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The Last Books

09Friedrich Hölderlin
Selected Poems and Letters
2019

252 pp., 144 × 222 mm, softcover with flaps
Edition of 500
ISBN 978-94-91780-06-6

Translated with an introduction, notes, and commentary by Christopher Middleton; edited, designed, and typeset by Phil Baber

Distributed by Central Books (UK) and SPD (US)

This volume gathers all of Christopher Middleton’s Hölderlin translations, comprising thirty-one poems and fourteen letters. With an introduction, notes, and four essays on (translating) Hölderlin’s poetry.

“Christopher Middleton is an extraordinary translator, bringing his fine poet’s ear and inventiveness to the task. In addition to the brilliant versions, this volume offers Middleton’s essays on the poet and a selection from Hölderlin’s letters – a great gift to us all.”
      —Rosmarie Waldrop

“This is an extraordinarily rich and powerful selected assemblage of Hölderlin’s writings – poems and also letters – bilingual and translated with intense inwardness, situated by accompanying commentary and discussion in both the historical contingency of the poet’s Lebenswelt and at the same time in his passional spirit-thinking as it evolves and informs his poetical experiments. There have been many previous versions into English of the most celebrated of these poems, but these here come unmistakably from the imaginative intelligence of another strenuously original poet, at exceedingly close connection with Hölderlin’s wrestle with language, its upward reach into the fleeting semi-permanence of the divine presences and its probing downwards into the Germanistic roots of a language-culture at this time in historical and political turbulence. Middleton’s full and thoroughgoing Introduction pre-empts earlier (and later) translation dalliance with spirit-fancy by his rigorous and persistent precision.
      As example, the development of ‘Andenken’ (Remembrance) (approx. 1803) is deeply investigated. The notorious final line is ‘Was bleibet aber, stiften die Dichter,’ given here as ‘What abides, even then, the poets ordain it.’ In his 1972 version ‘aber’ was given as ‘But [poets] alone…’; Hamburger in 1943 (1943!) had written ‘But that which endures the poets give,’ then in 1966 ‘But what is lasting the poets provide’ – each honourably careful and slightly clumsy; not to mention Leishman in 1944: ‘What the poets bestow remains.’ Middleton’s radical and even drastic ‘even then,’ held in suspensive parentheses, is part of his project to ‘track the syntactical design of “Andenken”’ (p. 198); after brilliant exegesis he will not merely write but, recognising that ‘aber voices resistance’ (p. 222) and concluding with a further appositional pronoun-object, ‘it’; poet’s workmanship!” 
      —J. H. Prynne (Cambridge, September 28, 2018)

 
● Three glosses by Phil Baber in Bricks from the Kiln 4 (forthcoming)
● Review by Patrick James Dunagan at Rain Taxi
● Notice by Peter Riley at the Fortnightly Review
● Notice by John Wilkinson on the Poetry Magazine editor’s blog

08Snejanka Mihaylova
Acoustic Thought
2015

64 pp., 170 × 255 mm, hardcover
Edition of 500
ISBN 978-94-92139-05-4

Edited and designed by Phil Baber

Commissioned and co-published by If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution as part of Edition V – Appropriation and Dedication (2013–14), with curatorial support from Frédérique Bergholtz and Tanja Baudoin

Distributed by Idea Books

“I will sing of bareness a new song,
for true purity is without thought.
Thoughts may not be there,
so I have lost the Mine:
I am decreated.”
     —The Song of Bareness, Anonymous

Acoustic Thought is a poetic exegesis of the Gospel of Thomas, an apocryphal gospel found at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt in 1945. According to Mihaylova, the Gospel of Thomas “is a poem that listens, where the written is not simply the record of a voice but a radically different dimension of cognition that emerges as an acoustic realm in the formation of thoughts.”
 
With a score for six female voices by Lisa Holmqvist; a collage of writings by medieval female mystics; and photographs by Jeff Weber, made during a research period at Beirut project space, Cairo.
 
The book’s covers reconstruct patterns found on the covers of Nag Hammadi Codex II, which, as well as the Gospel of Thomas, contains the Apocryphon of John, the Gospel of Philip, the Hypostasis of the Archons, On the Origin of the World, the Exegesis on the Soul, and the Book of Thomas the Contender.
 
Presented and performed during Perfomance Days, Amsterdam (November 2014) and Hotel Theory, REDCAT, Los Angeles (November 2015).

07Peter Handke
To Duration
2015

48 pp., 108 × 176 mm, softcover with flaps
Edition of 500
ISBN 978-94-91780-01-1

Translated by Scott Abbott

First published in German in 1986 by Suhrkamp Verlag

Distributed by Central Books

The first English translation of Peter Handke’s long poem To Duration (Gedicht an die Dauer). The poem was written in the immediate aftermath of the novel Repetition, to which it serves as a kind of postscript.

“Peter Handke’s long poem Gedicht an die Dauer came out in 1986 and has only just been brought out in English, as To Duration, in a fine translation by Scott Abbott… That the same person could write Offending the Audience, Essay on Tiredness, Repetition, and this poem is quite remarkable. Handke is one of the shining literary lights of our time and it says a great deal about the insularity of our culture that this profound and beautiful poem has had to wait almost thirty years to appear in English.”
     —Gabriel Josipovici, Times Literary Supplement

 
● Named one of the best books of 2015 in the Times Literary Supplement
● Essay by Stephen Mitchelmore at This Space

06Silvia Rosani
T–O / Die Elbe
2014

12/16 pp., 353 × 250 mm, softcover
Printed on demand

T–O (written in 2013 for Neue Vocalsolisten, for two sopranos, countertenor, tenor, and bass) and Die Elbe (2015, for flute, voice, and cello) are scores by Italian composer Silvia Rosani. T–O is based on texts by Predrag Matvejevic and Carlo Stuparich, and Die Elbe on a poem by Kinga Tóth.

     Elba
 
a nő csikóhal combján válla
hal sellőn hullám az Elba
a hangok a sípcső alapon
száján adja ki egyszerre
ereszti a levegőt
 
testét átfúrják az énekléshez
a sípcsöveket kihúzzák engedi
a levegőt száján és az új
helyeken felületéhez
rakják fújnak a kis réseken
áténekelnek a mellkasán

05W. G. Sebald
Across the Border
[PDF] 2013

8 pp., A4, 75 KB

Translated by Nathaniel Davis

Originally published in German as “Jenseits der Grenze: Peter Handkes Erzählung Die Wiederholung,” in Unheimliche Heimat (Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1995), pp. 162–78

An essay by W. G. Sebald on Peter Handke’s Repetition.

“What is decisive in Handke’s rewriting of his own family history in this work cannot simply be equated with the concept of idealization … rather, the rewriting is more concerned with the elimination of a single specific element in order to achieve the farthest possible distancing from the German descent of Handke’s paternal side; this appears to me to be one of the heaviest burdens on the psychological and moral development of the author Peter Handke. The Kobals have nothing in common with the Germans, nor even anything fundamental in common with the Austrians. It is their privilege and sovereign right to be the others, who take no part in the violence that stems from paternal fear and spreads out across all of Europe. The ideal of human cohabitation, which can be extrapolated from the passages where the family unity of the Kobals is presented in a somewhat sunnier light, is that of a society in which fathers play at most a diminished role. The mother’s dream, as reports the narrator, would have been ‘to run a big hotel, with the staff as her subjects’. The extensive household of this dream, like the narrative’s inherent utopia, is of a clearly matriarchal nature. In the narrator’s memory it also appears as though the mother had spoken ‘with the voice of a judge’, and the maxim that Filip Kobal makes his own, after having apprenticed as a kind of day labourer for the old woman who gives him shelter in the Karst, commands: ‘Get away from your father’. Whereas under a patriarchal order each feels as alone as the narrator can’t help but feeling, under a matriarchal regime, in which relations are woven more loosely and more extensively, each individual would almost be a brother to the next…
      Consoling dreams, in which a lengthy procession of messianic figures emerge from the unredeemed world, belong to the narrative tradition of exile literature. Even in the worst of times, there must be a righteous person walking somewhere in one’s country. The task is to recognize him. Different than the dogmatic Christian histories of the Saviour – systematically suppressing hopes for redemption, which in turn gradually grow virulent – the messianism of Jewish provenance, always ready to see the hoped-for redeemer in each stranger or foreigner, contains not only theological, but also political potential. Even when the father has no idea of ‘the form the redemption of his family here on earth might take’, this much is nevertheless clear: that it must be a redemption taking place in the here and now, as well as a redemption of an entire community. It is no coincidence that the mythical ancestor of the family was an agitator. The rebellious disposition, setting itself against all authority, determines the messianic fantasy from the ground up – which doesn’t, however, imply that the figure of the redeemer is established from this model. The redemptive figure of messianism is characterized more by the ability to transform multifariously.”

04Peter Handke
Repetition
2013

352 pp., 108 × 176 mm, softcover with flaps
Edition of 500
ISBN 978-94-91780-00-4

Translated by Ralph Manheim

First German edition published in 1986 by Suhrkamp Verlag; first English edition published in 1988 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Distributed by Central Books

An English translation of Peter Handke’s 1986 novel Repetition, previously out of print for a quarter of a century.

“In Repetition, Handke allows the peculiar light which illuminates the space under a leafy canopy or a tent canvas to glisten between words, placed here with astounding caution and precision; in doing so, he succeeds in making the text into a sort of refuge amid the arid lands which, even in the culture industry, grow larger day by day.”
     —W. G. Sebald

“In his earliest work … Handke found a way of conveying a state of mind … where words seem to come between you and the world, where nothing coheres or appears natural, and from the vantage-point of which the ease with which other people talk and go about their business seems deeply suspicious. But just as Kafka felt there were moments when, miraculously, a written sentence – even one written by himself – seemed full light, seemed to fill its own space and establish its own rhythm, and when even the whole story seemed mysteriously to stand as solidly in the world as a tree or a rock, so it has been with Handke. He has, in his later work, appeared to make a conscious effort to escape from the debilitating awareness of his own lack of authority or authenticity, and tried to write as though somehow the story were already written, had, in a sense, always been there… Repetition is the triumphant climax of his career so far…
      What saves the book from the sort of sentimentality we find in John Berger’s recent work is first of all Handke’s uncanny ability to convey what it is this urge for pattern has to overcome, and secondly, his extraordinary attention to detail, historical, geographical, botanical, and linguistic. (No review can possibly convey the richness of Filip’s meditation on his brother’s two books, or Handke’s magical way with images.)
      His narrative … is one of the most dignified and moving evocations I have ever read of what it means to be alive, to walk upon this earth.”
      —Gabriel Josipovici

 
From Repetition (pp.118–19):

“The previous night, I had taken in the details of the valley, but now I saw them as letters, as a series of signs, beginning with the grass-pulling horse and combining to form a coherent script. I now interpreted this land before my eyes, with the objects, whether lying, standing, or leaning, which rose up from it, this describable earth, as ‘the world’…
      And so my further progress in that predawn hour became a deciphering, a continued reading, a transcribing, a silent taking of notes. And I then distinguished two bearers of the world: on the one hand, the earth’s surface that supported the horse, the hanging gardens, and the wooden huts; and on the other hand, the decipherer, who had shouldered these things in the form of their hallmarks and signs. And I literally felt my shoulders broaden in my brother’s too-spacious coat and – because the perception and combination of signs operated as a counterweight to the burden of material things – straighten up as though my deciphering transformed the weight of the earth into a single freely flying word, consisting entirely of vowels, such a word as the Latin Eoae, translatable as ‘At the time of Eos’, ‘At dawn’, or simply, ‘In the morning’.”

 
● Review by Gabriel Josipovici in the Guardian
● Review by Eugene Lim here
● Essay by W. G. Sebald here
● “The Sun of Words,” excerpts from a 1986 interview between Handke and Herbert Gamper (translated by Nathaniel Davis)

03Snejanka Mihaylova
Practical Training in Thinking
2012

80 pp., 160 × 240 mm, hardcover
Edition of 500
ISBN 978‑954‑92943‑1‑6

Edited and designed by Phil Baber

From the title page:

“For it is not we who know, but rather a certain state of mind in us that knows.”
      —Kleist

From the colophon:

“This book is not a manual providing instruction or technique but an approach to the practice of thought through writing and reading. . . The theatrical event is decentred – not by substituting an interiority for the external, but through an investigation into the staging of ideas and their intrinsic possibility of transforming us, which at heart we recognise to be their performative quality.”

 
Published on the occasion of the exhibition Beyond Imagination at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, with a seminar by Snejanka Mihaylova in dialogue with Mladen Dolar. The seminar can be viewed in two parts, here and here.
 
The photograph of the cover is by Jeff Weber.

02Phil Baber (ed.)
It is possible, possible, possible…
2012
out of print

80 pp., 203 × 261  mm, softcover
Edition of 500

Edited and designed by Phil Baber

The second issue of Cannon Magazine. On things and their words.

“As I was going up the hill, I was sur­prised to see rising above the June-grass, near a walnut, a whitish object, like a stone with a white top, or a skunk erect, for it was black below. It was an enormous toadstool, or fungus, a sharply conical parasol in the form of a sugar loaf, slightly turned up at the edges, which were rent half an inch in every inch or two…
     I put the parasol fungus in the cellar to preserve it, but it went on melting and wasting away from the edges upwards, spreading as it dissolved, till it was shaped like a dish cover. By night, though kept in the cellar all day, there was not more than two of the six inches of the height of the cap left, and the barrel-head beneath it and its own stem looked as if a large bottle of ink had been broken there. It defiled all it touched.”
     —Henry David Thoreau, The Journal, June 18, 1853

01Phil Baber (ed.)
Every opening on to the outside world…
2009
out of print

144 pp., 203 × 261 mm, softcover
Edition of 250
Offset lithography, risograph, wood-cut

Edited and designed with editorials by Phil Baber

Named “Magazine of the Year 2009” by 3:AM

The first issue of Cannon Magazine, a journal for experimental writing. Written, edited, designed, and printed in sixteen-page increments. Including texts by Donald Porter, Stefan Themerson, Nathalie Sarraute, Robert Smithson, and others, and a series of editorials by Phil Baber.

“Beautifully written, designed, and thought through, Cannon is more than just another arts magazine: it is a work of art.”
      —Andrew Gallix, editor of 3:AM



The Yellow Papers

01John Wilkinson
The Following
July 2020

96 pp. + 4 pp. fold-in appendix, 120 × 170 mm, softcover with metallic foil-stamp
Edition of 400
ISBN 978-94-91780-28-8

Distributed by Central Books (UK) and SPD (US)

The Following selects from John Wilkinson’s essays of the last three decades, with a preference for what has come to be known as creative criticism, and adds a new essay on reflected boughs in poems by Shelley and a photograph by Sally Mann, and a poem in homage to Sean Bonney. The book’s title is a broken reflection of the essay title “Following the Poem.”

“Through following a poem (not just any poem), a reader can become involved in the evocation and enactment of a radical hybridity, pulling together ways of thinking about the world modernity has categorically but falsely separated; but such reading takes place in time, so continuously a reader unpicks and reintegrates elements of the poem in a felt motion which can restore a healed and full being in the world, involving in its fullness and as a condition of it, the detours, the lapses, and the breaks in his or her journey.”