:: Essays

Kafka in Amerika published 03/07/2019

Kafka’s first intuition of America—a striking one given his propensity for claustrophobic set pieces—is his ability to capture its scale. Compare the openings of Amerika and Manhattan Transfer. Both open begin with the arrival of a ship into New York City—in Dos Passos’s case a ferry. Both capture the throng, part and parcel of the sheer immensity that is America’s defining feature. Manhattan Transfer’s second sentence ends “men and women press through the manure smelling wooden tunnel of the ferry house, crushed and jostling like apples feed down a chute into a press”. The second paragraph of Amerika mirrors this imagery: “quite forgetting to disembark, he found himself gradually pushed up against the railing by the massing throng of porters”.

By Duncan Stuart.

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The Incorruptible: Stanisława Przybyszewska published 25/06/2019

There was no upside to Przybyszewska’s mode of existence. Her descent from the three-room apartment upstairs that she’d shared with Jan to the ‘dungeon’ on the ground floor where she lived alone also marked the start of her descent into deeper and deeper addiction, fear, poverty, bitterness, loneliness, and probably madness. We will not speak of despair. In her final years, when she had ceased to see pupils and her trips out had become still more infrequent, her world shrunk to the vanishing point, her confinement the stuff of Beckett. In fact, Przybyszewska’s life in Danzig closely resembled the ‘ideal’ circumstances for a writer that Kafka described in a letter to his fiancée Felice, intending, among other things, to scare her.

Alex Andriesse on Polish writer Stanisława Przybyszewska.

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Wait Here? published 19/06/2019

The furniture, does it appear to be from a boardroom, a convention center, a church basement, a college classroom, a dorm, a high school, a kindergarten, or maybe somebody’s home? If it’s like parlor furniture, what kind of parlor? Are you getting the brandy, cigars, and a whole lot of harrumphing vibe? The little sandwiches, Easter colors, and passive aggression vibe? Or, are you thinking more like a fraternity house vibe, bunch of mismatched couches, wrecked chairs, tables that look like they were heaved off the roof and somehow landed here? Maybe there’s an island theme, a nautical theme, a modernist theme, an antique theme, a 1950s theme, a far-flung future floating through space theme, or maybe the theme is that there’s no goddamn theme at all? Would it be worse if there were no theme because you might begin to lose the thread of why you’re here? Are you sweating through your pants onto this relentlessly unthemed furniture on account of whatever lies beyond this room waiting for you? Could it be that bad?

By Andrew Farkas.

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Towards Transverbalism published 13/06/2019

The world beyond the verbal—the transverbal—endures through and past the entrance of the Symbolic in our lives, and there is deep understanding that comes from engaging other languages of the body alongside that of the tongue. I have noticed how much more I use facial expressions in Spanish, and how much more my hands come into play with the way in which I gesture in order to articulate the movement of time or to evoke a sense of scale and a sense of space. The way in which I lean on the transverbal has become crucial as I try to carve out meaning alongside spoken languages that are strange and unfamiliar to my tongue.

By Jack Young.

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Reading Kafka in the spring in Prague published 12/06/2019

Kafka told Max Brod that K would live in the village until his death; and on his deathbed the castle would inform him that his “legal claim to live in the village was not valid, yet, taking certain auxiliary circumstances into account, he was permitted to live and work there.” This decree sounds like a ruling made by the Tories in Britain or the Trump Administration in the United States on behalf of a desperate migrant or refugee.

Alice Whittenburg reviews Franz Kafka’s The Castle.

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A Few Unanswerable Questions Regarding Moses Mendelssohn published 07/06/2019

As the tram rattles up a slight elevation, a group of young Indian men make their way from one end of the car and huddle up near to where I’m standing. They joke loudly in Hindi about how cold Berlin is and what it’s doing to their chances of getting laid. I try to distance myself. I don’t want to be seen with them. Not because they’re raucous or laddish, but because they’re Indian. Indian Indian. Not like me, not British Indian. What if the conductor asks for tickets, and these guys don’t have tickets, and he lumps me in with them? What if the fact that I know more about Shakespeare than I do about Shah Rukh Khan doesn’t immediately show? We have the same colour skin, similar features, the same kind of solid, dark hair. What if the other passengers, the white passengers, on the tram already hate me because of the noise these guys are making?

By Gurmeet Singh.

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The Gift of a Mother published 03/06/2019

As my writing life developed into a daily practice, I would be lucky enough to have more publications and launches. I always invited my mother to the launches, because I wanted her to have the opportunity to change her mind and join the celebrations. She never did. Although I accepted it as reality, it became a source of considerable, private disappointment.

By Nigel Featherstone.

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Music for Reading and Posing: a Soundtrack Guide to This Brutal House published 29/05/2019

The obvious thing would be to create a Spotify playlist, but I’m not a basic bitch. I wasn’t writing This Brutal House with one particular track in mind, more a mash-up of the street styles of that era: rare groove, electro, hip hop and Chicago. I hope something in these tunes will allow the book to resonate even more strongly; for while This Brutal House is a story of protest, chosen family, silence and redemption, its fierceness should be undeniable. Turn these up and flex.

Niven Govinden on the music that influenced his brilliant new novel, This Brutal House, out on June 6th.

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Two Men in the Fog published

I would spend hours trying to perfect the handwritten cursive Cyrillic. My name ‘Ellie’ was transformed into a word with loops, curves and embellishments; calligraphy that was euphemistic of everything I aspired to be. Is your handwriting style a psychological self-portrait? I felt I had a second chance. Cyrillic enabled me to manipulate my self-image, in a way that could be true to ideals I desired, with a focus on a new vision of beauty. And so, in the madness and confusion of my school life, I could finally see my own worth on paper in front of me, in my transformed Cyrillic and Russified name.

By Ellie Holbrook.

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Unboxing My Father’s Suitcase published 20/05/2019

Close to five hundred photographs came back: seagulls, abandoned buildings, skyscrapers, street lights. There were holiday snaps mixed in with abstract photos, images concerned with shapes and the arrangement of shapes, taken in the late 1970’s, many taken in the dark and in the rain. My father is not present in any of the photographs because he is always behind the camera: this is his eye onto the world, only I don’t know why he wanted to remember and preserve these sights, what he was doing in these places, so late at night, why he kept these photographs. They are images that are supersaturated with biographical experience that I can’t decode. To paraphrase Freud, biographical truth as I wanted it was not to be had, and what I did have I could not seem to use.

By Stephanie Bishop.

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