19 October 2009

Robert Walser Roundup 19 October 2009

Following on from April's roundup of recent publishing events surrounding the œuvre of Robert Walser, six months later there's even more to report!

Firstly, the English translation of the The Tanners finally did come out, although a few months late (reaching the Canadian market on 25 August). After reading Jean Launay's 1985 French translation, reissued in 1992, I very much look forward to reading it in my mother tongue.

But Susan Bernofsky hasn't stopped there. Currently on the horizon, in addition to her forthcoming biography of Robert Walser, is a volume of Walser microgrammes, or Microscripts as they are being called, in English translation. These will be published by New Directions in the spring of 2010, coinciding with an exhibition of the microscripts at the Christine Burgin Gallery in New York. As told by Susan:

This project came about as a co-production with Christine Burgin Gallery after Burgin fell in love with Walser’s miniature manuscripts (both the sheets of paper and the handwriting that covers them are unbelievably small) and decided to put together an exhibition of them in New York, due to open in the spring of 2010. The volume Microscripts will serve as a catalogue for the exhibition—it will contain a number of high-resolution facsimiles of Walser’s beautiful manuscripts—and at the same time is a collection of stories from his late work.
As told by the gallery:
In Spring 2010 the Christine Burgin Gallery and New Directions will publish a facsimile edition of Robert Walser's microscripts with new translations by Susan Bernofsky. This will be the first publication in English illustrated by and devoted to Robert Walser's microscripts.


The Microscripts
Robert Walser
New Directions
Hardback, 160 pages
ISBN 9780811218801
25 May 2010
$24.95 US (Canadian market information unavailable at this time)

It seems to me that this book will be a cross between two books previously published by Geneva-based Éditions Zoe:
  1. Le territoire du crayon (2003), 400 pages of microgramme prose in French translation.

  2. Robert Walser, l'écriture miniature (2004), a 91-page album explaining what the microgrammes are, and featuring numerous reproductions of actual microgrammes, along with their French translations.
Despite its 400 pages, the former is in reality but a small subset of the microgrammes published in the monumental six-volume Aus dem Bleistiftgebiet. Mikrogramme aus den Jahren 1924–1933 (2003). Every time I see this beautiful boxed set sitting on the shelves of Das Buch on Sherbrooke Street East, I have to hold myself back from buying it, reminding myself that my German is nowhere near good enough to be able to read the Walser Microgrammes in their original language. But I d

Getting back on topic, believe it or not, there's even more on the way from Susan Bernofsky! On her website, she mentions a forthcoming English translation of Robert Walser's "Berlin Stories", to be published by the New York Review of Books in their Classics series. This has also been confirmed by NYRB Classics themselves. I had never even heard of the "Berlin Stories" before today. If anyone knows what these are, and what texts they correspond to in the complete works of Robert Walser in German, I'd love to hear from you...

Moving on to the French side of things, on 9 September 2009 Gallimard reissued La Rose, Bernard Lortholoary's 1987 translation of Die Rose. It's due out later t
his month in Canada. This book features one of my favourite Walser quotations: "Personne n'a le droit de se comporter à mon endroit comme s'il me connaissait".

Éditions Zoe have lots of Walser stuff coming out in the next few months:
  • Proses brèves, vol. 2 : Nouvelles du jour is being reissued on 27 November 2009 (11 January 2010 in Canada).

  • Marion Graf has translated Kleine Prosa (1917) into French for the very first time; Petite prose is to be published in Europe on 28 January 2010, and in Canada shortly thereafter.

  • She's also translated a collection of Walser's 1909 poems under the title Au bureau : poèmes de 1909, which is also due out on 28 January. This volume is to include illustrations by his brother Karl Walser.

  • Finally, Vie de poète (Marion Graf's 2006 translation of Poetenleben for Éditions Zoe) is being reissued by Le Seuil's papberback imprint Points on 28 February 2010, with a new foreword by Philippe Delerm.
Ouf! Quelle aventure... While all of this is going on, Suhrkamp too seem to have constant stream of Walser publications coming out in the original German, including Robert Walser for Idlers, a book of bons mots and aphorisms, and Der Schnee fällt nicht hinauf - 33 Gedichte, a collection of 33 (winter?) poems.

Exciting times indeed!

13 April 2009

Jacques Tati at the Cinémathèque française

The Cinémathèque française just opened an amazing Jacques Tati exhibition (8 April - 2 August 2009) that really makes me wish I were in Paris and not here. I've noticed that in conjunction with this event, several books on Tati are to be published in April and May, but the definitive one seems to be the exhibition catalogue published by Naïve:

Before they were an independent publisher, Naïve were (and still are) an indie record label, and back in February they issued Sonorama !, a double-CD set of all of the music featured in Tati's films (which is amazing, by the way). Of course, there have been at least two other collections of Tati's film music issued on CD but, to use that word again, this really does appear to be the definitive collection.

Now if only their Canadian record distributor hadn't gone bankrupt last year, and if only their Canadian book distributor weren't so incompetent, then we'd be all set...

See also: controversy surrounding Tati's pipe and anti-tobacco legistlation.

12 April 2009

Robert Walser: The Tanners and other new releases

In honour of the imminent publication of Susan Bernofsky's translation of Robert Walser's Geschwister Tanner (The Tanners), which until now had been inédit in the English-speaking world (although it has been available in French here in Canada since 1985), I've put together a roundup of some recent events in the world of Walser.

Firstly, Robert Walser's 1907 novel The Tanners is finally coming out in English translation for the first time, published by New Directions (distributed in Canada by Penguin and in the US by W.W. Norton) and scheduled for release on 28 April 2009. From the publisher:

The Tanners is the last major novel by the great Robert Walser to finally make it into English.

The Tanners, Robert Walser’s amazing 1907 novel, is now presented in English for the very first time, by the award-winning translator Susan Bernofsky. Four brothers and a sister comprise the Tanner family: their wanderings, meetings, separations, quarrels, romances, employment and lack of employment over the course of a year or two are the threads with which Walser weaves his airy, strange and brightly gorgeous fabric.

Translated from the German, with an Afterword, by Susan Bernofsky
Introduction by W. G. Sebald (translated by Jo Catling)

“A clairvoyant of the small,” W. G. Sebald calls Walser, one of his favorite writers, in his acutely beautiful, and personal long introduction, studded with his signature use of photographs.




Exciting stuff, indeed. British readers should note that the last major Bernofsky/Walser event — New Directions' June 2007 North American publication of the first ever English edition of The Assistant — was followed by a gorgeous Penguin Modern Classics edition of the same, published in March 2008 and exclusive to the British market. Something tells me that there will be a similar transatlantic arrangement between New Directions and Penguin UK for the publication of The Tanners...

In other news, although nothing is ever likely to equal the monumental Robert Walser Week that aired on France Culture in January 2007, there have nonetheless recently been a few noteworthy radio programmes about Walser:

Speaking of momumental undertakings, this past fall Suhrkamp published the massive, 511 page Robert Walser: Sein Leben in Bildern und Texten (Robert Walser: His Life in Pictures and Texts), edited by noted Walser scholar Bernhard Echte. My German isn't strong enough to be able to grasp the exact nature of the project, but it looks amazing. With any luck, one of Walser's French-language publishers (I'm talking to you Zoe and Gallimard!) will decide to translate it one day (I don't think there's any hope of this ever coming out in English). I've managed to glean a few sample pages to whet your appetite:

Granted, I already have the Walser biographies written by Catherine Sauvat, Peter Utz and Marie-Louise Audiberti, but can you ever really have enough? Thankfully, Susan Bernofsky is working on And No One Ever Knew: A Biography of Robert Walser, which to my knowledge will be the first ever English language biography of Walser.

To wrap up this extended post devoted to what is clearly an obsession of mine, this past fall Geneva-based publisher Zoe issued two new volumes of Walser's works, plus a brief study of his work:

With translations of lesser-known texts, as well as studies and biographies, including two splendid volumes on the famous Walser microgrammes, Zoe really is doing more to get Walser's work out there than any other French-language publisher. Kudos to them.

21 March 2009

Spaziergang in Montreal

As someone who is (relatively) new to Montreal and enjoys a good walk, I'm expecting great things from this one:

Marcher à Montréal et ses environs
22 April 2009

192 pages (with 20 maps)

Voici un guide indispensable pour quiconque cherche à s'évader, ne serait-ce que quelques heures. Il met de l'avant près de 95 lieux de randonnée situés à Montréal et ses environs. Tous des endroits accessibles en transport en commun, situés à moins d’une soixantaine de kilomètres de la métropole. Entre la rue Sainte-Catherine et l’avenue du Mont-Royal, les parcs-nature et les Grands parcs de Montréal, les collines montérégiennes et les nombreux sentiers que l’on retrouve sur la Rive-Nord... la région de Montréal offre un vaste choix pour qui veut prendre une marche de santé sans avoir à parcourir de longues distances.

I wonder which cover design they'll end up using...

13 February 2009

My Winnipeg, The Book

Based on the film My Winnipeg — which I was fortunate enough to see at the 2007 Festival Nouveau Cinéma, just a few days after it premiered at TIFF and, paradoxically, long before the actual Winnipeg premiere — Coach House Books have announced the forthcoming publication of a book of the same title by Guy Maddin.

From the publisher:

At the heart of the film is Maddin’s voiceover, told in his infamous purplish prose. The book offers up this narration — extensively annotated by Maddin with a cornucopia of illuminating arcana.Venture deeper into the mind of Maddin with marginal digressions, stills, outtakes, childhood photos, animations, diary entries, collages, archival images and nascent treatments. There is a hand-drawn map of Maddin’s personal landmarks. There is an interview between Ann Savage and Maddin’s mother, and between Maddin and Michael Ondaatje. There’s even an x-ray of Toby the dog.


My Winnipeg
Guy Maddin
Coach House Books
ISBN 978-1-55245-211-0 (Book)
ISBN 978-1-55245-212-7 (Book + DVD)
May 2009

12 February 2009

Stereo Total Returning to Montréal!

After a year-and-a-half's absence, the Berlin-based, Franco-German duo Stereo Total, a.k.a. The Best Pop Group in the World, will be returning to Montreal. The details are as follows:

Zoo-Prod présente
with Leslie & The Ly’s + Donzelle
LE NATIONAL - 1220 Ste-Catherine Est
Vendredi le 20 mars 09,21h*Portes20h*
Infos 514.845.2014
Admission générale

From Françoise and Bretzel :
Put the Martini into the shaker and the burger on the grill! We're going back to USA & Canada.
We are coming on tour next spring (March-April) and are just recording a tour-single called "Anti Love Song", in which all numbers are sung in really bad English, but they are negatively lovely.

I've been a huge fan of this band since I first stumbled upon Musique Automatique in the new releases at Music Trader back in 2002, attracted as I was by all the French and German (my two favourite foreign languages!) sillyness on the front and back of the packaging. It's quite thrilling all these years later to be living in a city where I can actually see them in concert; with the closure of Le Parisien cinemas, and the impending reconversion of Ex-Centris, at least there are still some upsides to living in Montreal.

So we shall tanzen im 4-eck to the Moderne Musik, and a good time will be ha
d by all...

08 February 2009

Translating from the French, or How might a human being put the same idea?

On the first page of the first chapter of his 2001 book The Flâneur, Edmund White describes La Défense as having gone ‘directly from being futuristic to being passé without ever seeming like a normal feature of the present’. He then goes on to say:

Honestly, instead of ‘like a normal feature of the present’ I almost wrote 'without ever being inscribed within the interior of the present'. That's how much I've been submerged in contemporary French nonfiction. I frequently have to stop and ask myself how a human being might put the same idea.
Obviously this is a bit of exaggeration for the sake of a bon mot, but as someone who does a fair bit of translation from French to English, and proofreading of texts translated from the French, I have to say that I find this absolutely hilarious. I am forever asking myself the very same question: just how would a human put that? Hmm...

22 January 2009

Les vacances de Monsieur Pitt

Before seeing Burn After Reading a few months ago, I don't think I had ever seen Brad Pitt in a film. I made no distinction between him and any number of other unintersting 'stars' in the banal Hollywood system. This Japanese advert is the second thing I've seen him in and, lo and behold, it doesn't suck either. It's an hommage to Jacques Tati's Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot (with Pitt as an ersatz Monsieur Hulot), featuring a Serge Gainsbourg soundtrack. The spot was directed by Wes Anderson for the Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank, and was filmed in Normandy (Trouville?) in September 2008.

It's anachronistic (the original film is from 1953, and the music is from 1965) and obviously never going to be as good as the original, but at the same time when you combine 'Japanese advert', 'Serge Gainsbourg' and 'Jacques Tati', the result is always going to be worth a look, and this is certainly far more entertaining that anything we ever see in North America. Ici, on nous prend pour des cons !

As André Schiffrin once said, ‘Whoever has been in charge of selling French culture to the Japanese should be given a medal’.

20 January 2009

Toronto Book Fair

Well, they've done it again. It wasn't enough for them to rip off the Nuit Blanche from Montreal (via Paris), now Toronto is going to have a go at a salon du livre. As an alternative to the nearly defunct Book Expo Canada, a Toronto Book Fair has been proposed for 2-4 October 2009. This is, of course, nothing more than a salon du livre, the likes of which have existed in the francophone world for many decades (Montreal since 1978, and Paris since 1981).

According to Publishers Weekly, Book Expo Canada — also known as the Dullest Literary Event in the History of the World™ — is on its last legs, as most of the publishers and distributors, including HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin, Scholastic, H.B. Fenn and ‘a handful of other Canadian houses’, have all decided not to attend. In its place, Reed Exhibitions (who, incidentally, are also the people behind Publishers Weekly, the Salon du livre de Paris and Book Expo Canada) are going to try to put on an English-language salon du livre in Toronto.

As these events are wildly popular in the francophone world — the six-day event ($8 admission charge per day) in Montreal attracts about 125,000 visitors every year — and as Reed know how to put on such an event through their experience with the Salon du livre de Paris, I would expect them to do a good job with a similar event in Toronto, even if the concept of a salon du livre doesn't exist in the anglophone world and even if the demand for books is considerably greater in Paris than it is in Toronto.

All of this begs the question: why does Toronto keep copying everything done in Montreal and/or Paris? If Paris is a first-rate city, and Montreal following them in almost everything they do (see Vélib' v. Bixi for the latest example) makes us a second-rate city, does that make Toronto a third-rate city?

11 January 2009

The Rain Before It Falls by Jonathan Coe

The Rain Before It Falls, the latest novel by Jonathan Coe, will FINALLY be coming out in paperback in North America in a few weeks. It really does suck being under the thumb of the Americans to such an extent that we have to wait several months before being able to read the latest offering by one of our best contemporary novelists.

The hardback came out on 6 September 2007 in Britain, but not until 11 March 2008 in Canada, and the paperback on 5 June 2008 in the UK
but not before 10 March 2009 over here. I'm sure they don't have to put up with this stuff in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc., and I'm sick of having to deal with it in Canada. It happens all the time: some American publisher (in this case Random House) buys the US rights to a book, and tacks on the Canadian rights as an afterthought. Then we have to wait until the publisher gets around to publishing it in the United States, very often with an impossibly ugly cover design, while the rightful publisher (in this case Penguin) is forbidden from selling the proper British edition in Canada. I've said it before, and I'll surely say it again: Canadians are the forgotten children of the Commonwealth.

At least in this instance, the American cover design is not a complete disaster and, as an added bonus, Random House USA
have even been nice enough to not change the title of the book. That's right; sometimes the American publisher will even change the title of a book to something Americans can understand, and we Canadians have to suffer the consequences. A prime example of this is what Random House USA did (and continue to do) with Coe's first major success, What a Carve Up!

Over the years, Penguin UK have come up with a number of classy paperback cover designs for this one:

But rather than come up with something halfway decent, the Americans decided to put forth this atrocity:

Of course, coming up with an awful cover wasn't enough; they also had to change the title to something comprehensible to Americans. To this day, unless you want to import a proper British edition, at great personal expense, this is the only edition that you are ALLOWED to buy in Canada.

All of this being said, Jonathan Coe really is one of my favourite English writers, and I am very much looking forward to reading his latest. As it happens, it has just come out in France, so there's plenty of media coverage to go through while we wait for the North American paperback, including:
  • Interview with Jonathan Coe in Télérama
  • A ten-minute extract [Real Player] from The Rain Before It Falls, read by Yasmine Modestine (broadcast on France Culture on 8 January 2009)
  • Review in L'Express
  • Review in Le Temps (Geneva)
  • Review in La Libre (Brussels)
  • Review in Le Point
  • Review in Le Monde
  • etc.

Swedish Invasion!

Happy New Year to one and all!

I've been away from the blog for a few weeks, and obviously everyone knows this already, but in the interests of complétude, I feel I should finish what I started back on 29 November.

To begin, for anyone who managed to miss it, a revue de presse from mid-December:
And, confirming the trend of a veritable synergie suédoise happening in Winnipeg, H&M are coming to town as well, apparently at Polo Park where the Safeway is (was?):
Only days after international home furnishings giant IKEA unveiled plans to build a new 350,000-square-foot destination store in southwest Winnipeg, a spokeswoman for one of the world's largest clothing and fashion retailers-- Sweden-based H&M -- said it's also got its eye on Winnipeg for expansion.

"We are expanding throughout Canada and we're always looking for new and great cities to expand into," Emily Scarlett said Thursday. "And being a major city, Winnipeg is definitely on our radar screen."


H&M is rumoured to be looking at the former Canada Safeway space in Polo Park Shopping Centre, but Scarlett and Polo Park general manager Deborah Green would neither confirm nor deny that.
This really is a juste retour des choses, as Winnipeg was known as the 'Swedish Capital' of Canada up until World War II.