Sunday, April 19, 2015

Patti Smith planning sequel to Just Kids memoir

Patti Smith
Patti Smith 
planning sequel to Just Kids memoir
Singer will focus on music and family this time, having already written about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe
Sean Michaels
Wednesday 19 December 201210.58 GMT

Patti Smith is working on a sequel to her acclaimed 2010 memoir, Just Kids. The new book will focus on a "similar time period", she has revealed, but with more of a focus on music and family.
"I just reached social security age, but I'm far from retiring," Smith told Billboard this week. Whereas Just Kids was centred on photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, "and my relationship with Robert, and wanting to be an artist", the new book "will be more, perhaps, music-based". The singer also said she wants to write about her late husband, the MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith.
"I don't have a big rock'n'roll lifestyle, a sex, drugs and rock'n'roll story to tell," Smith told Billboard. "I think I have maybe a better story. Through rock'n'roll I travelled the world, worked with my late brother and, best of all, that's how I met Fred. It changed my life in many unexpected ways, so I have my story to tell."
Smith said she has lots in the pipeline for 2013, describing it as a "year of work". In addition to the next volume of her life story, the singer is working on a mystery novel, set in London. At the time she announced that project, almost two years ago, she said she was already "68%" finished.
Smith, who is 65, also continues to tour her new album, Banga, and to promote her photography, which was compiled in a recent book. Just Kids, which won the United States' National Book Award for Nonfiction, has been hailed as one of pop music's finest memoirs. An earlier collection of autobiographical sketches,Woolgathering, was published in 1992.

Patti Smith, godmother of punk, wins award for her autobiography

Patti Smith, godmother of punk, 
wins award for her autobiography

Memoir of her bohemian days with artist Robert Mapplethorpe earns acclaimed musician National Book Award in US

For a musician who virtually dropped out of public life for almost two decades, Patti Smith has become remarkably ubiquitous. Barely a month passes without her being graced with a new award or feted at a Manhattan cultural event.
The latest accolade for the 63-year-old "godmother of punk" was the National Book Award for non-fiction, which she won on Wednesday night for her memoir of her bohemian days in the Chelsea Hotel with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe.
It marked the fulfilment of Smith's lifelong dream to be a writer, or as she put it at the awards ceremony at Scribner's bookstore in New York, "of having a book of my own, of writing one that I could put on a shelf". (She has, however, produced several books of poetry and some photography collections.)
The cheers that greeted the announcement of her victory were a far cry from the 16 years she spent in semi-retirement during the 1980s and most of the 1990s, when she retreated to the outskirts of Detroit to bring up her family. She returned to performing, with the encouragement of friends such as Bob Dylan, beat poet Allen Ginsberg and Michael Stipe of REM, only in 1996, and in the past three years has enjoyed a cultural blooming in some ways even richer than her heyday in the 1970s.
Next year she will release her 11th album, 36 years after her debut album Horses, which, with its iconic Mapplethorpe portrait of her on the cover, propelled her to countercultural fame. Dream of Life, a documentary on her life and work that involved her being followed around with a camera for more than a decade by the fashion photographer Steven Sebring, was released in 2008 and continues to do the rounds of art cinemas and music venues, often with live performances by Smith.
Her rise as an author provides the unexpected icing on the cake of her cultural rebirth. Just Kids is Smith's keeping of a promise that she made to her lover, friend and muse, Mapplethorpe, as he lay dying from Aids in 1989. "I promised Robert the day before he died that I would write it … I wanted to write a book that he would appreciate," she told the music daily Spinner.
The book draws on the copious notes that she kept from childhood onwards. She told Spinner that she went back over "Robert's letters to me, my daily diaries of when I was 20 and when I lived at the Chelsea. I wrote down what happened, every day. I have little notations like 'Cut Robert's hair,' 'Met Janis Joplin', 'Got a new book store job', 'Met Salvador Dali'."
The book ends as she is on the brink of fame, and so does not touch on her breakthrough moment, the top 20 hit Because the Night, which she adapted from an original song that was passed on to her by Bruce Springsteen.
 This article was amended on 25 November 2010. The original gave Patti Smith's age as 65. This has been corrected. A headline has also been amended so that it no longer says this is Smith's first book; a line has also been inserted in the story to clarify a remark by Smith that seemed to suggest she had produced no other books.

Patti Smith's New York stories

Patti Smith's New York stories

Punk poet Patti Smith first met Robert Mapplethorpe when she moved to New York in the late 60s, and the pair became inseparable. Now she has written a memoir of their time together, from hanging out with Ginsberg and Warhol to her rise as a hit singer and his career as a photographer. She talks to Gaby Wood, and we publish an extract from her book, Just Kids

Gaby Wood
The Observer
Sunday 31 January 2010 00.08 GMT

At the Robert Miller Gallery in New York, a place that has long provided a home for her association with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith – poet, punk rocker, painter and urban hero of long standing – has erected a museum of memory. A poster from 1978 advertises a joint show here of their work: Mapplethorpe's photographs of Smith, and Smith's drawings of Mapplethorpe. She gazes out, a dark-haired wizard caught mid-motion, blurred, against a wall of gauzy white fabric. He is a lightly sketched satyr with forking beard, a Greek demigod by way of Henri Michaux. "Bob Miller Gallery presentsPatti Smith," Smith's scrawl reads around the edges of her own drawing, "requesting the presence of Robert Mapplethorpe."
Mapplethorpe died of complications related to Aids in 1989, and Smith has, in a sense, been requesting his presence ever since. Elsewhere in the gallery, her old Corona typewriter spews a sheet of paper headed "Reflecting Robert"; a letter she wrote to him in March 2008 lies under glass, near a marble crucifix and his monogrammed velvet slippers, size 8½ M. She has reprinted as platinum prints beautiful photographs she took of his hands when they were both 21 (Smith is now 63); when he was satisfied with his work, she explained when she first exhibited these, Mapplethorpe would stand back from it and put his hands in his pockets with his thumbs sticking out. These are portraits of a moment in an artist's mind, details of a person known with great love and specificity.
"I'm not a Catholic, but I have a relic sensibility," Smith says of this display when I speak to her on the phone. (The retrieved objects are just a few elements of what she refers to as "my monastic mess".) Though she lives in New York, she is in San Francisco just now, for a reading from her latest book, Just Kids, a memoir about her first years in New York with Mapplethorpe.
They met in 1967; she arrived in New York from New Jersey, a 20-year-old who had just given up a child for adoption, and found him sleeping in an apartment where she thought friends of hers lived. (Her friends had left.) The pair were fated to meet again, repeatedly, and eventually they became inseparable. Smith writes about Mapplethorpe almost as if she were inside his head, evoking the plays of light that captivated his eyes, the work he did as he went along. "I did feel I could enter him and he me," she agrees, "and I still feel that." They recognised something in each other; they had, as she writes, "never been strangers".
In the late 60s and early 70s, Smith and Mapplethorpe worked feverishly into the night side by side, held toss-ups between grilled cheese sandwiches and art supplies. She nursed him through purgatory, when he had trench mouth and gonorrhoea and they were living in a cheap hotel where the corridors were filled with junkies. They were lovers at first, and when Mapplethorpe finally "answered nature's call", as Smith describes his homosexuality, they still "had something very precious to save".
They hung out with Allen Ginsberg and Janis Joplin and Andy Warhol and Sam Shepard. This was in the days when Mapplethorpe didn't have the patience to take pictures, before he became "smitten" with photography; when Smith had no idea she would one day front a rock'n'roll band. They were, as she neatly puts it, "in a fresh state of transformation", about to become the artists they would go on to be. "Patti, you got famous before me," he said a decade later, when they walked down the street and heard her hit record "Because the Night" blaring from storefronts.
"He was teasing me," Smith tells me now, "because I always told him I didn't care if I was famous, I just wanted him to be famous. But Robert wanted people to see me as he saw me – it didn't matter so much to me whether the world saw me or not, but it was very important for Robert that the world acknowledge me. He believed in me."
It has taken Smith 10 years to write the book. Initially, after Mapplethorpe died, she wrote instead of weeping, and came up with a series of linked prose poems in his honour, entitled The Coral Sea. But his death was succeeded by the death of Smith's pianist, Richard Sohl, at the age of 37, the death of her husband, the guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith, and the death of her brother, Todd, all in the space of a few years, and though she'd promised Mapplethorpe on his death bed that she would one day write their story, she couldn't return to the first loss in the midst of the others. "Robert was the first great death in a series of great deaths," she says, "and it almost taught me how to grieve. Although you grieve differently for each person, the important part of grieving is to live."
There was a long while, after she got married, moved to Detroit and had two children, when Smith was out of the public eye. After her husband died in 1994, she moved back to New York. She wasn't fantastically well off financially, but her fans and friends pulled together: her lawyer got her kids a place in a hot-shot progressive private school; Michael Stipe found them a house; Ann Demeulemeester gave her clothes, Bob Dylan asked her to perform with him. She began to rebuild her life; she made a comeback.
Smith is working more strongly now than ever. She's working on another non-fiction book – "It's funny," she says, "I never thought of doing another book like the book I did for Robert, but I seem to have found a voice in this book that wants to keep talking" – and on a detective story. She continues to take photographs, and she is two thirds of the way through work on a new album. She's composing with her daughter, Jesse Paris, and collaborating with her son Jackson, a guitarist who is married to Meg White of the White Stripes. She has expanded her band to include, for instance, a group of gypsies she met in the hills in Italy, and continues to play with her longtime guitarist Lenny Kaye. The album will be, as she puts it, "a feast of family and friends", and Smith is "ecstatic" to be doing so much work at the age of 63.
New York City, of course, is expensive now and not the same; Smith can't help mourning the death of bohemia. But she wants to make one thing clear: she always has faith in the new guard. "I think that each generation has to do things their way," she explains. "I don't think my lot was any better or any cooler than the present time. My daughter now is 22, about the same age I was when I went to the Chelsea hotel with Robert, and I wish for her all the magic and all the possibilities I had. They're the future," she adds of Jesse's generation. "I'm certainly not the future. I was the future when I was younger. Now I'm happy to be the present."

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Kafka / In the Penal Colony

Illustration by Triunfo Arciniegas
In the Penal Colony
by Franz Kafka
Translated by Ian Johnston

Franz Kafka / En la colonia penitenciaria (A short story in Spanish)
Franz Kafka / Nella colonia penale (A short story in Italian)

“It’s a peculiar apparatus,” said the Officer to the Traveler, gazing with a certain admiration at the device, with which he was, of course, thoroughly familiar. It appeared that the Traveler had responded to the invitation of the Commandant only out of politeness, when he had been invited to attend the execution of a soldier condemned for disobeying and insulting his superior. Of course, interest in the execution was not very high, not even in the penal colony itself. At least, here in the small, deep, sandy valley, closed in on all sides by barren slopes, apart from the Officer and the Traveler there were present only the Condemned, a vacant-looking man with a broad mouth and dilapidated hair and face, and the Soldier, who held the heavy chain to which were connected the small chains which bound the Condemned Man by his feet and wrist bones, as well as by his neck, and which were also linked to each other by connecting chains. The Condemned Man had an expression of such dog-like resignation that it looked as if one could set him free to roam around the slopes and would only have to whistle at the start of the execution for him to return.

Kafka / An Imperial Message

An Imperial Message
by Franz Kafka
Translated by Ian Johnston

The Emperor—so they say—has sent a message, directly from his death bed, to you alone, his pathetic subject, a tiny shadow which has taken refuge at the furthest distance from the imperial sun. He ordered the herald to kneel down beside his bed and whispered the message in his ear. He thought it was so important that he had the herald speak it back to him. He confirmed the accuracy of verbal message by nodding his head. And in front of the entire crowd of those witnessing his death—all the obstructing walls have been broken down, and all the great ones of his empire are standing in a circle on the broad and high soaring flights of stairs—in front of all of them he dispatched his herald. The messenger started off at once, a powerful, tireless man. Sticking one arm out and then another, he makes his way through the crowd. If he runs into resistence, he points to his breast where there is a sign of the sun. So he moves forwards easily, unlike anyone else. But the crowd is so huge; its dwelling places are infinite. If there were an open field, how he would fly along, and soon you would hear the marvellous pounding of his fist on your door. But instead of that, how futile are all his efforts. He is still forcing his way through the private rooms of the innermost palace. Never will he win his way through. And if he did manage that, nothing would have been achieved. He would have to fight his way down the steps, and, if he managed to do that, nothing would have been achieved. He would have to stride through the courtyards, and after the courtyards through the second palace encircling the first, and, then again, through stairs and courtyards, and then, once again, a palace, and so on for thousands of years. And if he finally burst through the outermost door—but that can never, never happen—the royal capital city, the centre of the world, is still there in front of him, piled high and full of sediment. No one pushes his way through here, certainly not someone with a message from a dead man. But you sit at your window and dream of that message when evening comes.

Kafka / A Country Doctor

Photo by Wojtek Kwiatkowsk
A Country Doctor
by Franz Kafka
Translated by Ian Johnston

Franz Kafka / Un médico rural (A short story in Spanish)
Franz Kafka / Médico de aldeia (A short story in Portuguese)
Franz Kafka / Un médico de champagna (A short story in Italian)

I was in great difficulty. An urgent journey was facing me. A seriously ill man was waiting for me in a village ten miles distant. A severe snowstorm filled the space between him and me. I had a carriage—a light one, with large wheels, entirely suitable for our country roads. Wrapped up in furs with the bag of instruments in my hand, I was already standing in the courtyard ready for the journey; but the horse was missing—the horse. My own horse had died the previous night, as a result of over exertion in this icy winter. My servant girl was at that very moment running around the village to see if she could borrow a horse, but it was hopeless—I knew that—and I stood there useless, increasingly covered with snow, becoming all the time more immobile. The girl appeared at the gate, alone. She was swinging the lantern. Of course, who is now going to lend her his horse for such a journey? I walked once again across the courtyard. I couldn’t see what to do. Distracted and tormented, I kicked my foot against the cracked door of the pig sty which had not been used for years. The door opened and banged to and fro on its hinges. A warmth and smell as if from horses came out. A dim stall lantern on a rope swayed inside. A man huddled down in the stall below showed his open blue-eyed face. “Shall I hitch up?” he asked, crawling out on all fours. I didn’t know what to say and bent down to see what was still in the stall. The servant girl stood beside me. “One doesn’t know the sorts of things one has stored in one’s own house,” she said, and we both laughed. “Hey, Brother, hey Sister,” the groom cried out, and two horses, powerful animals with strong flanks, shoved their way one behind the other, legs close to the bodies, lowering their well-formed heads like camels, and getting through the door space, which they completely filled, only through the powerful movements of their rumps. But right away they stood up straight, long legged, with thick steaming bodies. “Help him,” I said, and the girl obediently hurried to hand the wagon harness to the groom. But as soon as she was beside him, the groom puts his arms around her and pushes his face against hers. She screams out and runs over to me. On the girl’s cheek were red marks from two rows of teeth. “You brute,” I cry out in fury, “do you want the whip?”. But I immediately remember that he is a stranger, that I don’t know where he comes from, and that he’s helping me out of his own free will, when everyone else is refusing to. As if he knows what I was thinking, he takes no offence at my threat, but turns around to me once more, still busy with the horses. Then he says, “Climb in,” and, in fact, everything is ready. I notice that I have never before traveled with such a beautiful team of horses, and I climb in happily. “But I’ll take the reins. You don’t know the way,” I say. “Of course,” he says; “I’m not going with you. I’m staying with Rosa.” “No,” screams Rosa and runs into the house, with an accurate premonition of the inevitability of her fate. I hear the door chain rattling as she sets it in place. I hear the lock click. I see how in addition she runs down the corridor and through the rooms putting out all the lights in order to make herself impossible to find. “You’re coming with me,” I say to the groom, "or I’ll give up the journey, no matter how urgent it is. It’s not my intention to give you the girl as the price of the trip.” “Giddy up,” he says and claps his hands. The carriage is torn away, like a piece of wood in a current. I still hear how the door of my house is breaking down and splitting apart under the groom’s onslaught, and then my eyes and ears are filled with a roaring sound which overwhelms all my senses at once. But only for a moment. Then I am already there, as if the farm yard of my invalid opens up immediately in front of my courtyard gate. The horses stand quietly. The snowfall has stopped, moonlight all around. The sick man’s parents rush out of the house, his sister behind them. They almost lift me out of the carriage. I get nothing from their confused talking. In the sick room one can hardly breathe the air. The neglected cooking stove is smoking. I want to push open the window, but first I’ll look at the sick man. Thin, without fever, not cold, not warm, with empty eyes, without a shirt, the young man under the stuffed quilt heaves himself up, hangs around my throat, and whispers in my ear, “Doctor, let me die.” I look around. No one has heard. The parents stand silently, leaning forward, and wait for my opinion. The sister has brought a stool for my handbag. I open the bag and look among my instruments. The young man constantly gropes at me from the bed to remind me of his request. I take some tweezers, test them in the candle light, and put them back. “Yes,” I think blasphemously, “in such cases the gods do help. They send the missing horse, even add a second one because it’s urgent, and even throw in a groom as a bonus.” Now for the first time I think once more of Rosa. What am I doing? How am I saving her? How do I pull her out from under this groom, ten miles away from her, with uncontrollable horses in the front of my carriage? These horses, who have somehow loosened their straps, are pushing open the window from outside, I don’t know how. Each one is sticking its head through a window and, unmoved by the crying of the family, is observing the invalid. “I’ll go back right away,” I think, as if the horses were ordering me to journey back, but I allow the sister, who thinks I am in a daze because of the heat, to take off my fur coat. A glass of rum is prepared for me. The old man claps me on the shoulder; the sacrifice of his treasure justifies this familiarity. I shake my head. In the narrow circle of the old man’s thinking I was not well; that’s the only reason I refuse to drink. The mother stands by the bed and entices me over. I follow and, as a horse neighs loudly at the ceiling, lay my head on the young man’s chest, which trembles under my wet beard. That confirms what I know: the young man is healthy. His circulation is a little off, saturated with coffee by his caring mother, but he’s healthy and best pushed out of bed with a shove. I’m no improver of the world and let him lie there. I am employed by the district and do my duty to the full, right to the point where it’s almost too much. Badly paid, but I’m generous and ready to help the poor. I still have to look after Rosa, and then the young man may have his way, and I want to die too. What am I doing here in this endless winter! My horse is dead, and there is no one in the village who’ll lend me his. I have to drag my team out of the pig sty. If they hadn’t happened to be horses, I’d have had to travel with pigs. That’s the way it is. And I nod to the family. They know nothing about it, and if they did know, they wouldn’t believe it. Incidentally, it’s easy to write prescriptions, but difficult to come to an understanding with people. Now, at this point my visit might have come to an end—they have once more called for my help unnecessarily. I’m used to that. With the help of my night bell the entire region torments me, but that this time I had to sacrifice Rosa as well, this beautiful girl, who lives in my house all year long and whom I scarcely notice—this sacrifice is too great, and I must somehow in my own head subtly rationalize it away for the moment, in order not to let loose at this family who cannot, even with their best will, give me Rosa back again. But as I am closing up by hand bag and calling for my fur coat, the family is standing together, the father sniffing the glass of rum in his hand, the mother, probably disappointed in me—what more do these people expect?—tearfully biting her lips, and the sister flapping a very bloody hand towel, I am somehow ready, in the circumstances, to concede that the young man is perhaps nonetheless sick. I go to him. He smiles up at me, as if I was bringing him the most nourishing kind of soup—ah, now both horses are whinnying, the noise is probably supposed to come from higher regions in order to illuminate my examination—and now I find out that, yes indeed, the young man is ill. On his right side, in the region of the hip, a wound the size of the palm of one’s hand has opened up. Rose coloured, in many different shadings, dark in the depths, brighter on the edges, delicately grained, with uneven patches of blood, open to the light like a mine. That’s what it looks like from a distance. Close up a complication is apparent. Who can look at that without whistling softly? Worms, as thick and long as my little finger, themselves rose coloured and also spattered with blood, are wriggling their white bodies with many limbs from their stronghold in the inner of the wound towards the light. Poor young man, there’s no helping you. I have found out your great wound. You are dying from this flower on your side. The family is happy; they see me doing something. The sister says that to the mother, the mother tells the father, the father tells a few guests who are coming in on tip toe through the moonlight of the open door, balancing themselves with outstretched arms. “Will you save me?” whispers the young man, sobbing, quite blinded by the life inside his wound. That’s how people are in my region. Always demanding the impossible from the doctor. They have lost the old faith. The priest sits at home and tears his religious robes to pieces, one after the other. But the doctor is supposed to achieve everything with his delicate surgeon’s hand. Well, it’s what they like to think. I have not offered myself. If they use me for sacred purposes, I let that happen to me as well. What more do I want, an old country doctor, robbed of my servant girl! And they come, the families and the village elders, and take my clothes off. A choir of school children with the teacher at the head stands in front of the house and sings an extremely simple melody with the words

Kafka / Jackals and Arabs

Jackals and Arabs
by Franz Kafka
Translated by Ian Johnston

Franz Kafka / Chacales y árabes (A short story in Spanish)
Franz Kafka / Sciacalli e arabi (A short story in Italian)

We were camping in the oasis. My companions were asleep. An Arab, tall and dressed in white, went past me. He had been tending to his camels and was going to his sleeping place.

I threw myself on my back into the grass. I wanted to sleep. I couldn’t. The howling of a jackal in the distance—I sat up straight again. And what had been so far away was suddenly close by. A swarming pack of jackals around me, their eyes flashing dull gold and going out, slender bodies moving in a quick, coordinated manner, as if responding to a whip.

Kafka / A Hunger Artist

A Hunger Artist
by Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka / Un artista del hambre (A short story in Spanish)
Franz Kafka / O juguador / Um artista da fome (A short story in Portuguese)

During these last decades the interest in professional fasting has markedly diminished. It used to pay very well to stage such great performances under one's own management, but today that is quite impossible. We live in a different world now. At one time the whole town took a lively interest in the hunger artist; from day to day of his fast the excitement mounted; everybody wanted to see him at least once a day; there were people who bought season tickets for the last few days and sat from morning till night in front of his small barred cage; even in the nighttime there were visiting hours, when the whole effect was heightened by torch flares; on fine days the cage was set out in the open air, and then it was the children's special treat to see the hunger artist; for their elders he was often just a joke that happened to be in fashion, but the children stood openmouthed, holding each other's hands for greater security, marveling at him as he sat there pallid in black tights, with his ribs sticking out so prominently, not even on a seat but down among straw on the ground, sometimes giving a courteous nod, answering questions with a constrained smile, or perhaps stretching an arm through the bars so that one might feel how thin it was, and then again withdrawing deep into himself, paying no attention to anyone or anything, not even to the all-important striking of the clock that was the only piece of furniture in his cage, but merely staring into vacancy with half-shut eyes, now and then taking a sip from a tiny glass of water to moisten his lips.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Gabriel García Márquez remembered by Edith Grossman

Gabriel García Márquez
Poster by Triunfo Arciniegas

Gabriel García Márquez remembered 

by Edith Grossman

6 March 1927-17 April 2014
Edith Grossman, who translated seven of Gabriel García Márquez’s books, recalls a giant of literature and an ‘utterly delicious’ man

An agent I knew called me one day and said: “Would you be interested in translating García Márquez?”, and I said: “Are you kidding me? Of course I would.” It was for Love in the Time of Cholera and I sent in a 20-page sample. I thought about it long and hard, as you would imagine, because there are as many ways to translate a text as there are translators.
I thought about what style of English I was going to use and apparently made the right choice. He did have one comment, which came by way of his agent, Carmen Balcells in Barcelona, and that was that in Spanish he didn’t use adverbs – that is words that in Spanish end in “mente”; the equivalent in English would be “ly”. His request was that I eliminate all of those from the translation. It’s very hard to figure out how to say “slowly” without the “ly”! So you find strange phrases like “without haste” in the books because I’m avoiding “ly”. It was like being back in school, having a very strict composition teacher. But also, I thought, he must be a damn good writer to be so aware of what he’s putting into his writing.
When I got to know him, I found him an utterly delicious man. He was very funny, with a straight-faced wit. I never knew what the expression “a twinkle in the eye” meant really; I couldn’t visualise it until I met him, because his eyes did twinkle. He was very witty, very smart, very underplayed. A very attractive person. We talked mostly about literature, a little bit of gossip. He would talk about Woody Allen, whose movies he admired. At the beginning of the 00s, I was terrified and excited at the prospect of translating Don Quixote and mentioned it in a note to him. I needed to talk to him so his secretary got on the phone and said: “Please hold for Mr García Márquez” and his first words to me were: “So I hear you’re two-timing me with Cervantes.” When I finished laughing we got down to business. I could see that twinkle in his eye all the way from Mexico City.
He had a simplicity of manners that was very charming. He would say nice things like “you’re my voice in English” and I just melted.
The last time I saw him was a while ago because he got sick and when he came here it was to Los Angeles, where one of his sons lives. He was seeing American doctors. So his travels to the US were to the west coast, and not New York, where I am.
I was really grief-stricken when he died. I felt as if the world were a smaller, darker place without him. It followed very soon after the death of [fellow Colombian writer] Alvaro Mutis, who died the previous September, and I translated his writing too. They were very close friends. Each other’s first readers. To lose Mutis and then García Márquez, I really felt very sad.
I recently reread Love in the Time of Cholera. It’s one of the great love stories. I’ve just finished teaching it and I thought, Oh my god! Imagine writing this. Just fabulous. In my opinion, he was one of the great novelists of the 20th century – right up there with Joyce, Thomas Mann, William Faulkner. I can’t imagine Toni Morrison writing without García Márquez; I can’t imagine Salman Rushdie writing without him. We should remember him with joy. And with the immense respect that genius deserves.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Günter Grass / Four key works

Günter Grass: four key works

From a novel that set the template for magical realism to a wartime memoir which scandalised a nation

The Guardian
Monday 13 april 2015

The Tin Drum (1959, first English translation 1961)

Grass’s first novel remains his most famous, and generally acknowledged as one of the key works of modern European literature. Told by Oskar Matzerath from his confinement in a mental hospital, it recounts a half-mad life inflected by the delirium of 20th-century history. “Today,” he says, “I know that all things are watching, that nothing goes unseen, that even wallpaper has a better memory than human beings.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Günter Grass in quotes

Günter Grass
Poster by Triunfo Arciniegas

Günter Grass in quotes: 12 of the best

The Nobel prize-winning author, whose life and works reflect the traumas of 20th-century German history, had much to say about memory, integrity and guilt. Here are some of his best quotes

Günter Grass, the Nobel prize winning novelist playwright and poet, has died aged 87. No stranger to controversy, the writer, who was born in the Free City of Danzig – now Gdansk in Poland – also offered plenty of pithy opinion about life, work, art and society. Here are 12 of his most memorable quotes. If you would like to contribute more, please add them in the comments.

Günter Grass / Final interview reveals author's fears of another world war

Günter Grass: final interview reveals author's fears of another world war

Nobel winner told El País that he feared humanity was ‘sleepwalking’ towards a major conflict with flashpoints in Ukraine and the Middle East
Germany’s Nobel-winning author Günter Grass said he feared humanity was “sleepwalking” into a world war in the last interview he gave before his death on Monday.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Obituaries / Günter Grass

Günter Grass

Günter Grass obituary

Nobel-winning German author who arrived on the literary scene in 1959 with the bestselling novel The Tin Drum 

Jonathan Steele
Monday 13 April 2015 13.57 BST

Günter Grass, who has died aged 87, was Germany’s best-known postwar novelist, a man of titanic energy and zest who, besides his fiction-writing, enjoyed the cut and thrust of political debate and relaxed by drawing, painting and making sculptures. Bursting on to the literary scene with his bestselling novel The Tin Drum in 1959, Grass spent his life reminding his compatriots of the darkest time in their history, the crimes of the Nazi period, as well as challenging them on the triumphalism of unification in 1990, which he described as the annexation of East Germany by West Germany in which many citizens became victims.
He was always controversial, and sometimes bitterly attacked by critics at home for discussing German victimhood as well as German guilt. Outside his country he was, inevitably, called Germany’s postwar conscience, a label he shared with the older writer Heinrich Böll. In 1999, much later than expected, he won the Nobel prize for literature. The Scandinavian judges praised his “creative irreverence” and “cheerful destructiveness”.

Günter Grass dies aged 87

Günter Grass

Günter Grass, Nobel-winning German novelist, dies aged 87

Author of The Tin Drum and figure of enduring controversy

Richard Lea in London and Ben Knight in Berlin
Monday 13 April 2015 15.59 BST

The writer Günter Grass, who broke the silences of the past for a generation of Germans, has died in hospital in Lübeck at the age of 87.
Grass was admitted to hospital with an infection only a few days ago, and his secretary, Hilke Ohsoling, said his death had come as a surprise.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Günter Grass / The Art of Fiction

Günter Grass
Poster by T.A.

Günter Grass

The Art of Fiction No. 124

Interviewed by Elizabeth Gaffney

The Paris Review
No. 119
Summer 1991

Günter Grass has achieved a very rare thing in contemporary arts and letters, earning both critical respect and commercial success in every genre and artistic medium he has taken up. A novelist, poet, essayist, dramatist, sculptor and graphic artist, Grass appeared on the international literary scene with the publication of his first novel, the 1958 best-seller The Tin Drum. It and his subsequent works—the novella Cat and Mouse (1961) and the novel Dog Years (1963)—are popularly known as the Danzig trilogy. His many other books include From the Diary of a Snail (1972), The Flounder (1977). The Meeting at Telgte (1979), Headbirths, or The Germans are Dying Out (1980), The Rat (1986), and Show Your Tongue (1989). Grass always designs his own book jackets, and his books often contain illustrations by the author. He has been the recipient of numerous literary prizes and medals, including the 1965 Georg Büchner Prize and the Carl von Ossietzky Medal (1977), and is a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Grass was born in 1927 on the Baltic coast, in a suburb of the Free City of Danzig, now Gdansk, Poland. His parents were grocers. During World War II he served in the German Army as a tank gunner, and was wounded and captured by American forces in 1945. After his release, he worked in a chalk mine and then studied art in Düsseldorf and Berlin. He married his first wife, the Swiss ballet dancer Anna Schwarz, in 1954. From 1955 to 1967, he participated in the meetings of Group 47, an informal but influential association of German writers and critics, so called because it first met in September of 1947. Its members, including Heinrich Böll, Uwe Johnson, Ilse Aichinger, and Grass, were organized around their common mission to develop and use a literary language that stood in radical opposition to the complex and ornate prose style characteristic of Nazi-era propaganda. They last met in 1967.