Helen DeWitt is in town from Berlin this week at the invitation of the Center for Writers & Translators, the Department of Comparative Literature and English, and the Masters in Cultural Translation at AUP.
The event will take place Thursday, December 1st, at 6:30 pm at 147 rue de Grenelle, 75007, ground floor.
DeWitt's most recent novel, Lightning Rods, was published by New Directions this fall and is receiving glowing reviews. Her first novel, The Last Samurai, has been translated into twenty languages, and is not to be confused with the Tom Cruise film of the same name.
The Los Angeles Review of Books has a panoply of coverage of Lightning Rods, including a review by Scott Esposito, here.
DeWitt will discuss the topic of translation in the context of a range of phenomena that are only partly linguistic, among them bidding conventions in bridge and the aesthetics of programming languages.
The general public is welcome. Please RSVP to Daniel Medin (firstname.lastname@example.org).
When I was in London in October I went to see a curious art installation in a warehouse in Hoxton… and I wrote this piece about it for Her Royal Majesty, about getting lost and finding art.
In the very best of circumstances, I have an atrociously bad sense of direction. Send me to a notoriously difficult-to-find temporary exhibit in a somewhat gritty neighborhood I don’t know at all, and depending on my mood I’ll either cry or give up. And yet here I am, on an unseasonably warm October day, wandering through Hoxton. I’ve come to see Locked Room Scenario, an art installation in a warehouse, sponsored by Artangel, a London-based art group with a penchant for outside-of-the-cube installations in unexpected locations. A friend of a friend works there. This show is meant to be really interesting, but no one will tell me anything specific about it – not my friend, and not the friend of my friend. Deciphering the website takes too much concentration. “Please tell me what is the point of the show,” I asked my friend in advance. “Just give me some idea of what I’m in for.” “Just go,” my friend said, so I’m going, despite the fact that I’ve been getting lost in London all week – taking the wrong trains, making the wrong turns, ending up quite far from where I meant to go. But as I’m contemplating moving to London, I’ve resolved to Keep Calm and Carry On. One day I will navigate the Big Smoke with ease. Or at least with less difficulty.
I start off with a half-pint at a pub called The Eagle. Thus fortified, I begin the task of looking for the Londonewcastle Depot, 1-3 Wenlock Rd. I wander up the street and pass building after building but see no numbers on either side until number 7. Maybe the numbers go the other way? I keep walking and soon I’m at number 19. Then I call my friend.
“You know I am easily lost. Why have you sent me here?”
She describes the entrance, and I seem to remember having passed something that matched her description. “Enjoy the show,” she says. “If you get yourself out of there without having your head collapse it will be amazing.”
… publishes today! And I'm proud to have a short story in this issue, called "A Naturalist in the Family," which is about technology and humanity, success and failure, and ends with a duel in Les Halles. Ordering information here.
The rocking cover (all queens!) was drawn by Badaude.
The issue also features art and reflections on art by James Franco. (Because he's everywhere else– why shouldn't he be in Her Royal Majesty?)
For those of you here in Paris, you're warmly invited to the launch party tonight at Le Carmen. No word on whether James will show up.
Recently I reviewed the documentary filmmaker Errol Morris's new book, Believing is Seeing, for Bookforum. An excerpt:
In Errol Morris's new collection of essays on photography, he details the controversy over the New York Times's misidentification of a torture victim in a notorious Abu Ghraib photograph. In the image, a hooded man draped in a poncho stands on a box, arms out, wires connected to his fingertips in an accidentally Christ-like pose. On March 11, 2006, the Times identified the man as Ali Shalal Qaissi—nicknamed "Clawman" because of his deformed left hand—and ran a photograph of Qaissi holding the by-then iconic photograph. Within a week, the paper printed a retraction explaining that Qaissi was not, in fact, the man in that particular photograph—the real hooded man is named Abdou Hussain Saad Faleh. As it happened, on May 22, 2005 the Times had correctly identified the man as Faleh; but when fact-checkers were trying to confirm the 2006 story, they missed the earlier article due to a faulty set of search terms. Morris suggests that this error occurred because of our willingness to believe what we think we see, regardless of available data. Had post-liberation photographs of Qaissi depicted his deformed hand, it would have been immediately apparent that the Hooded Man was someone else. "It is easy to confuse photographs with reality," Morris writes, arguing that we look at this photograph and believe it to depict a moment of torture being carried out on a person we have since identified. "Our beliefs about the picture are confirmed" when we look at it, he adds, "except that we know nothing more than when we started." "It is often said that seeing is believing," Morris continues. "But we do not form our beliefs on the basis of what we see; rather, what we see is often determined by our beliefs. Believing is seeing, not the other way around."
Morris's single-minded drive to figure out the "real" stories behind a series of photographs may lean too heavily on the idea of a single truth that can be gotten at through research, but the questions he raises along the way, as well as the glimpse we get at his sleuthing techniques, makes this a compelling read.