A Garden in This Wretched World: On László Krasznahorkai’s “A Mountain to the North, a Lake to the South, Paths to the West, a River to the East”

November 26, 2022 EVERY WORK OF ART entails a journey, not necessarily in its essence but in its creation: a search by an artist or artist to discover how to tell their story, to develop their idea, to convey their emotion, to display their vision; a search for the apposite, if not the perfect, combination … Read more

The Archival Abyss of Pinochet’s Chile: On Nona Fernández’s “Space Invaders”

November 24, 2022 IN HIS 1995 ESSAY Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, Jacques Derrida describes the archive as “a system or a synchrony in which all the elements articulate the unity of an ideal configuration.” “In an archive,” he continues, “there should not be any absolute dissociation, any heterogeneity or secret […] [T]his can only … Read more

A doctor’s dilemma

Today’s culture of trial by Twitter has its downsides, but it does provide space for the reimagination of a rich dramatic tradition: theater in which righteous individuals stand by their principles and get mauled for their troubles. Coriolanus, with his belief in propity over political flexibility, is a natural victim of the twenty-four-hour news-and-comment cycle … Read more

Photos and papers

Marcel Proust died of complications from pneumonia on November 18, 1922, at the age of fifty-one. That night Jacques Riviere, one of Proust’s earliest supporters and the first to understand the shadowy structure of À la recherche du temps perdu, wrote an impassioned and thoughtful obituary of his friend, weighing the incalculable loss to French … Read more

After #MeToo

Virginie Despentes, whose books have sold upwards of a million and a half copies in France, prefers dramatic landscapes to the flatness of the everyday. Her pseudonym (she was born Virginie Daget), literally means “of the slopes”, reflecting a vertiginous literary sensibility, displayed throughout an oeuvre strewn with breakdowns, relapses, murders and other forms of … Read more

Boswell to Johnson

At the heart of Darryl Pinckney’s memoir is a portrait of the essayist and novelist Elizabeth Hardwick, by whom Pinckney was taught at Columbia in the 1970s – or “Professor Hardwick”, as he still calls her, long after she has become a friend. The result is almost a biography by stealth of Hardwick as mentor, … Read more

Audible cheesecake?

Music puzzled by Charles Darwin. “As neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties of the least direct use to man in reference to his ordinary habits of life”, he wrote in The Descent of Man (1871), “they must be ranked amongst the most mysterious with which he is endowed.” He … Read more

Through a Burmese lens

Was George Orwell, as commonly held and as he usually portrayed himself, a staunch anti-imperialist? And are the sources of that attitude best found in his experience as an officer in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma? That is the main claim of this short but sharp and perceptive book by Douglas Kerr. “The five … Read more