sabato, luglio 23, 2016

Women in Translation? Here's your book list!

August is Women in Translation Month; a month when, if you felt so inclined, you could curl up with a wonderful book by a foreign authoress translated into English by a wonderful translator and have yourself a time.

And in honor of the designation, some translation-loving folks, including Katy Derbyshire and Susan Bernofsky, have compiled a list of books written by women from around the world (the non-native English-speaking world) and translated into English. For my part, I contributed the absolutely unneeded suggestion of adding Elena Ferrante to the pile (as if).

The list only goes so far as works published since 2010 but whoa! Look at this smorgasbord! You could curl up for two or three years with this list.

Books written by women and translated into English, published since 2010

In alphabetical order by author

HIGH TIDE, Inga Ābele (Open Letter Books)
THE NUN, Simonella Agnello Hornby (Europa Editions)
FROM THE LAND OF THE MOON, Milena Agus (Europa Editions)
SECOND-HAND TIME, Svetlana Alexievich (Fitzcarraldo)
ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS, Naja Marie Aidt (Open Letter Books)
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, Miral al-Tahawy (American University in Cairo Press)
CHERNOBYL PRAYER, Svetlana Alexievich (Penguin Modern Classics)
WILLFUL DISREGARD, Lena Andersson (Other Press)
WOMAN OF TANTOURA, Radwa Ashour (American University in Cairo Press)
SPECTRES, Radwa Ashour (Arabia Books)
ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE DAYS, Michèle Audin (Deep Vellum)
THE QUEUE, Basma Abdel Aziz (Melville House)
PANTY, Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay (Tilted Axis Press)
OH, SALAAM! Najwa Barakat (Interlink Books)
THE LIFE OF ELVES, Muriel Barbery (Gallic Books)
THE COUNTRY UNDER MY SKIN, Gioconda Belli (Bloomsbury)
SWALLOW SUMMER, Larissa Boehning (Comma Press)
THE OTHER WOMAN, Therese Bohman (Other Press)
BEFORE, Carmen Boullosa (Deep Vellum)
TEXAS: THE GREAT THEFT, Carmen Boullosa (Deep Vellum)
BABA DUNJA’S LAST LOVE, Alina Bronsky (Europa Editions)
THE SECRET WAYS OF PERFUME, Cristina Caboni (Transworld)
THE LAST LOVER, Can Xue (Yale University Press)
MR DARWIN’S GARDENER, Kristina Carlson (Peirene Press)
THE FIRST WIFE, Paulina Chiziane (out August 9, Archipelago Press)
ALWAYS COCO-COLA, Alexandra Chrietieh (Interlink Books)
HOME, Leila S. Chudori (Deep Vellum)
THE ISLAND OF LOST TRUTH, Flavia Company (Europa Editions)
BITTER ALMONDS, Larence Cossé (Europa Editions)
TREGIAN’S GROUND, Anne Cuneo (And Other Stories)
TIGER MILK, Stefanie de Velasco (Head of Zeus)
HOLLOW HEART, Viola Di Grado (Europa Editions)
MY MOTHER IS A RIVER, Donatella Di Pietrantonio (Calisi Press)
SEVEN LIVES AND ONE GREAT LOVE, Lena Divani (Europa Editions)
SWORN VIRGIN, Elvira Dones (And Other Stories)
B. PROUDEW, Irena Dousková (Pálava Publishing)
IN THE TIME OF THE BLUE BALL, Manuela Draeger (Dorothy)
THE SECRETS OF THE WILD WOOD, Tonke Dragt (Pushkin Children's)
ABAHN SABANA DAVID, Marguerite Duras (Open Letter Books)
KITE, Dominique Eddé (Seagull Books)
KAMAL JANN, Dominique Eddé (Seagull Books)
THE LAST PATRIARCH, Najat El Hachmi (Serpent’s Tail)
INVITATION TO THE BOLD OF HEART, Dorothee Elmiger (Seagull Books)
THE END OF DAYS, Jenny Erpenbeck (Portobello)
VISITATION, Jenny Erpenbeck (Portobello)
Elena Ferrante: MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, THE STORY OF A NEW NAME, THOSE WHO LEAVE AND THOSE WHO STAY, THE STORY OF A LOST CHILD, THE DAYS OF ABANDONMENT, THE LOST DAUGHTER, ETC. (Europa Editions)
STOMACH OF THE SOUL, Sylva Fischerová (Calypso Editions)
THE SWING IN THE MIDDLE OF CHAOS, Sylva Fischerová (Bloodaxe Books)
THE WEIGHT OF THINGS, Marianne Fritz (Dorothy)
THE LOOKING-GLASS SISTERS, Gøhril Gabrielsen, (Peirene Press)
WHO IS MARTHA? Marjana Gaponenko (New Vessel Press)
SPHINX, Anne Garréta (Deep Vellum)
LIFE, ONLY BETTER, Anna Gavalda (Europa Editions)
THE PEOPLE IN THE PHOTO, Hélène Gestern (Gallic Books)
PRODIGIES, Angélica Gorodischer (Small Beer Press)
CITY SPACES, Annett Gröschner (Readux Books)
A SIMPLE STORY, Leila Guerriero (Pushkin Press)
ALL RUSSIANS LOVE BIRCH TREES, Olga Grjasnowa (Other Press)
ONE NIGHT, MARKOVITCH, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (Pushkin Press)
THE MAN WHO SNAPPED HIS FINGERS, Fariba Hachtroudi (Europa Editions)
MON AMIE AMÉRICAINE, Michèle Halberstadt (Other Press)
HUMAN ACTS, Han Kang (Portobello)
LIES, FIRST PERSON, Gail Hareven (Open Letter Books)
AXOLOTL ROADKILL, Helene Hegemann (Corsair)
THIS PLACE HOLDS NO FEAR, Monika Held (Haus Publishing)
WHERE LOVE BEGINS, Judith Hermann (Serpent’s Tail)
THE HUMMINGBIRD, Kati Hiekkapelto (Arcadia)
THE DEFENCELESS, Kati Hiekkapelto (Orenda)
THE EXILED, Kati Hiekkapelto (Orenda)
THE BLACK CURVE, Rut Hillarp (Readux Books)
A KINGDOM OF SOULS, Daniela Hodrová (Jantar)
PRAGUE, I SEE A CITY, Daniela Hodrová (Jantar)
THE KITE FAMILY, Hon Lai Chu (Columbia University Press)
PICNIC OF THE VIRTUES, Felicitas Hoppe (Readux Books)
SECRET OF THE BLUE GLASS, Tomiko Inui (Pushkin Children’s Books)
WILD GRASS ON THE RIVERBANK, Hiromi Ito (Action Books)
THE PIANO TEACHER, Elfriede Jelinek (Serpent’s Tail)
UMAMI, Laia Jufresa (Oneworld)
ILONA. MY LIFE WITH THE BARD, Jana Juranova (Calypso Editions)
OF NOBLE ORIGINS, Sahar Khalifeh (American University in Cairo Press)
SAMKO TÁLE´S CEMETERY BOOK, Daniela Kapitáňová (Garnett Press)
BACK TO DELPHI, Ioanna Karystiani (Europa Editions)
MANAZURU, Hiromi Kawakami (Counterpoint)
THE NAKANO THRIFT SHOP, Hiromi Kawakami (Portobello)
STRANGE WEATHER IN TOKYO, Hiromi Kawakami (Portobello Books)
ONE OF US IS SLEEPING, Josefine Klougart (Open Letter Books)
THE EQUESTRIENNE, Uršuľa Kovalyk (Parthian Press)
CHASING THE KING OF HEARTS, Hanna Krall (Peirene Press)
THIS IS PRAGUE, Michaela Kukovičová and Olga Černá (Baobab)
INNOCENCE; OR, MURDER ON STEEP STREET, Heda Margolius Kovaly (Soho Press)
PARIS FOR OUTSIDERS, Juliette Lamber (Readux Books)
THE JEWISH HUSBAND, Lia Levi (Europa Editions)
THE TRAVELS OF DANIEL ASCHER, Déborah Lévy-Bertherat (Other Press)
COMPARTMENT NO. 6, Rosa Liksom (Graywolf Press)
THE COMPLETE STORIES, NEAR TO THE WILD HEART, A BREATH OF LIFE, ETC. Clarice Lispector (New Directions)
EMPTY CHAIRS, Liu Xia (Graywolf Press)
THE STORY OF MY TEETH, Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House Press)
WHO COOKED ADAM SMITH’S DINNER, Katrine Marçal (Portobello)
ESCAPE, Dominique Manotti (Arcadia)
THE SEXUAL LIFE OF AN ISLAMIST IN PARIS, Leila Marouane (Europa Editions)
NOW AND AT THE HOUR OF OUR DEATH, Susana Moreira Marques (And Other Stories)
MORNING SEA, Margaret Mazzantini (Oneworld)
EVA SLEEPS, Francesca Melandri (Europa Editions)
SEEING RED, Lina Meruane (Deep Vellum)
WHY I KILLED MY BEST FRIEND, Amanda Michelopoulou (Open Letter Books)
I CALLED HIM NECKTIE, Milena Michiko Flašar (New Vessel Press)
A TRUE NOVEL, Minae Mizumura (Other Press)
THE FOX WAS EVER THE HUNTER, Herta Müller (Portobello)
OUR LADY OF THE NILE, Scholastique Mukasonga (Archipelago Press)
BOUNDARY, Zofia Nałkowska (Northwestern Illinois University Press)
THE LESSON, Cilla Naumann (Readux Books)
LADIVIGNE, Marie NDiaye (Knopf)
SO MUCH FOR THAT WINTER, Dorthe Nors (Graywolf Press)
PÉTRONILLE, Amélie Nothomb (Europa Editions)
BUTTERFLIES IN NOVEMBER, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (Pushkin Press)
BESIDE THE SEA, Veronique Olmi (Peirene Press)
CHILDREN IN REINDEER WOODS, Kristín Ómarsdóttir (Open Letter Books)
THE BLUE ROOM, Hanne Ørstavik (Peirene Press)
THE SHADOWBOXING WOMAN, Inka Parei (Seagull Books)
WHAT DARKNESS IS, Inka Parei (Seagull Books)
THE COLD CENTRE, Inka Parei (Seagull Books)
A FABULOUS LIAR, Susann Pasztor (Corvus)
THINGS WE LEFT UNSAID, Zoya Pirzad (Oneworld)
EXTRACTING THE STONE OF MADNESS: Poems 1962 - 1972, Alejandra Pizarnik (New Directions)
AARON'S LEAP, Magdaléna Platzová (Bellevue Literary Press)
THE ATTEMPT, Magdaléna Platzová (Bellevue Literary Press)
LEONORA, Elena Poniatowska (Serpent’s Tail)
FRESHTA, Petra Procházková (Stork Press)
THE TRAP, Melanie Raabe (Grand Central Publishing)
THE GARDENS OF CONSOLATIONS, Parisa Reza (Europa Editions)
HAPPY ARE THE HAPPY, Yasmina Reza (Other Press)
THREE, IMPERFECT NUMBER, Patrizia Rinaldi (Europa Editions)
DEATH IN SPRING, Mercè Rodoreda (Open Letter Books)
SOFT IN THE HEAD, Marie-Sabine Roger (Pushkin Press)
WE’RE NOT HERE TO DISAPPEAR, Olivia Rosenthal (Otis Books)
MINUS ME, Ingelin Røssland (Oneworld)
DEATH IN PERSIA, LYRIC NOVELLA, ALL THE ROADS ARE OPEN, Annemarie Schwarzenbach (Seagull Books)
YOU ARE NOT LIKE OTHER MOTHERS, Angelika Schrobsdorff (Europa Editions)
IN PRAISE OF POETRY, Olga Sedakova (Open Letter Books)
KHOMEINI, SADE AND ME, Abnousse Shalmani (World Editions)
TOUCH, Adania Shibli (Clockroot Books)
HER FATHER’S DAUGHTER, Marie Sizun (Peirene Press)
THE SOUND OF ONE HAND KILLING, Teresa Solana (Bitter Lemon Press)
SOMETIMES I LIE AND SOMETIMES I DON’T, Nadja Spiegel (Dalkey Archive Press)
EVERYTHING HAPPENS AS IT DOES, Albena Stambolova (Open Letter Books)
THE WOMEN OF LAZARUS, Marina Stepnova (World Editions)
WHERE THE HOLLYHOCKS COME FROM, Amanda Svensson (Readux Books)
THE FINNO-UGRIAN VAMPIRE, Noémi Szécsi (Stork Press)
FACING THE BRIDGE, Yoko Tawada (New Directions)
PORTRAIT OF A TONGUE: AN EXPERIMENTAL TRANSLATION, Yoko Tawada/Chantal Wright (University of Ottawa Press)
THE BRIDEGROOM WAS A DOG, Yoko Tawada (New Directions)
SALAD ANNIVERSARY, Machi Tawara (Pushkin Press)
MEMORIES, Teffi (Pushkin Press)
PRIMEVAL AND OTHER TIMES, Olga Tokarczuk (Twisted Spoon Press)
LETTER TO THE AMAZON, Marina Tsvetaeva (Ugly Duckling Presse)
EUROPE IN SEPIA, Dubravka Ugresic (Open Letter Books)
THE COUNTRY ROAD, Regina Ullmann (New Directions)
THE MUSSEL FEAST, Birgit Vanderbeke (Peirene Press)
MY BERLIN CHILD, Anne Wiazemsky (Europa Editions)
DIETRICH & RIEFENSTAHL, Karin Wieland (W.W. Norton)
THE ELUSIVE MOTH, Ingrid Winterbach (Open Letter Books)
MURDER MOST SERENE, Gabrielle Wittkopp (Wakefield Press)
BRET EASTON ELLIS AND THE OTHER DOGS, Lina Wolff (And Other Stories)
FRENCH CONCESSION, Xiao Bai (Harper Collins)
CRYSTAL WEDDING, Xu Xiaobin (Balestier Press)
LITTLE AUNT CRANE, Yan Geling (Harvill Secker)
WOMAN IN THE CROSSFIRE, Samar Yazbek (Haus Publishing)
STONE AND HONEY, Cristina Zempi (out August 18, Arcadia)
SCATTERING THE DARK, an anthology of Polish women poets (White Pine Press)

mercoledì, luglio 20, 2016

Review -- "Only in Naples"

I don't think I have ever reviewed a book on my blog. But I've done quite a few things in the last four years that I have never done before so let's get right to it!

There are lots of books written about Italy. Lots of books. You could even say tanti.

But this book by Katherine Wilson, which was published by Random House earlier this year, stands out for several reasons.

First of all, it's about Naples. Not over-exposed Tuscany or well-documented Rome (though Rome does appear in the book) or even Milan, which Americans have begun to visit more frequently in recent years.

Nope. It's about Naples.

(And she began doing her research long before Elena Ferrante's books spawned literary tours of the Southern Italian city.)

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, this woman, Katherine (or 'Ketrin', as her Neapolitan in-laws call her) knows Italy.

She knows a very specific part of Italy but that doesn't change the fact that she's one of the few American authors of memoirs to truly penetrate Italian society and learn its every molecule.

She also has a unique story on her hands: she loves her mother-in-law. Her Italian mother-in-law.

And what's not to love?

Her name is Raffaella and almost from the first moment she meets Katherine, she just wants to feed her and introduce her to everyone she knows. Sounds like every other Italian grandma, right? But this woman is absolutely gorgeous, by Wilson's recounting!

And she's funny. Wilson describes showing Raffaella measuring spoons during a trip to America and explaining, "They're for measuring quantities." To which Raffaella responds, with a bewildered tone, "In cooking?" Wilson writes, "She then shook her head and laughed. 'Americani! Americani!' Yes we're a wild and crazy people."

The book is full of seemingly hundreds of small observations about Italian life that make me laugh, and which, oddly enough for Italy, which has been chronicled in American magazines and newspapers ad nauseam, don't often make it into print.

For example, she says Americans used hand gestures that are "large, sweeping and general. And they vary from person to person. In Naples, they are so specific that there is even a dictionary of gesti." Then she tells a story about asking the doorman at her first apartment building in Naples whether she had any mail. And everyday rather than say yes or no, he would form a gesture with his hand that looked like a toy gun being spun quickly back and forth. So she would ask again, Any mail for me? She finally learned the gesture means "niente." No go. That's the kind of miscommunication that happens all the time in Italy and which makes navigating Italy in Italian so delightful.

In another chapter, she describes when food is offered at bars and cafes in Italy. If she goes out shopping after work in Naples, she might have an espresso but not anything substantial to eat. "Why would you want to eat 5:30 p.m.? Pastries are put out fresh in the morning and desserts are displayed after dinner." These are the rules!

To sum up, this book is a love letter to Naples, and to her adopted Neapolitan family. As Wilson puts it, "Goethe said, 'See Naples and die.' I saw Naples and started to live."

-30-

mercoledì, luglio 06, 2016

My Montreal Journal


As I'm about to publish this excerpt of my Montreal journal, I realize I've included almost nothing about where we walked or what we saw (the McCord Museum of Canadian History, for example, the Parc Jean Drapeau, which overlooks the city, the Marche Jean Talon where we stocked up on lunch supplies for a picnic). It's all about me and language. Not even sure what to say about that.

I left out the lovely park on Rue Beaubien Est across from the cinema, I left out the birreria where Mike lounged two nights of our stay after Leo went to bed. I left out the Basilica of Notre Dame and the view of the city we glimpsed from the island park where we had our picnic (and visited a science museum that was not the science museum we thought we were visiting).

I also said very little (in the entries below) about the market, which is such a key part of any vacation we take. The Marche Jean Talon (see the picture above -- we had the most delightful Quebecois tomatoes there).

And Little Italy! Just a quick mention. Three days, as you will see from my gush of emotion, are not enough to explore Montreal. Not by a long shot. Just enough to give you heartache.
  
June 30, 2016
9:03 a.m.

This is a city that inspires -- probably everyone -- but definitely me. A city I’d like to call my own (in the way, as a traveler, I collect cities around the world).

1 p.m.

Visits today to the Marche Jean Talon and Petite Italie

We are skimming the surface. A relatively quick, disorganized, disjointed shopping excursion followed by the pedestrian equivalent of a driveby to Little Italy. A cultural fusion that even just briefly left me sbalordita. An American Italophile in an Italian bastion within a French-speaking city of a largely Anglophone country. Whoa! Anyway you sliced it – Bonjour madame or buongiorno, I was good!

All of these glancing encounters temporarily fire up my brain and lead to brief intellectual explorations that must be aborted. To wit:

*What’s Quebecois culture all about?
*How to understand the fight for instilling the French language as the dominant form of communication in Montreal
*How does Quebecois Italian culture fit in?
*What can the U.S. learn about relations with indigenous people?

*

When we visited Little Italy -- Petite Italie -- I wandered into a bookstore ('Librarie Italienne' look like magical words to me), and the proprietor said, "Buongiorno. Cerchi qualcosa di particolare?" You know, as if the shop were in Rome. Another shop sold the Italian newspaper and a recent copy of L'Espresso (which I bought because Renzi was on the cover with a very clever hashtag headline).

This morning when we woke up, the kittens belonging to the duplex next door were lined up on the patio and suckling milk from the Mommy cat.

6 p.m.

Out in our neighborhood in Montreal and from across the street I peer into a salon where a small boy is squirming in the arms of his father, crying, scared, as a hairdresser hovers about his head, trying gamely to snip a few lock. A scene of uncommon yet everyday tenderness that draws me into Montreal and a mere 36 hours into my stay convinces me I’m a part of the city and it is a part of me.

Quotes for the Leo journal: “Rain is like a shower for animals,” and “It could be funny if chickens knowed how to drive!” Oh dude it already is funny!

June 29
6:20 a.m.

A word about the houses…they are lovely! They are two story apartment buildings that sort of look like homes you’d expect to see in New Orleans perhaps because they have prominent outdoor stairs linking the upper unit to the sidewalk. Stairs that people sometimes paint pretty colors or adorn with plants. Bikes grip the railings of every other bottom unit’s front gate. Touches of home, touches of personality, the sense of home pride….everywhere, everywhere on the facades of these apartment homes.

8:20 a.m.

Montreal journal update: I’ve learned to say bonne journée” as opposed to “bonjour” at the end of transactions, as I’m saying goodbye to merchants, and given the hum in my step, you’d think I’d discovered the cure for cancer. Really: big whoop since it’s the same in Italian. Buona giornata or buona serata (note the suffix ‘ata’) when you’re taking your leave. But whatevs. I’m re-learning French! Bonne journée!

8:45 p.m.

A walk after dinner as the sun prepares to set, casting my new neighborhood in a golden glow, as if anything more were needed to render these days in sepia tones. The sunset’s palette adds texture to an already dimpled urban French neighborhood. The duplexes, each different, each an opportunity for human contact – not that I would necessarily be talking to anyone but for research purposes. I try to divine something or instill some sense of kinship because I see a flower pot, a bike chained to a railing, a wreath on a door. As if the eye were begging for variation. Even when the nuance or variation is a vacant storefront (rare) or a cluttered porch. Somehow these somewhat unpleasant variations set the stage even better for tender displays of picture-perfect flower boxes, a family of cats supping on a patio, an aged but stately stained glass window in a home.

The sky becomes purple as I walk and I crane my neck to see more of the sunset. I even cross the street to improve my vantage point. I know this moment, occasioned by the decision on a whim to take a walk when otherwise I would be reading or working, is special. I was meant to fall in love just a little more with Montreal, and the sunset’s colorful blanket thrown so perfectly over the neighborhood is doing the trick. I see people pass me on bikes in the street, while others push personal fold-up shopping carts along the sidewalk.

I catch a glimpse of soccer players on a sliver of parkland I spy between duplexes. I’m writing an ode to something simple yet lived-in, loved-in. Ode to the basic architecture of a neighborhood that has a bit of everything – as good city nabes do – a church, a corner store, a grocer, an off-license, a hair salon, a book shop, a toy emporium, a real estate office, the tax attorney, the plumber, the driving school (automatique et manuelle). Plus a glance down an alley is repaid as if a glimpse into a diary: those back decks stuffed with people’s lives that one spies between duplexes and humble neighborhood businesses.

Once again I’m beggared for a reason I get to observe so much. How a five-minute walk is a passage into the sublime. Nothing wrong with the suburbs or the countryside. But the myriad impressions of the human stamp become a feast of plenty. One more pang for someone who’s always searching for the perfect city and who knows it’s stitched together with a 1,000 imperfect but highly imaginative, highly personal strands (no cookie-cutter cul de sacs here).

Ah Montreal, after all these years (~three decades), oui oui je t’aime.

June 28, 2016
8:41 a.m.

Montreal absolutely deserves a week, in addition to a repeat visit. The people are lovely, the city – especially this neighborhood with its rowhouse duplexes – is a place to settle into, the food a dieter’s nightmare, which is so good for a foodie vacation spot. I listen now as the family below us – the family renting us our apartment – is playing out a Tuesday night. Dinner, familiar yelling between the main house and an out building where they appear to hole up when this apartment where we are is occupied. My view from the kitchen a cozy, leafy enclave framed by back veranda. It gives onto the bowels of a residential neighborhood where 'bowels' means how we live and love and cook and vent.

My Montreal Journal. Here it is. In dribs and drabs. So overwhelmed, so caught off guard, so trying to hold it together so I'm not submerged into another intellectual obsession.

5:03 p.m.
On trips like these, I see everything through the prism of whether I understand or not, whether I make myself understood or not.

Yes, it’s dangerous to drop an aspiring writer, such as myself, with an incurable addiction to Romance languages, into a proud Francophone city like Montreal. Within hours, I’ve hatched half a dozen projects in my mind, including translating a French Canadian book that would illustrate the culture’s fight against English-language hegemony. All because I was able to say "Bonjour" and "je voudrais" and "comme ca" a few times.
*
If I look back, as in if I think for a moment about the days that came before, I realize Bennington is over. I realize I have my Masters (which for better or for worse means I’ve now shifted the goal posts so it almost doesn’t mean what it used to mean). I realize one of the most incredible experiences of my life has concluded, has changed my life and I’m left watching it recede in the rear view mirror. Not unhappily – I'm in Montreal and it’s awesome.

But in some ways I won’t really be reckoning with it until I return home to Atlanta at the end of next week. I see it as a the real-life equivalent of staring at the blank page. No work at CNN. No other work of any kind, save one freelance article assignment. The actual start of the rest of my life.

Nice to be on vacation!

June 27, 2016

It’s dangerous for a writer to go to a foreign city….and by dangerous I mean, there’s a very real peril of the writer going insane from a linguistic orgasm…especially if the writer knows even jut a little of the country’s native language.

I’m here in Montreal dumbfounded and ecstatic about being surrounded by French and I think, almost instantly, what would it take to become fluent? Or semi-fluent? Without having spoken French since visiting Luxembourg in 1997, I’m able to tell the waiter that I do want to speak French but I’ve just arrived and need a moment to get myself acclimated. Then I order my dinner at La Boulette, a nice neighborhood restaurant in Rosemount-La Petite Patrie ('Rosemount, the little country'). Later, I order ice cream.

And I soak in the surprisingly foreign vibe of Montreal. A city surrounded by the English language and its serpent-like hold on communications world-wide. And yet I feel as though I am in a French version of London. Every sign is in French and French only. Every transaction is presumed to be in French until you signal you’re an idiotic American who can’t step up.

And the architecture of this neighborhood (again, called 'Rosemount-La Petite Patrie') – a Montrealian’s Montreal nabe, I would say – is just delightful, duplex apartments with second floor balconies and front stoops overflowing with flowers and bikes and the odd pair of running shoes oh and personality.

It would take nothing to be sucked into the allure of French-speaking Canada.

June 27, 2016
3:30 p.m.

On the highway, the signs as we near Canada say “hebergement” – lodging! I'm giddy with excitement!


venerdì, giugno 24, 2016

Bennington journal - June 2016 - #2

Back in big sky country (Vermont edition).

Walking in the wild-flower filled fields this morning, I think about the lessons I’ve learned and those I can impart, perhaps, to students of my own some day. And it’s this: seek out hard work and start doing so now. Pursuing hard work entails a monumental shift – a conversion, occasioned by the process of learning something new, something vital while aiming at an objective (a goal). You may quickly abandon your original goal or add new ones. You may have to adjust the measurements of your project – instead of one year, it may take two to reach your goal, for example. It matters not – in setting a goal and striving to reach it through hard work you are transformed. I was. And that’s hard work’s gift to each of us.
*
I’m sitting in Tishman casually analyzing my lecture, given yesterday morning, through the prism of today’s lectures. Comparing delivery and topic, etc. Then I see it in my mind – the moment Leo (and Mike) entered the lecture hall. The moment during my lecture when my heart leapt, and I was moved to murmur, “My son is here,” (or something to that effect – in the preciousness of the moment the words have been erased, the singular, stunning emotion of being a mother remains). There was a catch in my voice, a momentary loss of control. The vision of him holding Mike’s hand, his smile as he watches me, then looking down at the stairs so he can watch his steps – it’s fixed in my head, like a favorite movie scene, something I’ll cherish and relive for a long time. Like breathing in his scent, instead I’m searing forever in my memory his gorgeous face and the joy it has given me.

That’s it right there – the boy whose sheer presence, whose birth (deemed by me miraculous) set this journey in motion was there to see its fruition. The lecture is now part of our shared life together.
*

On the mother-child bond, writer Vivian Gornick tells us during a lecture, “This is how we become human.”
*
Other indelible moments: David Gates reading from "Banishment": “Reader, she dumped me.” 

*
June 21
What I’m reading/browsing from Crossett Library
The Moro Affair, Leonardo Sciascia (in English, argh)
Italian Women Poets – including Patrizia Valduga!
A book of Lorrie Moore short stories
The Complete Works of Primo Levi

The latest issue of Paris Review

*
Spot the Bennington Monument from different vantage points around campus, breathe it in, the majesty of a simple obelisk off in the distance, soaring over the trees and green hills, then try to capture what your eye sees with a camera and fail miserably.

*
June 20
Nothing about the frequency of my visits to Bennington’s campus in the past two years has diminished its startling beauty. Startling perhaps because restrained and natural (they allow the landscape to take its cue from Mother Nature, not a Burpee catalog). Standing behind Tishman, I gaze across the fields and the pond toward the elegant, stone building that I will only ever think of as the French Chateau. I realized this residency that it reminds me of Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World. I’d say as campus compliments go, that’s a good one.

*
June 18
For the record, Bennington is heartbreakingly beautiful. The fields of wild flowers, the simple old wooden buildings painted red or white, the achingly blue sky, mountains in the distance and if you’re lucky, you catch a glimpse of the Bennington Monument. 

Yet to say it is beautiful and to describe even a bit of it here is do nothing, not in any way do the place justice. The grass is greener somehow. Everything has been created for human enjoyment but with perceptible and lovely restraint. An incredible vista is improved simply by a nice wooden bench. A field of flowers is ornamented and adjusted slightly with a paved path….