by Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Seagull Books, May 2018
Hans Magnus Enzensberger takes the title for this collection of daring short essays on topical themes--politics, economics, religion, society--not from Jeremy Bentham's famous prison but from a mid-1930s Cabinet of Curiosities opened in Germany by Karl Valentin. "There," writes Enzensberger, "viewers could admire, along with implements of torture, all manner of abnormalities and sensational inventions." And that's what he offers here: a wide-ranging, surprising look at all manner of strange aspects of our contemporary world.
As masterly with the essay as he is with fiction and poetry, Enzensberger here presents complicated thoughts with a light touch, tying new iterations of old ideas to their antecedents, quoting liberally from his forebears, and presenting himself unapologetically as not an expert but a seeker. Enzensberger the essayist works in the mode of Montaigne, unafraid to take his reader in unexpected directions, knowing that the process of exploration is often in itself sufficient reward for following a line of thought.
n an era that regularly laments the death of the public intellectual, Enzensberger is the real deal: a towering figure in German literature who refuses to let his mind or work be bound by the narrow world of the poetry or fiction section. Panopticon will thrill readers daring enough to accompany him.
Incest, Christine Angot
by Christine Angot
Archipelago Books, 2017
The narrator is reeling after a tempestuous relationship with another woman. Delirious with love and longing, her thoughts turn increasingly wild, circling back on themselves, until the trauma underlying her pain is exposed. With then naked intimacy of confession, the narrator struggles to put long-repressed experiences into words, words that cut like double-edged swords. She exposes the ambivalence and complexities of desire, her paranoia, her self contempt and self-righteousness and, at the core of it all, incest.
Incest dares its readers to contront a taboo we too rarely acknowledge.
Christine Angot is one of the most controversial authors writing in France. today. Her novels explore a variety of taboo topics including homosexuality, incest, and sexual violence, and have continually blurred the line between autobiography and fiction.
Praise for Incest
"Given Angot's antagonism toward conventional syntax, the English translation, by Tess Lewis, is a feat of perspicuity." The New Yorker
'Incest is a thrilling book. It's a formally daring and passionate performance of the depths of human self-loathing, and the sufferings of attachment. It cut deep inside me with its truths. In every moment of reading it, I both wanted to keep reading it and wanted to write. I don't think I will ever forget this book.' Sheila Heti
New & Noteworthy: 'A sensation in France, this novel in the form of a wild confession of a life filled with trauma also recounts the narrator's incestuous relationship with her father.' NY Times ,
'In my view, the best translators are dedicated practitioners in intuition, and Tess Lewis is one such translator. Reading Incest, it feels as though Angot, so very French, is speaking directly in English.' Tsipi Keller, Asymptote
'Auto-fiction at its extreme does not aspire here to shock, but to give literature back its dangerous function and return to it its dignity.' Gérard Meudal
'Christine Angot's book triggered both lauding and severe criticism, creating a work worth talking about; shedding light on issues that are not easily comprehensible--taboos--not from the position of an expert but from her own particularity, her own manner of writing.' Giorgos Kassiteridis, Asymptote
'It is clear that Christine Angot has won, because we are going to be thinking for a long time about this book. Because it will need a long study written about it to examine all its hypotheses and contradictions, to understand the questions it puts forward, study its passion, disgust, insanity, the dream of controlled incest, the fantasy of incest fulfilled. ... What's at play in the work of Angot, in her force, her violence, is an idea of literature as a means of escaping from every collective, from all policing, .. to think and write in one's singularity.' Josyane Savigneau, Le Monde
The Second Seedtime
by Philippe Jaccottet
Seagull Books, 2017
One of Europe’s finest contemporary poets, Philippe Jaccottet is a writer of exacting attention. Through his keen observations of the natural world, of art, literature and music, and his reflections on the human condition, he opens his readers’ eyes to the transcendent in everyday life. The Second Seedtime, a collection of ‘things seen, things read and things dreamt’, continues the project Jaccottet had begun three decades earlier in his first volume of notebooks. Here, again, he gathers flashes of beauty dispersed around him like seeds that may blossom into poems or moments of inspiration. He returns, insistently, to such literary touchstones as Dante, Montaigne, Góngora, Goethe, Kierkegaard, Hölderlin, Michaux, Hopkins, Emily Brontë and Emily Dickinson as well as musical ones such as Bach, Monteverdi, Purcell and Schubert. This is the vivid chronicle of one man’s passionate engagement with the life of the mind, the spirit and the natural world.
By Lutz Seiler
Scribe Publications, UK 2017, Scribe US June 2018
The lyrical, bestselling 2014 German Book Prize winner
In the summer of 1989, a young literature student named Ed travels to the Baltic island of Hiddensee, fleeing unspeakable tragedy. Long shrouded in myth, the island is a notorious destination for hippies, idealists, and those at odds with the East German state.
On the island, Ed finds work at the Klausner inn, despite his lack of papers. Although keen to remain on the sidelines, Ed is drawn towards Kruso, a charismatic but cryptic character, haunted by his own tragedy. K.ruso is on a mission to help the countless runaways trying to reach the West. What's more, he is on an ideological quest to unite them in the pursuit of freedom and free love.
Everyone dances to Kruso's tune--but to what end and at what cost?
Seiler's debut novel catapults him into the leading ranks of German authors. Die Zeit
Praise for KRUSO
'German poet Lutz Seiler has brought all his art, linguistic ease, flair for dazzling images and mastery of what he describes as "the nervous systems of memory" to this extraordinary debut novel about a young man in free fall during the closing months of the old GDR. . . . Memory becomes a thematic refrain that is brilliantly sustained. The award-winning American translator, Tess Lewis, conveys the essential strangeness of the laconic, at times fantastical narrative...' Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times
"An outstanding debut novel by Lutz Seiler ... Beautifully phrased and paced, Tess Lewis's translation delights on every page as she conveys 'the contagious sense of liberation' that blows through Mr. Seiler's mesmeric novel." The Economist
"...a slippery and enigmatic Bildungsroman, adapting the literary trope of the island refuge to the dying days of East German socialism. ... English readers can delight in this prizewinning translation from Tess Lewis, which renders Seiler's vision in prose of startling clarity." The Saturday Age
"Kruso is ultimately an honest meditation on grief, the ways in which people lose, find , lose (and so the cycle continues) each other, rendered beautifully by Seiler's vivid, unusual prose." The Culture Trip
Stigmata of Bliss
By Klaus Merz
Seagull Books, 2017
Celebrated as a master of concise, condensed sentences, Klaus Merz brings depth and resonance to his spare narratives with lyrical prose and striking images. These novellas, vividly grounded in Switzerland's landscape and village life strike a universal chord. It is in the tension between the ordinary and the exotic, between the familiar and the bizarre, that Merz's stories bloom.
Jacob Asleep introduces a family marked by illness, eccentricity, and a child's death. In A Man's Fate, a moment of inattention on a mountain hike upends a teacher's life and his understanding of mortality. And The Argentine traces the fluctuations of memory and desire in a man's journey half-way around the world. In each novella, Merz takes readers on a profound and intimate journey. Read together, the novellas complement, enrich, and echo each other.
"Rarely is the short form deployed with so much skill." Stuttgarter Zeitung
"Klaus Merz is not only a sovereign stylist, he also dares to take on the great themes of literature. From the depths of his own life he shapes what has occupied poets for millenia: love and death, hope and fear, belief and doubt." Aargauer Kulturpreis
Angel of Oblivion
by Maja Haderlap
Archipelago Books, 2016
Maja Haderlap's first novel is based on the experiences of her family and neighbors in Carinthia, many of whom fought as Partisans against the Nazis and suffered resentment and suspicion from their German-speaking neighbors in the decades after the War. It is also the story of a young girl learning to navigate the treacherous terrain between two hostile communities and two burdened languages: Slovenian, a language of heroic resistance and continued humiliations suffered and German, a way out of her stifling rural upbringing but also the language of the camps which her grandmother barely survived and many of her family did not.
Praise for Angel of Oblivion
"Angel of Oblivion is a continuous, plunging attempt to express the disorderly but urgent moment of daring to master the unmasterable." Ron Slate
"Haderlap delivers a powerful and affecting story about memory, identity and wartime persecution and retaliation... Angel of Oblivion offers a compelling character study and shines a necessary light on a small enclave and less-well known chapter of 20th-century European history... Tess Lewis has done a fine job of translation Haderlap's lucid and lyrical prose." Malcolm Forbes The National
By Philippe Jaccottet
Seagull Books, 2015
After several years abroad, a young man returns to his hometown to seek the man he calls master. This master, a brilliant philosopher, had made the young man into a disciple before sending him out into the world to put his teachings into practice. Returning three years later, the disciple finds his master has abandoned his wife and child and moved into a squalid one-room flat, cutting himself off completely from his former life. Disillusioned and reeling from the discovery, the young man spends an entire night listening to his master’s bitter denunciation of the ideals they once shared.
Obscurity, by noted thinker Philippe Jaccottet, is the story of this intense encounter between two men who were once very close and now must grapple with the fractured ideals that separate them. Written in 1960 during Jaccottet’s period of poetic paralysis, the novel seeks to harmonize the best and worst of human nature—reconciling despair, falsehood, and lethargy of spirit with the need to remain open to beauty, truth, and the essential goodness of humankind. Translated by Tess Lewis, Obscurity is Jaccottet’s only work of fiction, one that will introduce new readers to the multifaceted skills of this major poet.
Praise for the French edition
“In its haggard sobriety, the account of this tormented soul’s monologue is staggering . . . a beautiful narrative, written in a resounding, solemn style.”—La Table Ronde
By Anselm Kiefer
Seagull Books, 2015
“For a long time, it was not clear if I would become a writer or an artist,” says Anselm Kiefer, whose paintings and sculptures have made him one of the most significant and influential artists of our time. Since he was awarded the Peace Prize by the German Book Trade in 2008, his essays, speeches, and lectures have gradually received more attention, but until now his diary accounts have been almost completely unknown. The power in Kiefer’s images, however, is rivaled by his writings on nature and history, literature and antiquity, and mysticism and mythology.
The first volume of Notebooks spans the years 1998-1999 and traces the origins and creative process of Kiefer’s visual works during this period. In this volume, Kiefer returns constantly to his touchstones: sixteenth-century alchemist Robert Fludd, German romantic poet Novalis, Martin Heidegger, Ingeborg Bachmann, RobertMusil, and many other writers and thinkers. The entries reveal the process by which his artworks are informed by his reading—and vice versa—and track the development of the works he created in the late 1990s. Translated into English for the first time by Tess Lewis, the diaries reveal Kiefer’s strong affinity for language and let readers witness the process of thoughts, experiences, and adventures slowly transcending the limits of art, achieving meaning in and beyond their medium.
Praise for Kiefer
" Kiefer’s expertise lies in expressing how objects accrue symbolic value . . . [he] can find symbolism and romance in a doorknob. It’s a joy to read.” –Trinie Dalton, The LA Review of Books
“His works recall, in this sense, the grand tradition of history painting, with its notion about the elevated role of art in society, except that they do not presume moral certainty. What makes Kiefer’s work so convincing . . . is precisely its ambiguity and self-doubt, its rejection of easy solutions, historical amnesia, and transcendence.”—New York Times
“Wordiness for Kiefer is painterliness. The library and the gallery, the book and the frame inseparable, even interchangeable, in his monumental archive of human memory. Not since Picasso’s Guernica have pictures demanded so urgently that we studiously reflect and recollect in their presence.”—Simon Schama
Fly Away, Pigeon
By Melinda Nadj Abonji
Seagull Books, 2014
Fly Away, Pigeon tells the heart-wrenching story of a family torn between emigration and immigration and paints evocative portraits of the former Yugoslavia and modern-day Switzerland. In this novel, Melinda Nadj Abonji interweaves two narrative strands, recounting the history of three generations of the Kocsis family and chronicling their hard-won assimilation. Originally part of Serbia’s Hungarian-speaking minority in the Vojvodina, the Kocsis family immigrates to Switzerland in the early 1970s when their hometown is still part of the Yugoslav republic. Parents Miklos and Rosza land in Switzerland knowing just one word—“work.” And after three years of backbreaking, menial work, both legal and illegal, they are finally able to obtain visas for their two young daughters, Ildiko and Nomi, who safely join them. However, for all their efforts to adapt and assimilate they still must endure insults and prejudice from members of their new community and helplessly stand by as the friends and family members they left behind suffer the maelstrom of the Balkan War.
With tough-minded nostalgia and compassionate realism, Fly Away, Pigeon illustrates how much pain and loss even the most successful immigrant stories contain. It is a work that is intensely local, while grounded in the histories and cultures of two distinctive communities. Its emotions and struggles are as universal as the human dilemmas it portrays.
World Literature Today
“This novel repays close reading. Its lyrical nostalgia, tempered by Ildi’s tough, ironic eye, etches the fate of those displaced by history, outsiders at home and abroad, while its seemingly artless structure deftly renders this young woman’s struggle for self-discovery amid disparate cultures and fragmented histories.”
Reading in Translation
“There is much to say about Fly Away, Pigeon besides that it is a narrative of immigration. It is a novel about family and memory, about young love and the history of post-1945 Yugoslavia, a novel written in lyrical, experimental prose.”
Barnes & Noble
By Doron Rabinovici
Haus Publishing, 2014
Why does the Israeli academic Ethan Rosen condemn an article he himself has written? Doesn’t he recognize his own words? How can he condemn his colleague Rudi Klausinger as an anti-Semite while voicing the same criticisms of the teaching of the Holocaust himself? Rosen and Klausinger are academic rivals, competing for the same professorship. Though both distinguished scholars, they could not be more different – or could they? Ethan should feel at home in Israel and Austria, but feels he belongs in neither. Similarly displaced, high-flying Rudi has never known who his father is, and his quest to find him leads him to Israel and to the Rosens, where Ethan’s father, an old Viennese Jew and Auschwitz survivor, is in desperate need of a kidney transplant. Identity, belonging, anti-Semitism and Zionism – Elsewhere confronts complex themes through the prism of a Jewish family in which old secrets are disclosed and the truth is seemingly forever concealed. At the end of this compelling novel nothing remains certain as Ethan discovers that home is often the place that feels most unfamiliar.
“A sophisticated, attractive book. . . . Like the best Jewish comic novelists, from Philip Roth to Howard Jacobson, Rabinovici excels at communicating the too-muchness of Jewish experience, the sensation of being bombarded by insoluble questions—about Israel, the Holocaust, religious belief, family obligation.”
Times of Israel
“A compelling story, with believable characters and a twisting narrative that grabs the reader right from the first page.”
By Jean-Luc Benoziglio
Seagull Books, 2014
The narrator in Jean-Luc Benoziglio's "Privy Portrait" has fallen on hard times. His wife and young daughter have abandoned him, he has no work or prospects, he's blind in one eye, and he must move into a horribly tiny apartment with his only possession: a twenty-five-volume encyclopedia. His neighbors, the Shritzkys, are vulgar, narrow-minded, and racist. And because he has no space for his encyclopedia in his cramped room, he stores it in the communal bathroom, and this becomes a major point of contention with his neighbors. The bathroom is also the only place he can find refuge from the Shritzkys' blaring television, and he barricades himself in it to read his encyclopedia, much to the chagrin of the rest of the residents of the building.
Darkly amusing, "Privy Portrait" is the monologue of a man, disoriented by the gaping void of not knowing his own nationality, recounting the final remnants of his own sanity and his life. In this buffoonish, even grotesque, yet deeply pitiful man, Benoziglio explores, with a light yet profound touch, weighty themes such as the roles of family, history, one's moral responsibility towards others, and the fragility of personal identity.
“There’s considerable comic relief in Privy Portrait, as the narrator recounts his sadly amusing efforts to get by and find his place—not very good efforts, which are marked by missteps and bad decisions all along the way. The humor leavens and distracts from what’s an otherwise very dark tale, a mix Benoziglio manages quite well, helped by his sharp, wry writing which Lewis captures nicely in her translation.”
On the Seawall
“A lively translation by Tess Lewis, Privy Portrait . . . is a darkly comic story. . . . It is dialogue, daydream, recalled events, and caustic self-assessment that fuel the prose.”
“Tess Lewis has provided an invigorating translation that captures the amusingly colliding layers of diction in the French prose.”
By Alois Hotschnig
Seagull Books 2014
When Kurt Weber inherits his great-uncle's lakeside house, he finds traces of the dark secrets of his family's past. The early inhabitants of the house haunt his dreams nightly. And one day a ghostlike woman appears before him, hiding herself in a room that had been kept locked throughout his childhood. Inside, Kurt finds a hidden stash of photographs, letters, and documents. As he deciphers them, he gradually understands the degree of complicity in wartime horrors by his family and among his neighbors.
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the entire village adheres to an old and widely understood agreement not to expose the many members in the community who had been involved with a nearby prison camp during World War II. This knowledge wraps the entire community--those involved, and those who know of the involvement--in inescapable guilt for generations. Translated from the original German by Tess Lewis, "Ludwig's Room" is a story of love, betrayal, honor, and cowardice, as well as the burden of history and the moral demands of the present.
"Death and debt are the big issues of the 1959-born Austrian, who is one of the best writers of his generation. His work [. . .] is consistent. The same spirit is at work from the first stories to the critically acclaimed and award-winning novel, Leonardo’s Hands, to Ludwig’s Room."
The Vienna Press
"The secret of literature is to make the reader curious about the solution of a riddle. Hotschnig has mastered this technique like no other in his generation Austrian comrades. No word is superfluous."
Times Literary Supplement
“The book is political in a broad enough sense that, now published in English for the first time, it does not feel dated. Lewis’s excellent translation renders the intensity and aphorism of Hotschnig’s style while skilfully alternating between ‘home’ and ‘homeland’ to convey Heimet, a difficult-to-translate concept that is at the heart of Ludwig’s Room.”
By Philippe Jaccottet
Seagull Books, 2013
Since his first collection of poetry appeared in 1953, Philippe Jaccottet has sought to express the ineffable that lies at the heart of our material world in his essential, elemental poetry. As one of Switzerlands's most prominent and prolific men of letters, Jaccottet has published more than a dozen books of poetry and criticism, but none are widely available in English.
"Seedtime"—Jaccottet's notebooks—is an especially good introduction to this leading francophone Swiss author, containing the poet's observations of the natural world and his reflections on literature, art, music, and the human condition. In these explorations, he returns again and again to the fundamental, focusing his prodigious talents on describing the exact shade of light on a meadow, the sound of running water, the color of cherry and almond blossoms, or the cry of a bird in the stillness before dawn. In this translation by Tess Lewis, English readers will finally be able to join this poet as we follow in his footsteps of fifty years ago and find the still-viable seeds of his delicate and tenacious verse.
World Literature Today
“At the center of Philippe Jaccottet’s scrupulously honest writing lies the paradox of those imbricated, inextricable emotions that, on the one hand, can orient toward a sense of shame at what the world can generate, yet on the other can urge us to sing the stunning beauty of some quiet fragment of existence.”
"French writer Philippe Jaccottet’s ever-questioning poetic analyses of haunting ephemeral perceptions are carried on with such scruple and sincerity that, for his European peers, he has become the model of literary integrity." John Taylor
One Hundred Days
By Lukas Bärfuss
Granta Books, 2012
When Swiss aid worker David Hohl arrives in Rwanda in 1990, he wants to know what it feels like to make a difference.Instead, he finds himself among expats, living a life of postcolonial privilege and boredom, and he begins to suspect that the agency is more concerned with political expedience than improving lives. But are his own motives any more noble? When civil war breaks out and David goes into hiding, he is forced to examine his own relationship to the country he wants to help and to the cosmopolitan Rwandan woman he wants to possess. As the genocide rages over the course of one hundred desperate days, the clear line David has always drawn between idealism and complicity quickly begins to blur.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE OXFORD WEIDENFELD PRIZE
‘[A] harrowing portrayal of organised slaughter... it explores the existential dilemmas that come with being Swiss - a more interesting topic than you might imagine... Magnificent’—Glasgow Herald
‘His writing is seriously good, dramatising horrific events in illuminating ways’—Peter Carty
By Julya Rabinowich
Portobello Books, 2011
'My father and I head towards a nervous breakdown as he attempts to erase three years of Communist indoctrination in the course of a single evening. I simply cannot comprehend that Lenin, the friend of all children, is now allegedly an arsehole.'
When seven-year-old Mischka and her family flee the oppressive USSR for the freedom of Vienna, her world seems to divide neatly in two: there's life as she knew it before, and life as she must relearn it now. But even as she's busy dressing her new Barbie, perfecting her German and gorging on fresh fruit, Mischka is aware that there's part of her that can never escape her homeland, with its terrifying folktales, its insidious anti-Semitism and its old family secrets. As her parents' marriage splinters and her sister retreats into silence, Mischka has to find her own way of living when her head and her heart are in two places at once.
There is darkness galore in this novel. But there is also much comedy to be had in its twisted enchanted tales. It is as seductive and unsettling as similar work by Angela Carter or Margaret Atwood, while it shares a geography with Everything Is Illuminated and If I Told You Once.
Maybe This Time
By Alois Hotschnig
Peirene Press 2011
A spellbinding short story collection by one of Austria’s most critically acclaimed authors.
A man becomes obsessed with observing his neighbours. A large family gathers for Christmas only to wait for the one member who never turns up. An old woman lures a man into her house where he finds dolls resembling himself as a boy. Mesmerizing and haunting stories about loss of identity in the modern world.
The Guardian Paperback of the Year 2011: "incredibly weird and unclassifiable"
"clever and enticing" Times Literary Supplement
"Not since Julio Cortazar's game of Hopscotch ... has an author so daringly undertaken to challenge the reader." Amanda Hopkinson, The Independent
"Hotschnig's stories have the weird, creepy and ambiguous quality of disturbing dreams. .. It is, though, very refreshing to be confronted by stories which so firmly refuse to yield to conventional interpretation." Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
"This award-winning collection by the Austrian writer Alois Hotschnig drew comparisons with Kafka. But Hotschnig’s quietly terrifying voice is all his own." Daily Mail
"Intriguing and powerful, Maybe This Time perfectly captures the sense of abandonment, the unpalatable truths, the trickery and the nihilism that have driven our desperate bid to find both a sense of identity and a firm footing in the bewildering and uncharted waters of the 21st century." Pamela Norfolk, Lancashire Evening Post
"These stories... demonstrate Hotschnig's impressive talent at creating and drawing the reader into psychological terrains that are at once familiar and strange." Pamela Saur, Journal of Austrian Studies, University of Nebraska Press
Once Again for Thucydides
By Peter Handke
1998 New Directions
Once Again for Thucydides is a collection of seventeen "micro-epics" written by Peter Handke on trips around the world, from the Balkans to the Pyrenees, from Salzburg to the sea of Hokkaido in Japan. In each journal, Handke concentrates on small things he observes, trying to capture their essence, their "simple, unadorned validity." What results is a work of remarkable precision, in which he uncovers the general appearance of random objects––an ash tree, a shoeshine man, hats in a crowd, a boat loading on a pier––and discovers their inner workings and mystery. Always, his writing hints at the unknown. Describing the snow melting in a garden or falling during a train ride through inland Japan, the glowworms illuminating the plains in Friuli, the tidal waters flowing and receding off the Atlantic coast of Spain, these amazing little "epics" reveal a narrator obsessed with the wonders of detail and marveling, as are we, at the scope and variety of the natural world.
“Handke delights in sublime detail.... these vignettes have the power of poetry. ”—New York Times