Paris, Ho!

One place I never expected to get invited to speak about Robert Walser’s microscripts is Paris. After all, they speak French there, what interest do they have in English-language translations from the German? But it turns out that a lot of people there do speak English, and the Palais de Tokyo, a wonderful little museum of contemporary art, is hosting a lecture series in conjunction with their current show, Fresh Hell, curated by Adam McEwen, a British artist who lives in New York. He makes paintings out of chewing gum. And it turns out that he’s a Walser fan. The original plan was to invite both me and German poet/publisher Michael Krüger, but after a scheduling mishap, I was asked to suggest a second person for the program and wound up recommending Jochen Greven, who has been Walser’s main editor in German for nearly half a century now. Greven edited all those various collected works editions of Walser for the Suhrkamp publishing house and knows more about Walser than anyone else on the planet. He also happens to be the first person ever to recognize that Walser’s microscripts could be read, after Walser’s guardian Carl Seelig published a snippet of one in the literary magazine Du after Walser’s death (along with a note explaining that this was an example of the indecipherable texts Walser wrote in secret code in the years of his madness – wrong, wrong and wrong). Greven was only a grad student at the time, and no one listened to him, but they’re listening now. I’m very excited about this event. Greven and I will be speaking about Walser’s miniature manuscripts (with images!) and their discovery, and I’ll be talking about the challenges and pleasures of translating Walser’s work. If you find yourself in that part of the world, please come hear us on Thursday evening, Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m. at the Palais de Tokyo. The talk will be in English, with simultaneous interpretation into French.

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