All posts filed under: Literature

20 Quotes from the Book of Disquiet

There are some works of literature that require a certain kind of humility from the reader; an understanding that when someone on the train asks to know about the book you are reading, you will hesitate over the details–because you have trouble explaining what makes the book interesting or even relatable. It’s a frustrating experience, especially when the work deserves better, but it happens regardless of your intentions. Incidentally, I’ve found myself trying to explain The Book of Disquiet with the implicit understanding that it has no definition. So over the past month, with varied successes and failures, I’ve spoken to more than a few curious strangers about the book (don’t be surprised if you start seeing people all around New York City carrying around a copy). Anyway, it’s nearly impossible to describe this book without making it sound too abstract or too elaborate, yet somehow, I keep trying. In the last month, I’ve explained the identity of Bernardo Soares as a heteronym, the language of despair made accessible through the narrator’s lucid and poetic …

Notes on Marcel Proust and First Love

“Thus our heart changes, in life, and it is the worst pain; but we know it only through reading, through our imagination: in reality it changes, as certain natural phenomena occur, slowly enough so that, if we are able to observe successively each of its different states, in return we are spared the actual sensation of change.” –Marcel Proust, A Remembrance of Things Past Love has been such a damaging aspect of my psyche for the last two years that I’d like to think I’ve hardened, adapted my perspective in a way that allows me to appreciate all of the things that have happened and the (mostly negative) resulting consequences. I’ve been stubborn, as stubborn as the quote would suggest most of us are, refusing to acknowledge this gradual shift in perspective to the point that it almost doesn’t matter anymore. It’s still taking place unfortunately. It’s a process that began as soon as I opened my heart, something that took me years to do in the first place. Maybe I waited too long; so …

Notes on Gregory Rabassa’s Memoir, “If This Be Treason”

I suppose that to be considered a memoir, Gregory Rabassa’s If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents should have a tighter narrative, but it doesn’t nor did it ever intend to. Instead, the book revolves around a loose series of anecdotes; most importantly, reflections on his relationship with the mythic roster of Latin American authors that he has worked with over the years. If you want, you can gloss the makings of a philosophy on translation, though these thoughts only come in passing. The profession does not define nor does it dominate his perspective, but rather provide context for someone that seems to take life as it happens. Rabassa’s famously does not read a book before translating it, preferring to do so as he goes along. He alludes to this by comparing translation to nothing more than a reading, one that avoids the dogma of criticism, but remains preserved in print nonetheless. This instinctual approach to translation is more interpretation than anything else. In regard to the title, this idea of treason defines the …