyetlen metafora felé).”

. . .

Szentkuthy’s opening scene, with its question of outer and inner “heat,” introduces one of the counter-perspectives that keeps him moving – and not towards the One. He urges himself later to “be drilled into the absolute foreignness of something, not ‘towards the one and only metaphor’ but out, out of the world of metaphors, impressions, fate, the world of life, into a radical, eternally heretical not-I.”

— David Van Dusen, “The most mysterious thing in life,” Times Literary Supplement (February 7–14, 2014) 22.

An excerpt from a review of our edition of Szentkuthy’s Towards the One & Only Metaphor.




Proustitute on Winkler

… two additional fictions by Winkler were published in the past year by Contra Mundum, When the Time Comes (1998/2013) and Natura Morta: A Roman Novella (2001/2014), both translated assiduously by Adrian West, who, to use his own words (as applied to Winkler’s prose), is able to render the “painstaking … visual detail” and “attention to the musicality of phrases” found in the original German texts with a skill that honors Winkler’s writing as a “writing-against.”

Winkler eschews a traditional plot; instead, narrative fragments work together by means of repetition to complicate his vision of modern life. But single scenes can also be understood on their own terms, if one considers the images and their relation to the overall thematics of the text.

 . . . 

Winkler’s imagistic prose shows debts to the cinema. In one scene, Piccoletto spies a videocassette of “the film Sciuscià by Vittorio de Sica” “[a]top the apricots and white peaches” carried in a plastic bag by an anonymous woman on a streetcar. This mention of de Sica’s first major work as a director—filmed in 1946 and translated in English as Shoeshine—reveals how images in Winkler function similarly to those in a neorealist film; not only do many of the series of images contain potent mixtures of the sacred and the profane, but they overvalue the image itself (in its repetition and in its recurrence) in ways also reminiscent of auteurs such as Michelangelo Antonioni.

K. Thomas Kahn, Numero Cinq (February 2, 2014). 

Click on the journal title to read the full review.

Emilio Villa, nineteen-fifty3 rally

Featured in the new issue of Asymptote, “nineteen-fifty3 rally,” an excerpt from our forthcoming bilingual edition of Emilio Villa’s poems.

Emilio Villa (1914-2003) was a poet, visual artist, translator, critic, and Bible scholar. His poems encompass modern and ancient languages, including Milanese, Italian, French, English, Latin, Greek, Sumerian, and Akkadian.

Fundamental to his formation were the years he spent in seminary school outside Milan and at the Istituto Biblico in Rome, where he specialized in Ancient Semitic Philology. Throughout his life, he worked on an a-confessional translation of the Hebrew Bible (which remains unpublished today), and wrote extensively on contemporary art and its relation to the visual texts left by prehistoric man. Villa’s preoccupation with the origin of language (verbal as well as non-verbal) is the common thread that runs through his diverse artistic and critical endeavors.

Our edition of Villa’s poetry is translated by Dominic Siracusa, who received for this text the Academy of American Poets’ Raiziss / de Palchi award for Modern Italian poetry in translation. For more info on the award, Siracusa, and Villa, visit this page of the American Academy of Poets:


To read Villa’s poem (in either the original Italian or the English translation): 


Winkler: TLS Review

When the Time Comes is a lyrical record of a village that has been “fucked” by God, though it is often unclear whether Pulsnitz prays to the Catholic God or Charles Baudelaire’s Satan, or even to the memory of National Socialism. …  Winkler never prettifies his dead, and his accomplished work of memory could be read as a sustained act of treachery. Even his best-loved aunt, Hildegard, is recalled — in her declining years — as a woman who “spoke derangedly and always smelled of excrement.” In this, Winkler’s ethic resembles that of Thomas Bernhard in Extinction, which rejects the instinctive rule that “a false light must be cast on the dead.” We only “sanctify the dead,” writes Bernhard, “in order to be safe from them”; and it is precisely the dignity of the dead that requires a certain brutality in recollecting them: “Whoever dies has led a real life . . . whatever it was like, and no one is entitled to falsify it.” Josef Winkler is a writer who is not safe from his dead, and who — by cataloguing their deaths without falsifying their lives — can leave us less safe from our own.”

David Van Dusen, “Death becomes them,” Times Literary Supplement (January 10, 2014) 21.

Get the TLS to read the full review!

Winkler: Paris Review

Selections from Graveyard of Bitter Oranges: The Dead Children

This week, the Paris Review will be running a series of excerpts from Josef Winkler’s Graveyard of Bitter Oranges. Inspired by the author’s stay in Italy after leaving his native Carinthia, the novel was first published in 1990 by Suhrkamp Verlag and its English translation will be published by Contra Mundum Press in 2015.

Excerpts translated by Adrian West.

Paris Review (December 2013–Jan 2014):

The Dead Children” (excerpt 1)

The Blood of Saint Januarius” (excerpt 2)

The Torch” (excerpt 3)

The Bloody Boar” (excerpt 4)

The Dead of Carinthia” (excerpt 5) 




Counterpunch on Blanqui

“When the name of Louis-Auguste Blanqui is remembered now, it is either as in passing as one of the many French socialist and communist thinkers of the nineteenth century, or as an insult hurled at ultra-leftists. This is a disservice to a great and under-appreciated revolutionary. Hopefully, the release of the first English critical edition of Blanqui’s 1872 astronomical work, Eternity By the Stars (masterfully introduced and translated by Frank Chouraqui), can help rescue him from obscurity. Blanqui’s work is a heartfelt contemplation on the nature of universe and humanity’s place in it.”


Read the full review here: Doug Enaa Greene, “Despite it All,” Counterpunch (December 13–15, 2013)

To Humanize and Dehumanize

Imitation, True Contrasts, and the Faustian Pact: On Szentkuthy’s Towards the One & Only Metaphor


When Miklós Szentkuthy published Prae in 1934 at the sprightly age of 26, the novel was deemed to be the work of a monster.(1) To defend against this charge, and being perceived as a “book-bug homunculus”(2) who lived on science, philosophy, and mathematics alone, Szentkuthy wrote, or culled and transformed from his diary, material that would make up his second book, Az egyetlen metafora felé (Towards the One & Only Metaphor), to reveal, or confess, that he did in fact bleed, that he was not made strictly of pure pulp, or formulae, abstractions, and equations, that he was just as teeming with erotic longings as a satyr in a circle of maenads. Despite his efforts, some critics, such as Gábor Halász, saw in Towards the One & Only Metaphor only a chaos of orality devoid of any organizing principle. To him, Metaphor was nothing but pure excitability, tension, flair, nerve, intellectual paroxysm; not a unified work, only the precursor to a work; all that “is left is this prae,” Halász concluded his review, pointing back, acidly, to Szentkuthy’s audacious first novel, and then remarking, dismissively, that Szentkuthy had still not learned how to write but was simply casting “raw material” at his readers.(3) What then has compelled Éditions José Corti, my own press, and perhaps soon, Aylak Adam, who will be introducing Szentkuthy into Turkish, to each publish translations of Towards the One & Only Metaphor?(4) Is there validity in Halász’s charge? Or is there an organizing principle to Szentkuthy’s text? How are we to read his fragmentary work, which many seem to find baffling, if not even unbearable? What does the title tell us of Szentkuthy’s method, or the character of the book, and what to him is metaphor? What keys are offered in the book to elucidate those things? Does he achieve his goal of humanizing himself, as he claims he sought to do, or does he remain a monster and book-bug homunculus?


Read the rest of the essay on Hungarian Literature Online (December 16, 2013)




Szentkuthy: Best Book of 2013!


The best paperback books of 2013

From Marginalia on Casanova to Philip Terry’s tapestry, Nicholas Lezard round up the best paperbacks of the year


“The year began with a bang for me with the publication of Miklós Szentkuthy’s Marginalia on Casanova (Contra Mundum Press), the first in a 10-volume series, begun in 1939, in which the Hungarian author decided to distil 2,000 years of human thought into a completely unclassifiable series of books. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds.”

Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian (December 5, 2013)



Elio Petri & Criterion

Now available from Criterion, Elio Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

Featuring a host of treats:

  • New 4K digital film restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Archival interview with director Elio Petri, conducted by critic and filmmaker Alexandre Astruc
  • Elio Petri: Notes About a Filmmaker (2005), a ninety-minute documentary on the director’s career, featuring interviews with friends, collaborators, and filmmakers
  • New interview with film scholar Camilla Zamboni, translator of Petri’s Writings on Cinema & Life
  • Investigation of a Citizen Named Volonté (2008), a fifty-minute documentary about actor Gian Maria Volonté
  • Music in His Blood, an interview with composer Ennio Morricone from 2010, conducted by film critic Fabio Ferzetti
  • Trailers
  • New English subtitle translation
  • One Blu-ray and two DVDs, with all content available in both formats
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Evan Calder Williams and excerpts from a 2001 book by screenwriter Ugo Pirro

For info on our edition of Petri’s writings, and on the recent retrospective of Petri’s films at Arsenal (Berlin). A Petri retrospective will also occur in the Czech Republic in the summer of 2014.


Gilgamesh Music

Sándor Vály and Éva Polgár, Gilgamesh

A composition based on Stuart Kendall’s translation of Gilgamesh.

Premiered on Finnish Radio 6 December 2013

Further info — in Finnish — is here