:: Nonfiction archive ( click for articles pre-2006) 2000-2005, click for articles pre-2006)

chasing mirages: Anaïs Nin’s unexpurgated diaries published 01/09/2014

“Today I am quietly sad. Mirages. Mirages.” Nin uses the word “mirages” throughout her diary as a kind of monastic chant, a linguistic rolling of prayer beads to ease the pain of her reality via ablution of the now mere “illusionary.” The idea of the mirage becomes an escape for Nin, so the world doesn’t have to be real when she doesn’t want it to be.

Callie Hitchcock on the dream and the mirage in Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin 1939-1947.

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Shop and Awe published 27/08/2014

I wasn’t the one smashing windows. I just watched as others did. With the other cameraphone spectators I stood beneath a windswept dystopia of sky-high brand names and chain stores while kids in hoods and balaclavas roamed around raiding and looting and stealing. Noisy spectrum interference in the urban fabric, outliers lost among the CCTV and advertising semaphore. Prisoners of our new panopticons. This was the consumer culture raised to the level of violent orgy. This was the twenty-first-century city. This was Britain, 2011.

Dale Lately on shopping, city riots and Manchester.

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After Revolution: A Review of Antoine Volodine’s Writers published 21/08/2014

Like the fictitious novels penned by one of his writer-characters in the newly translated Writers, Volodine’s books consist of “dark scenes, oscillation between political and mystical spheres, biting humor, nested story lines, tangled interior worlds, portrayal of the drift towards madness or death.” And Volodine’s books present a further difficulty for summary: they belong to a fictional-yet-real literary movement named (by Volodine) “post-exoticism.”

Diana George on Antoine Volodine‘s Writers.

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Pataphysics is dead serious published 19/08/2014

Can a man who asks for a toothpick on his deathbed be serious? Can a College which has Committees for Hirsutism and Pogonotrophy or a calendar with names of months such as Phallus (Phalle) or Pshit (merdre) , and whose members devote a large amount of time to spoonerisms and to Oulipo games such as writing novels without the letter “e”, be really serious? Indeed, His Magnificence Irénée-Louis Sandomir, the founder and first Vice-Curator of the College, says in his Opus Pataphysicum: “Doesn’t serious mean anti-pataphysical”? And the College’s specialist of spoonerisms, the Regent Luc Etienne formulated the main axiom:”The real pataphysician takes nothing seriously, except ‘Pataphysics, which consists in taking nothing seriously”, and added a corollary: “‘Pataphysics consisting in taking nothing seriously, the true Pataphysician cannot take anything seriously, not even ‘Pataphysics”.

Pascal Engel on the seriousness of Pataphysics.

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Explanatory Models: The Migrant Poetry of Athena Farrokhzad and Yahya Hassan published 18/08/2014

It has been a long time since Western governments feared poets. Yet as antagonism toward immigrants grows all over Europe and extremist rhetoric merges disenchanted populism with outright racism, two immensely popular poetry collections – one Swedish and one Danish – have garnered significant controversy for their depictions of the immigrant experience, earning their authors the kind of publicity usually reserved for polemicists and politicians.

Agri Ismaïl on the migrant poetry of Athena Farrokhzad and Yahya Hassan.

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The Sauna King published 13/08/2014

We’re in search of moonshine. I’m in a car with Diego Vidart, a Uruguayan photographer, and Kristian Helgesen, a Norwegian photographer. We’re heading from Helsinki to Kitee, a small town among the woods and lakes on the Finnish-Russian border, somewhere northeast of St Petersburg. The organizers of the Montevideo Biennale of Photography want us to install an exhibition ‘to explore the narrative limits of photography.’ To do this Diego has created an alter-ego, Esko Tikanmäki, son of a Finnish Tango musician, Matti Tikanmäki. We aim to gather ‘evidence’ to make the existence of Esko Tikanmaki Portogales real. And to do that we want to go to the village where Esko’s father died, drunk on pontika, the Finnish version of moonshine.

Des Barry recalls his travels to the black saunas of Finland, and the eclectic characters he encounters on the way.

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Peripateticism in Robert Walser published 12/08/2014

Robert Walser’s work is defined by the action of walking. A walk is an attempt to remain upright while continually moving forward. So is an essay. This essay proposes to take two large steps (made up of many smaller steps). It will attempt to define the concepts behind walking in Walser’s work, and then show the where and how of those concepts in several examples of Walser’s writing. It will attempt to remain upright. It will attempt to move forward. It may stride. It may tiptoe. It may circle back or zig-zag. It may even lose its balance. It will attempt to catch itself.

Shawn Huelle on peripateticism in Robert Walser.

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Aspirational magazines of Socialism published 07/08/2014

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Przekroj was striving to make a magazine which could be read by all the new social classes of the New Poland, from the new elites to engineers to the kitchen lady, while at the same time smuggling in some of the pre-war charm and aspirations of the intelligentsia and bourgeoisie. It comprised of world news, columns, varying from cuisine to fashion and savoir vivre lessons to those serving the preservation of a material culture destroyed by the war. It had a mission, as one critic sarcastically put it, to “civilize” the nation, with the whole formation of its readers (circulation 500,000, and each copy was read by several people) considered “the civilization of Przekroj”.

Agata Pyzik on the role of aspirational magazines in socialist Poland from her book Poor But Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West.

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blue collar solitude: a review of Mark SaFranko’s Dirty Work published 06/08/2014

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Dirty Work is unlikely to be the novel to bring SaFranko the commercial success that has so far eluded him. In a just world, of course, things might be different. But justice is applied arbitrarily in the world, and when it succeeds, it is often by accident rather than by design. Still, in the unfamiliar, isolated, gilded technological landscape we find ourselves in at the start of the new millennium, where everybody is connected but where nobody connects, SaFranko teaches us to laugh, perhaps even cry. And that in itself is a kind of victory.

Chris Brownsword reviews Mark SaFranko‘s Dirty Work.

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“I was on my way to look out for a life of my own”: On Peter Weiss’s Leavetaking published 05/08/2014

Lacking typographical breaks or dialogue, Leavetaking reads as continuous, even imposing, 125-page block of subjectivity that the reader is asked to patiently parse through, never quite sure what is waiting at the end. It is as pure a work a stream of consciousness as one could imagine. Shifting seamlessly between past and present in tense and chronology, the otherwise mundane events of this life become more difficult to follow. With concentrated effort, the reader can forge through this rough plot from the outpouring of memory and emotion.

Jennifer Kurdyla on Peter Weiss‘s Leavetaking.

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