Хлоп-страна

Осенью 2016 года в издательстве «Время» вышел новый сборник рассказов Ольги Гренец Хлоп-страна. Сборник доступен в продаже в магазинах сети Лабиринт, с доставкой в США и страны Европы. grezez-cov_1st_sm

Ольга Гренец — современная американская писательница родом из Санкт-Петербурга, мастер короткой психологической прозы. Герои её рассказов, живя в России, Америке, других странах, сталкиваются с необходимостью соотнесения и совмещения разных миров, но главное для автора — показать их отношения, порой осложнённые проблемой конфликта поколений, а также проследить традиционную для современной прозы линию «поисков себя». В оригинальных сюжетах Ольга Гренец предлагает читателю увлекательный калейдоскоп эпизодов повседневной жизни людей из разных слоев общества.

Ольга Гренец — мастер рассказа, самого сложного из всех прозаических жанров, где неверное слово, неверный сюжетный поворот могут всё разрушить. Она обладает удивительным умением соединять в своих текстах американскую и русскую новеллистические традиции, две культуры, и работать в их пограничье. Её прозу отличает бережное отношение к мельчайшим деталям, а умение фиксировать повседневный мир в его многообразии сочетается с поразительным пониманием нюансов психологии современного человека.
Андрей Аствацатуров

Robert Seethaler’s A Whole Life, translated by Charlotte Collins

This novel is set in a remote Austrian mountain valley. Andreas Egger, the pr9780374289867otagonist, arrives here as a boy of four. A farmer adopts him and treats him cruelly. Egger, nevertheless, builds a life, marries, goes to war, returns, watches the world change around him as he becomes a stalwart of his valley and earns his living by leading groups of tourists through the mountains. I’m reading this novel as a meditation about stewardship of the land, an exercise of imagination about how to live lightly. It takes a certain set of experiences, good and bad luck, to get there. Here’s a sign that Egger paints to advertise his business:

IF YOU LIKE THE MOUNTAINS I’M YOUR MAN.
I (with practically a lifetime’s experiences in and of Nature) offer:
Hiking with or without baggage
Excursions (half or full day)
Climbing trips
Walks in the mountains (for senior citizens, disabled people and children)
Guided tours in all seasons (weather permitting)
Guaranteed sunrise for early birds
Guaranteed sunset (in the valley only, as too dangerous on the mountain)
No danger to life and limb!
(PRICE IS NEGOTIABLE, BUT NOT EXPENSIVE)

I’m working on a full-length review of a novel by an author from Iceland, Oddný Eir, “Land of Love and Ruins,” translated by Philip Roughton, and I find in it, what I think is a similar idea, expressed in the following terms:

It’s good to replace the idea of “love of one’s native land” with “love of one’s foster land,” to clarify your relationship to the country you tied your umbilical cord to. . . . I think that care for the foster mother is inseparable from care for all its sons and daughters, whether they’re related by blood or not. . . . perhaps we can come up with a new way to connect with nature and justice. Come up with a new collective form, a new form of shared responsibility.  . . .  I’m thinking about loyalty. Isn’t loyalty to the fosterland different than loyalty to the fatherland? I’m not thinking about loyalty for loyalty’s sake, like that claimed by sweaty, self-assertive SS hot dogs. . . . Loyalty to the fosterland can’t be separated from connections to the totality of all things.

Eir develops her thoughts on this idea of fosterland at length and through very interesting history. I find it all very appealing. Unfortunately her language, rendered by Roughton, does get a little muddled. Seethaler’s words, rendered by Charlotte Collins, read like poetry. Here it is, again, that line: “I (with practically a lifetime’s experiences in and of Nature) offer: Hiking with or without baggage.”

I want to put a smiley face at the end of that sentence.

An extended excerpt from Seethaler’s novel is available on the publisher’s website.

You can buy the book here.

Opera at the Ballpark in Santa Monica Review, Fall 2016

My story Opera at the Ballpark appears in the current issue of Santa Monica Review. I wrote the first draft of this story in March 2010, after volunteering at a simulcast–an opera performance, broadcast from the live show at the San Francisco Opera to a screen at the AT&T Ballpark. Walking home after the show, I passed the opera house. The performance had long ended, and the homeless people were canvassing the house stairs.  I struggled to make sense of opera’s place in the social order of the New World. Of the hundreds of people who’d come to see the simulcast at the ballpark, many told me they’d never been to the opera house. The company was financially insolvent. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, a sense of doom was in the air. The simulcast was one idea to reach out to larger audiences and to give opera mass appeal. The opera they had chosen was traditional, and staged as though to mimic a 19th Century production. To me, this was fairly familiar territory and I was bored by it, but I was in the minority. Most of the simulcast attendees seemed to have had an amazing time.

The story came out of these disparate threads of thought.

Here’s the first paragraph I wrote in 2010,

After the soprano finishes her dying aria on the giant screen above the third base, and the audience sitting in the stalls (word choice?) and on the grass of the baseball diamond scorched their throats with shouts “Go, Tosca!” and clapped so loud as if they wished to be heard back in the opera house two and a half miles away (distance?), the screen went black and the baseball stadium emptied quickly. A warm breeze filled the air with the fragrance of the cherry trees blooming all over the city, lavish romantic music made us sentimental, its heroic overtones urged us to commit ubiquitous acts of kindness,—and conversation flowed freely. Several trains came to pick up the passengers and left overcrowded, while more people continued to shuffle onto the platform. We decided against taking the train, and slowly made our way downtown along the dark waters of the bay.

Seventeen revisions later, the first paragraph of the story published in Santa Monica Review’s Fall 2016 issue looks like this,

The final sounds of the soprano’s aria soar over the baseball diamond as Tosca collapses on stage projected onto the giant screen above second base. The audience sitting in the bleachers and on the grass explodes with shouts “Go, Tosca!” and applause almost loud enough to be heard back at the opera house two miles away. The screen goes black and everyone stands up, emptying the plastic cups of the last drops of beer and pushing cartons with the remains of cheese fries deeper under the seats. The simulcast is over. On the field, families pack up their picnic baskets and fold blankets.

Thank you, Andrew Tonkovich, for publishing this story and for helping me with the title. You can buy the issue and subscribe to the magazine on Santa Monica Review’s website here.

Ольга Гренец. Хлоп-страна

друзья, новая книга моих рассказов Хлоп-страна скоро появится на свет. издательство время!

если кто-то хочет прочитать заранее и написать о ней где-нибудь — рецензия, блоги, пр — пишите в личку

Source: Ольга Гренец. Хлоп-страна

A Particular form of Orientalism

In the most recent issue of Boulevard, poet and fiction writer Anis Shivani published an ideological critique of Dave Eggers’s 2012 novel A Hologram for the King. I haven’t read the novel, and so was going to skip the essay, but the author made a few bold statements about the novel right at the top, and I was intrigued. The essay, it turns out, is a smart and accessible critique of the book from a postcolonial perspective. Shivani points out that “In the last few years in America we’ve had white novelists representing Muslims and Arabs more prominently that Muslims or Arabs have in their own writing.”

What we’re seeing is perhaps a particular form of Orientalism, only pitched at a higher, more refined, more politically correct level. The other can’t be demonized, of course–that’s the business of bureaucrats propagating the endless campaign against terror, or unreconstructed neoconservative types–but whereas Eggers may be offering something of a critique of neoliberlism in economic terms, his overall venture in Hologram accords quite well with neoliberlism’s position with respect to countries on the periphery.

For neoliberalism, countries like Saudi Arabia are the subject of particular discourse formations, and I don’t think Eggers deviates too far from this discourse because he too, after all, breathes the same intellectual air.

…I don’t want to suggest that Eggers doesn’t depict Saudis sympathetically–he does–but the kind of sympathy he represents is precisely the problem.

The essay goes on to argue this point, effectively illuminating the ideology behind the novel. “Eggers is to be given credit for taking on big subjects, when the predominant bulk of American literary fiction insists on living in a world of nostalgia and psychosis,” Shivani notes toward the end. But Shivani’s not about to give Eggers a pass on the way he approaches his big subject. Fun, fun, fun.

In the same issue, the essay that did attract my attention from the top, but that I actually couldn’t finish, was Robert Zaller’s Toward the Post-Modern Novel: The Polyphonic Consciousness of György Sebestyén.

The piece’s aim is to re-introduce this Hungarian author to the English-language audience. Sebestyén died in 1990, and though some of his work was translated to English before his death in the few years that followed, it seems he’s largely been forgotten by the English-language public. Zaller contextualizes his novel as post-modern in relationship to modernists Proust, Joyce, and Musil. Other names that appear in the first two pages of the piece are Stendhal, Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Robbe-Grillet, Le Clezio, Gaddis, Pynchon, Wallace, Beckett, Roth, Kundera, Kadare, Nabokov, W.G. Sebald, Celan. That’s a lot of name-dropping. Courtesy of NYRB Press, I’ve actually been very interested in mid-century Hungarian authors. By far, the most interesting of the novelists I’ve read lately was Magda Szabo. Not that I was really expecting to find her name in Zaller’s essay, but her name was fresh enough in my mind to make me aware that Zaller’s list didn’t include a single female author, modern, post-modern, or what. Not even Virginia Woolf. I got so distracted by my own track of thought, I never got to part two of his long-ish essay.

 

World Literature Today, Sept-Oct 2016

sept16_220pxThe current issue of World Literature Today features an essay by Dubravka Ugrešić, translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać, about misogyny and identity that I found meaningful as a reflection on my own writing and identity as a writer. She says,

For years I have been trying to dodge the label “Croatian writer” or “Croatian writer who lives in Amsterdam,” though my life experience has confirmed that this sort of tattoo is almost impossible to remove. Why? Because most people use ethnic coordinates when remembering, classifying, defining, and judging others.

… in Croatia (like, indeed, so many other places), male writers represent their homeland, state, nation, and national literature; their works harmoniously build the national literary canon. Female writers may either profit by or be victimized by such constellations. Mostly they are victimized.

Other highlights from this issue include a feature on Gulf Literature, here represented by several authors from Mexico, the US South, and Cuba. A powerful excerpt from LeAnne Howe’s “Savage Conversations” tells the story of Mary Todd Lincoln being judged insane because she was haunted by an Indian. “And I believe her,” Howe begins. A powerful way to contextualize her work as feminist and post-colonial. The rest of the piece is crazy and brilliant.

The interview with Alain Mabanckou does a great job of introducing this writer by his reading list. I love his project of actively trying to read–and to be influenced by–lit from around the world. He wants to cover all continents, it seems. This is worth skimming for his reading list alone. Some of the African writers he names are Aimé Césaire, Édouard Glissant, René Maran, Mongo Beti, Camara Laye.

In the marvelous World Literature in Review section, a brief mention of a recently translated Natalia Gromova’s Moscow in the 1930 (Trans. Christopher Culver). Go ahead and buy this book. For all interested in twentieth century Russian lit, this is required reading.