A pause in writing about books has come over me as I am struck silent, nearly, by a number of books: PARALLEL LIVES by Peter Nadas, THE WALL by H. G. Adler, LARVA by Julian Rios, a new version of THE BOOK OF DISQUIET by Fernando Pessoa (New Directions) and a little aside, a new edition of THE RUIN IS KASCH by Roberto Calasso coming from FSG in January.
Such is not unusual with a moment’s thought if we remember that in the 1920s those who really read were given THE WASTE LAND by T.S. Eliot, ULYSSES by James Joyce and the volumes by Marcel Proust that would become IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME and in the Thirties: JOURNEY TO THE END OF NIGHT by Louis Ferdinand Celine and THE MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES…
One is also well aware of the masses who can not live alone in such solitude with a select few so the constant weekly announcements continue to appear of this or that masterpiece which has its moment for a week, a month, a season, a year and then… notice how forlorn THE WHITE HOTEL by D.M.Thomas looks when you see it in the Salvation Army book section or possibly a … (fill in any name you want…)
THE NECESSARY SECOND THOUGHT could be supplied with three names:
Michel Leiris and his two newly published books that are as if passing ghosts in the US: PHANTOM AFRICA and the third book, FIBRILS, of his memoir RULES OF THE GAME
H.G. ADLER THERESIENSTADT 1941-1945
Fleur Jaeggy has two little books: THESE POSSIBLE LIVES and I AM THE BROTHER OF XX
A passage from Jaeggy that concerns itself with a photograph of the mother’s audience with the Pope:
Her daughter, who does not have the depth of the mother has always believed in the surface of things. And so in beauty. In appearance. What does she care about what is inside. Inside where? And what is the inside? Anyway the daughter believes more in photographs than in the people portrayed. A photograph might tell more than a person. Perhaps. Naturally perhaps. No affirmation could lead her to grant total credence to the affirmation itself.
I would be hard pressed to find any American author who one could imagine writing at this level of thinking and precision.
To have an audience with the Pope… I imagine I was caught by this as I had been visiting in late August in London a friend who as a young woman was sent by one of the elderly sisters of the martyred Patrick Pearse to have a private audience with John XXIII. The visit was arranged by the Irish ambassador to the Vatican on the orders of someone in Dublin and my friend said she did not know what to say to the Pope after being brought in alone and he could see this so he asked if I had brought anything I would like him to bless. I had only my glass case in my hand and he gave that his blessing sending me on my way.