Neue Impressionen: Maximilian Gilleßen und Anton Stuckardt sprechen über ihr Verlagsprojekt ‚zero sharp’

Maximilian Gilleßen ist Übersetzer und zusammen mit dem Buchgestalter Anton Stuckardt Begründer des Berliner Verlags zero sharp. Ihr Interesse gilt AutorInnen der französischen Avantgarde. So sind bisher Bände von Raymond Roussel, Jean-Pierre Brisset, Gaston de Pawlowski und René Daumal erschienen. Seit Juli 2017 ist Maximilian Gilleßen Einstein-Projektstipendiat an der Friedrich Schlegel Graduiertenschule für literaturwissenschaftliche Studien, wo er an einer Dissertation über Raymond Roussel arbeitet.

Interview von Chris Fenwick

Wie würden Sie das Korpus von Texten beschreiben, die bei zero sharp erscheinen? Was fanden Sie so spannend an diesen Texten, dass Sie die schwierige Arbeit zahlreicher Übersetzungen  unternehmen wollten?

Maximilian Gilleßen: Die von uns bisher verlegten Autoren gehören ganz verschiedenen Generationen an: Brisset wuchs in der Julimonarchie auf und erlebte noch den Ersten Weltkrieg, aber sein prägendes Erlebnis war die Schlacht von Sedan; Roussel und de Pawlowski gehörten der Belle Époque an; Daumal war zwölf Jahre jünger als André Breton. Auch die Ziele, die sie verfolgten, ihre Absichten, wenn man so will, waren sehr verschieden: Brisset wollte den amphibischen Ursprung der Sprache aufzeigen, Roussel erstrebte einen literarischen Ruhm nach dem Vorbild von Victor Hugo, de Pawlowski verstand sich als Zeitkritiker, der Satire mit spekulativer Science-Fiction verband, und Daumal betrachtete das Schreiben als eine Tätigkeit, deren Wert nicht in ihr selber liegt, sondern in der möglichen Erfahrung, auf die sie verweist. Bei all diesen Autoren – und das wäre eine erste Gemeinsamkeit – stellt sich also die Frage, inwieweit ihre Werke überhaupt der sogenannten Literatur zuzurechnen sind.

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Posted in avant garde, interviews, language, literary canon, literary form, literature, modernism, poetry, postmodernism, poststructuralism, Raymond Roussel, translation, words | Leave a comment

Translations in STILL: Georg Leß and Axel Görlach

My translations for STILL magazine of poems by Georg Leß and Axel Görlach are now available on their website.

drei sachte Verkehrsunfälle / three gentle road accidents
Georg Leß

das sich auflösen… / the dissolving…
Axel Görlach

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Joshua Cohen in Berlin: An Interview

Joshua Cohen is an American writer. He is author of five novels, including Witz (2010), Book of Numbers (2015) and, most recently, Moving Kings (2017), as well as numerous short stories and non-fiction pieces. He has worked as a contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine, the New York Times, the Jewish Daily Forward and the London Review of Books, and has taught at Columbia University and the New School in New York, where he lives. In the winter semester of 2017/18 he is Samuel Fischer Guest Professor at the Peter Szondi Institute of the Freie Universität Berlin.

Interview by Chris Fenwick

You’ve lived in Berlin on previous occasions – I think you first came here in 2001, and the final part of Book of Numbers is set in a more recent incarnation of the city. What drew you here in the first place, and how do you feel about the way the city has changed?

I was told, I forget by whom, that the city was cheap. And the truth was, it was – it was cheaper. I had a job working for the venerable Jewish newspaper The Forward – I was the paper’s Europe correspondent. That meant: a whole lot of territory, not a whole lot of Jews. So I was on planes and trains and buses a lot, and that’s where I began writing fiction. In transit. In the window seat.

As for how I feel about how the city has changed, I don’t know. Let me just say that it’s cleaned up a lot. But then so have I. When I was here back then I felt as if Berlin and I were at the same stage of life: irresponsible about everything – about our money, our health, our sleeping – because our true responsibility was to history.

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Arrival’s Fatalism


If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.
— T S Eliot, ‘Burnt Norton’

*

For those who have not seen Denis Villeneuve’s 2016 science fiction film Arrival, I’ll offer a brief synopsis. Spoiler alert.

The film opens with a sentimental sequence of shots showing Louise Banks, a linguistics professor, playing with a child. The child is shown at various ages, but we also see her dying young in a hospital. The sequence initially seems like a flashback. In the present, twelve alien spaceships appear on earth. Louise Banks is invited, along with Ian Donnelley, a physicist, to assist the military personnel who have surrounded the ship on American soil, Banks to aid in communicating with the aliens and Donnelley to question them about their technology. They meet the aliens, known as “heptapods,” in their ship’s antechamber, where they stand separated from them by a glass screen. Banks begins deciphering the aliens’ language, in which entire sentences are written with single signs, or “semasiograms.” It appears that the aliens have a different perception of time from humans. Continue reading

Posted in Arrival, Denis Villeneuve, film, free will, metaphysics, philosophy, science fiction, Ted Chiang, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The irreducible significance of literature: David Wellbery on Goethe, Cavell and de Man

David E. Wellbery is LeRoy T. and Margaret Deffenbaugh Carlson Professor at University of Chicago, where he chairs the Department of Germanic Studies and is a member of the Committee on Social Thought. A renowned scholar of the German tradition, he has published numerous books and essays on Lessing, Goethe, Kleist, Schopenhauer and many others.

Interview by Chris Fenwick

Professor Wellbery, you’re visiting Berlin as a guest speaker at the ZfL, so it’s perhaps appropriate to begin with a couple of questions about internationalism in academia. Do you think that German and US academics have different approaches within your own field of German Studies? What do you think are the major differences between German and US universities?

First of all, let me say something about internationalism in general, which I see as really having accelerated over the past five years. The conference I’m involved in here is co-organized by colleagues from Potsdam, Tel Aviv and Chicago, and I have a bit of a hand in the organization too. This is rather typical of today. Just before coming here I had a guest from the University of Curitiba in Southern Brazil who is working on a very interesting project, making digitally available all of the German-language publications in Brazil in the nineteenth century. This is the kind of thing we could also do in the US and I am interested in pursuing such possibilities. Moreover, his project is co-supported by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, so you get a kind of triangulation there, which I think is typical. Again and again I’m experiencing at conferences that Asian students are listening in, if not participating. It’s only going to be a generational question before we see more of their participation, which I think is really good.

Read more (Literaturwissenschaft in Berlin).
Read more (The Point).

Posted in academia, aesthetic experience, aesthetics, cognitivism, Goethe, idealism, interviews, literary form, literature, Paul de Man, philosophy, poetry, Stanley Cavell, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Literature Away from Home: Jake Schneider on Translation, Little Magazines and More

Jake Schneider is the editor-in-chief of SAND, Berlin’s English literary journal. His translation of Ron Winkler’s poetry collection Fragmentierte Gewässer (Fragmented Waters) was released by Shearsman Books last October. He works as a freelance translator from German to English.

Interview by Chris Fenwick

SAND is an English-language journal based in a German city. How do you think it differs from journals in English-speaking countries?

SAND itself is a Berliner by birth, even if virtually everyone who’s worked on it over the past eight years is a Berliner by choice, born elsewhere and likely to move on eventually. This a city of fleeting convergences, eager arrivals and sudden departures, and all that history has left many layers of unique creative residue, which is why we aren’t just a direct transplant from some other place where English is the official language.

In cosmopolitan Berlin, English now represents a kind of horizontal communication, often between people who grew up speaking a third or fourth language. English is the language people arriving here speak. That makes it a symbol of inclusion, while German is a daunting gate that fresh Berliners who are serious about settling down can only pass with years of study and practice.

So yes, the “global” status of English comes at the heels of the British Empire and (fading) American hegemony. But that background is irrelevant to international Berliners trying to meet halfway for a conversation. Compared to the scenes in languages like French, Russian and Hebrew that are by nature less accessible to people from other countries, the English scene represents a semi-neutral internationalism.

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Posted in Berlin, Germany, interviews, language, languages, literature, magazines, poetry, translation, Uncategorized, writing | Leave a comment

On Beauty

On 26 April 2017 I participated in a panel discussion on beauty in Berlin. Here’s what I and the others said:

The word “beautiful” is used in relation to a loose range of phenomena. When we look for beauty in faces, we’re doing something quite different from when we look for beauty in art. But should we think of beauty as purely sensory? Mathematicians frequently discuss the beauty of certain results or proofs. Another example that I particularly like is from Borges’s story ‘The Book of Sand.’ A man discovers an “infinite book” whose pages continually change and never return. He starts to go insane and chooses to destroy it, but when he considers burning it, fears that “the burning of an infinite book would be similarly infinite, and suffocate the world in smoke.” I find the idea here quite beautiful. The beauty arises from a kind of argument, from the thought the narrator arrives at. It is more logical than sensual. Perhaps we should be willing to talk of beautiful thoughts, ideas and arguments, acknowledging that the epistemological or rational already has an inescapable element of the aesthetic within it.

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Posted in academia, aesthetic experience, aesthetics, beauty, criticism, ethical criticism, ethics, Kant, philosophy, Stanley Cavell | Leave a comment