Ann Kjellberg and I have something in common – besides being devotees of Joseph Brodsky‘s oeuvre. For the last dozen years, I have corresponded with Ann, the literary executor for the Brodsky estate, concerning matters relating to the Nobel poet. We finally met at a Westchester party following the Columbia University launch for An Invisible Rope: Portraits of Czeslaw Milosz in 2011. By that time she had acquired another hat: she’s also the editor of Little Star, a high-caliber annual print magazine for prose.
She dropped me a line last week to let me know about Little Star‘s newest venture, a weekly online mini-magazine – which, this week, contains yet more praise for the Cahiers Series (we’ve written about it here and here). The Cahiers Series is the high-caliber collection of beautifully produced booklets that aims “to make available new explorations in writing, in translating, and in the areas linking these two activities,” according to the American University of Paris’ Center for Writers and Translators, which sponsors the project. Apparently, Ann has joined the fan club, too. Here’s what she wrote:
“I admit to having been puzzled, when I first saw them, as to what they were. Is this new work or old? Writing in English published in Paris? Book or magazine? Now, to me, this evasion of our decreasingly relevant publishing categories is among the Cahiers’ charms. They land in that lovely territory between books and ephemera that is being reclaimed in such interesting ways in our not-so-virtual-as-all-that era. Another fascinating feature of the Cahiers is that they are the work of a growing culture of young international critics and writers who are reviving the legacy of international modernism for English. As our commercial literary culture shelters in literary safety, this crowd is ferreting out exciting, genre-defying work beyond our borders, mostly in Latin America and on the European peripheries, but also in the middle and far east, Africa, and beyond. The same names pop up in the Cahiers and its associated projects at the American University as we see, for example, in The Quarterly Conversation, The White Review, Music & Literature, Dalkey Archive, Open Letter, Two Lines Press, San Francisco’s Center for the Art of Translation, Frisch & Co., and New Vessel Press. Freed by the unraveled economies of electronic publishing, these critic-writer-editors are creating a dynamic new border-crossing literary world.
“The Cahier authors are testimony to this. How often do we think of Lydia Davis and Paul Muldoon as cohorts in translation, and what that means about their place in literature in English? Elfrieda Jelinek writes a play about Walser, indeed librettist Paul Griffiths transcribes, as it were, Noh drama as stories in English. What I love about the Cahiers way of thinking is that it’s not eat-your-vegetables advocacy for literature in translation but a bold, invigorating vision for literature in all languages, a hungry aesthetic engine for our time.”
You can read her encomium for the Cahiers series in her Little Star weekly blog here. And check out Little Star, which Bookslut‘s Jessa Crispin called “a sophisticated, wise and fierce little magazine. Filled with works in translation, painfully underrated writers like the brilliant Kathryn Davis and lovingly put together…” And check out the Cahiers series here. Maybe even order a couple.