The Last Books was founded by Phil Baber and Snejanka Mihaylova in 2012. We publish experimental poetry, archival and bibliographic research, and translations of contemporary and historical writers. The Yellow Papers is a pamphlet series for poetics and commentary.
Our titles are distributed in the UK by Central Books, in the US by Small Press Distribution, and in Europe and the rest of the world by Motto. Stockists include San Serriffe (Amsterdam), rile* (Brussels), After 8 (Paris), Good Press (Glasgow), and the London Review Bookshop.
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or, Tsar Ivan Asen II, 26, 1224 Sofia, BG
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Phil Baber is a writer, editor, and typographer. In 2012 he was awarded the Walter Tiemann Prize for book design, and between 2013 and 2015 he was a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart. In 2017 he was writer in residence at Hordaland Kunstsenter, Bergen. He has given lectures and readings at venues including the Literarisches Colloquium, Berlin; the Austrian Ministry of Culture, London; Raum, Bologna; the Teylers Museum, Haarlem; Eastside Projects, Birmingham; the Whitechapel Gallery, London; and Bulthaup Gallery, Saint Petersburg. His most recent work, four studies of a late fragment by Friedrich Hölderlin, will be published in Bricks from the Kiln #4 (winter 2021). He teaches writing at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and, as of autumn 2020, is a programme editor at Perdu.
Snejanka Mihaylova is a writer and artist working between philosophy, theatre, and performance. She holds a degree in philosophy of language and hermeneutics from the University of Florence, Italy, and a master’s degree in theatre studies from DasArts, Amsterdam. In 2012, she was a resident at the Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht. Her work Theatre of Thought, for which she published an eponymous book, has been performed in several locations in Europe, including De Hallen in Haarlem (2011). In 2012 she published Practical Training in Thinking and led a seminar in dialogue with Mladen Dolar at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. She has received commissions from If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution and Redcat Gallery, Los Angeles. Her most recent performance work was presented at Art in General, New York, and Swimming Pool, Sofia. She has taught at the University of Lausanne, the Dutch Art Institute, Documenta 14, and the Sandberg Institute. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Sofia, where she teaches philosophy.
1. The last books, being spineless, insert themselves between the pages of the next-to-last books – a way of getting about in the world – so that when the pages are shaken, the last books fall out, speechless almost, like infants.
2. Not unlike previous books, the last books include fragments of songs, collections of facsimiles, hieroglyphs and stelae transcribed and annotated; and like those previous books, the last books aspire to the consistent and complete, although like all books they fail, having about them something unassured, something dispersed, elusive, unfathomable, although they are among the last ones to fail in this way.
3. Each of the last books will remember at least one book that went before it, books that are not among the last books, obviously, if they are remembered, unless, unlike the last books, they last long enough to be forgotten.
4. As with the first book, the one cut into stone under ancient skies, the last book is not something more, something added to other things; it is not even something less. Then what is it? A gap in the universe: nothing that is visible, nothing invisible.*
5. There are books abandoned by their readers and there are books that attempt to abandon their readers and dissolve their authorship. To set their readers free, as the saying might have it – for all the little their authors ever know about this, bound as they are to being read (to being readable), to being loved (to being loveable), incapable of love’s singular repetition. But these will not be the authors of the last books.
6. If the last books are not the books memorised and recited by people who consider themselves the guardians if not the survivors of the books (the books it is hoped will survive their survivors, just as they survive their own destruction), this is because there are other books that tell the story of those times, and these aren’t the last books either.
7. Nor is the last book the infinite book, I mean the one that depends, if it’s ever to be completed, on the infinite patience of the reader, because that book has already been written and is still being read, and even as the last books are beginning to circulate, will still be being read, its finitude still being chased down through each of its pages, even as the last books are starting to fall apart.
8. The last books will be written by ourselves and by our friends and for this reason they will be beautiful, and when we are gone and when our friends are gone there will be no more of them, they will have been the last ones.
9. It is a mistake to suppose that the last books will be monumental – although the last monuments may well be made of books.
10. And, lastly, the last books will be made by people without too much concern as to whether such things can be made to last.
*Cf. Maurice Blanchot, “The Absence of the Book,” The Infinite Conversation, pp. 422–23 (trans. Susan Hanson)
—Joe Kelleher (2012)
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A review by Charlie Louth of Christopher Middleton’s Hölderlin translations has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement (November 13, 2020). Here’s an excerpt:
“It is wonderful to have all this ‘bound by love in one volume,’ as Dante said in a different context, allowing us to see more clearly the nature of Middleton’s long engagement with Hölderlin and to appreciate the close relationship between his roles as a translator, as a critic and, more obliquely, as a poet.
[…] A sense of risk and acuity, sharp stabs of intellectual venture, can be felt in everything [Middleton] wrote. The translations are reliable, modest and intense. Middleton’s sensitivity to formal questions, to the way the shape and timbre of the poem modulate with the development of its preoccupations, is present in both his translating and his critical writing, and joins them together. […] We are taken right into the sense-making heart of the writing, and witness not the transposition of meaning but its reconstitution on the page, in the different conditions of the new language and time. […]
[This] volume – beautifully produced – is a model of imaginative and committed publishing, and its value is self‑evident.”
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“There is a temptation to isolate either the textual or the oral quality of verse; to refer to ‘texts’ or scorn the written. But the special nature is equivocal/textual, it is in love with the signified in the mouth yet finds it detestable. This starts with the lalling infant, sucking, spitting, and gargling sound, but to become poetic, must be expelled and made other and manipulable, there to be taken up. In fact, the poem becomes a transitional object, put out-there to become a comforter in-here. It forever moves towards estrangement and is retrieved. It can never come fully to symbolise though that is how in my first moment I would urge it, or it loses its physical shape in the mouth, and achieves no more than an inscription, witty or affecting, whichever, but decisively external and fixed. But given the head of its true ambiguity, to a deep mark it remains unthought; it is both propounded and understood, yet never amenable to insight. Its coherence, such as it is, gels round moods, whose own coherences are evanescent and of unknown principle. Because I am shameful and cowardly, I am forever trying to write clear, discursive text, or something free-standing and opening out in its meaning-horizon; it is only with the self-deceiving aim of clarity that I can coax a mood successfully, rather than a psychotic babble. And since I have no wish to die. Night-vision, into the dazzle of the dark that surrounds me and would seize even the skull’s space for its slogans. Neonate goes into neon.” (From “Imperfect Pitch,” The Following, p. 11)
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