Posts Tagged ‘Paul Griffiths’

Little Star lauds the Cahiers Series

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Ann the Fan

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:


Latest Cahier features Paul Griffiths’ Noh stories.

“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 ConversationThe White ReviewMusic & LiteratureDalkey ArchiveOpen LetterTwo Lines Press, San Francisco’s Center for the Art of TranslationFrisch & 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.

littlestar“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.

More praise for the Cahiers Series – with new works by Anne Carson and Paul Griffiths

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Anne Carson’s essay, translations, and the Greek poet Ibykos

From this week’s Times Literary Supplement:

The Cahiers Series is a collection of beautifully produced booklets (twenty-two have been published so far), around forty pages in length, all illustrated with images, which are sometimes apposite, sometimes not, but always interesting. The declared goal of the series is ‘to make available new explorations in writing, in translating, and in the areas linking these two activities’. Some editions have a fairly tenuous connection to translation: in Shades of the Other Shore, two Americans, a poet and an artist respectively, are “translated” from the United States to rural France, with Jeffrey Greene’s short prose pieces and poems exploring “imagined correspondences between personal and historical ghosts tied to the seasons”, and Ralph Petty’s watercolours recording a journey to the source of a local river; in Józef Czapski: A life in translation, the novelist and translator Keith Botsford writes an imaginary autobiography of the Polish author and critic; in In the Thick of Things, the French architect Vincen Cornu attempts ‘to “translate” architectural sensation into words and images’. Then there are the cahiers written by translators or by poets who also translate, as well as translations of stories or plays followed by a brief translator’s note.”

That’s about as good an introduction to the Cahiers Series as I’ve seen anywhere (I’ve written about the valiant endeavor here and here – and the Book Haven even sponsored the Józef Czapski giveaway here).  Alternatively, you could take this, from the Book Trust: “The Cahiers Series represents all that we should be striving for in our increasingly interwoven world.” The effort is managed on a shoestring out of American University of Paris, and yet the short cahiers are truly elegant productions with thick paper and hand-stitched bindings, lavishly illustrated – a friend, Assoc. Prof. Daniel Medin (we’ve written about him here and here) is one of the admirable champions behind the project, and one damn fine editor, too.  Margaret Jull Costa‘s article about the Cahiers Series in the current Times Literary Supplement here seems to pretty much weave together all the past issues. Although I don’t have the list in front of me, it looks like she’s been able to fit about every title into her text.

Except the newest two.  That gives me an opening to tout them:


Eleven Noh plays become stories in English.

Nay Rather
Anne Carson

This cahier unites two texts by celebrated Canadian poet Anne Carson, encouraging readers to experience them alongside and illuminating each other. ‘Variations on the Right to Remain Silent’ is an essay on the stakes involved when translation happens, ranging from Homer through Joan of Arc to Paul Celan; it includes the author’s seven translations of a poetic fragment from the Greek poet Ibykos. ‘By Chance the Cycladic People’ is a poem about Cycladic culture where the order of the lines has been determined by a random number generator. The cahier is illustrated by Lanfranco Quadrio drawings and gouaches, inspired by his reading of Anne Carson’s texts.

The Tilted Cup: Noh Stories
Paul Griffiths

Paul Griffiths effects a multi-layered translation, taking a series of eleven Japanese noh plays and turning them into stories in English. The reader will encounter spirit-beings set free, lovers lost and found, dreams and desires fulfilled, lessons learned from nature, and always a longing for the infinite, as the long, slow drama of each noh play is transformed into a short and moving tale. Interspersed and contrasting with the stories are ten photographs of contemporary Japan by John L. Tran which further explore the relation between theatricality and narrative, while offering hints of a very different vision of infinitude.

The price (£12) is pretty good. Order them here.