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Most of you know I’m not Serbian, but I’m honored to be included in this issue of contemporary European literature titled “Serbian Moments.” It’s nice to see the first chapter of the original English edition of my second book, “Like Lips, Like Skins,” published in this fine magazine of European writing. Thanks, Trafika Europe, and thanks, Andrew Singer, for championing so much important new writing in translation.

You can read the entire chapter here.

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Berlin friends! Come to a presentation and reading from the German edition of my second book, Kreisläufe.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021 | 19.30 pm | Brotfabrik

The event is in German language.

Als ich eines regnerischen Morgens die Treppen der U-Bahnstation Oranienburger Straße hinaufsteige und auf dem von Regentropfen gesprenkelten Asphalt vor mir den kupferfarbenen Widerschein der Straßenlaternen sehe, die von der letzten Nacht noch nicht erlöscht sind, erkenne ich plötzlich, wie jede Generation blindlings und unbewusst einem Auftrag unterworfen ist, die Fehler und Schmerzen der Generation vor ihr zu korrigieren, um die Schäden der Zeit wiedergutzumachen.

Im Roman Kreisläufe, das zweite Buch Scrimas, das beim Literaturverlag Droschl erschienen ist, wird mit psychologischer Tiefe eine Familiengeschichte ausgebreitet, die von starken emotionalen Bindungen, aber auch von Schicksalsschlägen erzählt. 

Felice zieht nach West-Berlin der frühen 1980er Jahren und lernt den Journalisten Micha kennen, von den psychischen Folgen seiner Internierung in einem DDR-Jugendwerkhof erfährt sie nur stückweise. Dem Verdrängen von Traumata begegnet Felice auch Jahre später, als sie nach Amerika zurückkehrt und die Tagebücher ihres verstorbenen Vaters findet, die alte, zum Teil vergessene „Büchsen“ der Erinnerung öffnen. Während sie den vertrauten Kurven der väterlichen Handschrift nachspürt und seine eigenwillige Codesprache zu entziffern beginnt, sucht sie in dieser knappen Chronik nach Schlüsseln zu einer Vergangenheit, die Geheimnisse und blinde Flecken in sich birgt. 

Nach der Lesung wird Kathrin Bach ein Gespräch mit der Autorin führen. Am Büchertisch der Buchhandlung Montag werden Exemplare von Kreisläufe zu erwerben sein. 

Weitere Informationen hier.

German friends: “Kreisläufe,” the German edition of my second book “Like Lips, Like Skins,” makes its official appearance today. An essentially untranslatable title has transformed into a word that means circuits, circulations, cycles, in other words contains multiple meanings that fit this novel about family trauma well.

I talked to moderator Frank Schmid at RBB about the book in the program “Der Tag” and you can listen to the 15-minute recording here:

Read the interview here.

“The novel oscillates between mediated reflection, immediate perceptual state, and, later on, madness. This stage of perception does entirely without any sort of explanation. It’s about immediacy. The self is fully within it, there’s no help from without, no visible motive to reconstruct reflection a posteriori. That’s how it is with our perception. To my mind, when it comes to language, things start to get interesting. We trust reflection and reason so much more. Pure perception is trusted less, but insanity is never trusted. In the novel, we have an unreliable narrator telling the story after it’s already occurred. You might assume that the events were reflected upon and are now related through this conscious filter. But that’s not the case. Only in madness can you see what’s actually going on. The body itself speaks, unfiltered, directly. It’s a huge, profound immediacy that we can’t rationally grasp. It’s another language, like the language of dreams. You want to decode it, but there’s no code. In the novel, it presents as a primordial language, as opposed to a verbal one: a language of images that exerts its effect directly. It just does this, and the reader has to surrender to it to get any closer.”

Ally Klein Portrait_03_by Pezhman Zahed.jpg

Ally Klein

Radio interview with Joachim Scholl at Deutschlandfunk Kultur

(in German language)

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 16.36.49

Scholl: Sie haben, wie ich finde, eine ganz intensive Sprache gefunden. Ich lese mal einen Satz vor, es ist mein Lieblingssatz. Da erklärt die Erzählerin, dass ihr Hund davongelaufen ist. Sie sucht ihn, findet ihn nicht, kommt dann mit einem anderen, der ihr zuläuft, wieder nach Hause. Und dann heißt es, Zitat: “Und so waren wir heimgekehrt mit einem Hund, einem nassen, hungrigen kleinen Hund, der mit einem tiefen, erschöpften Seufzer in meinen Armen zusammenbrach, als ich sein klatschnasses Fell mit dem Handtuch trocknete.” Ich weiß jetzt nicht, ob es daran liegt, dass ich mit jedem Jahr sentimentaler werde, aber ich habe so entzückt und tief geseufzt, als ich diesen Satz sah, diesen wunderschönen Satz. Ich habe mich gefragt, wie haben Sie diese Sprache gefunden?

Scrima: Das kann ich nicht beantworten. Man schreibt nicht mit einer Schreibstrategie im Hinterkopf. Ich glaube, es geht vielmehr darum, dass man versucht, den Zugang zu sich selbst möglichst intensiv zu ermöglichen. Und ich kann das selbst nicht unbedingt sagen, wie ich das gemacht habe. Das ist für jeden anders. Für jedes Buch ist es anders. Ich arbeite noch an einem Roman, der mir das Leben sehr schwer macht.

Scholl: Sprachlich kann ich mir das nicht vorstellen bei Ihnen, Frau Scrima. Vorhin sagten Sie kurz, dass Sie das Buch geschrieben haben, als Sie Ihr Baby gerade hatten. An einer Stelle, glaube ich, zieht das Baby unterm Tisch den Stecker aus dem Computer, und dann schreibt sie “Alles ist verloren”. Da dachte ich, ist das hoffentlich erfunden, oder war das so?

Scrima: Das ist sozusagen die Metapher für die Mutterschaft in den ersten paar Jahren. Wie das Kind einem immer einen Strich durch die Rechnung macht. Das ist in erster Linie auch als Metapher zu verstehen.

taz article

 

Die Gegenstände werden das Ich überdauern, „nichts ist so ephemer wie ich selbst“, weiß die Erzählerin, die ihre Ambivalenzen, ihre „Schwierigkeit mit dem Präsens“ zum Ausgangspunkt ihrer Suche macht und sich im Schreiben mit ihrem Leben verbündet. Sie muss in Gedanken nur eine Schublade des alten Küchenschranks auf Staten Island öffnen oder die italienischen Lesefibeln vor sich sehen, oder sich daran erinnern, wie sie „in diesem riesigen Königreich unserer Kindheit“ für den Bruder „wissenschaftliche Tatsachen“ über das Universum erfand, und es ist, als würden die Figuren sich in Bewegung setzen, als könnten sie der Erzählerin sogar ins Wort fallen, so lebendig werden sie im Bild dieser Sprache.

Das ist hohe Kunst und beweist den Reichtum dieses Buchs, dem es gelingt, sich von allen Belangen der Selbstbehauptung zu lösen und einen Raum zu schaffen, in dem man als Leser tatsächlich den Eindruck hat, genauer denken, deutlicher sehen zu können. Empfindsamer zu sein.

— Elisabeth Wagner in der taz, Wochenendausgabe, 10. Februar 2018

 

“Everything I see around me, everything I touch: the chair I am sitting in, the paper I am writing this on, none of it is as ephemeral as I.” The narrator of Wie viele Tage takes her ambivalence, her “difficulty with the present tense” as the departure point of a quest in which writing becomes a means of merging with life. In her mind, she need only open a drawer in the old kitchen cabinet on Staten Island or imagine the Italian language primers from school or remember how, “in this vast empire of our childhood,” she invented “scientific facts” about the universe for her brother, and already the figures are set into motion, and it’s as though they could interrupt the narrator at any moment—that’s how alive they become in this writing’s imagery. This is a high art, and it testifies to the richness of a book that succeeds in freeing itself from any concerns of self-assertion to create a space in which the reader indeed begins to think more precisely, see more clearly—and become more receptive and sentient.”

Elisabeth Wagner in the taz, weekend issue, February 10–11, 2018

Bildschirmfoto 2017-05-25 um 11.34.30

Excerpt from my essay, (Re)Reading Don DeLillo in Dark Times:

“Are we more similar to animals than we care to admit, caught in vast murmurations and blind herds that obey some ancient code humming in our DNA? Or have we merely gotten used to believing our own stories? I mean not only to celebrate the work of one of our most influential, prescient, brooding, analytical minds but to comb it for clues, metaphors, a vocabulary and a language that can somehow explain us to ourselves. What can literary fiction achieve in a culture that has itself surrendered to fiction? That is more comfortable with make-believe than with doing the tedious work of trying to figure out why things are the way they are? Americans are addicted to fun—it’s what makes the U.S. so charismatic, and so good at popular culture, and enviable in so many ways, but it’s at the heart of a breakdown in discourse and a disassociation from reality that has us, literally, making things up as we go along. Americans want to be fired up, engaged emotionally—they want to get teary-eyed, earnestly confess, make solemn avowals. Does our literature help us to dig deeper, does it peel away the lies we tell ourselves, or does it perpetuate the problem through a self-celebration and nostalgia that reinforce the myths we’ve created about ourselves?”

Watch the full panel here:

 

The conference title, “The Body Artist,” refers not specifically to DeLillo’s 2001 novel, but to DeLillo himself, an artist who has spent a career dramatizing personal encounters with impersonal systems, the human body facing the inhuman machine. The event will feature panels and presentations predominantly by literary artists, fiction writers thinking about this fiction writer’s work—what it is, what it has meant, and what it means now.

Panelists:
— Scott Cheshire, “Don DeLillo’s Gods: A Taxonomy”
— Tyler Malone, “‘You Have Not Convinced Me’: David Markson, Don DeLillo, and the Narcissism of Minor Difference”
— Fred Gardaphe, “Masquerade Americana: Don DeLillo’s ‘Italianitá’ in a Minor Key”
— Andrea Scrima: “(Re)reading Don DeLillo in Dark Times”

The conference will consider not only DeLillo’s themes—paranoia, global terrorism, underground conspiracies, consumerism, digital technology, media, gender, and race—but also his craft, humor, language, style, spirituality and Catholicism, Italian-American identity, and his representations of New York, the city in which the conference will take place.

The New School | http://newschool.edu

Location: The Auditorium, Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall
66 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011
Saturday, April 29, 2017 at 9:00 am to 4:30 pm

I’m happy to announce that I’ve joined Gudrun Hebel’s literary agency Agentur Literatur in Berlin.

A German edition of A Lesser Day is scheduled for the spring of 2018.

Publisher to be announced soon.

Scrima 2 crop

 

Here’s a little taste:

Dieser eine Moment, dies eine Detail, das mir im Gedächtnis haften geblieben ist, doch warum, es war nichts von Bedeutung, nichts ist passiert, ein schräg auf den Bürgersteig fallender Lichtstrahl, ein Rascheln von Laub. Und all das brannte sich mir mit großer Schärfe und Klarheit ins Bewusstsein, jedes Detail prägte sich meinem inneren Auge ein wie die gestochen scharfen Buchstaben eines gedruckten Wortes, das ich nicht verstehe. Ich sage Licht, Laub, doch nichts davon kann die mythische Bedeutung vermitteln, die es für mich besitzt. Und liegt irgend etwas Größeres darin verborgen, und warum habe ich es vergessen – vergessen zum Beispiel die plötzliche Erkenntnis des Selbstbetrugs, dort, damals, bei diesem Bürgersteig, diesem Laub –, oder ist es ein Zufallsprodukt, Strandgut, das in den zerklüfteten Winkeln meiner Erinnerung hängen geblieben ist. 

 

German translation: Barbara Jung

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)

Again and again, the empty page. The empty page with the number 53 at the top left, and the words Again and again. But the mind is not empty; the mind is never empty. At most, it becomes numb, or perhaps alarmed at the emptiness of the empty page, like a deer frozen in the headlights of a car. Best to smudge something over this empty page, something to mitigate the alarm its emptiness induces. Anything will do: a fragment of a dream from the night before; a list of worries lurking at the very edge of consciousness at all times; a to-do list for the day. Or further concerns: the dentist’s appointment that is continuously postponed; the veterinarian’s appointment; the unfinished second novel. We could try that: the unfinished second novel. We smudge the empty page with the words “Unfinished Second Novel” and see what happens. As in painting, where we smudge the empty canvas with something to mitigate the alarm its emptiness induces, the smudge is merely designed to help us begin. Does smudging the empty page with the words “Unfinished Second Novel” help us begin? We’ll see. (to be continued)

‘Kamo-Hunter’ is the first chapter from László Krasznahorkai’s latest translated novel, Seiobo There Below, published on 24 September 2013 by New Directions.

KAMO-HUNTER

Everything around it moves, as if just this one time and one time only, as if the message of Heraclitus has arrived here through some deep current, from the distance of an entire universe, in spite of all the senseless obstacles, because the water moves, it flows, it arrives, and cascades; now and then the silken breeze sways, the mountains quiver in the scourging heat, but this heat itself also moves, trembles, and vibrates in the land, as do the tall scattered grass-islands, the grass, blade by blade, in the riverbed; each individual shallow wave, as it falls, tumbles over the low weirs, and then, every inconceivable fleeting element of this subsiding wave, and all the individual glitterings of light flashing on the surface of this fleeting element, this surface suddenly emerging and just as quickly collapsing, with its drops of light dying down, scintillating, and then reeling in all directions, inexpressible in words; clouds are gathering; the restless, jarring blue sky high above; the sun is concentrated with horrific strength, yet still indescribable, extending onto the entire momentary creation, maddeningly brilliant, blindingly radiant; the fish and the frogs and the beetles and the tiny reptiles are in the river; the cars and the buses, from the northbound number 3 to the number 32 up to the number 38, inexorably creep along on the steaming asphalt roads built parallel on both embankments, then the rapidly propelled bicycles below the breakwaters, the men and women strolling next to the river along paths that were built or inscribed into the dust, and the blocking stones, too, set down artificially and asymmetrically underneath the mass of gliding water: everything is at play or alive, so that things happen, move on, dash along, proceed forward, sink down, rise up, disappear, emerge again, run and flow and rush somewhere, only it, the Ooshirosagi, does not move at all, this enormous snow-white bird, open to attack by all, not concealing its defenselessness; this hunter, it leans forward, its neck folded in an S-form, and it now extends its head and long hard beak out from this S-form, and strains the whole, but at the same time it is strained downward, its wings pressed tightly against its body, its thin legs searching for a firm point beneath the water’s surface; it fixes its gaze on the flowing surface of the water, the surface, yes, while it sees, crystal-clear, what lies beneath this surface, down below in the refractions of light, however rapidly it may arrive, if it does arrive, if it ends up there, if a fish, a frog, a beetle, a tiny reptile arrives with the water that gurgles as the flow is broken and foams up again, with one single precise and quick movement, the bird shall strike with its beak, and lift something up, it’s not even possible to see what it is, everything happens with such lightning speed, it’s not possible to see, only to know that it is a fish — an amago, an ayu, a huna, a kamotsuka, a mugitsuku or an unagi or something else — and that is why it stood there, almost in the middle of the Kamo River, in the shallow water; and there it stands, in one time, immeasurable in its passing, and yet beyond all doubt extant, one time proceeding neither forward nor backward, but just swirling and moving nowhere, like an inconceivably complex net, cast out into time; and this motionlessness, despite all its strength, must be born and sustained, and it would only be fitting to grasp this simultaneously, but it is precisely that, this simultaneous grasping, that cannot be realized, so it remains unsaid, and even the entirety of the words that want to describe it do not appear, not even the separate words; yet still the bird must lean upon one single moment all at once, and in doing so, must obstruct all movement: all alone, within its own self, in the frenzy of events, in the exact center of an absolute, swarming, teeming world, it must remain there in this cast-out moment, so that this moment as it were closes down upon it, and then the moment is closed, so that the bird may bring its snow-white body to a dead halt in the exact center of this furious movement, so that it may impress its own motionlessness against the dreadful forces breaking over it from all directions, because what comes only much later is that once again it will take part in this furious motion, in the total frenzy of everything, and it too will move, in a lightning-quick strike, together with everything else; for now, however, it remains within this enclosing moment, at the beginning of the hunt.

Read the rest here:

http://www.thewhitereview.org/fiction/seiobo-there-below/

Twombly 2

 

I formulate the words, yet I’m beginning to understand that it’s you who writes the script; in it, my protests sound like Greek tragedy, the unwitting assurances of a character that is bound, by an elaborate twist of fate, to annihilate the very person she seeks to protect. You predicted that I would leave you; this is one way of looking at it. Another is to ask why, from the moment we first understood we were in love, your mind leaped ahead to the end.

I am turning this into a book, I said. Is that OK, I said. How many blog entries will you have to write, you said. I don’t know, I said. However many I need to work through this. I am writing about love because I want to understand what it is. Take a guess, you said. Eighty? I said. Oh good, you said. We aren’t even halfway there.

Another way of looking at it is this. To understand what you’re writing, you need to know how the thing will end. One day I write something, and suddenly I understand that this is how the various things it describes will come to a conclusion. All at once a circle closes and the entire conglomeration crystallizes, acquires form. But I’m not there yet, I say. I have no idea what it’s about, I say. Eighty entries, that’s halfway, you say. We still have some time, you say. I am perplexed. Are you saying it will end with the book, I say. Do you really think that’s what this is about? But what use will you have for me after that, you say.

Another way of looking at it is this. You’ve decided it’s over, or will be. You’ve written the final scene, you’ve fine-tuned the lines: they’re exquisite and sad, and you ascribe them to me. I am the character chosen to recite them, but when the moment comes I stand there, perspiring beneath the hot and blinding spots, and remain silent.

When scripts collide, it’s time to turn off the lights, to shut down the stage. There are entire stories that still need to be told, and none of them as well-crafted as a book or a play, all of them far messier than that. Half of them preserved in a kind of amniotic sac of amnesia and the other half stuck in the muck and sludge of experience, but all of it life, and very different from this.

Excerpt from the article in The American Reader:

This year, apocalyptic books seemed to have touched upon a collective nerve. In an introductory clip, festival curators Susan Bernofsky (author, teacher, and acclaimed translator of Robert Walser and numerous other German-language authors) and Claudia Steinberg (author, journalist, and co-star of Rosa von Praunheim’s celebrated films “Survival in New York” (1989) and “New York Memories” (2010)) talk about the various dynamics dystopian and apocalyptic thinking adopt in contemporary literature—ranging from the disturbed relationship between the individual and society and between the individual and the self to the manner in which impending catastrophe creeps into and poisons even the closest and most intimate human relationships.

This is how Bernofsky described Austrian author Clemens J. Setz’s novel Indigo (2012): “You have an illness, and this is what the illness is: you walk around, and everyone around you gets sick. Like, very sick.” As it turns out, children born with a mysterious syndrome are sent off to an Austrian institute, where their “indigo potential” is exploited for shady purposes. When a protagonist with the author’s name, a former tutor to the children, begins researching their disappearance, he stumbles upon a secret subterranean world. Setz’s novel was shortlisted for the German Book Prize; his collection from 2011, Love in Times of the Mahlstadt Child, won the 2011 Leipzig Book Fair Prize and prompted comparisons to Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace. It is a kind of spooky-smart science fiction novel, a post-modern montage of reality and fiction based on existing phenomena and trends in which illness becomes the metaphoric obsidian mirror held up to a society plagued by its own darker forces.

 

ulrich

 

Ulrike Ulrich, author of Staying Gone, 2010