My Father and Myself (Nyrb Classics S)
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He puzzles as to why he had not been trusted with the secret.
My Father and Myself (New York Review of Books Classics Series)
His own secret was that he was a homosexual. Unfortunately he could not My Father and Myself. Joe Randolph Ackerley. Introduced by WH Auden JR Ackerley's father was the Banana King, a successful importer of fruit and a bluff, hearty fellow - qualities little appreciated by his refined and literary son. On his death, however, he left a letter revealing that his life of respectable prosperity was a facade. This began for Ackerley an ongoing quest to comprehend a father who remained always just out of reach.
Published after its author's own death, My Father and Myself was immediately recognized as a classic account of the relationship between parent and child. But, I did not send it to Douglas. So off the book went, and I sat and began to feel increasingly guilty. And then the book came back printed, and I packaged up some copies and sent them off to Douglas. But we did work together after that, and I have never done that again. DM: A great story. And to get back to the French list, one of the attractive things about it is its range. How did those titles appear? When you looked at the pie chart, it showed impressive sales of Simenon in Latin American countries; I think at one point he was the bestselling writer of the century.
But then you looked again at the pie charts and there was a sort of toothpick representing sales in the Anglosphere, so I saw an opportunity.
So then Simenon led me to Manchette, which was of interest both because of his connection with Situationism, and also his connection with American hardboiled fiction. You also did the essays [The Hall of Uselessness]. EF: Right the collected essays, a wonderful book, a book of or pages.
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And sometimes good deeds do go unpunished. This book really had quite a warm reception. Leys was also the source of a Cahier we published, whose text is gathered in your volume too.
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Hungarian literature, for instance. I happen to specialize in writing from that region—and your Hungarian list is remarkable. EF: Well, it varies. The Hungarian case is an interesting one because the language is so isolated that basically the Hungarian state commissioned a program of translating Hungarian literature into English. And the translators they employed were actually quite brilliant. The Soviets also had that kind of program, but the translations were a lot iffier.
I used to compare it to a strange cross between Bruno Schulz and PG Wodehouse, with gypsy music kind of thrown in, funny and sexy and just odd. Eileen Chang was in a footnote as not only an extraordinary writer but also someone who translated extraordinarily well her own work into English from Chinese.
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She has an interesting story. She came from an old Chinese family, her father was a real mandarin, which is to say he kept concubines and smoked opium all the time. Her mother was a new liberated woman of the early 20th century who lived in England and kept as far away as she could from her mandarin husband. She was very much caught betwixt and between.
Her father is said to have imprisoned her in her bedroom, and she slipped out, married a critic in or , began to write these extraordinary novellas, began to design clothes and write articles and essays for the Chinese press. So you get these intense novels of family relationships and love relationships that are fraught, to say the least. And she really is one of the singular figures of 20th-century literature.
Could you tell the story of it? But before we get to that, just to fill out the biography, the critic she was married to during the Japanese occupation was actually a collaborator, and so she rapidly distanced herself from him after the war.
She then fled to Hong Kong, she came to America, and she really was a lost person. She becomes more and more of a recluse. She continued to write, and after she died various manuscripts have come out, but she was really a kind of bag lady.
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Her will left her literary remains to her associates in Hong Kong who had published her literary work, and the will stipulated that her ashes be scattered in some desolate place. Many years later I was reading My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather, and that was what the lady at the end of that book says, I want my ashes to be scattered in a desolate place. This book was very big in Chinese.
So, anyway, we were supposed to do the novellas, I was told they were best, etc. I was guided very much by what translator Karen S. Kingsbury thought were the best books, but I also very much wanted to include one of the Chang [self]-translations. The effects she works in English are very precise Eileen Chang effects; a bit like Conrad, they feel like an English of her own. DM: So the selection in this volume contains newly commissioned translations [by Kingsbury] before and after a story translated by Chang.
Another author I want to turn to is British novelist Henry Green. There are three titles newly out, and with them New York Review is going to inaugurate a year or so of nine books.
EF: All of the novels will be brought out in new editions. What a publisher can do is to try and gain a public for an author. Green is an extraordinary writer, one I came to as a middle-aged convert.