Anselm Kiefer in Conversation with Klaus Dermutz Seagull Books, March 2019
"I think in pictures. Poems help me with this. They are like buoys in the sea. I swim to them, from one to the other. In between, without them, I am lost. They are the handholds where something masses together in the infinite expanse."--Anselm Kiefer
The only visual artist to have won the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, Anselm Kiefer is a profoundly literary painter. In the ten conversations with the writer and theologian Klaus Dermutz collected here, Kiefer returns to the essential elements of his art, his aesthetics, and his creative processes.
Kiefer describes how the central materials of his art--lead, sand, water, fire, ashes, plants, clothing, oil paint, watercolor, and ink--influence the act of creation. No less decisive are his intellectual and artistic touchstones: the sixteenth-century Jewish mystic Isaac Luria, the German Romantic poet Novalis, Ingeborg Bachmann, Paul Celan, Martin Heidegger, Marcel Proust, Adalbert Stifter, the operas of Richard Wagner, the Catholic liturgy, and the innovative theater director and artist Tadeusz Kantor. Kiefer and Dermutz discuss all of these influential thinkers, as well as Kiefer's own status as a controversial figure. His relentless examination of German history, the themes of guilt, suffering, communal memory, and the seductions of destruction have earned him equal amounts of criticism and praise. The conversations in this book offer a rare insight into the mind of a gifted creator, appealing to artists, critics, art historians, cultural journalists, and anyone interested in the visual arts and the literature and history of the twentieth century.
Texts by Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Johann Peter Hebel, Michel de Montaigne, and Paul Valéry. New York Review Books, May 2019
A new translation of philosopher Walter Benjamin’s work as it pertains to his famous essay, ‘The Storyteller,’ this collection includes short stories, book reviews, parables, and a selection of writings by other authors who had an influence on Benjamin’s work.
Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Storyteller’ is among the greatest and most widely-read essays of this ever-suggestive but also enigmatic master thinker. Published in 1936 in a obscure Swiss review, "The Storyteller" was the product of at least a decade's ongoing reflection and composition. What might be called the story of "The Storyteller" starts in 1926, when Benjamin wrote an essay about one of his favorite writers, the German romantic Johann Peter Hebel, and then continues in a beautiful series of short essays, book reviews (of Arnold Bennett's novel "The Old Wives' Tale", among others), short stories, parables ("The Handkerchief", written in Ibiza in 1932-33), and even radio shows for children ("The Earthquake in Lisbon"). In this new collection all these writings are brought together in one place, giving us a new appreciation of how Benjamin's thinking changed and ripened over time. Benjamin's superb and wonderfully readable writings are further accompanied by some key readings of his own--texts by his contemporaries Ernst Bloch, Georg Lukacs, and Jean Paulhan; by Paul Valery; and by Herodotus and Montaigne--and finally, to bring things round, there are two short stories by "the incomparable Hebel" with whom Benjamin's intellectual adventure began. Tess Lewis's magnificent new translation of Benjamin's writings further refresh our understanding of the work, while editor Samuel Titan's introduction fills in the biographical and intellectual context in which Benjamin's "Storyteller" came to life.
With subtle, bemused humor and an unerring eye for human frailty, Michel Layaz writes about the hidden tensions within families, the awkwardness of adolescence, and the drama of intimacy between friends and lovers. His fifth novel, My Mother’s Tears, is his most poignant yet. The adult narrator of My Mother’s Tears has returned to clean out his childhood home after his mother’s death. In thirty short chapters, each focused on a talismanic object or resonant episode from his childhood, the narrator tries to solve the mystery behind the flood of tears with which his strikingly beautiful, intelligent, and inscrutable mother greeted his birth. Like insects preserved in amber, these objects—an artificial orchid, a statue, a pair of green pumps, a steak knife, a fishing rod and reel, among others—are surrounded by an aura that permeates the narrator’s life. Interspersed with these chapters are fragments from the narrator’s conversation with his present lover, a woman who demands that he verbally confront his past. This difficult conversation charts his gradual liberation from the psychological wounds he suffered growing up. Not only an account of a son’s attempt to understand his enigmatic mother, My Mother’s Tears is also a moving novel about language and memory that explores the ambivalent power of words to hurt and to heal, to revive the past and to put childhood demons to rest.
Praise for My Mother’s Tears
As Michel Leiris did in Manhood, [Layaz] recreates a primary mythology that not only marked the narrator’s childhood but also shapes his present life. At the center of this mythology, the simultaneously castrating and loving figure of his mother is revived through writing that is cruel, taut, and precise and that rarely misses its mark. With its ferocity and its secret music, Layaz’s novel releases phantoms that will haunt readers for a long time. Scène Magazine