Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.
The problem is that nobody is more important than the “eleventh-hour anti-communists”. If we take Andrei’s concrete example, it is one thing to forgive a dictator who keeps people in prison, and another to forgive a dictator who tried to lead Poland out of dictatorship through non-violent means. If it hadn’t been for Jaruzelski and Kiszczak we would not have had the...
I’m frightened of real tears. In fact, I don’t even know whether I’ve got the right to photograph them. At such times I feel like somebody who’s found himself in a realm which is, in fact, out of bounds. That’s the main reason why I escaped from documentaries.
When the winter chrysanthemums go, there’s nothing to write about but radishes. Translated by Robert Hass Matsuo Basho
Mr. CHESNUTT: Yeah. This is how he taught me how to play guitar. My granddaddy, he would show me the chords to “Sweet Georgia Brown” in G, and then we would play that song for an hour without stopping, and while my granddad would play lead over it. (Soundbite of humming) Mr. CHESNUTT: And I would play the chords, and then that would be the lesson. And then a week later, we would...
Sartre, La Nausée
Pour la première fois cela m’ennuie d’être seul. Je voudrais parler à quelqu’un de ce qui m’arrive avant qu’il ne soit trop tard, avant que je ne fasse peur aux petits garçons. Je voudrais qu’Anny soit là For the first time I’m bored by being alone. I’d like to talk to someone about what’s happening to me before it’s too late, before I...
Poetry 365: Now Winter Nights, Robert Hass →
We were sitting in a small room and we talked around our lives by talking about skin flicks, death, voyeurism, the definition of ‘sentimental,’ performing rituals of the mind’s precision on desperate stuff of twentieth century pleasures. There was a woman there— cornsilk hair but not, a…
After a black day, I play Haydn, and feel a little warmth in my hands. The keys are ready. Kind hammers fall. The sound is spirited, green, and full of silence. The sound says that freedom exists and someone pays no tax to Caesar. I shove my hands in my haydnpockets and act like a man who is calm about it all. I raise my haydnflag. The signal is: “We do not surrender. But want peace.”...
Robert Hass, The Beginning of September
I The child is looking in the mirror. His head falls to one side, his shoulders slump. He is practicing sadness. (…) XI She thought it was a good idea. He had his doubts. XII ripe blackberries XIII She said: reside, reside and he said, gored heart She said: sunlight, cypress he said, idiot children nibbling arsenic in flaking paint she said: a small pool of semen ...
Reza Aslan's List
The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist by Emile Habiby (Interlink, $13). Habiby’s dreamy, darkly comic 1974 novel—about a dim-witted Palestinian peasant who works as an informer for the Israeli government and is suddenly abducted by an alien—remains one of the greatest works of satire in Arabic literature. It also offers a new and absolutely hilarious way of looking at the absurd tragedy...
The true problem of philosophy is who does the...
Nicanor Parra Something Like That PARRA LAUGHS like he’s condemned to hell but when haven’t poets laughed? at least he declares that he’s laughing they pass the years pass the years at least they seem to be passing hypothesis non fingo everything goes on as if they were passing now he starts to cry forgetting that he’s an antipoet 0 STOP RACKING YOUR BRAINS nobody reads poetry...
Nicanor Para, I Take Back Everything I've Said
Before I go I’m supposed to get a last wish: Generous reader burn this book It’s not at all what I wanted to say Though it was written in blood It’s not what I wanted to say. No lot could be sadder than mine I was defeated by my own shadow: My words took vengeance on me. Forgive me, reader, good reader If I cannot leave you With a warm embrace, I leave you With a forced and sad smile. Maybe that’s...
Nicanor Parra, Acacias
Strolling many years ago Down a street taken over by acacias in bloom I found out from a friend who knows everything That you had just gotten married. I told him that I really Had nothing to do with it. I never loved you — You know that better than I do — Yet each time the acacias bloom — Can you believe it? — I get the very same feeling I had When they hit me point-blank With the heartbreaking...
McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
Lastly he looked at the face so caved and drawn among the folds of funeral cloth, the yellowed moustache, the eyelids paper thin. That was not sleeping. That was not sleeping. It was dark outside and cold and no wind. In the distance a calf bawled. He stood with his hat in his hand. You never combed your hair that way in your life, he said.
Tranströmer, Solitude (I)
I was nearly killed here, one night in February. My car shivered, and slewed sideways on the ice, right across into the other lane. The slur of traffic came at me with their lights. My name, my girls, my job, all slipped free and were left behind, smaller and smaller, further and further away. I was nobody: a boy in a playground, suddenly surrounded. The headlights of the oncoming cars ...
From Scott Esposito’s Conversational Reading New Directions will publish Roberto Bolano’s collected nonfiction, Between Parentheses, in May. I’ve got a review of the book coming up, and as I read the book for the review, one of the most striking and enjoyable aspects of it was the sheer number of other writers Bolano exhorts you to read. You could get an entire education in...
(…) Again, haikku: No, not to my house. That one, pattering umbrella Went to my neighbour. In itself, a passer-by with an umbrella whom you have seen at some time in your life means nothing new; he is just one of the people hurrying along and keeping himself dry in the rain. But within the terms of the artistic image we have been considering, a moment of life, one and unique for the author,...
Mary Karr, The Paris Review
INTERVIEWER When did you start praying? KARR When I got sober, in 1989—twenty years ago now. Only with prayer could I stop drinking for more than a day or two. Once I made three months clean, but it was a white-knuckled horror show. Call it self-hypnosis, prayer, whatever. To skeptics I say, Just try it. Pray every day for thirty days. See if your life gets better. If it doesn’t, tell me I’m an...
The Art of Memoir
INTERVIEWER Did he train you to tell a good story, or did you just learn through observation? KARR Daddy’s family told stories. Everybody was a spot-on mimic—name a politician or a public figure, and my aunt Gladys could nail every intonation. Maybe it’s a Texas thing, or maybe it’s a Southern thing, or maybe there’s more of an oral tradition among the poor. Stranded out there on the...