217. (Ishmael Reed)

Even though it is frequent in contemporary fiction, present-tense narration is not easily justified. People and place are no more immediate in present than in past tense; time progresses and spins out, back on itself, and suddenly forward, in any tense. The present tense, maybe, pretends that something is not settled, that the fixity of the past has been surmounted by the possibilities carried along … Continue reading 217. (Ishmael Reed)

215. (Marcel Proust)

In the fifth volume of Recherche, The Captive, Baron de Charlus refers to a visit he has recently paid to the famed writer, Bergotte, who has been for some time dead. Even after reading the explanatory note, I wanted to believe that the Baron was supposed to be shown in a lie, but even the aging Charlus would not commit such a blunder. Neither, though, … Continue reading 215. (Marcel Proust)

213. (Marcel Proust)

Aristotle, whose “hexis” is not passive habit, but whose thought of human happiness and nature turns on habituation, tells us that tragedy differs from history in that the latter is concerned with the actual and the former with the probable. By probable, he is taken to mean and likely did mean, something that could have taken place, given what we know through probabilistic reasoning. But … Continue reading 213. (Marcel Proust)

209. (Marcel Proust)

From the “Proust and Other Matters” blog, a debate from an old Yahoo Proust listserv, over the name of “Cambremer,” which features as a joke first in Swann’s Way, but then centrally in Sodom and Gomorrah, when the lift boy fails to correct his pronunciation, “Camembert”: Dear Sharon, Today, I just wanted to correct your interpretation of the jokes about the name Cambremer. The joke about the name … Continue reading 209. (Marcel Proust)

173. (Eugenio Montale)

The final poem in La Bufera e altro, “Il sogno del prigionero,” “The Prisoner’s Dream,” is also the second poem in the section titled “Conclusioni provvisiorie,” “Provisional Conclusions.”  Below is the Arrowsmith translation: . Here, except for a few signs, you can’t tell dawn from night. . The zigzag of starlings over the watchtowers on days of fighting, my only wings, a thread of arctic air, the … Continue reading 173. (Eugenio Montale)

170. (Eugenio Montale)

A second in a series of readings of poems by Eugenio Montale, from his collection La Bufera e altro.  Here, from the fifth selection of the collection, “Silvae,” is the poem ” ‘Ezekiel Saw the Wheel’.” The original title is an English quotation, alluding, believes William Arrowsmith, whose translation I consult, to a African-American slave spiritual. Arrowsmith’s translation: Was it you, strange hand, that snatched me from … Continue reading 170. (Eugenio Montale)

168. (Eugenio Montale)

I’m going to devote a few posts to readings of Montale’s poems from La Bufera e altro, Montale’s 1956 collection that I would be my 20th-century desert-island poetry selection. The collection was written during the backdrop and in the aftermath of World War Two; Montale was from Florence but spent time also in Milan. Many of the poems are addressed to a female presence–Clizia, sometimes called … Continue reading 168. (Eugenio Montale)