A memorial celebration of the life and work of Jennifer Wynne Reeves took place on September 6 at St. Marks Church in Manhattan. I was invited to write a tribute, which Dana Martin Davis read in my stead.

 

The sentencing hit us hard. Not guilty of a brain tumor, your Honor, not guilty! As if there were an appeal in matter’s court. No, not here—not when you’ve been sentenced to the electric chair by a dire statistic. (…) We sat in the neurosurgeon’s waiting room, waiting for the pathology report, the sentence. My uncle squeezed my hand so hard I thought my bones might crack. Walking out to the car he asked, what stage are we supposed to be in now: the anger stage, the denial stage? It’s the zombie stage. Just get me out of here, use an ax, a gun, a ratchet. I don’t care. We stopped for something to eat, steak salad with blue cheese dressing and pasta, faux Italian cuisine, guilty of suburban delight, grateful for small crimes of comfort and a pesky jab of hope.

 

 

When Jennifer began posting the course of her illness on Facebook, she was laying her life bare to the public.

Her missives were short and to the point, and always accompanied by a painting or one of those blobby creatures populating photographs of landscapes, many of them white with snow, but tinged with the dirt-brown edges of an early thaw or framed by bare branches that resembled pencil marks on smudged white paper. Day by day, into the steady stream of the Facebook newsfeed, Jennifer transformed her experience into art: the custom-made Freddy mask she had to wear for radiation treatment, the hospital stays and the indignities these seemed to rain down on her, the ever-impending specter of death on the horizon—and all of it offered to the community of artists convening there each day to escape the solitude of their studios and keep abreast of each other’s work. Jennifer was deeply dedicated to this community. And while it’s hard to formulate what it was that led to her work’s wide popularity, it was certainly her courage that impressed her admirers the most.

By the time she asked me to edit her book Soul Bolt, Jennifer had already been operated on for glioblastoma multiforme. There was no hiding from the fact that it would return; time was of the essence. And so we set to work. Forty-one texts in varying stages of completion, roughly divided into the subjects love, illness, and artmaking, brimming with linguistic sleights of hand and metaphors that conjoin with her visual art in complex and unexpected ways. For me, it was a matter of learning to see with her eyes, to hear with her ears, to understand the very structures that led from image to narrative. It meant understanding language on Jennifer’s terms and defining parameters based on this, which could then be used to judge whether the writing “worked” or not. I invite any of you who knew Jennifer to imagine this process for a moment; to imagine the countless feisty, funny, passionate comments and edits exchanged with this very stubborn woman. Even though I’d absorbed the Jennifer code and her peculiar way of slipping from metaphor to abstraction, from art critical observation to autobiographical reflection—it became an ongoing battle of wills.

We went through three months of edits; it was tough, and fun, and exasperating. Just as I finished editing a text, she would rewrite it. At some point, she reported that she’d been to the neurosurgeon, and that the cavity the excised tumor had left behind was shrinking. It was progress, and she was convinced that our correspondence had played a crucial role. I continued editing. She continued rewriting everything. We wrangled over words, chiseling her sentences down to make them resonate all the more powerfully. At some point I had to start calling things “final edit,” “final edit one,” and “final edit one a.” But Jennifer never stopped changing things, even after the first edition of Soul Bolt went to print. The artist’s proof copy she sent me was full of cross-outs and corrections. In her dedication, she thanked me for the word “junked,” which, she said, she’d decided she liked after all.

The best artists change the way we see; the way we think about things. Jennifer found a means, through her art, to defy reality—and she did this audaciously, elegantly, and with incredible discipline. Her art and words resonate with joy.

 

I wear a Freddy mask for radiation. I go to the Heard Museum and mull over the narrative drawings of Black Hawk, his pooping horses, his smiling warriors smiling at death because they know their home is safe. They’ve said their goodbyes. Time is of the essence according to the material picture, but not according to the painting I see, will see; have made, will make. My soul bolts from here, lives on a no-time timeline in art. Thank you, thank you very much, dear Paint-Maker in the Sky, Wonderful-Clump-Slinger. I bow to you, elastic air-mud, skilled in your nothingness, your infinite emptiness that is so, so, full. I pick up my pencil at the beginning of a picture, at my so-called looming end, and rejoice evermore.

 

 

jwr cast your grid

Jennifer Wynne Reeves, Cast Your Grid. 12 x 15.5 in., 2012

two leaves

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpCJf6ft9d8&feature=youtu.be

 

“How to explain that the betrayal is of another sort altogether? I know the tidal pull of the blood; that a mere glance can send plumes of fire curling through the nerves. After J. arrived: the sudden, mind-controlling molecular saturation of pheromones in the air, a maddening inability to concentrate, to think of anything at all. Intoxication, situational insanity, delusion. An attraction so fierce it made me angry; the almost violent force required to resist it. Focus on what you don’t like—it’s all there, right in the very first moment. Just take a look back and you can see it clear as day: the sober assessment, the critical points like elephants weighing down the wrong side of the scale, and then the sticky-sweet goo of self-deception oozing all over it like an egg cracked atop a skull, the giddy, hypnotic, honeyed brilliance of it—ah, love! How blind does it have to be to erase that immediate recognition of disaster? Men have their siren song to lead them astray, but what about us?”
— from the blog “Stories I tell myself before I go to sleep at night,” April 2014.

Published in “Wreckage of Reason II: Back to the Drawing Board,” an anthology of experimental women’s fiction (eds. Nava Renek, Natalie Nuzzo, Spuyten Duyvil Press).

http://www.spuytenduyvil.net/worii.html

I am happy to have an excerpt from my blog, “all about love, nearly,” coming out soon in this excellent new anthology published by Spuyten Duyvil Press. Come to KGB’s on April 22 to a reading celebrating the release of Wreckage of Reason II: Back to the Drawing Board — an anthology of experimental women’s fiction published by Spuyten Duyvil Press.

KGB Bar

85 East 4th Street

NYC 10003

7 — 9 p.m.

Readers include:  Andrea Scrima, Martha King, Lorraine Schiene, Geri Lipschultz, Alexandra Chasin, Kathe Burkhart, Holly Anderson, Carmen Firan, Joanna Sit

 

wreckage2

 

“The range of the stories in this volume of Wreckage of Reason II is vast and far-reaching. There are thirty-three selections, among which are playfully reconstituted myths and fairy tales, experimental flash fiction, and sexually pungent satires that are presented alongside powerful stories about violence and loss, mothers and daughters, lovers and spouses, political horrors and existential loneliness, erotic visions and happenings. Each of them seemed to come from a commitment to literary risk, exploration, and playfulness and a tacit disregard of marketability. For that, the selections are unusually wrought, evincing precisely articulated literary intentions. Space will not allow me to include each and every one of them, yet each was unusual and lively, a truth on its own twirling axis.”

— Leora Skolkin-Smith

In this follow-up to the 2008 bestselling Wreckage of Reason: An Anthology of Experimental Prose by Contemporary Women Writers, 29 contributors use different styles and language genres, their tools at hand, to illustrate moments of conflict, amusement, bafflement and joy that make up a day, a year, an individual life or a collective history. Held up to the light or inspected under a microscope, set in locales real, virtual, mythic, and imaginary, characters bump into and move through events, leaving readers with the humorous, sad, sexy and playful ambiguities of what it means to be alive. This anthology provides a much needed venue to spotlight women writers engaged in serious creative writing projects chronicling and responding to our current culture.

“Were this book published by St. Martin’s or Norton, they would have slapped its contents on wider margins and packaged it for the college market at twice the cost. Except Norton or St. Martin’s would never publish this book—it’s too dangerous, wild, and singular. Wreckage of Reason gives us three dozen women authors beyond any easily marketable definition; by any description, it’s an anthology worthy of an audience and acclaim.”

— Ted Pelton, from The Brooklyn Rail (writing about Wreckage of Reason I)

Davis

From The Lydia Davis Symposium
The Quarterly Conversation, Issue 35

Much has been written about Lydia Davis’ pared-down “style.” Her sentences are crafted with an economy that borders on parsimony. What is less frequently observed, however, is that her devotion to exactitude entails a repetition of words and phrases that—to a reader who happens to be tone-deaf to her particular brand of deadpan humor—can come across as tedious and even peevish. In a steady flow of neurotic energy, sentences are arranged much like a child might stack up pennies in painstakingly precise towers to distract itself from bickering parents. Yet Davis’ observations nearly always contain a sly wit. Her repetitions are not the repetitions of Beckett or Bernhard; they do not circle around the unutterable core of what language, by its very nature, fails to convey. On the contrary, Davis’ sentences clarify. Theyinsist. What is more, the continued reassertion of a thought and the perseverance in its reiteration frequently correspond to the respective narrator’s participation in a series of situations that find her hapless and misunderstood, situations that are highly distressing. Davis is concerned with correction, revision, rectification. If you no longer love me, if you are lying to me, then my only recourse is to recount, as precisely as possible, what happened, and in what sequence: what you said, and what I thought about it; what I believed you were thinking and not saying; what I said in response and what relationship this bore to what I thought and felt. In the absence of truthful communication and in the disorientation of shifting emotion, an accurate portrayal of circumstances is required to set the record straight. When spoken words no longer serve mutual understanding, language, in response, becomes a matter of validating one’s perception, a vehicle for self-preservation.

 

Read the full essay in The Quarterly Conversation:

http://quarterlyconversation.com/on-the-inimitable-lydia-davis

 

Issue 35: The Lydia Davis Symposium
Essays by David Winters, J.C. Hallman, Lynne Tillman, Madeleine LaRue, Florian Duijsens, and Scott Esposito — and an interview with Lydia Davis by Dan Gunn.

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To: “s.reichwein” <s.reichwein@gmx.ch>

From: Andrea Scrima <a.scrima@t-online.de>

Subject: Silva!!!

Cc:

Bcc:

Ich habe die ganze Woche wie verrückt gearbeitet –

hast du denn morgen Abend frei?

Oder fährst du morgen im Laufe des Tages schon?

Können wir uns verabreden? Ich würde mich sehr freuen!!

xxxxooooo

Andrea

From ???@??? Thu Oct 25 18:22:21 2012

To: Eliza Proctor <elizaproctor@earthlink.net>

From: Andrea Scrima <a.scrima@t-online.de>

Subject: Re: Anmeldung/Auftrag DP11749326 – Kunde:Scrima,  Andrea

Cc:

Bcc:

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References: <a0624080dccac9c0d395f@[192.168.2.103]> <1673C9DE-6A95-4FF7-A858-ADEC6D4ABDF6@earthlink.net> <a06240807ccade8910a64@[192.168.2.103]> <93AB6BBF-190E-4D97-BDD8-F84BED0B1D32@earthlink.net> <25783502-5AB4-49A5-9693-F8F9E11163E9@earthlink.net> <a0624080cccaec21204e1@[192.168.2.103]> <25A2D445-EAC0-4DA2-AEA8-D7C9BB7FC90B@earthlink.net> <a06240814ccaed73afa46@[192.168.2.103]> <02EE79E1-6B4E-4558-A1EB-F31C57E57276@earthlink.net> <a0624081bccaf08d0f66d@[192.168.2.103]> <472D5098-4945-4561-A159-F9066087FF60@earthlink.net>

ok – let’s meet at 9 p.m. at kamala!

xxx

a.

Just arrived at the studio 1/2tria, however, is not only as fresh today as it was over twenty years ago; much of it remains almost universally true. As one character observes: It doesnít make any difference what government weíve got / theyíre all the same / itís always the same people / itís always the same deals these people make / itís always the same interests / itís always these out and out corrupt people / driving the state to ruin day after day. To which another answers: And the language those people use / itís abominable / just listen to the prime minister / he canít even form a complete sentence / nor can the rest of them / nothing but rubbish comes out of their mouths / they think rubbish / and the way they articulate it is rubbish too. Heldenplatz: this is where the old Professor Schuster, an old Jewish intellectual who has returned to Vienna from English exile, leaps to his death because he can no longer stand Austria and the continued prevalence of anti-Semitism fifty years after his escape from Nazi aggression; this is where his wife, who hears the crowds screaming ìSieg Heil!î as Hitler announces the Anschluss in March of 1938, goes slowly insane. It matters little that the professorís wife is the only one who can hear the jubilant cries; her madness merely articulates what each member of the Schuster family already senses deep inside. For ten eleven years / Frau Professor has been hearing the shouting from the Heldenplatz / nobody else hears it she hears it / Itís driving me mad Frau Zittel itís driving me mad (Ö) Here in Vienna itís worse now than fifty years ago Frau Zittel / They spat at my daughter Frau Zittel / Living in fear every day Frau Zittel / I canít cope with it any longer / I am too old and too weak for Austria / Existence in Vienna is inhuman (Ö). Bernhardís play, which premiered three months before he died, was probably the greatest scandal in the history of Austrian theater; by far his most political work, it is said to have hastened his demise. Director Claus Peymann had commissioned Bernhard to write the piece to commemorate the centennial of the Burgtheater at its present location, and while Bernhard was not one to shy away from defaming the fatherland, Heldenplatz proved far more damning than his criticsí worst apprehensions. Calling Austria a ìnation of six and a half million feeble-minded raving mad people,î Bernhard is ìsurprised the entire Austrian people didnít commit suicide long ago.î The play unleashed a wave of righteous indignation; 200 policemen had to be stationed around the theater to prevent a riot. Waldheim himself called Heldenplatz an abuse of freedom and ìa crude insult to the Austrian people,î to which Bernhard responded: ìYes, my play is atrocious. But the piece thatís being staged all around it now is just as atrocious.î Austria itself had become the setting for the authorís last dramatic work, and Bernhardian exaggeration the conduit for igniting an explosive taboo. Unfortunately, the scandal surrounding Heldenplatz also drowned out much of its subtlety. This new translation by Meredith Oakes and Andrea Tierney, published in tandem with the playís 2010 English-language premiere at the Arcola Theatre in London, reproduces the musical cadences in Bernhardís prose while deftly conveying the workís many nuances and ambiguities, in which victim and aggressor are sometimes, disturbingly, blurred. As the piece opens, the housekeeper describes a scene in which the professor shows her how to fold a shirt properly; he insists, screaming, that he is not sick, but merely a perfectionist: I couldnít do it / my hands were trembling so much / I couldnít fold the shirt / Like this the Professor said like this / and he turned in the sleeves / you see Frau Zittel see see see / he threw the shirt in my face / and I had to fold it / merciless (Ö). Later, he will make an astonishing confession to Frau Zittel: We always want our children to be different from what we finally have to realize theyíve become (Ö) Suddenly one day you discover your own children are non-humans he said / we think weíre raising human beings / and then theyíre just carnivorous cretins / hysterics megalomaniacs chaotics (Ö). Ultimately, Schuster is a misanthrope; his relationship to his family is poisoned by a deeper-lying alienation that belies a prevailing misconception of the play as the quintessence of the Bernhardian vituperative rant. Tyranny, it seems, is handed down from parent to child, from master to servant, while annihilation ultimately stems from within. Reflecting upon her fatherís suicide, Anna muses: Married people always murder each other / the only question is who gets exterminated first / who lets themselves be destroyed and exterminated first / thatís what marriage is based on (Ö). Bernhardís prose is famously infectious, irresistibly inviting fans and critics alike to imitate his circular syntax in a kind of slapstick pastiche that misses the finer points of his logic. Twenty-three years after its turbulent premiere, after all the indignation and rage have simmered down to quiet murmurs of posthumous reverence, Heldenplatz emerges as something far more complex than a mere invective against Austrian society: as the work probes the pernicious endurance of anti-Semitism, it simultaneously examines the intricate relationship between complicity and individual responsibility in the body politic. Frustrated by her uncleís refusal to become involved in the affairs of the world, Anna exclaims: Thatís whatís so terrible / everyone complains all the time / but no-one protests / people are always worked up about something / but no-one does anything to stop it. To which Professor Robert retorts: When everything stinks of decay and everything screams out for destruction / the voice of a single person has become useless / itís not as if nothing is said or written against this disastrous process / every day things are being said and written against it / but whatever is said and written against it is not being heard or read / the Austrians do not hear any more and do not read anymore / thatís to say they hear something about catastrophic conditions but do nothing about them / and they read about catastrophic conditions but do nothing against them / the Austrians are a people full of indifference toward their catastrophic condition (Ö). Replace ìAustrianî with ìAmericanî or any other adjective of national allegiance ó and youíre left with a cogent criticism of contemporary society where mindless hatred wears many masks, but remains everywhere largely the same. 2. Thomas Bernhard (1931ñ1989), author of numerous novels, essays, short stories, and poetry in addition to the plays, is inarguably one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His widely celebrated prose ó including the masterpieces ìCorrection,î ìExtinction,î ìThe Loser,î ìOld Masters: A Comedy,î and ìWittgensteinís Nephew,î to name but a few ó delivers an inimitable synthesis of comedy and Weltschmerz, existential dread and absurdity. His is a literature of profound alienation: from the family, society, the nation, history ó but always, first and foremost, the self. The deformations in character brought about by familial abuse; the historical amnesia required to bask in nationalist pride: these are only a few of the targets of his acerbic wit. Although he would have no doubt scoffed at the term, Bernhardís writing is rooted in a moral conscience that sets out to ridicule the many-headed Hydra of hypocrisy, expose it in its brilliant comic light. Particularly now, with much of contemporary western culture trapped in a labyrinth of solipsism and self-reference, Bernhardís relentless stabs at deluded optimism and the inflated egos of hyperbolic self-importance are more crucial than ever, catching us off-guard at the very moment we find them illogical, unintelligible, or at least grossly exaggerated. Yet while subterfuge plays a key role in Bernhardís writing, his aesthetic concerns probe far deeper. Bernhard sets out to expose how language itself leads us astray: how difficult it is to think independently, to formulate even a single thought that does not complete itself through the sheer force of collective use. His is a radical approach to form that mobilizes the power of music to communicate directly to the psyche. When Bernhard introduces a theme and carries it through a series of subtle variations, he merges musical and syntactical structures to achieve a hybrid language based on repetition and permutation and polished to an almost geometric brilliance. But while Bernhardís art is ultimately affirmative, his quest for perfection in form also necessitates an isolation, an urge toward self-destruction. When asked about the role perfection plays in his writing, Bernhard replied: ìThatís the attraction of any art. Thatís all art is, getting better and better at playing your chosen instrument. Thatís the pleasure of it, and no one can take that pleasure away from you or talk you out of it. If someone is a great pianist then you can clear out the room where heís sitting with the piano [(Ö]) but heíll stay put and keep on playing. Even if the house falls down around him, heíll carry on playing. And with writing itís the same thing.î Every lover of Thomas Bernhardís writing becomes, at some point, a missionary. We want to convert people to his circular logic, infect them with the bruised beauty of his mordantly comic rant; we want everyone to comprehend that Bernhard is not only dark, but deeply human and irresistibly funny; that heís not a pessimist, or a cynic, or a misanthrope, but a relentless observer whose tender heart is encased in a prickly shell of invective: against hypocrisy, against stupidity, against duplicity in all its forms. We zealous lovers of Thomas Bernhard want to tell you all about the hypnotic pull of a passionate mind navigating whirlpools of obsessive repetition as it revolves around and around what cannot be expressed in words; we want to describe to you, in detail, how this mind finally succeeds in articulating the most elusive and elementary truths of the human condition. Iím not exaggerating when I say that the The syntactical force of his prose succeeds in conveyinghas become so thoroughly imbedded in my experience of the language that it sometimes seems to me as though my sole purpose in learning German was to experience the exquisite pleasure of reading Bernhard in the original.  Yet although Bernhardís true genius still hasnít been sufficiently acknowledged in the English-speaking world, and I feel called upon to offer new evidence to argue his unique importance, the recently translated collection Prose ó which compiles seven of the twelve early stories published in the 1979 Suhrkamp edition of Erz‰hlungen ódoes not constitute the milestone in contemporary letters it should. As a whole, the stories testify to the evolution of the authorís singular voice: existential despair, alienation, impotence, the falsification of thought and experience that language itself brings about mark the territory Bernhard would continue to explore throughout his writing life. The present translation does not, however, do justice to Bernhardís famously wicked wit, much of which is contingent on the acrobatic elegance of the writing itself. Moreover, Seagull Books has additionally published a coffee-table volume of the story Victor Halfwit that could be considered the visual antipode to Bernhardís aesthetic, virtually obliterating the text with an excess of design and illustration that bears no relation whatsoever to the authorís formal austerity and propels it, unforgivably, into the realm of kitsch. However, before I conclude my essay with an analysis of the various shortcomings of these two editions (in the hopes that other works of Bernhardís ó among them the remaining stories in the original Suhrkamp edition ó meet with a kinder fate), I will continue with a discussion of the works themselves. Bernhard frequently employs a narrative device whereby a story is told in the voice of a narrator who was told the story by someone else, leading to a kind of box-within-a-box construction, a layered reality. Furthermore, several stories in this collection are studies in troubled consciousness once removed, with the narrator describing the process through which another character meets his downfall or loses his mind. Others describe the more familiar torture of self-loathing: Ö I also know that it is ridiculous to lead a desperate existence, even to conclude that one is leading a desperate existence is ridiculous, as the use of the word ëdespairí is in itself already ridiculous [(Ö]) and how, if one considers it, all words that one uses suddenly become ridiculous [(Ö]). Being; oneís perception of oneís being; oneís expression of this perception; the very words one has at oneís disposal in order to express this perception form a fragile construct that buckles under its own weight in a kind of collapse of the self. Bernhardís mistrust of language is palpable here as he moves from describing mental states to reproducing them in analogy ó through a sentence structure and thought process that spiral in on themselves in a maddening manner. Ultimately, the subject of writing becomes writing itself. In the story ìJauregg,î life in the Jauregg Quarries, where the narrator has accepted a menial job offered to him by his uncle, quickly becomes intolerable: A society grown coarse and embittered [(Ö]) must inevitably be met with the greatest adroitness, if a man like myself wishes to maintain himself in it for more than even the shortest period of time. Mistakes once made in front of a crowd of people seeking and finding a way to get by in nothing more than prying and malicious joy, endeavoring to mutually destroy each other, can no longer be made good, the least mistake can be the start of a conspiracy, a martyrdom [(Ö]). As the hapless narrator describes his efforts to escape some larger, unnamed persecution, Bernhard is also describing the authorís role as a desperate clown who entertains his audience to stave off their hostilities: But in order to live one must be together with people [(Ö]). From time to time, I think, I tell a joke Iíve made up, then my colleagues laugh. They know me as a good teller of jokes. I know of no greater torment than telling a joke, but, since I have no other possibility [(Ö]), I from time to time tell a joke Iíve made up which they describe as a good joke [(Ö]). If I can tell it, I wonít go under. If I tell it particularly well, for a while I rise in the estimation of my colleagues. But I am not a comedian. In ìIs it a comedy? Is it a tragedy?î the narrator, a medical student mired in an ambivalent relationship with the theater and forever planning to write a study on the discipline (ìOne describes best what one hates, I thoughtî) suddenly, although he has purchased a ticket and changed his clothes (ìYouíve changed for the theatre, I thoughtî), finds himself unable to attend the performance. ìWhen youíve written your theatre study, I thought, then it will be time, then it will be permissible for you to go to the theatre again, so that you can see, that your treatise is right!î Seated on a park bench, he is addressed by a man who asks him the time, engages him in a somewhat perplexing conversation, and finally persuades him to accompany him on a walk. He, too, is obsessed with the theater; he would like to know whether itís a comedy or a tragedy being performed that evening. ëNo, donít say what it is! It should not be hard,í he said, ëby studying you, by concentrating entirely on you, by concerning myself exclusively only with you, to discover whether at this moment a comedy or a tragedy is being performed in the theatre [(Ö]) in time the study of your person will inform me about everything that is happening in the theatre, and about everything that is happening outside the theatre, about everything in the world, which at every moment is entirely linked to you.í In a microcosmic/macrocosmic inversion, the social is extrapolated from the individual; in order to gain a larger understanding, Bernhard seems to be saying, one must leave the stage, abstain from the worldís dramas, and look within. Yet as writing becomes a stand-in for life, and an inability to live becomes the stuff of writing, language nonetheless fails to express what is at the heart of human experience at its bleakest: torpidity of thought and the numbing incarceration of incommunicable interiority. On a broader level, much of Bernhardís writing is essentially about the impossibility, the futility of writing. It is rooted in a thought process that resembles a house of mirrors where the merest mental stirring is reflected hundredfold, thousandfold; where consciousness reels in despair at the phantasms of its own making, the grotesque magnifications, fabrications, and distortions of its own inner workings. Here, the act of writing corresponds to a cognition stuck in perpetual repetition, a living-by-proxy bound by the compulsion that numbs much of human thought. And if compulsion is the illness, the relentless drive to repeat is its symptom ó to repeat again and again and again in a Sisyphean effort to convey an unthinkable content that is often, paradoxically, hidden in plain view. And then, unexpectedly, thinking skips over its self-imposed strictures and an aberration in the machinery of things emerges, a jewel-like deviance that is uniquely capable of expressing some stark truth about our subjective selves and the phenomena in the world surrounding us. By comparison, an analysis of Thomas Bernhard in translation is unfortunately somewhat less riveting ó but essential to an English-speaking readerís understanding nonetheless. While Although there is always a core quality ofto Bernhardís convoluted prose that canít be reproduced outside the German, the present translation is rife with unnecessary inaccuracies. Here are two random examples: in the story ìIs it a comedy? Is it a tragedy?î the first paragraph contains a syntactical error whereby the word ìthereforeî is placed ahead of the clause from which it should follow in causal connection (ìin my room, therefore, even as I was still engaged in my scholarly workî should read: ìeven as I was still engaged in my scholarly work and, therefore, in my roomî). In ìTwo Tutors,î the ìinconsideratelyî inborn sleeplessness should be replaced with ìruthlesslyî (r¸cksichtslos), a word that recurs constantly in the Bernhardian universe. While this might seem like nitpicking, near misses such as these abound, rendering the text unintelligible at times. Moreover, translations of Bernhard require that they rise above a word-by-word, clause-by-clause treatment; adherence to the German syntax does not reproduce the inherent lightness of Bernhardís language, but obscures it, weighs it down. Thus, the English translation is encumbered by lumbering passages that hardly do justice to the austerity of the German original: ìThat it is possible to punish someone, who is helpless and seeking help, for his helplessness, in, as I think, such a spiteful way, by not only not allowing him to come close but each time, at even the slightest attempt to come close, to join them, by obscene silence or to offend him by obscene remarks, shocked me.î Here is my own proposal for this passage from ìJauregg,î which I also set forth as a working alternative to translating Bernhard in general: ìI was appalled that it was possible to punish a helpless person, a person seeking help, punish him for his helplessness in such a, I should think, perfidious manner by not only not allowing him to come close, but rather to offend him outright each time at the merest approach, at even an attempt at the merest approach or attempt at joining in with them, with scurrilous silence, or with scurrilous remarks.î For the record, the German original is as follows: ìDafl es mˆglich ist, einen Hilflosen, Hilfesuchenden auf solche, wie ich denke, niedertr‰chtige Weise f¸r seine Hilflosigkeit zu bestrafen, indem man ihn nicht nur nicht an sich herankommen l‰flt, sondern ihn jedesmal bei der geringsten Ann‰herung, bei dem Versuch auch nur der geringsten Ann‰herung, sich ihnen anzuschlieflen, durch unfl‰tiges Schweigen oder durch unfl‰tige ƒuflerungen vor den Kopf zu stoflen, entsetzte mich.î I would argue that the sonorous use of rhythm and repetition in Bernhardís sentences needs to be approximated in English with the possibilities available to this language, and not by means that are intrinsic to German syntax alone, for instance dangling the verb at the end of a long, idiosyncratically punctuated, intricately complex sentence. It is not a matter of reproducing something that cannot be reproduced, but rather of creating a living analogy that comes close to the aesthetic of the original. Furthermore, when one translates words such as ìNiedertracht,î ìniedertr‰chtig,î one is translating words that echo throughout all of Bernhardís writing ó and hence one should choose them carefully and with a full understanding of their scope. Thus, ìperfidyî and ìperfidiousnessî come closer to the register of associations played upon here. Another example in this vein is the term ìunfl‰tig,î which Iíve translated with the word ìscurrilousî and not the above-quoted translatorís choice ìobsceneî ó Bernhard knew full well when to use the superlative, of course, and far be it from anyone to second-guess him. But the translator is not always to blame, of course: rendering the downward pull of a Bernhardian quicksand of words is at times an impossible task. Sentences become arguments waged against languageís inadequacy; meaning is wrested from the form as it spirals around an absent center, teetering on the brink of senselessness. When asked if he was interested in translations of his works, Bernhard replied: ì[(Ö]) a translation is a different book. It has nothing to do with the original at all. Itís a book by the person who translated it. [(Ö]) It has nothing in common with your own work, apart from the weirdly different title. Right? Because translation is impossible. A piece of music is played the same the world over, using the written notes, but a book would always have to be played in German, in my case. With my orchestra!î Whether we take him at his word or not, the essence of Bernhard lies in the syntax: in the way in which, clause by clause, a train of thought is kept dangling until it finally, in a chain of incremental changes, comes full circle and its elegant awkwardness gives rise to hilarity. Or vice-versa: hyperbole and humor succumb to the centrifugal force of Bernhardís language, resulting in vertiginous bewilderment. Which brings us back to literatureís essential dilemma as it takes a good long look at life and wonders: is it a comedy ó or a tragedy? Andrea Scrima was born in New York and lives in Berlin. Her first book, A Lesser Day, was published by Spuyten Duyvil Press in 2010. In addition to Hyperion: On the Future of Aesthetics, Arts Journal, she also writes literary criticism for The Brooklyn Rail, The Rumpus, and BOMB magazine. The first part of this essay was published in slightly modified form in June 2011 in The Brooklyn Rail under the title ìWhen Everything Stinks of Decay.î     PAGE  PAGE 6 than Why the forward slashes here and below ñ the passages are from plays, not poems. A: This is the way it is published in the edition — as verse. Line breaks replace the punctuation. Same here, and also, why no periods after each sentence ñ is that how it is in the play? And why the ellipses in parentheses instead of brackets? A: Parentheses should be replaced with brackets. Remove quotes and put all in italics. Can this be reoriented so as to be less subjective? This tells the reader something about you, but not really Bernhard, or what the syn force is Ñdoingì. You move from describing his articulation of truths to your pleasure in reading B. The former point is stronger. A: You’re entirely right. Thank you. Can you extend this thought further? ∫ıfi÷»ºÍ»ºÆ£ºóº÷ã÷Ä÷rT˙ı≠˚˛≠˛˙˚∂≈ª≈‡≈‡§‡ñ‡É‡≈ª≈v‡j‡j‡_‡_‡_‡_‡∂˛ı≤ ∆!π’∫’fiΗ«—ÎfiκκκÎ∞ΕΕΕÎfiÎfiÎóÎâÎ}rÎ≠∆ı≤ ≥ ∫’Ω’6◊≠(∏(π(∫(∆(◊()◊)⁄)∆‡∆‡Øú‡Ø‡Øú‡Ø‡Øú‡Ø‡Øâ‡Ø‡Øú‡Ø‡∆‡∆‡s‡∆‡∆‡∫#s◊JámH sH 7Ω◊7˙7≠:ıÌ·—∆∏∆·Ì∆Ì≠Ì∆Ì°—ÌñÌãÌÌqÌqÌqÌqÌdΩ??ı?≠B∆Ô”∆∏∆®å∆®å∆ÑvÑvÑlÑaÑ∆QflJáhñ>ëflJámH sH ÅHflJáhñ>ëfiJámH sH ÅHfiJáhñ>ë≠B⁄J◊B⁄J∆„÷∆„÷∆„÷æ÷∆„÷∆„÷Æí÷Æí÷Æí÷Æí÷æÜæzæ÷l÷l÷l◊K⁄K≥SπS˚S◊]ıÁ–ı»ı»ı»ı»ı»µ»™£»™ï™Ç™Ç™v™h™h™Ç™h™h™»™»hf7¡◊cg≈π≈π≈π≈§ç§{§{§≈phdhdhdhdZTZTdZ˚˘˚˘˚˘˚˘˘˘˘∆Ä˙ ˇÑ˙Â˙·›”·”·”·”·”·œ·”·›ƒfij˝∏˝˝˝∆Ä∆Ä∞|. ∞»A!∞ä”∞Ç#êâ$ên%∞∞ƒ∞ƒêƒ∏∞ˇfiˇ°ˇ≥Ωˇ¡˛OÚˇÒfi∆∏p#˛OÚˇNfl∆∏p#˛OÚˇ1Lfl˛OÚˇadˇq@˛OÚˇëZ˛OÚˇ±b˛√0∆ÔÉΩÉÒu$Nwc$ÈaÌn˚sË@8Jbñ»∆VK˚ˆS“∆(Ö¡.Y“˜˝$ïÀ˝8®∆‰÷MVïÜgÅ‘LYSóÔ]ÉÍ”ø¡(UÜæã¸∫÷éö_¿ôo[g±Òv; f>Kfi˝≈ÛHÜ硄|;\XVƒ!]Ÿ÷Ö OÁ»•sfihÍ]Hg3fl∂˛ˇˇ√0áÔÖΩÉ—}Q“√%v/•êC/£}˛Æã˘·îÁ ö™√‚C?Àh·v=øÇ…Ö§ß%[xpÜ£{€µ_ºP—£<Õ1•H∂0ïàŸOºRÆBd—…“JE€4b$ßëq_◊òû‡6L”ıR◊7`Æè®…ˇ≥√0ÃûO¡Ø,ÂEn7îLi‰b°®/„SΩê®e™‘–µ∏˘÷˝ˇˇÃM √ @·}°wêŸ7cª(Eb≤Àƪˆ◊„É7Œfl’õK Y,ú äeÕ.à∑|,ß®⁄H≈,l·«ÊÈx…¥çflI»sQ}#’êÖ≠µ› ÷µ+’!Ô,›^π$j=ãGWË”˜)‚EÎ+& 8˝ˇˇfiùfvg53N‚jèHHàÇ8PâTj%.Â◊ä†H˝º3≥ªfiâ«çST–ZÔÏÛ~Ã;≥WØ'‘;ƒ\ñ∂¸˙ÂöÔ·4`!I£ñ{–ª¥Ó{B¢4Dî•∏ÂO∞Ømæ˚ŒU¥!cú`ËS±ÅZ~,e∂±¥$XF‚2Àp ÔFå'H¬#èñBééÄoBóñkµµ•ë‘˜Rî•m,Hî˙õ˜.©j!†ºØxcãDc√É∫BàâËPÓ"⁄ÚAP»é¯X˙EB¬ãñ_”˛“Ê’%¥ëQ9á∂B◊”9]N,kô<ñBÎΩFÛ v…_®ú≈uª›N∑^Ú”≥—[Ø∑ûê˘9ÀªS[≠5l|Öˇ åŒÕvªΩ⁄Ãu1L5»¸lÇ◊kkç≠eØAø:Éo¥∑:ù5ØAø6ÉÔ]iÆ5lº≈î§3h–^/Á^BFåÓ8·Î) ≤°Ã.%bƒR9/◊tèÒÇÉOï=!p≥†Z=¿5òÚ∂~e˜÷º”T/ü4Œ¨#ö≈(ÔñÍ•®8◊ıV͆ü*ÍÅmN›µqÁ7EU¸EôRM„ˇô)j;ÄɲJ®”¿5,Gû™◊ñœ∏åt°,&Aè√æØ{d\•¬kp>\Ρ9>Tˇõö3ƒt†z‡öÍ¡æC™Îní∑ç;ùˆs^A√HÕ(’z≥zHπuö¯ßSÃ`‘©YBÂo·ˇRE«ÓgË5y±GV Q/¶SR£® kÛk6sQØ©¬”peØ5k∆‚Â’B9à‚¨≈∞XŒ3\◊xÍÿˇ(÷i¨6‘€áfiÍ¡w„?≤˙íÍjêA™Aö_Cò{âI&≈ ∏6ü|î◊äÕ˙Ç’RÓ)g+Õâ˜9ù]Q∂8´/“Ÿπá-_õµπÆÜ»û.QXÁ˝I™˙—à ÔA†∑·z~LÕg$ë¡ìÆÉlèÎÏ≤píˇ§¬l∏&ΑF!i∫èG èãÛGÈ SBÊSF1″k¥”SâVÆòÒÀÆ=õ0«+R≥[ñƒÀgóZ2¥ÏíXflêπ¿á¨ºq´£‡Mì5V´‚*  ¯ ˚ ˇˇˇˇ≥:∂ˇı≠˚˛ı≤≥∫Ω.≠:⁄Bfibπc©cπc©cπc©cπc©cπc©cπc©cπc©cπc©cπc©cπc©cπc©cπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tπc©c¿tC®‰C®‰C¿Sú#∏ú#∏t∏ı≠˚˛ı≤≥∫Ω.≠:⁄BfibÄÄ∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞⁄Xz⁄⁄Xz⁄Xz⁄⁄Xz⁄⁄Xz⁄Xz⁄⁄Xz⁄⁄Xz⁄⁄Xz⁄ò7ó#⁄Xz⁄⁄Xz⁄⁄Xz⁄∂ˇïÄ

he imagination that its deep, deep sanity emerges in sad resignation. I love her writing. Here was the piece I did a half year ago on Lightning Rods: </div> <div><br></div> <div >http://therumpus.net/2012/02/a-preposterous-proposal-but-no-not-quit<span ></span>e/</div> <div><br></div> <div><br></div> <div>More soon, </div> <div>Cheers,</div> <div>Andrea</div> <div><br></div> <div><br></div> <div><br></div> <div><br></div> <blockquote type=”cite” cite>Here it is, dear Andrea – <a href= “http://recommendedreading.tumblr.com/post/29475857392/helen-dewitt-recovery&#8221; >http://recommendedreading.tumblr.com/post/29475857392/helen-dewitt-r<span ></span>ecovery</a><br> <br> cheers,<br> Daniel<br> </blockquote> <blockquote type=”cite” cite>On Sat, Aug 25, 2012 at 11:22 AM, Andrea Scrima &lt;<a href=”mailto:a.scrima@t-online.de”>a.scrima@t-online.de</a>&gt; wrote:<br> <blockquote>Dear Daniel,</blockquote> <blockquote><br></blockquote> <blockquote>thanks!</blockquote> <blockquote><br></blockquote> <blockquote>I’ll get to this sometime today or tomorrow; I’m very curious.</blockquote> <blockquote><br></blockquote> <blockquote>Is Helen’s new story on her blog?</blockquote> <blockquote><br></blockquote> <blockquote>All is well here, working hard with Rainer on the next issue of Hyperion and hoping to get back to my own writing soon; glad to squeeze in a swim in the lake whenever I can, as long as the weather holds …</blockquote> <blockquote><br></blockquote> <blockquote>’til soon,</blockquote> <blockquote>Andrea</blockquote> <blockquote><br></blockquote> <blockquote><br></blockquote> <blockquote><br></blockquote> <blockquote><br> <blockquote type=”cite” cite>Dear Andrea,<br> <br> Sorry about that, the link is here:<br> <br> <a href= “https://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/books/charlottehigginsblog/audio/2012/aug/21/kirsty-gunn-kevin-barry-edinburgh-books-podcast”><span ></span >https://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/books/charlottehigginsblog/aud<span ></span>io/2012/aug/21/kirsty-gunn-kevin-barry-edinburgh-books-podcast</a ><br> <br> Good to hear from you again. Suppose you’ve seen the new story by Helen? That scene with the purring cat on the counter appears in it. Funny by itself, but triggers the memory of an agreeable evening as well.<br> <br> Hope this finds you keeping well,<br> Daniel<br> </blockquote> <blockquote>On Sat, Aug 25, 2012 at 11:01 AM, Andrea Scrima &lt;<a href=”

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