We do not know if Orpheus really existed. Yet a gesture from his legend, the gaze of Orpheus or Eurydice’s disappearance, is to us more poetically electrifying and tragic than the particular details constructed around his possible existence. That moment, that passionate synecdoche where Blanchot situates the beginning of writing (‘writing begins with the gaze of Orpheus’), is a splitting that acquires such mythical transcendence that it is capable of configuring the legend and inventing the biography of its hero.
I needed to save my energy for the after-dinner chess game, but I couldn’t get Kimi’s smiling face out of my mind. I poured myself a drink, hiding it from Philippe’s view. If I could have, I would have locked myself in the bathroom to drink it. Having a glass of wine, then two, and then three… I had come to the conclusion that children see this as an act of weakness. The simple truth is that I have a witness to everything I do. Sometimes I resent Philippe for it.
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Deceptively simple: the shopworn phrase of the blurbing alchemist who would gild a leaden text with an effortless attribution of hidden complexity. Deceptive simplicity is often attempted and often diagnosed but rarely achieved. The world has many more Rod McKuens than Robert Frosts. Deceptively simple is deceptively hard. So when Goran Simić announces that he “would like to write poems which resemble newspaper reports,” the connoisseur of poetry is apt to balk. Why ever would anyone want that? Should not the rich, deliberate language of poetry oppose the rushed, plain, fact-obsessed prose of journalism? Isn’t this asking of poetry something that it cannot and should not be made to do?
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Since 2008, the announcement of Three Percent's Best Translated Book Award has become something of an annual event for readers of literature in translation. This year's longlist, announced March 11th, is no exception: it reads like a veritable Who's Who of international literature. Weighing in at 25 books, it is broadly inclusive, featuring works translated from more than a dozen languages and published in a variety of formats (from commercial hardcovers to limited edition chapbooks).
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