Fernando Pessoa visits a barbershop and reflects. Book of Disquiet quote.

“I went into the barbershop as usual, with the pleasant sensation of entering a familiar place, easily and naturally. New things are distressing to my sensibility; I’m at ease only in places where I’ve already been.

After I’d sat down in the chair, I happened to ask the young barber, occupied in fastening a clean, cool cloth around my neck, about his older colleague from the chair to the right, a spry fellow who’d been sick. I didn’t ask this because I’d felt obliged to ask something; it was the place and my memory that sparked the question. ‘He passed away yesterday,’ flatly answered the barber’s voice behind me and the linen cloth as his fingers withdrew from the final tuck of the cloth in between my shirt collar and my neck. The whole of my irrational good mood abruptly died, like the eternally missing barber from the adjacent chair. A chill swept over all my thoughts. I said nothing.

Nostalgia! I even feel it for people and things that were nothing to me, because time’s fleeing is for me an anguish, and life’s mystery is a torture. Faces I habitually see on my habitual streets – if I stop seeing them I become sad. And they were nothing to me, except perhaps the symbol of all life.

The nondescript old man with dirty gaiters who often crossed my path at nine-thirty in the morning… The crippled seller of lottery tickets who would pester me in vain… The round and ruddy old man smoking a cigar at the door of the tobacco shop… The pale tobacco shop owner… What has happened to them all, who because I regularly saw them were a part of my life? Tomorrow I too will vanish from the Rua da Prata, the Rua dos Douradores, the Rua dos Fanqueiros. Tomorrow I too – I this soul that feels and thinks, this universe I am for myself – yes, tomorrow I too will be the one who no longer walks these streets, whom others will vaguely evoke with a ‘What’s become of him?’ And everything I’ve done, everything I’ve felt and everything I’ve lived will amount merely to one less passer-by on the everyday streets of some city or other.”

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Modern Classics) .

What did you read in translation over the past year?

Prisoner of the Caucasus, Tolstoy
The Forged Coupon, Tolstoy
Galileo, Brecht
Inferno, Dante
In the Penal Colony, Kafka
The Marquise of O, Kleist
Madame Bovary, Flaubert
Pierre Menard, Borges
Diary of a Madman, Tolstoy
The Iliad, Homer
Miss Julie, Strindberg
Ghosts, Ibsen
The Cafeteria, Singer
My Life, Chekhov
Wittgenstein’s Nephew, Bernhard

Past year – beginning of summer 2018 to beginning of summer 2019.

Kitchen sink realism

Kitchen sink realism (or kitchen sink drama) is a British cultural movement that developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s in theatre, art, novels, film, and television plays, whose protagonists usually could be described as “angry young men” who were disillusioned with modern society. It used a style of social realism, which depicted the domestic situations of working class Britons, living in cramped rented accommodation and spending their off-hours drinking in grimy pubs, to explore controversial social and political issues ranging from abortion to homelessness. The harsh, realistic style contrasted sharply with the escapism of the previous generation’s so-called “well-made plays”.

List of films
Look Back in Anger (1959)
Room at the Top (1959)
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)
The Entertainer (1960)
A Taste of Honey (1961)
A Kind of Loving (1962)
The L-Shaped Room (1962)
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
This Sporting Life (1963)
Billy Liar (1963)
Sparrows Can’t Sing (1963)[11]
The Leather Boys (1964)
This is My Street (1964)
Alfie (1966)
Georgy Girl (1966)[12]
The Family Way (1966)
Poor Cow (1967)
Up the Junction (1968)
Kes (1969)
Bronco Bullfrog (1969)[13]
Spring and Port Wine (1970)

List of plays
Look Back In Anger (1956)
My Flesh, My Blood (Radio play, 1957)
A Taste Of Honey (1958)
Sparrers Can’t Sing (1960)
Alfie (1963)
Up the Junction (TV play, 1965)
Cathy Come Home (TV play, 1966)

via wikipedia

Thomas Bernhard – Mr Restless

“Once in Nathal I ask myself what I am doing here, and I ask myself the same question when I arrive in Vienna. Basically, like nine tenths of humanity, I always want to be somewhere else, in the place I have just fled from. In recent years, this condition has, if anything, become worse: I go to and from Vienna at diminishing intervals, and from Nathal I will often to to some other big city, to Venice or Rome and back, or to Prague and back. The truth is that I am happy only when I am sitting in the car, between the place I have just left and the place I am driving to. I am happy only when I am traveling; when I arrive, no matter where, I am suddenly the unhappiest person imaginable. Basically I am one of those people who cannot bear to be anywhere and are happy only between places.”

Bernhard, Thomas, Wittgenstein’s Nephew 

The Art of the Probable: Literature and Probability – Course Description

“The Art of the Probable” addresses the history of scientific ideas, in particular the emergence and development of mathematical probability. But it is neither meant to be a history of the exact sciences per se nor an annex to, say, the Course 6 curriculum in probability and statistics. Rather, our objective is to focus on the formal, thematic, and rhetorical features that imaginative literature shares with texts in the history of probability. These shared issues include (but are not limited to): the attempt to quantify or otherwise explain the presence of chance, risk, and contingency in everyday life; the deduction of causes for phenomena that are knowable only in their effects; and, above all, the question of what it means to think and act rationally in an uncertain world.

MITOPENCOURSEWARE

The Best of Simple, by Langston Hughes

Who Is Simple?

I CANNOT truthfully state, as some novelists do at the beginnings of their books, that these stories are about “nobody living or dead.” The facts are that these tales are about a great many people—although they are stories about no specific persons as such. But it is impossible to live in Harlem and not know at least a hundred Simples, fifty Joyces, twenty-five Zaritas, a number of Boyds, and several Cousin Minnies—or reasonable facsimiles thereof.

“Simple Speaks His Mind” had hardly been published when I walked into a Harlem cafe one night and the proprietor said, “Listen, I don’t know where you got that character, Jesse B. Semple, but I want you to meet one of my customers who is just like him.” He called to a fellow at the end of the bar. “Watch how he walks,” he said, “exactly like Simple. And I’ll bet he won’t be talking to you two minutes before he’ll tell you how long he’s been standing on his feet, and how much his bunions hurt—just like your book begins.”

The barman was right. Even as the customer approached, he cried, “Man, my feet hurt! If you want to see me, why don’t you come over here where I am? I stands on my feet all day.”

“And I stand on mine all night,” said the barman. Without me saying a word, a conversation began so much like the opening chapter in my book that even I was a bit amazed to see how nearly life can be like fiction—or vice versa.

Forward to The Best of Simple, Langston Hughes

A Christmas Carol – Jacob Marley visits Ebenezer Scrooge

Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face.
“Mercy!” he said, “Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?”
“Man of the worldly mind!” replied the Ghost, “do you believe in me or not?”
“I do,” said Scrooge. “I must. But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?”
“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world—oh, woe is me!—and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!”
The spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its shadowy hands.
“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”
Scrooge trembled more and more. Continue reading A Christmas Carol – Jacob Marley visits Ebenezer Scrooge

Revelation, by Flannery O’Connor – beautiful clock

The short story, Revelation, by Flannery O’Connor, starts off with a Mrs Turpin in a doctor’s waiting room with her husband Claud…

“That’s a beautiful clock,” she said and nodded to her right. It was a big wall clock, the face encased in a brass sunburst.

“Yes, it’s very pretty,” the stylish lady said agreeably. “And right on the dot too,” she added, glancing at her watch.

The ugly girl beside her cast an eye upward at the clock, smirked, then looked directly at Mrs. Turpin and smirked again. Then she returned her eyes to her book. She was obviously the lady’s daughter because, although they didn’t look anything alike as to disposition, they both had the same shape of face and the same blue eyes. On the lady they sparkled pleasantly but in the girl’s seared face they appeared alternately to smolder and to blaze.

This is what I imagined, more or less, based on clocks I had seen in real life, or on TV. I think there was a vogue for this sort of thing in the 60’s and 70’s.

Revelation Clock --vintage-clocks-antique-clocks

To my mind it is kind of loud and garish. Does Mrs. Turpin really think it’s beautiful or is she just making conversation? Where’s her head at?

Mark Winegardner references this scene in the essay – Learning to Lie: An Exercise in Details, which was in the book Naming the World and other Exercises for the Creative Writer.

Herzog looks back on his youth

My ancient times. Remoter than Egypt. No dawn, the foggy winters. In darkness the bulb was lit. The stove was cold. Papa shook the grates, and raised an ashen dust…

Napoleon Street, rotten, toylike, crazy and filthy, riddled, flogged with harsh weather – the bootlegger’s boys reciting ancient prayers. To this Moses’s heart was attached with great power. Here was a wider range of human feelings than he had ever again been able to find.

Herzog, Saul Bellow

Henry James’s style – three specimens.

“Seated at my own table in clear noonday light I saw a person whom, without my previous experience, I should have taken at the first blush for some housemaid who might have stayed at home to look after the place and who, availing herself of rare relief from observation and of the schoolroom table and my pens, ink, and paper, had applied herself to the considerable effort of a letter to her sweetheart.”
The Turn of the Screw

“One day, however, a visitor had arrived. The two young persons, after spending an hour on the river, strolled back to the house and perceived Lord Warburton sitting under the trees and engaged in conversation, of which even at a distance the desultory character was appreciable, with Mrs. Touchett. He had driven over from his own place with a portmanteau and had asked, as the father and son often invited him to do, for a dinner and a lodging. Isabel, seeing him for half an hour on the day of her arrival, had discovered in this brief space that she liked him; he had indeed rather sharply registered himself on her fine sense and she had thought of him several times. She had hoped she should see him again–hoped too that she should see a few others. Gardencourt was not dull; the place itself was sovereign, her uncle was more and more a sort of golden grandfather, and Ralph was unlike any cousin she had ever encountered–her idea of cousins having tended to gloom. Then her impressions were still so fresh and so quickly renewed that there was as yet hardly a hint of vacancy in the view. But Isabel had need to remind herself that she was interested in human nature and that her foremost hope in coming abroad had been that she should see a great many people.”
Portrait of a Lady

“He met you as if you had knocked and he had bidden you enter. Strether, who hadn’t seen him for so long an interval, apprehended him now with a freshness of taste, and had perhaps never done him such ideal justice. The head was bigger, the eyes finer, than
they need have been for the career; but that only meant, after all, that the career was itself expressive. What it expressed at midnight in the gas-glaring bedroom at Chester was that the subject of it had, at the end of years, barely escaped, by flight in time, a general nervous collapse. But this very proof of the full life, as the full life was understood at Milrose, would have made to Strether’s imagination an element in which Waymarsh could have floated easily had he only consented to float. Alas nothing so little resembled floating as the rigour with which, on the edge of his bed, he hugged his posture of prolonged impermanence. It suggested to his comrade something that always, when kept up, worried him–a person established in a railway-coach with a forward inclination. It represented the angle at which poor Waymarsh was to sit through the ordeal of Europe.”
The Ambassadors

Johannes Gutenberg

220px-Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg, c. 1400 – February 3, 1468 was a German blacksmith, goldsmith, printer, and publisher who introduced printing to Europe with the printing press. His introduction of mechanical movable type printing to Europe started the Printing Revolution and is regarded as a milestone of the second millennium, ushering in the modern period of human history. It played a key role in the development of the Renaissance, Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific revolution and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.

via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg

Google Translate Compared With Human Translator – Madame Bovary example

Three versions of Madame Bovary:

Original French via Project Gutenberg
Elle dessinait quelquefois; et c’était pour Charles un grand amusement que de rester là, tout debout à la regarder penchée sur son carton, clignant des yeux afin de mieux voir son ouvrage, ou arrondissant, sur son pouce, des boulettes de mie de pain. Quant au piano, plus les doigts y couraient vite, plus il s’émerveillait. Elle frappait sur les touches avec aplomb, et parcourait du haut en bas tout le clavier sans s’interrompre. Ainsi secoué par elle, le vieil instrument, dont les cordes frisaient, s’entendait jusqu’au bout du village si la fenêtre était ouverte, et souvent le clerc de l’huissier qui passait sur la grande route, nu-tête et en chaussons, s’arrêtait à l’écouter, sa feuille de papier à la main.

French to English via Google Translate
She drew sometimes; and it was for Charles a big fun only to stand there, while standing at the bend over his cardboard, blinking to see his work better, or rounding, on his thumb, balls of bread crumbs. As at the piano, the faster the fingers ran, the more marveled. She struck the keys with aplomb, and walked up and down the entire keyboard without interrupting. So shaken by her, the old instrument, whose strings curling, was heard to the end of the village if the window was open, and often the clerk of the bailiff who was passing on the high road, bareheaded and in slippers, stopped to listen to him, his sheet of paper in his hand.

Human Translator – Margaret Mauldon, via Amazon
She used to draw sometimes; and Charles found it most entertaining to stand there at her side, watching her concentrate on her sketch, screwing up her eyes to see her work more clearly, or rolling breadcrumbs into little erasers with her thumb. As for the piano, the faster her fingers flew about, the more was he amazed. She struck each note with a confident touch, sweeping across the whole keyboard from top to bottom without a pause. The old piano with its badly stretched strings shook under her hands and could be heard, if the window was open, right across the village; often the bailiff’s clerk, shuffling along the road with his head bare and his feet in slippers, would stop to listen, holding the document he was delivering in his hand.

The Hermeneutic Circle

The hermeneutic circle,” he was saying. “That’s what Dilthey called it. You don’t know what to do with the details unless you have a grip on the structure, and at the same time, you don’t know what to do with the structure unless you know the details. It’s true in life and in literature. The hermeneutic circle. It’s a vicious circle.”

David Denby quoting Columbia professor in the essay Does Homer Have Legs?

Soldier from the Wars Returning – A. E. Housman

Soldier from the wars returning,
Spoiler of the taken town,
Here is ease that asks not earning;
Turn you in and sit you down.

Peace is come and wars are over,
Welcome you and welcome all,
While the charger crops the clover
And his bridle hangs in stall.

Now no more of winters biting,
Filth in trench from tall to spring,
Summers full of sweat and fighting
For the Kesar or the King.

Rest you, charger, rust you, bridle;
Kings and kesars, keep your pay;
Soldier, sit you down and idle
At the inn of night for aye.

Brand New Beggar

Rule of the Bone, Russell Banks.
“… I was just going to float awhile on an hour-to-hour basis and see what developed.
When I mentioned that to I-Man he said I was on my way to being a brand-new beggar and gave me this warm smile. No plans, no regrets, he said. Praise an’ thanks must be sufficient unto ev’ry day.
I said yeah but it’d be hard to do that for the rest of my life. Making plans and having regrets, man, they’re like second nature to me.
Y’ first nature, dat be what you got to come to, mon…”

Brand New Beggar, Third World
I’ve changed (yes I have)
I’m a brand new beggar
I’ve changed
I’m a brand new beggar

Movin’, movin’ around
I been travellin’ from town to town
Sellin’ and even put down
My best friend (heh) by the pound
I thought that happiness was mine
Dressed in silks and drinking wine
But now I’m face to face with me
I look around and suddenly..

Oh oo oh oo oh
I’ve changed (yes I have)
I’m a brand new beggar
(I took a look and..)
I’ve changed
I’m a brand new beggar (yeah)

Loneliness can be quite dread
‘Cause no sees inside your head
I can’t judge a man by scrutiny (oh I say..)
One day coffee, next day tea
And I thought that happiness was mine
Dressed in silk and drinking wine
But now I’m face to face with me
I look around and suddenly..

I’ve changed
I’m a brand new beggar (yeah)
I’ve changed (yes I have)
I’m a brand new beggar
(but it’s the same old thing)
I said I’ve changed
I’m a brand new beggar
I’ve changed (yes I really changed)
I’m a brand new beggar..

via Jah Lyrics

Fabula and Syuzhet

Fabula  and Syuzhet are terms originating in  Russian Formalism and employed in narratology that describe narrative construction. Syuzhet is an employment of narrative and Fabula is the chronological order of the events contained in the story. They were first used in this sense by Vladimir Propp and Viktor Shklovsky.

The fabula is “the raw material of a story”, and syuzhet is “the way a story is organized”. Since Aristotle’s Poetics, narrative plots are supposed to have a beginning, middle and end. This is often achieved in film and novels via flashbacks or flashforwards. For example, the film Citizen Kane starts with the death of the main character, and then tells his life through flashbacks interspersed with a journalist’s present-time investigation of Kane’s life. The FABULA of the film is the actual story of Kane’s life the way it happened in chronological order, while the SYUZHET is the way the story is told throughout the movie, including flashbacks.Memento_Timeline

via Wikipedia

MCMXIV – Phillip Larkin

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day;

And the countryside not caring:
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat’s restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word – the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages,
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

Borges and I – Jorge Luis Borges

The other one, the one called Borges, is the one things happen to. I walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and stop for a moment, perhaps mechanically now, to look at the arch of an entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; I know of Borges from the mail and see his name on a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; he shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belongs to no one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, though I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things.

Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the suburbs to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to him.

I do not know which of us has written this page.