Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Having begun a tradition of writing an annual update that attempts to work up some kind of metaphor for my work and life out of the construction of an apple pie, I suppose I should continue it. I almost didn’t, because what is there to report, really, but then Jeff took this picture and it seemed like I should use it. So here’s me, pre-shower in my PJs, making pies:

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Photo by Mr. Jeffrey Mitchell. Yes, that is an enormous pepper grinder. Yes, we use it, for white pepper. It’s called the Everest. The Everest of pepper grinders. It was a gift.

It’s been a rough year in some ways, and especially for the production of fiction. I have worked on some fiction pieces, but either I haven’t finished them or I haven’t sold them yet.

But I’ve been writing a lot of other stuff. I finished another chapter of my dissertation—the final one—last summer, and I am close to finishing the introduction. After which I will send the whole thing out to my committee, get their comments, revise accordingly, write a conclusion in a 3 a.m. burst of panic (I’m told that’s how it’s always done), and defend the bastard. That should happen in Spring.

I’ve also been doing some translation work. Survival of the Fireflies came out. I translated another essay by Georges Didi-Huberman, titled “Light Against Light,” which is on similar themes of individual experience/art versus propaganda, fame versus infamy, the light we emit, the lights that blind us. That was published in Alienocene, as was Frédéric Neyrat’s essay (translated by me), “Ascent in Freefall.” This is a discussion of Patricio Gúzman’s beautiful film Nostalgia for the Light, a meditation on history, temporality and the Atacama desert. And in an entirely different genre, I’ve been doing some work for L’Officiel magazine.

So I’ve been busy, and believe me I’m getting my ten million hours of practice in. Makes perfect, so I hear. I’ve gotten way better at making pies, after all:

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See? Not falling apart at all! Credit to Jeff for rolling out the top crusts.

Look for fiction production levels to ramp up once the godawful dissertation is done.

In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Hug your people, hug your dogs, don’t hug your cats ’cause they don’t like it but pet them gently. In short: appropriate displays of affection to all, and to all a good day, and hopefully some good pie.

Survival of the Fireflies, by Georges Didi-Huberman, translated by me!

 

 

Survival of the Fireflies by Georges Didi-Huberman is now available for purchase! I am thrilled and grateful that I had the opportunity to translate this very timely reflection on power, propaganda, and the survival of individual experience and expression, in spite of all. What’s in it, you ask? Well, here’s a brief summary, chapter by chapter:

Chapter 1: HELLS? Dante imagined Paradise as a great, glorious light, and Hell as a space of small, wandering flashes. But Pier Paolo Pasolini inverts this to create a metaphor for totalitarian power: the dictator blinds with fierce spotlights, while the people glimmer in darkness, like fireflies.

Chapter 2: SURVIVALS. Are the fireflies lost, as Pasolini believed? Perhaps we can understand them as as “minor lights”: deterritorialized, political, collective. Like Walter Benjamin’s dialectical image, their glimmer is only visible from certain positions—yet they survive, in spite of all.

Chapter 3: APOCALYPSES? In Giorgio Agamben’s apocalyptic vision of our contemporary world, “experience has fallen.” Transcendence requires redemption. Yet survivals need neither destruction nor redemption. Truth glimmers in images, not beyond the horizon of final revelation.

Chapter 4: PEOPLES. The fierce light of power overwhelms the smaller flashes of fireflies, just as, in Agamben, totalitarianism reduces the power of peoples. Yet Benjamin’s philosophical archaeology imagines dialectical counterforces and the “tradition of the oppressed.”

Chapter 5: DESTRUCTIONS? What we perceive depends on where we look: do we focus on the immense light of the distant horizon? Or on the faint flashes of images closeby? The image offers us recourse from the decline of experience, but it’s up to us to seek out fireflies.

Chapter 6: IMAGES. Firefly-knowledge, firefly-words, and firefly-images—like those of Charlotte Beradt, Georges Bataille, and Laura Waddington—stand as testimony and prophecy, transmitted through darkness and time, and become flashes for others. Even if it may be reduced to clandestine moments and flashes in the night, experience can never be destroyed.

In a time when many of us (including yours truly) are so entranced with the multiple and ubiquitous lights of screens, which transmit both spectacle and individual expression in the same feed, here is a book that asks us to look, instead, into darkness, in hopes of finding fireflies. I really think it’s worth a read. If you’re interested, you can buy it here.

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First page. I am so proud of this book, you guys.

Translations: Forthcoming! Upcoming! and More!

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A quick rundown of my current translation work:

Forthcoming! Over the past year I’ve been working on a translation of Georges Didi-Huberman‘s Survivance des lucioles, and it is done! At least, my part of the work (translating, revising, going through copy edits, and proofreading) is done. Here’s part of the description of the book:

Through his readings of Dante, Pasolini, Walter Benjamin, and others, Georges Didi-Huberman seeks again to understand this strange, minor light, the signals of small beings in search of love […] Their flickering presence serves as a counterforce to the blinding sovereign power that Giorgio Agamben calls The Kingdom and the Glory, that artificial brilliance that once surrounded dictators and today emanates from every screen. In this timely reflection, much needed in our time of excessive light, Didi-Huberman’s Survival of the Fireflies offers a humble yet powerful image of individual hope and desire: the firefly-image.

The result, Survival of the Fireflies, will be available in September. You could even pre-order it on Amazon if you want.

Also in September, also Didi-Huberman: “Light Against Light,” my translation of “Lumière contre lumière,” will appear in Alienocene, the online “Journal of the First Outernational,” edited by Frédéric Neyrat. This essay builds on the discussion of light in Survival of the Fireflies in consideration of an art exhibit (titled “La Disparition des lucioles”) at the Prison Sainte-Anne in Avignon.

Upcoming! I have just signed a contract with the University of Minnesota Press to translate Antoine Volodine’s novella, Alto Solo, which might, tentatively, be called Solo Viola in English. If you’re not familiar with Volodine, he’s a fascinating writer who uses several pseudonyms (Volodine is one of them) and works in a somewhat speculative genre he has called “post-exoticism.” Here’s an interview to serve as an introduction and his Goodreads page, which lists both works in French and translated into English.

More! Through some fun internet connections, I had the good fortune to translate a poem by Maxime Coton, winner of the 2018 Robert Goffin prize. Paula Kehoe reads the poem “Along the Night’s Way” (translation of “Du côté de la nuit”) in the video below.

ALONG THE NIGHT’S WAY – Maxime Coton – poem from Bruits asbl on Vimeo.

Some future poetic collaborations are in the works, I’m pleased to say.

Non-verbal projects:

It’s summer, so obviously (or at least if you ever see my Instagram it’s obvious) I’m gardening. Here’s what I work on when I run out of words:

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The front flower garden! Blooming: coral bells, columbine, gas plant, bee balm, peony.

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Roots & Leaves garden: potatoes, radishes, beets, cabbage, lettuces, herbs.

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Spring-to-Summer Garden: peas, lettuces, radishes, which will make room for the tomatoes and peppers as they get bigger. Also herbs, carrots, tons of volunteer calendula, and a columbine that decided to move in there just for fun.

So there, you see I have a ton of work to do. Plus my dissertation. Let’s not talk about my dissertation.