lunes, 28 de enero de 2013

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion [Kinkakuji] (Vintage International, 1994)
by Yukio Mishima [translated from the Japanese by Ivan Morris]
Japan, 1956

Having had more than a few otherwise-reliable people I know of vouch for either the greatness of Mishima in general or--more to the point--the greatness of The Temple of the Golden Pavilion in particular, I'm sorry to say that this frequently snooze-inducing work of his left me with only one pressing question at the end: how could such a great novelist take up such crowd pleasing topics as nihilism and the nature of evil and make it all seem so fucking boring?  Probably more dull, heavyhanded, and overly mannered than bad per se, this fictionalized first-person account of the torching of a famous Buddhist temple in Kyoto in 1950 offers up some sporadically striking prose ("When I glanced at my shoulder, I saw that in the moonlight Father's hand had turned into that of a skeleton" [29]), some random weirdness (repeated references to a scene in which a woman squirts breast milk into a cup of her lover's tea), and some dialogue that could have been striking if it weren't so inauthentic as an example of spoken--as opposed to poetic--speech ("The world was immobile like a tombstone" [99]).  Given the imagery, might I have appreciated the novel a bit more had I embraced its "poetic" side and read it that way instead of trying to slog through it like a normal novel?  Yeah, maybe, but probably not enough to matter.  For, despite a multivalent narrative that can easily be read as both the confession of a madman and a brick through the window of Japanese culture during World War II and the immediate postwar era, teenage narrator Mizoguchi, a religious acolyte and morbid psychopath, is so drab, unconvincing, and underwhelming a creation that his criminal musings ("Is evil nevertheless possible?" he likes to ask himself [159]) and sexual confessions ("I wonder whether I shall be believed when I say that during these days the vision of fire inspired me with nothing less than carnal lust.  Yet was it not natural that, when my will to live depended entirely on fire, my lust, too, should have turned in that direction?" [220]) are more tiresome, banal, and at times ludicrous than anything else.  In other words, for a teen nihilist, a Japanese Johnny Rotten he ain't.  Whatever.

Mishima (1925-1970)
I read The Temple of the Golden Pavilion for Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge 6 and Tony's January in Japan. I hope that the surliness of my reaction to the novel won't be confused with my enthusiasm for those two events.

jueves, 24 de enero de 2013

Historia abreviada de la literatura portátil

Historia abreviada de la literatura portátil (Anagrama, 2011)
by Enrique Vila-Matas
Spain, 1985

According to the presumably reliable bibliographical information available over at Enrique Vila-Matas' website, his 1985 Historia abreviada de la literatura portátil [Abbreviated History of Portable Literature] has been translated in Brazil, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Switzerland, and Turkey but, after 25 years and counting, has not yet been deemed worthy of an English-language translation.  I can only surmise that somewhere a Norwegian translator must be yucking it up at the expense of his/her major market colleagues.  Sigh.  Whatever the case may be, it's too bad that EVM's irreverent Historia abreviada--a sort of devilish distant cousin to the non-fiction likes of more widely disseminated cultural history works such as Maurice Nadeau's A History of Surrealism--has yet to make it onto English-speaking shores as I have no doubt whatsoever that many/some/OK, maybe just a few of you would get a huge kick out of its Jorge Luis Borges, Marcel Schwob, and J.R. Wilcock-inspired hijinks masquerading as an account of a 1924-1927 secret society "starring" Walter Benjamin, Aleister Crowley, Marcel Duchamp, Georgia O'Keefe, Francis Picabia and a galaxy of other mostly Euro luminaries dedicated to the propagation of the portable art lifestyle.  Just what is this portable art nonsense all about?  Well, I'm glad you asked because the narrator, supposedly a Barcelona-based investigator of the movement and evidently quite the collector of anecdotes and aphorisms related to it as well, is all too happy to describe "los shandys" [the Shandys] as a fun-loving DADA/Surrealists-like group of conspirators defined by a high degree of madness and dedicated to 1) creating art that can fit within the confines of a suitcase and 2) living out their lives as examples of Duchampian machines célibataires par excellence.  Other typical but not necessarily essential Shandy attributes: "espíritu innovador, sexualidad extrema, ausencia de grandes propósitos, nomadismo infatigable, tensa convivencia con la figura del doble, simpatía por la negritud, cultivar el arte de la insolencia" ["an innovative spirit, extreme sexuality, lack of ambition, tireless nomadism, a tense coexistence with one's double, solidarity with black culture, and cultivating the art of insolence"] (13).  As with the two other Vila-Matas works I've read previously, there's no shortage of memorable literary history and/or memorable spurious literary history quotes to be found in this essay-like contraption; for example, the Paul Valéry Monsieur Teste epigraph that opens things up--"El infinito, querido, es bien poca cosa; es una cuestión de escritura.  El universo sólo existe sobre el papel" ["The infinite, my dear, is hardly anything at all; it's just a question of writing.  The universe only exists on paper"]--probably represents the serious side of things rather well, and the alleged Marcel Duchamp proclamation about parasitism being one of the fine arts (90) definitely represents the waggish side of things just as persuasively.  However, I'm also sort of partial to what the narrator represents to be Hermann Broch's condemnation of the portable artistes--"No es que sean malos escritores, sino delincuentes" ["It's not so much that they're bad writers as that they're delinquents"] (14)--and to the linguistic praise that Juan Villoro bestows on Vila-Matas himself in referring to the author as "el catalán que escribe en español para mentir con libertad" ["the Catalonian who writes in Spanish to lie with impunity"].  You won't find that last quote in the book, of course, but hopefully you get the picture by now.  A righteous prank.

Vila-Matas at the age of 5

sábado, 19 de enero de 2013

Ça plane pour moi

THEE HEADCOATEES, "Ça plane pour moi" (1997)

jueves, 17 de enero de 2013

Bolaño cercano

Bolaño cercano (Candaya DVD, 2008)
Directed by Erik Haasnoot
Spain, 2008
In Spanish

"Favorite author documentaries" essentially being a brand new film genre to me, I was quadruply jazzed to discover that my hunt for this 45-minute Roberto Bolaño doc--generously included as a bonus disc alongside the 502-page Bolaño salvaje, a book of essays about and reminiscences on the Chilean novelist/poet published by the Barcelona-based Editorial Candaya--would also lead me to four other book and documentary pairings from Candaya with texts such as Ana Rodríguez Fischer's Ronda Marsé (on Juan Marsé), Jorge Carrión's El lugar de Piglia (on Ricardo Piglia), Margarita Heredia Zubieta's Vila-Matas portátil (on Enrique Vila-Matas), and José Ramón Ruisánchez's & Oswaldo Zavala's Materias dispuestas: Juan Villoro ante la crítica (on Juan Villoro) all accompanied by separate DVDs of their own.  In fact, I almost felt like a niche blogger's version of the f'n Octomom given all this Spanish language literature largesse even before I found out that the Piglia title came with a bonus documental on famous Argentinean wacko Macedonio Fernández.  Score!  While I should have lots more to say about the other essay collections and DVDs in coming weeks, right now I'd like to direct your attention to Dutch filmmaker Erik Haasnoot's low-key Bolaño cercano [a difficult to translate title approximating something like Bolaño, Up Close and Personal], which offers up a sympathetic portrait of Bolaño as a loving family man and tireless reader and writer and teases with ever so brief glimpses of his personal library and countless spiral notebooks filled with rough drafts of his novels and poetry and even comic book-like drawings and illustrations. Since the previously unreleased film's a relatively simple affair that largely switches back and forth between a group interview with Bolaño's widow Carolina López and Bolaño writer friends Enrique Vila-Matas and A.G. Porta in Blanes, Spain (left to right above) and one on one interviews with fellow Bolaño writer pals Rodrigo Fresán in Barcelona and Juan Villoro in Mexico City respectively, I'm going to bypass any further commentary on the work to leave space for the transcription of several exchanges which caught my attention for one reason or another (please note that my Spanish is unsteady enough that I could have easily made a transcription error or two here and there without being aware of it--a translation caveat emptor and all that).

Rodrigo Fresán on what he likes about the experimental aspects of Bolaño's poetry and prose
Yo, me cuesta mucho separar los libros.  Es como una especie de organismo multicelular respondiendo a un único supercerebro.  El caso de Enrique Vila-Matas es el mismo, por ejemplo,  Nabokov es el mismo.  El caso de Borges es el mismo, ¿no?  Son escritores que me parece que les preocupa más la visión total y panorámica de las cosas más que de concentrándose en hechos aislados o en libros o en historias autoconcluyentes, ¿no?

[It's a lot of work for me to sort out the books from one another.  It's like a kind of multicellular organism responding to a lone superbrain.  The case of Enrique Vila-Matas is the same, for example, Nabokov is the same.  Borges' case is the same, no?  They are writers who, it seems to me, are more concerned with the overall panoramic vision of things than with concentrating on isolated facts or in books or in stories that are self-contained, you know?]

Enrique Vila-Matas, in response to a question from A.G. Porta (co-author with Bolaño of the 1984 Consejos de un discípulo de Morrison a un fanático de Joyce [Advice from a Morrison Disciple to a Joyce Fanatic]), on the noticeable changes in Bolaño's writing as he raced against the clock of his premature death
Bueno, es asombroso.  Los cambios de Estrella distante a Los detectives y de Los detectives a 2666. hay muchos altos y iba ganando en fuerzas, asombrosamente, en muy poco espacio de tiempo.  La  palabra es intensidad, claro.  Con el tiempo que hay entre la publicación de Estrella distante hasta su último libro es un espacio creo de son de 7 o 8 años en los cuales era una especie de tour de force de gran intensidad y de grandes cambios de registro de que estamos pocos acostumbrados en los escritores.

[Well, it's astonishing.  The changes from Distant Star to the Detectives and from the Detectives to 2666.  There are a lot of high points and he was gaining in power, astonishingly, in a very short space of time.  The word is intensity, clearly.  With the time that there is in between the publication of Distant Star until his last book is a period, I believe, of 7 or 8 years in which there was a sort of tour de force of great intensity and of great changes in register which we're not very accustomed to seeing in writers.]

Bolaño's widow agrees, adding that the confidence he gained from knowing Anagrama would publish each book that he wrote and, especially, "la próximidad de la enfermedad le dió mucha más esfuerza" ["the proximity of his illness gave him much more strength"] to risk more in his final writings.

Fresán on where The Savage Detectives fits in within Latin American literature as a whole
Me parece que la gran proeza de la novela, y al mismo tiempo también la enorme astucia de Roberto, está en manipular, reordenar, resignificar y [?] materiales más transitados, más obvios y incluso más erosionados de la gran novela latinoamericana-- la dictadura, el exilio, cierta épica de la derrota, el malditismo de los poetas  --y presentar eso en una manera completa, y total y absolutamente nueva. ¿No?  Sin traicionar la escenografía habitual de lo que supone es la gran novela latinoamericana.  En el sentido de que Los detectives salvajes o 2666 digamos tienen la misma rareza respetuosa que de repente tuvo en su momento 2001: Odisea del espacio de Stanley Kubrick.  En el sentido de que es una película de ciencia ficción, respeta todas de las variantes bastante conocidas del género como, no sé, la súbita aparencia de una inteligencia extraterrestre de una máquina Hal, problemas tecno de astronauta, pero todas contadas de una manera completamente original y nueva.

[It seems to me that the novel's great feat, and at the same time Roberto's enormous cleverness, is in manipulating, reordering, resignifying and [?] materials more common, more obvious and even more eroded from the great Latin American novel--dictatorship, exile, a certain epic of defeat, the wretchedness of the poets--and presenting that in a completely and totally and absolutely new way.  No?  Without betraying the customary scenography of what one expects in the great Latin American novel.  In the sense that The Savage Detectives or 2666 let's say have the same respectful strangeness that 2001: A Space Odyssey suddenly had in its day.  In the sense that it's a work of science fiction, it respects all the fairly well-known variants of the genre like, I don't know, the sudden appearance of an extraterrestrial intelligence in a machine like Hal, technical problems of astronauts, but all told in a completely original and new way.

Juan Villoro on the appeal of The Savage Detectives
Creo que lo más interesante de este libro es precisamente la figura del detective salvaje.  Es alguien que investiga la realidad de manera rebelde.  Es un poeta que no necesariamente escribe obras poéticas.  O sea, no es un poeta cultural, no es un poeta que esté escribiendo poesía.  Puedo hacerlo, pero lo más importante es que él convierte la poesía en una forma de vida.  Él busca vivir poéticamente y esto es lo que yo creo es el gran atractivo de Los detectives salvajes.  Una obra donde la poesía es una forma de la acción, es lo que hacen los personajes, y de allí lo atractivo de lo que ha tenido.

[I think that the most interesting thing about this book is precisely the figure of the savage detective.  He's somebody who investigates reality in a rebellious way.  He's a poet who doesn't necessarily write poetic works.  Or rather, he's not a cultural poet, he's not a poet who's writing poetry.  He can do that, but the important thing is that he converts poetry into a form of life.  He seeks to live poetically, and this is what I think is what's most appealing about The Savage Detectives.  A work where poetry is a form of action, it's what the characters do, and from that stems the appeal that it's had.

The end: a question put to Bolaño in an old interview
¿Qué es lo que finalmente quiere que nos quede como gesto en el rostro a nosotros, sus lectores, cuando terminamos un libro suyo?

 Aquí hay dos respuestas, ésta es una muy buena pregunta.  Primero, que cada lector es dueño de su propio rostro y que yo no tengo nada que ver con el estado en que quede ese rostro.

Y, segundo, que si por casualidad cada lector ha podido ver en mis libros a alguien cercano a él, pues yo me daría por satisfecho.  Sobre todo a alguien cercano que no cerrara puertas, a alguien cercano que abra puertas y ventanas y que luego desaparezca, porque hay muchas cosas por leer y la vida no es tan breve como se piensa.

[What expression would you ultimately like us, your readers, to have left on our faces when we finish a book of yours?

Here are two answers, this is a very good question.  First, that each reader is master of his own face and that I don't have anything to do with the state in which that face remains.

And, second, that if by chance each reader has been able to see someone in my books that's close to him, then I'd consider myself satisfied.  Above all somebody similar who didn't close doors, somebody similar who opens doors and windows and then disappears, because there are many things to read and life isn't as short as one thinks.]

 Erik Haasnoot

sábado, 12 de enero de 2013

Putas asesinas

Putas asesinas (Anagrama, 2009)
por Roberto Bolaño
España, 2001

"Tengo una buena y una mala noticia" nos dice el difunto narrador al principio de El retorno. "La buena es que existe vida (o algo parecido) después de la vida.  La mala es que Jean-Claude Villeneuve es necrófilo" (129).  Je, je, je, no está nada mal para un comienzo, ¿no?  Aunque en líneas generales sigo preferiendo las novelas del chileno a sus cuentos, después de haber leído Putas asesinas, una colección de trece divertidos y a veces excelentes relatos, debo reconocer por modo definitivo que la ficción corta de Bolaño (1953-2003) incluye algunas de sus mejores obras.  Aunque lejos de ser mi cuento preferido del manojo, por ejemplo, yo diría que El Ojo Silva ofrece una muy buena introducción al asunto temático del autor con su luz concentrada en los sinsabores de los exiliados de su generación: "Lo que son las cosas, Mauricio Silva, llamado el Ojo, siempre intentó escapar de la violencia aun a riesgo de ser considerado un cobarde, pero de la violencia, de la verdadera violencia, no se puede escapar, al menos no nosotros, los nacidos en Latinoamérica en la década de los cincuenta, los que rondábamos los veinte años cuando murió Salvador Allende" (11).  Más a mi gusto personalmente son, en orden de su aparencia dentro del libro, los cuentos Prefiguración de Lalo Cura, Carnet de baile, y especialmente Encuentro con Enrique Lihn que versan sobre la violencia y nuestra mortalidad quebradiza con el monólogo prolongado de un joven asesino a sueldo colombiano involucrado en el mundo de los narcotraficantes y del cine porno, una enumeración mordaz de quejas lanzadas en contra de Pablo Neruda que también se trata de la experiencia del narrador antes y después del golpe de estado en Chile en 1973, y un encuentro onírico con el fantasma de Enrique Lihn que tiene lugar en un barrio donde "sólo los muertos salen a pasear" (225).  ¿Y qué de El retorno y su comienzo tan deliberadamente morboso y provocador?  En mi opinión, es ya otro cuentazo que, a pesar de su discutible "mal gusto" y por medio de casi una sobredosis de humor negro, resulta ser un relato extraordinariamente chistoso e incluso bondadoso en cuanto a su acercamiento a la soledad de sus dos personajes centrales.  En otras palabras, un golazo.

miércoles, 9 de enero de 2013

The 3 Penny Opera

The 3 Penny Opera [Die Dreigroschenoper] (The Criterion Collection DVD, 2007)
Directed by G.W. Pabst
Germany, 1931
In German with optional English subtitles

With all of my beginning of the year filler pieces now out of the way and a flotilla of future mini-book and movie review posts now the only thing visible on the blogging horizon, I'm happy to embark upon the non-comment generating part of the year (i.e. the rest of 2013) with a few words dedicated to G.W. Pabst's eccentric early talkie and occasional musical The 3 Penny Opera.  I sure know how to pick the crowd-pleasers, eh?  Adapted from the 1928 Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill play of the same name that unexpectedly wowed Weimar theater-going audiences back in the day, the movie version of The 3 Penny Opera is a hugely entertaining audiovisual spectacle that zeros in on the criminal escapades of London dandy/thug/trollop fancier Mackie Messer (a/k/a Mack the Knife) as he, aided and abetted by his fetching young wife Polly Peachum and accompanied by Weill's cabaret soundtrack to his life, rises from being a common criminal to become a much more respectable sort of crook: the owner of a bank.  In Pabst's comedic retelling of Brecht's anti-capitalist "opera," there are a number of deliberate provocations that prefigure the subversive anti-bourgeoisie satire of vintage Buñuel.  In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that the film has a satirical mean streak in that regard.  A significant portion of the plot, for example, has to do with the ill will between Polly's parents and Mackie brought about by the latter's seduction of the Peachum family's tender young daughter.  Yet when we first meet Jonathan Jeremias Peachum, self-proclaimed as "the poorest man in London" but known as the beggar king for holding a monopoly on the issuing of panhandling licenses for which he leeches 50% of the weekly take off of all his clients, he silences a complaint about his extortionate licensing fees from one man by pointing to a Gospel quote from Luke painted on his wall: "Give, and though shalt be given."  Three mannequins in full dummy beggar attire and a number of prop crutches visually frame this mocking use of the biblical injunction.  Later in the film, while attempting to rally an army of the poor and the pseudo-poor to interrupt a public ceremony involving the Queen, the beggar king brags about how he will manage to "wring a few pence out of your poverty" by playing on the pity of the "rich noblemen" and--by extension--the viewing public at large: "For I've shown that the rich of this world have no qualms about causing misery but can't bear the sight of it!"  In spite of its message associating capitalism with criminality and widespread corruption at all levels of society, The 3 Penny Opera seems as dedicated to amusing its audience as provoking it.  It does this through snicker-worthy lowlife humor (Polly: "In Winchester you seduced two sisters, both of them minors."  Mackie: "They told me they were over 30."  Polly: "Both of them together."), and it also does it through the narrator-like street singer who sings songs about the characters while they stand in the audience listening to him and also introduces scenes by addressing the moviegoing audience to boot:  "Ladies and gentlemen," he begins in English at one point before breaking into German for what follows, "you've seen Mackie's bold and restless nature.  I'll now show you how, through a loving wife's cleverness, things take a turn that even you wouldn't expect."  The next scene, typical of all that's great about the film other than the cabaret music that I've barely even touched on, had me laughing out loud, and it's just too good to not share with you here.  Polly: "Gentlemen of the can rob a  bank or one can..."  Interrupting her, a burglar turned board member: "Use a bank to rob others!"  Polly: "Tread the path of a respectable and law-abiding my papa used to say to me.  'Polly,' he always said, 'Who'd be so stupid as to be a burglar these days when we've got laws?'"  Genius.

Mackie (Rudolf Forster) and Polly (Carola Neher)

This post on The 3 Penny Opera is my first submission for this year's Caravana de recuerdos Film Festival and Beauty Is a Sleeping Cat's World Cinema Series 2013As I said in my intro post the other day, I hope others will consider contributing their own movie reviews to both events.  Until then, other great Pabst films I recommend include Diary of a Lost Girl [Tagebuch einer Verlorenen] and Pandora's Box [Die Büchse der Pandora], both from 1929.

domingo, 6 de enero de 2013

Caravana de recuerdos Film Festival

Anna Karina in Godard's Vivre sa vie (1962)

Since I did such a shitty job of hosting the Caravana de recuerdos Foreign Film Festival last year, I decided to host it again this year as a form of penance.  I gotta tell you, guilt is some serious motivation!  Seriously, though, my apologies to all those who attended the "party" and then wondered where the host had disappeared to during most of the second half of the year.  I promise to do better this year or to cancel the event next year.  In any event, for those interested in giving your failed host a second chance at the movie talk in 2013, please note the following major change to this year's series: all films, foreign and domestic, will now be fair game for participation purposes.  While I hope anybody who contributes movie reviews to the event will continue to concentrate on foreign films (and non-mainstream films in general), I decided to open things up since older movies and avant-garde flicks from any era are often just as "foreign" as foreign films regardless of their country of origin or year of release.  Other than that, though, participation remains pretty much the same.  There are two main ways to play along should you choose to: 1) You review a single movie or multiple movies at any point during the year and then let me know about your post(s) by comment or e-mail (my e-mail address can be found under my profile [perfil] info).  I'll do a monthly link round-up of all participants' movie reviews so that interested parties can visit your blog(s) and check out your movie posts.  2) If you like, you may also challenge me to watch and write about a movie of your choice at more or less the same time as you as part of a group read-like "watchalong."  Tom of Wuthering Expectations was the only person to take me up on this option last year, but the animated short he selected greatly pleased both him and me.  On a final note, I'm happy to report that our friend Caroline of Beauty Is a Sleeping Cat has announced that she'll be running her own World Cinema Series event for another year in 2013.  I'll post more details here when I have them, but until then I encourage any of you who are thinking of participating in the Caravana event to also participate in Caroline's (update: info on Caroline's World Cinema Series 2013 now available here).  Cheers!

January Movie Reviews
  • Bolaño cercano (dir. Erik Haasnoot; Spain, 2008; posted by Richard)
  • The 3 Penny Opera [Die Dreigroschenoper] (dir. G.W. Pabst; Germany, 1931; posted by Richard)
  • Those Who Remain [Ceux qui restent] (dir. Anne Le Ny; France, 2007; posted by Guy Savage)
  • Tristana [Tristana] (dir. Luis Buñuel; Spain, 1970; posted by Dwight)

sábado, 5 de enero de 2013

2012 Top 12

*Without further ado, my favorite books of 2012 in alphabetical order by author [Sin más ni más, mis libros preferidos de 2012 en orden alfabético por autor]*

1) Roberto Bolaño's Los detectives salvajes (Spain, 1998)
related posts [entradas afines]

2) Miguel Delibes' Las ratas (Spain, 1962)

3) Charles Dickens' Bleak House (England, 1852-53)

4) Marguerite Duras' Moderato cantabile (France, 1958)

5) Fogwill's Los pichiciegos (Argentina, 1983)

6) Juan Marsé's Si te dicen que caí (Spain, 1973)

 7) Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities (Austria, 1931 & 1933)

8) Gérard de Nerval's Aurélia (France, 1855)

9) Juan Carlos Onetti's La vida breve (Uruguay, 1950)

10) Antonio Tabucchi's Pereira Declares (Italy, 1994)

11) Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace (Russia, 1869)

12) Marguerite Yourcenar's Mémoires d'Hadrien (France, 1951)

 Honorable Mention [Finalistas]
César Aira's La Vida Nueva (Argentina, 2007); Camilo José Cela's La colmena (Spain, 1951); John Demos' The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America (USA, 1994); Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest (Germany, 1895); Javier Marías' Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico (Spain, 1998); Sergio Pitol's El arte de la fuga (Mexico, 1996); Manuel Puig's Boquitas pintadas (Argentina, 1969); Domingo Faustino Sarmiento's Facundo.  Civilización y barbarie (Argentina, 1845).

jueves, 3 de enero de 2013

2013 Russian Reading

First of all, belated Happy New Year and ¡feliz año nuevo!  to all Caravana de recuerdos regulars, new visitors, lurkers, and anonymous spammers in that order.  Although I was just patting myself on the back for my lack of reading obligations this year (I'm kind of pro-apathy these days), it suddenly occurred to me that it might be nice to have some reading/writing company for the following six BIG DEAL ICONIC RUSSIAN NOVELS I have lined up for the year.  For the record, the list is comprised of two rereads of books (Dead Souls and The Master and Margarita) I last read eons ago and four crucial de-Humiliations in waiting.  In any event, anybody interested in joining me for a group read of one or more of the titles?  If so, please note that I plan on posting about each work during the last three days of the months listed and will link to others' posts at that time.  Whether you intend to read along or not, it'd be great to have you join me for the discussions or suggest alternate novels that I should have picked instead.*  I, embarrassingly, have almost no grounding in Russian literature whatsoever.

*Given that almost all of these are obvious titles even for Russian lit beginners, I encourage those who would prefer to read something different to challenge me to a) read any other comparably complex Russian work of your choice with you (note: Dostoevsky's 1880 The Brothers Karamazov and Bely's 1913 Petersburg are just two among many that are calling my name), or b) watch any Russian movie of your choice with you in one of the non-group read months during 2013.  We can work out the details later, natch.  Also, extra special thanks to Dwight from A Common Reader for lending me his copy of the BBC's audio adaptation of the Grossman novel.  That, in addition to Dwight's nine posts on Life and Fate, should come in real handy next month.

1.  Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate (c. 1960)
end of February

2.  Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls (1842)
end of April

3.  Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov (1859)
end of June

4.  Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (1877)
end of August

5.  Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita (c. 1940)
end of October

6.  Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (1955)
end of December