(I am two weeks behind on this one, but had to feature this here, as Charlotte is a friend and someone whose work I admire very much.)
Charlotte Mandell was recently awarded an NEA Translation Fellowship for her work translating Mathias Enard's award-winning 2008 novel Zone from French to English. The novel has the neat trick of being composed of one long sentence stretched over 517 pages, but this doesn't only function as a gimmick, or as some wacky constraint: it actually serves the narrative, cradled as it is during one long train ride from Milan to Rome, deviating down rail lines not taken or taken long ago, reliving and imagining getting off at other places.
But there is more here than one man's ride on an Italian train; Zone contains multitudes. I read much of it this summer, although I still haven't finished, but from what Charlotte reads in this video, she's captured exactly that feeling of a civilization trundling down a railway track at night, en route to the inevitable.
When I was an undergrad I remember having difficulty scheduling time to shower, much less to do all of the reading and writing for all of my classes. Then things calmed down and I forgot what that was like. Then when I started graduate school I remembered again. Then grad school calmed down and I forgot again.
And now, because I took on extra teaching hours for a few weeks, I am teaching so many hours a week that I barely have time to prepare my lessons, much less eat/sleep/shower. I am not kidding. It's a good thing my man is all the way in Hong Kong! Like a PC perilously close to crashing, I am running in safety mode. Last week I taught the Epic of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and the Odyssey– none of which I had read in their entirety, much less taught, until very recently. This week it's been the Odyssey, the Canterbury Tales, and a lecture, with slides, on Greek Art. When a student complained the other day about the amount of reading they have to balance with going on trips to the ballet and Burgundy, you can imagine how wryly I smiled. I never imaged, when I was in college, that my professors were as overloaded as I was.
Next week it's the Ramayana and Shakespeare's Sonnets. And then, finally, finally, my teaching schedule will revert to usual, I can go back to eating (cooking even!), sleeping (more than 6 hours a night!) and showering (might even wash my hair!). And next year, if I teach this class again, the prep will already be done, and I'll breeze through on my notes from this year. But next year is so far away…