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Showing posts from July 24, 2022

the time is here

  In the Dictionary of Untranslateables – a title that doubles down on the oxymoron – the section on Times, as temps in French, describes, although it doesn’t explain, the remarkable doubleness of the term for both time and weather. The “time and the weather” – when I was a kid in Atlanta, you could call a number and a recorded voice would tell you both the time and the weather. The time, in English, is connected by the most obscure of routes to weather – in as much as it is connected to the sun, divided into A.M. and P.M. However, most philosophers who have approached time ignore the weather. That the Latin tempestus and the English Tempest have, ticking in them, a term for time is one of those etymological chances, as meaningless, to the philosopher, as   the chance meeting, on a dissecting table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella. But this decade is proving that time, human time, and the weather are so connected that one can feel the juncture in one’s blood. We’re in Montpelli

a metaphor from Shklovsky

  In the book of interviews that Serena Vitale  conducted with Viktor Shklovksy, he says a wonderful thing about poetry, quoting Mandelstam: “… poetry is the “deep joy of recognition.” That’s it. The poet searches, gropes in the dark, and my dear contemporaries, so prolific in words, the structuralists, who filled the world with terminology . . . You see, they don’t know this thing, this affliction of the presentiment of art and the joy of recognition. Only the great poets do. They know they’re going to write. They don’t know what will come out, whether it will be a boy or a girl, they only know that it will be poetry. Only the poet knows this tortuous search for the word, the physical joy of “recognition,” and sometimes, also the anguish of defeat. Again, take Mandelstam: “I have forgotten the word I wanted to say. A blind swallow returns to the palace of shadows . . .” I knew Mandelstam, I remember him rushing down the stairs of the House of Arts declaiming these verses. You see, a p

two cheers for the inventor of the underground: Constance Garnett!

  Monroe Beardsley wrote a long and rather brilliant essay about the Underground metaphor in Dostoevsky in which he acknowledges, as an aside, that Doestoevsky’s Notes from the Underground was actually named something like Notes from under the Floorboards, or from a Mousehole. I bow down to Dostoevsky, but sometimes a translator should be her due. It was Constant Garnett who “mistranslated” that title. I believe Nabokov somewhere takes a shot at Garnett. Frankly, Garnett’s title is an improvement. Dostoevsky’s reputation worldwide depends, in part, on the fact that the “Underground” is a much more powerful image than “the Mousehole.” True, one of Kafka’s great short stories is called “The Burrow”, but it is not one of Kafka’s most known short stories, I think. How did Constance Garnett bring the Underground to Dostoevsky – a pairing that seems absolutely appropriate? I imagine – I have no letter or diary entry about this – but I imagine this is a case of cross-pollination. Consta