May 02, 2006
more about Pen.orgy
1. first the fare [$458] was paid by PEN
2. a limosine met me at the airport
3. took me to the fancy Roger Smith hotel on Lexington Avenue
4. I was given $200 for the two days in New York for food [two meals and that was gone].
5. lucky I didn't have to pay for taxi - limosines were at my disposal wherever I wanted to go [remember I am one of the big oils there - I mean one of the oldest - perhaps the oldest -- since Hans Magnus Enzenberger revealed to me that he was one year younger - do you know who Magnus is? Certainly without a doubt the most popular and perhaps the best contemporary German poet - but more important he is the one who in 1986 published in his famous collection Die Andere Bibliothek the prize-winner german translation of Double of Nothing [Alles Oder Nichts -- check your archives for a copy of the book and reread it]
6. on the top floor of the hotel in the penthouse [no not naked women] but a permanent open house where you could go to have a refreshment with cookies and meet the other writers -- all in all 134 writers participated in this pen.orgy
check the site for the program and the participants
7. On Friday April 27 from noon to 1:30 I read at the Maison Francaise of NYU. I read in French from Retour au Fumier [my new novel nominated for Le Prix Grandgousier given by La Societe des Grands Vins de France because it was found to be a praise of hedonism], then I read My Toes from My Body in Nine Parts, and then I was asked to read from Le Livre de Sam -- the book I am writing about Beckett. I was warmly applauded, but that meant nothing to me. I only signed two books. But after the reading I was taken to a fancy restaurant in the Village and I ordered the most expensive item on the menu and had two beers instead of my normal one beer. The reason for that is because so few people bought my books. I like signing books -- I always put something funny with the signature. For instance when I signed a copy of My Body in Nine Parts to a young lady who bought the book after the reading I wrote in the book -- For Sylvie [that was her name] who can now abuse my body.
8. After lunch my limosine rushed me to Columbia University where I was scheduled to participate in a panel with the title: Translation and Globalization. It was supposed to be a serious panel about the sad pathetic situation of translations into English of languages in the world that are ignored.
In other words how to globalize litterature beyond the literature written in English. I learned on that panel that two billion people speak English on this planet and therefore because the English language has conquered and imperialized the world what's the point of translating books - let the writers of the world -- the theme of the festival was Voices of the World -- let the writers of the world write in English - this way publishers won't have to waste money paying translators and publish books that nobody really read because the publishers don't make much of an effort to distribute these translations - or something like that -- I am not sure because it was a rather boring panel - Richard Howard was on it, and also a writer from Italy who kept on talking and talking with a thick incomprehensible accent - then a British writer who also spoke a lot with a British accent which means that I did not understand a word she was saying -- there was also a French woman translator - rather attractive who sat next to me and recited all the titles of the novels she translated from what she said were the best American writers - -I recognized only one name -- the name of an American writer who is very rich but whom I never read -- I tried to politicize this panel by accusing the publishers and the New York Times Book Review and the bookstores and the reviewers for preventing translations of good books to reach the readers but I was cut short because we were running out of time and the Italian writer had eaten too much time --
9. after this panel there was a reception in a nice room of the Columbia University Faculty house - wine and cheese and crackers were served with little Columbia University inscribed napkins -- and everybody was there - and there I sat at a table with the Cultural Literary Attache from the French Embassy who knows my work and whom I had met before when the French Embassy paid my travel expenses [business class airfare - 4 star hotels in France - first class trains - even a per diem for me to participate in an international festival of poetry last September -- that when I met the literary cultural attache who says he has read several of my books -- in french of course -- and in the course of our discussion at the reception -- please excuse the digression within the digression -- I am an incurable digresser -- he asked who was my agent in America -- and when I told him I had no agent -- that I don't trust agents - and that the agents I had before -- three of them never could do a thing for my unmarketable work - and in fact all three died - well not at the same time - but one after the other -- then the literary cultural attache got on his cell phone -- called an agent -- then put me on the phone - -and this charming feminine voice told me that she would love to read one of my novels and hopefully find a way to get my out of print novels back in circulation - I even told her what my lovely daughter once told me when I was complaining that my books were going out of print even before they were published - my lovely daughter said -- pop I know what your epitaph should be -- what should be written on your grave -- OUT OF PRINT -- I thought about it and told her that it should be written bilingually because it's even better in French -- EPUISE --anyway I have sent one of my novels to this lady agent and now I wait to see if she will succeed to make me rich and famous in America -- during that reception I also met another participant of the festival -- a French writer called Lydie Salvayre -- I give her name here because I want everybody to read her work -- she is a fantastic writer -- I read two of her novels - and I tell you I have not been enthused by a writer [male or female] since I read ...... Italo Calvino -- no she doesn't write lake Calvino - in fact if anything she writes a bit like Federman -- same madness -- she's not afraid to thumb her nose at the Belles-Lettres - she's been translated in English - check out Amazon.com -- Dalkey Archives publishes her books -- I read her in French of course -- I had never met her before - but for me it was the high point of the Festival - I am not kidding -- a really great writer Lydie Salvayre -- tell your friends --
10. After the reception I was on another panel - this one about what it means to write in a language other than English -- since I write in both English and French and even translate I was placed on that panel with a writer from Korea, another from Israel, another from Croatia, another from Turkey, another from China -- did I forget anybody - we were seven on that panel - and it was really great --oh I forgot to mention there was a huge audience -- over 200 people in that room in the Columbia Unviersity Faculty house - we were being televised and photographed to death while sitting there -- each of us talked about what it meant to write in the language we wrote -- the Korean writer spoke English but nobody understood a word he was saying - luckily he had an interpreter with him - but then he read a poem in Korean and it was fabulous -- nobody understood a word but that was the point - but what rhythm what cadence it was musique - it was like when I speak tongues -- anyway we all performed like that -- I particularly appreciated the Israeli woman poet [whose parents went into smoke at Auschwitz] and who explained the beauty of writing in Hebrew -- a language in which one word expresses an entire sentence and in so doing articulates several levels of meaning -- it was a great panel -- I am glad I got on this one rather than the one on HIV or Human Rights - yes PEN is very concerned with all these problems -- me too -- but I prefer to talk about literature - especially at a time when literature is an endangered species - soon to become a mere supplement of culture --
11. after the panel I went out for dinner with a good friend of mine who lives in New York and who has a beard that makes him look like a rabbi even though he is a perfect atheist like me -- in fact while walking on Broadway towards the French restaurant where we wanted to dine - some drunk bum looking at my friend cried out -- you're a Jew -- I went up to the guy and said I am a Jew too - you want to do something about it - the guy covered his face with his hand as if afraid that I was going to hit him -- obviously a drunk coward --
12. for dinner in that French restaurant I had a superb Cassoulet with some St. Emilion 1992 -- it was expensive but then Pen had given me 200 bucks for food -- oh I forgot to mention that the evening before I also ate in a French restaurant on 83rd street called Le refuge - I had stuffed quails - stuffed with wild mushrooms - before that I had escargot -- the wine was a Beaujolais -- I forget the year -- but rather good and expensive -- for desert a so so cream caramel --
13. -- the bed in my room at the Roger Smith Hotel was okay - but I have slept in better beds -- the shower was lousy -- that's all I can say about the hotel -
14. -- my limosine picked me up on time for my plane to JFK the next morning - the flight was ok - though next time if Pen invites me I will insist on business class -- at my age and with my reputation I deserve business class -- and will you believe I paid 5 bucks for a sandwich on that plane -- it was so disgusting I gave half of it to the young Hawaiian girl who was flying home to see her parents - she slept most of the flight -- so that's all I learned about her.
end of the report.