My name is Slawka Grabowska. I organize Donostia Book Club. We meet every month to discuss previously chosen books or short stories. Check out our FB page! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Donostia-Book-Club/105225566276875?ref=hl
Up to now this blog only existed on donostiabookclub.booklikes.com, and only in English. But we are expanding!!!
from now on you can also read us on blogger: https://donostiabookclub.blogspot.com.es, and most of the posts will be bilingual.
Come and visit us there!!! Don't hesitate to comment :)
¡Hola a todos!
Hasta ahora este blog existía solo en donostiabookclub.booklikes.com, y solo en inglés. ¡¡¡Pero estamos ampliando!!!
A partir de ahora podéis leernos también en blogger: https://donostiabookclub.blogspot.com.es, y la mayoría de los posts serán bilingües.
¡¡¡Venid a visitarnos allí!!! No dudéis en comentar :)
Summer is almost over. In less than a month we will be back to school/work. At this point of vacations I usually don't travel anymore: I need time to relax and charge the batteries for what's coming. But that doesn't mean I forgot about traveling completely: I like reading about foreign, often exotic places and to dream of my future voyages. Up to now I was mostly browsing online or just buying/borrowing books that looked like they cold fulfill this need. But this summer I've discovered a perfect place to help you find all the traveling stories, guides, maps and many other things any traveler might need. Altaïr is a bookshop in Barcelona completely dedicated to traveling. And they have an option to buy online!
I know what you are thinking: ¨the whole shop with just guides? Pffff...¨ But no! There are many other books and magazines and I always wish to be a millionaire in places like this, but unfortunately I am not, so I had to choose.
El verano está a punto de terminar. En menos de un mes estaremos de vuelta a la escuela/trabajo. En este punto de las vacaciones, por lo general, prefiero no viajar: necesito tiempo para relajarme y cargar las pilas para prepararme para lo que viene. Pero eso no significa que me hubiera olvidado por completo de hacer alguna escapada: me encanta leer sobre el extranjero, a menudo sobre lugares exóticos y soñar con mis futuros viajes. Hasta ahora lo hacía sobre todo en línea o comprando/prestando libros que parecían poder satisfacer esta necesidad. Pero este verano he descubierto un lugar perfecto para ayudarme a encontrar todas las historias sobre escapadas, guías, mapas y muchas otras cosas que podría necesitar cualquier viajero. Altaïr es una librería en Barcelona completamente dedicada a los viajes. ¡Y tienen la opción de comprar en línea!
Sé lo que estáis pensando: ¨¿Toda la tienda con solo guías? Pffff ...¨ ¡Pero no! Hay muchos otros libros y revistas, y en lugares como este siempre me gustaría ser millonaria, pero por desgracia no lo soy, así que tuve que elegir.
It is like all the other bookshops, but the novels, essays, guides, maps, comic books etc are organized by continents and countries. The books by Svetlána Alexiévich , Nobel Prize Winner, you´ll find next to Ukraine; J.M. Coetzee is in Republic of South Africa and Yukio Mishima in Japan. You got the idea.
Es como todas las demás librerías, pero las novelas, ensayos, guías, mapas, libros de historietas, etc. están organizados por continentes y países. Los libros de Svetlana Alexijevich, ganadora del Premio Nobel, están colocados en Ucrania; J. M. Coetzee se encuentra en República de Sudáfrica y Yukio Mishima en Japón. Ya tenéis la idea.
That occupies ground floor and level -1, where you can also find Café de Altaïr, where one can just chill or have lunch. And another department that I loved: international cuisine! Cooking books from all over the world. Just looking at them made me hungry.
Libros y guías ocupan la planta baja y la planta -1, donde también se puede encontrar el Café de Altaïr, donde uno puede simplemente relajarse o almorzar. Aquí también esta otro departamento que me encantó: ¡cocina internacional! Los libros de cocina de todo el mundo. Solo con mirarlos se me abrió el apetito.
On the ground floor they also have magazines, among them their own ¨Altaïr¨. Each number is dedicated to one country/region, some have special topics. I couldn't control myself and bought literary travels, so you can expect a post on that in the future. Hopefully I can actually make some routes that they are describing!
En la planta baja también tienen revistas, entre ellas una suya propia: Altaïr. Cada número está dedicado a un país/región, algunos tienen temas especiales. No pude controlarme y compré recorridos literarios. Sin duda alguna podéis esperar un post sobre esto en el futuro. ¡Espero realmente poder hacer alguna de las rutas que están describiendo!
On both levels they have lots of gadgets, useful at camping but some of them also in cities. Nets protecting from bugs, capes for the rainy days, folding cutlery and many others.
And there is what they call a shop of Museum of World Cultures, where you can buy traditional things from different regions: amulets, totems, little dolls. These things are all around the shop.
En ambos niveles tienen un montón de gadgets y utensilios, útiles de acampada, pero algunos de ellos también en las ciudades. Redes de protección contra insectos, capas para los días de lluvia, cubiertos plegables y muchos otros.
También hay algo que llaman una tienda del museo de las Culturas del Mundo, donde se pueden comprar cosas tradicionales de diferentes regiones: amuletos, tótems, pequeñas muñecas. Estas cosillas están dispersas por toda la libreria.
It's a place where one can stay for hours and still come out feeling that there is more to see, more to discover. Unfortunately the online shop is a bit less exciting. It's more difficult to just dig in between the shelves. To browse you need an idea of what you are looking for. Anyhow, it is kind of solution for all of us who can't go to Barcelona.
Es un lugar donde uno puede quedarse horas y aún así salir con la sensación de que hay mucho más que ver, más por descubrir. Por desgracia, la tienda online es un poco menos emocionante. Es más difícil de excavar entre los estantes. Para navegar uno necesita una idea de lo que busca. De todos modos, es una especie de solución para todos los que no pueden ir a Barcelona.
THIS POST IN NOT AN ADVERTISEMENT, I'M NOT PAID IN ANY WAY TO WRITE IT. I JUST WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU MY PASSION FOR BOOKS AND ALL THE BOOKISH PLACES I FIND.
ESTE POST NO ES UN ANUNCIO, NO ME PAGAN DE NINGUNA FORMA POR ESCRIBIRLO. ÚNICAMENTE DESEO COMPARTIR CON VOSOTROS MI PASIÓN POR LIBROS Y TODOS LOS LUGARES AFICIONADOS A LIBROS QUE ENCUENTRO.
If you find it interesting, you can find Altaïr here:
Gran Vía, 616
(+34) 93 342 71 71
From Monday to Saturday: 10:00 – 20:30
Enjoy last weeks of summer!
Si os resulta interesante, podéis encontrar Altaïr aquí:
Gran Vía, 616 CP: 08007 Barcelona (+34) 93 342 71 71
De lunes a sábado: 10:00-20:30
o en línea:
¡Disfrutad de últimas semanas del verano!
Re-read in Gros is a second-hand bookshop with books not only in Spanish, but quite a good selection in English. They also have some other languages, so don't hesitate to look there for anything that comes to your mind. The prices are more than inviting: €3 for one, €5 for two and €10 for five.
Re-read en Gros es una librería de segunda mano con los libros no solo en español, sino una selección bastante buena en inglés. También tienen algunos otros idiomas, por lo que no dudan en buscar allí para cualquier cosa que viene a la mente. Los precios son más que atractivos: 3€ por un libro, 5€ por dos y 10€ por cinco.
It's a miracle that up to now I've bought only four books there (I'm trying to control myself!).
The bookshop in Gros is part of a franchise and you can find their bookshops in Barcelona, Castellón, Donostia, Girona, Lleida, Granollers, L´Hospitalet, Madrid, Málaga, Mataró, Pamplona, Sabadell, Salamanca, Sant Cugat, Sevilla, Tarragona, Terrassa, Valencia, Zaragoza. The common description for all of them is:
¨At Re-Read you’ll discover second-hand books in perfect condition.
You can also sell yours.
Because there are always read books and books to read.
That’s why we Re-buy and we Re-sell, so you never run out of either. ¨
I was thrilled to find out that not only they sell, but also buy books. Instead of throwing books away (how could you?!) just bring them here. You'll not make a fortune on it, but might make someone really happy.
La librería en Gros es parte de una franquicia con librerías en Barcelona, Castellón, Donostia, Girona, Lleida, Granollers, L'Hospitalet, Madrid, Málaga, Mataró, Pamplona, Sabadell, Salamanca, Sant Cugat, Sevilla, Tarragona, Terrassa, Valencia y Zaragoza. La descripción común para todos ellos es:
¨En Re-Read podrás encontrar libros de segunda mano en
perfecto estado. También vender los tuyos.
Porque siempre hay libros leídos y libros por leer.
Por eso Re-compramos y Re-vendemos para que
nunca te quedes sin ninguno de los dos. ¨
Estaba encantada de descubrir que no solo venden, sino también compran libros. En lugar de tirar los libros a la basura (¡¿cómo uno podría hacer eso ?!) llévalos a Re-read. No vas a hacer una fortuna en ello, pero puedes hacer a alguien realmente feliz.
And if you are looking for any specific title, something not available at the moment, you can go to re-read.com and choose ´Alerts´: you will be informed as soon as the book is available and it will be kept for you up to 7 days. As they say on the web:
¨We can’t order a book, but we can be attentive and if it comes, notify you, for free.¨
The best part is, that it's not only a typical bookshop. There is some space to sit down, enjoy your book just there.
Y si estás buscando un título específico, algo no disponible en este momento, puedes ir a re-read.com y elegir 'Alertas': te informarán tan pronto como el libro esté disponible y lo guradarán para ti 7 días. Como dicen en la web:
¨No podemos encargar un libro, pero sí podemos estar atentos y si llega, avisarte.¨
La mejor parte es, que no es solo una librería típica. Hay un poco de espacio para sentarse, disfrutar del libro elegido de inmediato allí.
And as I've been told there will be some activities organized there in the future. They've already started with artistic workshops for children, but there is more to come.
For anyone who I've managed to convince, here is the address: Segundo Izpizua 13, Gros, Donostia.
Franchise web: http://www.re-read.com
This blog post is not a publicity, I describe places like this for poor love of books and literature, the owners have never contacted me and it actually was not clear to me who the owners are until I have decided to investigate a bit. If you want to read an interview with Beatriz Moral Edesma, responsible for bringing this great franchise to Donostia, you can find it in Diario Vasco (Sunday, 17.07.2016).
Me han comentado que también habrá algunas actividades organizadas allí en el futuro. Ya han comenzado con talleres artísticos para niños, pero hay más por venir.
Para cualquier persona que conseguí convencer, aquí está la dirección: Segundo Izpizua 13, Gros, Donostia.
Franquicias web: http://www.re-read.com
Esta entrada de blog no es una publicidad, describo lugares como este por el puro amor por los libros y la literatura, los propietarios nunca me han contactado y, en realidad, no estaba claro para mí quienes son los propietarios hasta que haya decidido investigar un poco. Si deseáis leer una entrevista con Beatriz Moral Edesma, responsable de traer esta gran franquicia a Donostia, podéis encontrarla en el Diario Vasco (Domingo, 17.7.2016).
¿Cuantas veces habéis estado en una parada del bus, o esperando la cita con el médico, en una cola, o simplemente esperando a unos amigos que llegan tarde deseando tener con vosotros algo para leer? Un libro no siempre entra en nuestros bolsos/mochilas con la vida tan ocupada y llena de prisa que llevamos hoy en día. En esos momentos solemos meter las cabezas en nuestros aparatos móviles, ojeando mecánicamente las mismas páginas web, sin sacar nada nuevo para nosotros, sin estimular nuestra mente.
Hace varios meses, en noviembre 2015, Grenoble puso en sus calles maquinas expendedoras de relatos cortos: una solución perfecta para todas esas situaciones de tiempo muerto.
Distributeur d’histoires courtes en Grenoble
Por ahora se desconoce el aspecto de las que tendremos en Guipuzkoa.
Me acuerdo haber pensado: ¨Que pena que nadie hace algo así aquí¨. Luego me olvidé de la idea, totalmente absorta en otras actividades. ¡Cual fue mi sorpresa al oír de Kultur Dealers, una iniciativa del Departamento Foral de Cultura y Turismo para poner unas máquinas así aquí, no solo en Donostia pero en toda la comarca!
Serán 6 maquinas que entre los meses de octubre y diciembre distribuirán:
1. Ficción (en castellano o euskera): microrelatos escritos por las personas seleccionadas. Todos los interesados ya pueden enviar sus miniobras a través de la página web www.kulturdealers.com. Los textos pueden tener una extensión máxima de 2000 caracteres (incluyendo espacios).
2. Pensamiento (en castellano, euskera, inglés o francés): textos de autores reconocidos seleccionados por el Gremio de Libreros.
Cinco de estas maquinas serán fijas y permanecerán durante un mes en una localización determinada. Se irán rotando por distintos lugares de Guipuzkoa. La sexta maquina será móvil y la podremos encontrar en cualquier sitio.
Te animas a escribir algo tuyo? Busca unos pequeños displays de Kultur Dealers con hojas en blanco y unos pequeños lápices estiló ¨IKEA¨ y empieza a escribir. O entra en www.kulturdealers.com y envía tu texto ya!
Zombie (1995) is a novel inspired by real life serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer. In the novel, the main character Quentin wants to 'create' the perfect companion by kidnapping young men and modifying their brains in order to dominate and control them. During his many failed (and murderous) attempts, he notices that he begins to enjoy the killing more than the companionship.
Bram Stoker Award: Superior Achievement in a Novel
Fisk Fiction Prize, Boston Book Review
New York Times Notable Books of the Year
Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer (May 21, 1960 – November 28, 1994), also known as the Milwaukee Cannibal, was an American serial killer and sex offender, who committed the rape, murder, and dismemberment of seventeen men and boys between 1978 and 1991, with many of his later murders also involving necrophilia, cannibalism, and the permanent preservation of body parts—typically all or part of the skeletal structure.
Describing the increase in his rate of killing in the two months prior to his arrest, he stated he had been "completely swept along" with his compulsion to kill, adding: "It was an incessant and never-ending desire to be with someone at whatever cost. Someone good looking, really nice looking. It just filled my thoughts all day long."
Zombie has been made into a short film by Bill Connington, who also adapted the novella for the stage:https://youtu.be/e3yxxRI_8Ig
Joyce Carol Oates denies that Quentin P_ is “an allegorical figure” and insists that this character is so different from the people around him that he is, “virtually a subspecies in their midst” (“Psycho Killer”).
Novelist, teacher and publisher. Joyce Carol Oates has written 56 novels, over 30 collections of short stories, eight volumes of poetry, plays, essays and book reviews, as well as longer nonfiction works on literary subjects ranging from the poetry of Emily Dickinson and the fiction of Dostoyevsky and James Joyce, to studies of the gothic and horror genres, and on such non-literary subjects as the painter George Bellows and the boxer Mike Tyson. She has also been a lecturer on various universities and still teaches creative writing at University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University, New York University, and Princeton University. She has also written suspense novels under the pseudonyms Rosamond Smith and Lauren Kelly.
Joyce Carol Oates was born on June 16, 1938 in Lockport, New York. The oldest of three siblings. She grew up on her parents' farm, outside the town, and went to the same one-room schoolhouse her mother had attended. Although her parents had little education, they encouraged her ambitions. She was the first in a family to graduate from highschool. When, at age 14, her grandmother gave her her first typewriter, she began consciously preparing herself, "writing novel after novel" throughout high school and college.
She has also other memories connected to her grandmother and books:
¨I am being taken by my grandmother Blanche Woodside—my hand in hers—to the Lockport Public Library on East Avenue, Lockport. I am an eager child of 7 or 8 and this is in the mid-1940s. The library is a beautiful building like no other I’ve seen close up, an anomaly in this city block beside the dull red brick of the YMCA to one side and a dentist’s office to the other; across the street is Lockport High School, another older, dull-brick building.
The library for grown-ups is upstairs, beyond a dauntingly wide and high-ceilinged doorway; the library for children is more accessible, downstairs and to the right. Inside this cheery, brightly lit space there is an inexpressible smell of floor polish, library paste, books—that particular library smell that conflates, in my memory, with the classroom smell of floor polish, chalk dust, books so deeply imprinted in my memory. For even as a young child I was a lover of books and of the spaces in which, as indeed in a sacred temple, books might safely reside.
What is most striking in the children’s library are the shelves and shelves of books—bookcases lining the walls—books with brightly colored spines—astonishing to a little girl whose family lives in a farmhouse in the country where books are almost wholly unknown. That these books are available for children—for a child like me—all these books!—leaves me dazed, dazzled.
The special surprise of this memorable day is that my grandmother has arranged for me to be given a library card, so that I can “withdraw” books from this library—though I’m not a resident of Lockport, nor even of Niagara County. Since my grandmother is a resident, some magical provision has been made to include me.
And she continues:
As a farm girl, even when I was quite young I had my “farm chores”—but I had time also to be alone, to explore the fields, woods and creek side. And to read.
There was no greater happiness for me than to read—children’s books at first, then “young adult”—and beyond. No greater happiness than to make my way along the seemingly infinite shelves of books in the Lockport Public Library, drawing my forefinger across the spines. My grandmother was an avid reader whom all the librarians knew well, and whom they obviously liked very much; two or even three times a week she checked books out of the library—novels, biographies. I remember once asking Grandma about a book she was reading, a biography of Abraham Lincoln, and how she answered me: this was the first conversation of my life that concerned a book, and “the life of the mind”—and now, such subjects have become my life.¨
At the high school in Lockport, she was an excellent student, contributing to her high school newspaper and won a scholarship to attend Syracuse University, where she graduated with a degree in English in 1960. When she was only 19, she won the "college short story" contest sponsored by Mademoiselle magazine.
After receiving her BA degree, she earned her Master's in a single year at the University of Wisconsin. While studying in Wisconsin she met Raymond Smith. The two were married after a three-month courtship. Oates was married for 47 years to Raymond J Smith. He was a professor and editor of the Ontario Review, which he and Oates founded together in 1974. After he died in 2008 from complications arising from pneumonia, Oates detailed her grief in an acclaimed memoir, A Widow’s Story. Ontario Review ceased publication at that time.
In 1962, the couple settled in Detroit, Michigan. Joyce taught at the University of Detroit. The racial tensions and subsequent violence on the streets of Detroit in that period, inspired much of her early fiction. Though she started a Ph.D. program, Oates eventually dropped out to invest her time into writing. Her first book, a collection of short stories, By the North Gate, was published in 1963, and a year later, her first novel, With Shuddering Fall, was published. She was 28. Her other novel them, a layered chronicling of urban life received the National Book Award in 1969.
In 1968, Joyce took a job at the University of Windsor, and the couple moved across the Detroit River to Windsor, in the Canadian province of Ontario. In the ten years that followed, Joyce Carol Oates published new books at the extraordinary rate of two or three per year, while teaching full-time. Many of her novels sold well; her short stories and critical essays solidified her reputation. Despite some critical grumbling about her phenomenal productivity, Oates had become one of the most respected and honored writers in the United States though only in her thirties.
Her productivity has been legendary, almost from the start. When her former Syracuse University classmate Robert Phillips interviewed Oates for the Paris Review in 1978, he recounted a rumor that circulated campus about how she would finish a novel, turn it over, and begin composing another one on the other side–only to throw the manuscript away when both sides were covered and begin again. Oates didn’t deny the rumor. “I began writing in high school,” she said, “consciously training myself by writing novel after novel and always throwing them out when I completed them.” But sheer volume was never the point, as Oates told Phillips:
Productivity is a relative matter. And it’s really insignificant: What is ultimately important is a writer’s strongest books. It may be the case that we all must write many books in order to achieve a few lasting ones — just as a young writer or poet might have to write hundreds of poems before writing his first significant one. Each book as it is written, however, is a completely absorbing experience, and feels always as if it were the work I was born to write.
While still in Canada, Oates and her husband started a small press and began to publish a literary magazine,The Ontario Review, a journal committed to uniting art in the U.S. and Canada. The couple also started a publishing press called Ontario Review Books. They continued these activities after 1978, when they moved to Princeton, New Jersey. Since 1978, Joyce Carol Oates has taught in the creative writing program at Princeton University, where she has mentored numerous young writers, including Jonathan Safran Foer.
In the early 1980s, Oates surprised critics and readers with a series of novels, beginning with Bellefluer, in which she reinvented the conventions of Gothic fiction, using them to re-imagine whole stretches of American history. Just as suddenly, she returned, at the end of the decade, to her familiar realistic ground with a series of ambitious family chronicles, including You Must Remember This, and Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart. The novels Solstice and Marya: A Life also date from this period, and use the materials of her family and childhood to create moving studies of the female experience.
In 1996, Oates received the PEN/Malamud Award for "a lifetime of literary achievement." Oates has since won several other awards, like O. Henry awards, and even the Pulitzer Prize. Most recently, her short story collection Black Dahlia & White Rose was the recipient of the 2013 Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection.
As I have mentioned, her husband, Raymond Smith, died in 2008, shortly before the publication of her 32nd collection of short stories, Dear Husband.
The following year she met and married Charlie Gross, a neuroscientist of the Psychology Department and Neuroscience Institute at Princeton. Before she met Dr. Gross, she suffered from severe depression and suicidal thoughts. She described this experience vividly in the memoir, A Widow's Tale, published in 2011 Gross has been a particularly enthusiastic reader of that novel, which has come about, she says, directly as a consequence of writing A Widow’s Story and having to deal so rigorously with her own memory.
Oates prefers to write by hand rather than on the computer, and she makes sure to write eight hours every single day. (This might account for her extended list of publications!) She also claims to receive much of her inspiration while running.
She usually works on several projects at once, but it was only after she’d finished the memoir that she was able to return to writing novels and stories. “Writing fiction is hard to do when real life seems so much more important,” she explains.
Asked her advice for aspiring writers, Oates replied: "To be as invisible as possible so that you can experience life." She assigned a 1982 collection of poems the title Invisible Woman, and she is fond of quoting Flaubert's injunction against personal flamboyance: "Live like the bourgeois, so you can be wild in your imagination." The challenge for anyone presuming to biographize Oates is to remove the bourgeois mask and find the feral face beneath. Oates has made a life—and even a living, though she rarely cracks the best-seller lists—out of her writing. The texts are so voluminous that the author seems to have vanished into their margins.
Today, Joyce Carol Oates continues to live and write in Princeton, New Jersey, where she is Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University.
Since 2012 Oates is extremely active on Twitter, and has attracted almost 150,000 followers, a surprisingly high number for a serious literary writer in her seventies. She says that one of the great strengths of Twitter is that it can draw attention to individual victims in ways that wouldn’t be possible with traditional media.
“The New York Times, for instance, would not be able to write about all these cases,” she says. “The whole newspaper would be filled with it. So I think that online—and particularly Twitter—is good at revealing these things to people who didn’t know anything about it.”
But Oates increasingly sees a downside to social media. She thinks the Internet is partly to blame for the extreme polarization of American politics and the growing rift between supporters of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
This year is a second consecutive year we have participated in Literaktum, but this time, on a much bigger scale. At our May meeting we had a special guest: Jordi Fibla Feito, Philip Roth's translator. He discussed with us Roth's ¨Everyman¨ and shared with us his amazing knowledge about the world of literature. I would like to share with you the conversation we had, one that I wish we could have continued for much, much longer.
Jorge Fibla Feito (Barcelona, 1946; he has never officially changed his name to Jordi) studied Modern History and English Philology at different periods of his life, but he didn't finish either of both careers. After working 10 years as an editor in Noguer and Plaza and Janes, he dedicated himself to translations. Since 1978 he has translated over 300 works mostly from English, but also from French and Japanese. Jordi, is that unusual for the translator to specialise in more than one language and, what is more, in 3 that are so distinct?
In fact, I am specialized in English and American narrative. However, the first foreign language I learnt at school was French, and I have always had a strong liking for it. French culture and language are very dear to me. During a period in the seventies and eighties I translated several essays and some novels from French. Then I had so much work in English that I relinquished on translating from French, but even now I read French literature almost on a daily basis.
How did it happen that you have started with the Japanese?
Japanese is a domestic language for me, due to the fact that my wife is Japanese. She spoke her language to our children from the beginning and presently she is doing the same with our grandchildren. So, Japanese is a language always present at home. I have been many times in Japan since 1976, and I am very interested in its culture and language. However, it is extremely difficult to me, and, although by now I have a good knowledge of both the spoken and written language, I am still far from mastering it. But I exercise myself every day, watching Japanese TV via satellite and studying it with a wonderful array of learning material. My wife and I have done several translations (Mishima, Tanizaki, Enchi, Ichikawa), but my present goal is finally getting a knowledge of the written language deep enough to be able to translate Japanese narrative by myself, counting on her only to consult the difficulties that could arise in the process.
Among the authors you have translated are some of the finest of the XXth century: Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, J.M. Coetzee, Lawrence Durrell, Nadine Gordimer, John Irving, Henry James, William Kennedy, John Kennedy Toole, Rudyard Kipling, D.H. Lawrence, David Malouf, Arthur Miller, Colum McCann, Toni Morrison, but apart from these authors, you have also translated some other books, like for example Daniel Steel. What's the difference for you when translating this kind of works and how much freedom do you have to decide who to translate?
As it happens with most translators, I have never had the freedom to decide what to translate, but along my career I found that some of the authors whose work were offered to me were much of my liking, and I strove in order to be entrusted with the translation of every new book they published.
Danielle Steel or, for that matter, Frederick Forsyth or Stephen King never interested me, but if you are a freelance translator and need to make ends meet, translating what you don't like is unavoidable. You earn less translating high literature that the popular kind.
In Radio Classica you have said that a translator is also a writer (´un traductor no deja de ser un escritor´). Could you explain a bit what you meant?
To translate literature you need to have some of the qualities common to a writer. You need your instinct and your intuition, in order to make the work written in a foreign language seem like it was written in your own, not an exact replica of the words, but an exact replica of the textual sense even if the wording is very different, as it happens when a book has a complicated language. Of course, the creative act is the author's province, but translating it also often requires the work of imagination. Some scholars consider translation as a literary genre in its own right. This is most usual in poetry, but it can also be applied to high fiction.
Have you ever been tempted to, not only translate, but also write like for example translator Javier Calvo does?
Yes, I do write, but I keep it to myself. I keep it in a drawer and let it for my children to decide what to do with that, if to burn it or so, once I'm gone.
Spain´s Ministry of Culture has awarded Jordi Fibla, on November, 5th, 2015, with Premio Nacional a la Obra de un Traductor in recognition for his important contributions to literature. The jury chose him for ¨his long trajectory as a professional translator, his versatility and quality of his work¨. However, he downplayed the honor by saying that only 100 of his translations are ¨good¨ works.
Many times you have said that Philip Roth is your favourite writer. You have translated 19 of his works, but never talked to him personally. I know that nowadays to be in touch with an author is more and more difficult for translators, what authors gave you this opportunity?
I have had a personal contact with Amy Tan, Column McCann and Alison Lurie. I have also had an interesting correspondence with Thomas Pynchon and William Kennedy. The problem with Roth was that he didn't accept a direct interchange. You had to say to him what you wanted through his agent, and his answers always were impersonal. Also, he submitted your translations to the perusal of a Columbia University professor, whose opinions not always were much to the point. On several occasions I have been disappointed with what seemed to me an unwarranted aloofness and his seeming lack of understanding of what entails to make a literary translation. But, as I told you before, I forgive everything to Philip Roth.
And here, because of time pressure we had to leave the fascinating talk about the world of translation and we moved to Philip Roth and his ¨Everyman¨. First was due a short presentation of author's bioghraphy, let me repeat it here as shortly as possible:
Philip Milton Roth was born on March, 19th 1933 to Herman Roth and Bess (Finkel) Roth in Newark, New Jersey, where he and his older brother grew up. His father, the American-born son of Jewish immigrants from the eastern European region of Galicia (now occupied by Poland and Ukraine), was an insurance salesman.
From 1950, when he graduated from high school, 1951 Roth attended the Newark extension of Rutgers University before transferring to Bucknell University, in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. While at Bucknell, Roth edited the literary magazine, appeared in student plays and became a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After graduating with B.A. Degree in English in 1954, he obtained an M.A. Degree in English from the University of Chicago the following year. Then he moved to Washington, D.C., where for 2 years he served in the US Army before he was discharged due to a back injury. Upon returning to the University of Chicago in 1956, he began teaching a full schedule of freshman composition while working toward a doctorate degree, which he abandoned in the first quarter. During Roth's two-year stint as an Englich instructor at the University of Chicago, he continued to write short fiction, which he has begun doing at least as early as 1955.
Roth published Goodbye, Columbus in 1959. The earlier publication of one of the stories in Goddbye, Columbus, ¨Defender of the Faith¨, which appeared in the New Yorker in April 1957, had provoked a barrage of charges that Roth´s attitude toward his Jewish subjects was anti-Semitic, which prompted one rabbi to accuse him of presenting a ¨distorted image of the basic values of Orthodox Judaism¨.
However, the majority of critics were impressed, which earned Roth a National Book Award, an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, a Daroff Award from the Jewish Book Council of America, and a Guggenheim fellowship that enabled him to travel to Rome. In 1960 he began a two-year stint as a visiting lecturer at the University of Iowa Writer's workshop, followed by two years as a writer-in-residence at Princeton University in New Jersey.
His next two books are now considered minor works: Letting Go (1962) and When She Was Good (1967), his only novel to feature a female protagonist.
The period between 1962 and 1967, during which Roth lived in New York City and underwent psychoanalysis, marked the longest, up to now, hiatus in his productivity that he had ever experienced. In interviews he often blamed for that his marriage in 1959 to Margaret Martinson Williams (from whom he was legally separated in 1963 and who died in a car accident in 1968). He said that marriage exhausted his financial and emotional resources. In his novelised biography, Roth Unbound, its author, Claudia Roth Pierpont compares that marriage and its destructiveness to Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's. Margaret, to marry Roth, lied that she was pregnant, he said he would marry her is she aborted, so she pretended she did, when in reality she went to the cinema.
Roth restored his career during the late 1960s, when he began teaching literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where he remained on the faculty for about 11 years. The 1969 feature film adaptation of Goodbye, Columbus, starring Ali Mac Graw and Richard Benjamin; also the publication of Portnoy´s Complaint. The book sold well, but not without controversies: it was banned in Australia. Because of all the focus on him, he decided to move out of New York City to the Yaddo Artist Colony, in Saratoga Springs, in upstate New York.
During the early 1970s Roth wrote a series of entirely different satirical novels that received mixed reaction: Our Gang (1971), a parody of Nixon administration; The Breast (1972); the ironically titled The Great American Novel (1973), a baseball satire. And since that year he has lived on his 40-acre farm in northwestern Connecticut.
In 1974 he authored what many consider his finest novel: My Life as a Man. Its multilayered story centers on the novelist Peter Tarnopol's attempts to solve his dilemmas by writing ¨Useful Fictions¨ about Nathan Zuckermanm a Jewish writer whose life resembles his own.
Zuckerman became a recurring character who appeared in several of Roth´s subsequent novels: The Ghost Writer (1979), Zuckerman Unbound (1981), The Anatomy Lesson (1983), The Counterlife (1986). Roth defined the Zuckerman novels as ¨hypothetical autobiographies¨.
After those he decided to write The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography (1988); a memoir of his first 36 years, which began as a therapeutic exercise to help him recover from the deep depression he had fallen into after minor knee surgery in 1987.
In 1990 he married the distinguished British actress Claire Bloom. They had first met in 1965 when they were both otherwise attached and had lived together since 1976. They separated after four years, in 1994. In 1996 Bloom published her autobiography Leaving a Doll's House, where she wrote in detail about their relationship.
In the 90s Roth was very prolific. He published: Deception (1990), Patrimony: A True Story (1991), Operation Shylock (1993), Sabbath's Theater (1995). In 1997 he authored American Pastoral, the first book in a trilogy of postwar American life. I Married a Communist (1998), the second volume in Roth's trilogy, did not fare as well with the critics. In this book Eve, the traitorous wife was based on Bloom. The final instalment of the trilogy, The Human Stain (2000) was a portrait of contemporary American angst.
Then he published: The Dying Animal (2001), The Plot Against America (2004), Everyman (2006), which focuses on death and was influenced by witnessing many of his friends grow old and die; Indignation (2008); The Humbling (2009) and Nemesis (2010).
In 2010, after publishing Nemesis, he said in an interview with a French magazine that he's retiring from writing. He wrote 31 books. Also had a small disagreement with Wikipedia when he requested to correct origins of The Human Stain, and they said he is not a believable source. They claimed it was based on Anatole Broyard's life and he said it was based on a story of his friend, Melvin Tumin. Now it appears as corrected and even describes the exchange they had.
And then, before we have managed to encourage the Donostia Book Club members to join the conversation, there were two more crucial questions to our guest, Jordi:
Could you situate Everyman in Roth's works?
At the beginning of the century, when Roth decided to write a series of short novels, trying to do the same that his great friend and fellow writer Saul Bellow had done in his last years, he started a book about an actor who has lost his ability to perform. Then, in 2005, some emotional upheavals had him setting aside this manuscript and starting a different book, dealing with what then obsessed him: illness, aging and death. In fact, the previous book, which finally would be "The Humbling". It also deals with the same themes, but in "Everyman" we find a tenderness, a soft spot which is not counteracted by rage, as it happens in "The Humbling". In "Everyman" there is nostalgia, desperation and remorse, but not the kind of rage that can lead the character to kill himself. We could say that "Everyman" stands apart among the series of his last works as a book reflecting much more than others the desperation of the author when crossing a bleak patch in his life.
In journalism, especially daily newspapers, it often happens that the editor changes the title of an article without consulting it with the author, or without giving the author much choice. Everyman is the first time I've heard about it happening in fiction. How did it happen that Everyman was changed to Elegía?
I proposed to name this book "Humano". In French it has been named "Un homme". But the translator's proposals to the publishers are always wasted. At least this is my personal experience. They use the title they consider more commercial. So, they named this book "Elegía" without asking my opinion. Then Isabel Coixet made "The Dying Animal" into a film and, as "moribundo" didn't seem commercial, she named it "Elegía". Confusion was served. You have two different works by Roth with the same title, which has nothing to do with the original.
The rest was a passionate chat between many people, our own impressions and guesses about the meaning of the book and how autobiographical it was. The chat lasted long after the official meeting has finished and I am sure we will all remember it for a long time. We can only hope that Jordi has felt our enthusiasm!
I started writing this post just two days after or last meeting and then... work and life happened and I never had the chance to finish. I truly apologize for that. Posting it just a few days before our next meeting (and such a great one with Jordi Fibla, Philip Roth's Spanish translator as a guest!) is way too late. I hope you can forgive me for that... Back to subject. Douglas Adams.
There are so many stories to tell about Douglas Noel Adams, or as he often referred to himself, DNA. For example DNA: where did it come from, apart from, quite obviously, his initials?
He was born on March, 11th, 1952 in Cambridge and, as DNA was discovered also in Cambridge one year later, he used to present himself as DNA from Cambridge. HE found it funny, for sure, but it was mostly catchy. How to forget a man who says he's DNA? People also called him "Bop Ad" for his illegible signature.
He attended Brentwood School, a boarding school famous for some of its pupils: Robin Day, Jack Straw, Noel Edmonds, and David Irving, Griff Rhys Jones, a Stuckist artist Charles Thomson. He attended the prep school from 1959 to 1964, then the main school until December 1970. One of his former teachers, Frank Halford, said of him: "Hundreds of boys have passed through the school but Douglas Adams really stood out from the crowd—literally. He was unnaturally tall and in his short trousers he looked a trifle self-conscious. Yet it was his ability to write first-class stories that really made him shine." The truth is, it was difficult to miss him in a crowd: Adams was 1.83 m by age 12 and stopped growing only when he reached 1.96 m. Adams became the only student ever to be awarded a ten out of ten by Halford for creative writing, something he remembered for the rest of his life, particularly when facing writer's block.
Some of his writings were published at the school (for example a report on its photography club in The Brentwoodian in 1962, or reviews in the school magazine Broadsheet, edited by Paul Neil Milne Johnstone, who later became a character in The Hitchhiker's Guide).However, his first published work was a short story in Eagle comic, at the age of 12, in 1965. He applied to Cambridge, mostly to join the Footlights, an invitation-only student comedy club that acted as a hothouse for some of the most notable comic talent in England. He was not chosen immediately and started to write and perform forming a group called "Adams-Smith-Adams". He managed to become a member of the Footlights by 1973. He graduated in 1974 with a B.A. in English literature.
Some of his early work appeared on BBC2 television in 1974, in an edited version of the Footlights Revue that year. Over the next few years Douglas worked with many comedy stars. He got Griff Rhys Jones into comedy and directed A Kick In The Stalls, which got the attention of Graham Chapman. That led to a collaboration on a TV comedy show called Out Of The Trees. He also worked on several other projects, and among other things he submitted sketches for The Burkiss Way, Weekending and Monty Python´s Flying Circus, where Adams earned a writing credit in one episode (episode 45: "Party Political Broadcast on Behalf of the Liberal Party in 1982") for a sketch called "Patient Abuse"; he was one of only two people, outside the original Python members to get a writing credit (the other being Neil Innes). He also contributed to a sketch on the album for Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
But not only he wrote for Monty Python, he also appeared in it. His first Monty Python appearance, in full surgeon's garb, was in episode 42 and the second, at the beginning of episode 44, "Mr. Neutron", where Adams is dressed in a "pepperpot" outfit and loads a missile on to a cart driven by Terry Jones, who is calling for scrap metal ("Any old iron..."). The two episodes were broadcast in November 1974.
But mostly, at that time he was writing for radio. Sketches for The Burkiss Way in 1977 and The News Huddlines. He also wrote, again with Graham Chapman, the 20 February 1977 episode of Doctor on the Go, a sequel to the Doctor in the House television comedy series.
His uncompromising character led to some difficulty selling jokes and stories, and he had to take a series of odd jobs, including that of a hospital porter, barn builder, and chicken shed cleaner. He was employed as a bodyguard by a Qatar family, who had made their fortune in oil.
Finally he moved from writing for radio to become script editor of Doctor Who. During this time he co-wrote City of Death, widely considered to be the best Doctor Who story ever, as well as The Pirate Planet and the ultimately unfinished Shada. In 1990 he worked on the documentary Hyperland.
It was while Douglas was writing for Doctor Who that the radio series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, was commissioned. It appeared on BBC Radio 4 in March 1978 and was repeated in 2004. After the first radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide became successful, Adams was made a BBC radio producer, worked on Week Ending and a pantomime called Black Cinderella Two Goes East. He left the position after only six months. But the truth is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was his true inspiration and work for the rest of his life. It has first been transformed into a series of best-selling novels, then a television series, records, cassettes and CDs, a computer game, several stage adaptations and a major film.
The last part of this post, comes way to fast: Douglas Adams died at the age of 49. I have read a really touching description of what happened on h2g2.com, a site he had created. H2G2 was originally launched in 1999 but found a new home at bbc.co.uk in 2001 with Douglas himself a member. With the launch of PDA and mobile phone versions in April 2005, the site has achieved Douglas's aim of a handheld, ever-expanding guide to Life, the Universe and Everything, written by its users. And I believe the best will be to quote this description here:
On the morning of 11 May, 2001, Douglas went to the local gym to work out. He had been walking the treadmill and went on for some aerobics. After aerobics it was time for some gym workout. First up was stomach crunches, and Douglas lay down on the bench. The trainer turned to get Douglas's towel, and when he turned back to hand it over, Douglas rolled off the bench, suffering a massive heart attack. All attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
Douglas left his six-year-old daughter Polly, his wife Jane, his mother Jan Thrift and countless other family members and friends, not to mention thousands and thousands of fans all over the world, in shock and mourning. It was later learned that he had a narrowing of the arteries in the heart, a condition which is hard to detect, as well as an arrhythmic heartbeat, which is usually benign. These two factors contributed to Douglas's untimely death at the tender age of 49.
He was cremated, along with his towel, at 7.30pm British time, on 16 May, 2001 in Santa Barbara, CA, USA and hundreds of fans worldwide saluted him with a drink around that time, either with a cup of tea or the nearest they could get to a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster. Wife Jane and daughter Polly moved back to Islington, London, together with their cats. In May 2002 Douglas' ashes were interred in a private ceremony at Highgate Cemetery (East), Highgate, London, England, plot: Square 74, Plot 52377, where a memorial stands.
There are million other things to add here, but the words are not enough to express all. He was an atheist, not afraid to prove his reasoning and to talk about it publicly. He was an enthusiastic ecological activist. He loved nature and animals and believed we are destroying the planet that we are not worth of. He had many talents we know of, but without any doubt, many that he never had an opportunity to discover.
Zelda Fitzgerald. Most have heard about her as crazy F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife, or as he called her ´the first flapper´. We almost always read about her in context of her husband's career, but there is so much more to her story! More than anything, Zelda wanted to be recognised for her artistic talents, she wanted, same as her husband, to be somebody, to be an artist in her own right.
Born on July 24, 1900, in Montgomery, Zelda Sayre was the youngest child of Alabama Supreme Court Justice Anthony Dickson Sayre and Minnie Buckner Machen Sayre, a prominent middle-class couple with roots in both Montgomery and Confederate history. Both Zelda’s great-uncle and grandfather served in the United States Senate: judge Sayre's uncle William was a prominent Montgomery merchant whose home eventually became Jefferson Davis's first White House; Mrs. Sayre's father was a Kentucky senator in the Confederate Congress.
She was named for characters in two different 1874 books, Zelda: A Tale of the Massachusetts Colony and Zelda’s Fortune, both of which feature gypsies as the title character. By her early adolescence Zelda was already a formidable presence in Montgomery social circles, starring in ballet recitals and basking in the glow of elite country club dances. She was what we would call today an ¨IT-girl¨, considered a southern belle of her times. She was known to swim in a tight, flesh-coloured bathing suit simply to fuel speculation that she swam naked. In high school, Zelda’s desire to be unconventional and rebellious meant that she smoked, drank alcohol, and snuck out of her parents’ house to spend time with boys. Her friends described her as fearless, daring, and attention-seeking. Later, when she was living with her husband in New York, her carefree spirit and erratic behavior (such as jumping into fountains fully clothed) became a symbol of the 1920s. She was often the talk of the town, and she loved the attention she received. Her contemporary believed that was the only reason behind her behaviour, but reading parts of her diaries and the novel ¨Save Me the Waltz¨, we can suspect she truly believed in the radical idea that women should be more than just daughters and wives. She wanted women to have the same rights as men, and she liked to test her boundaries as a woman.
Zelda met a 21-year-old Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in July 1918, barely a month after graduating from Sidney Lanier High School. He was an army second lieutenant stationed at nearby Camp Sheridan,an Irish-descended Yankee from Princeton University. Her parents found him unsuitable and advised her not to get involved.
Usually, it is said that despite Scott's claim that he was on the verge of literary fame, Zelda doubted his financial prospects and entertained several other suitors, that Zelda's tactics fueled Scott's insecurities, and the motif of a young man pursuing an elusive and conniving woman would later come to define his fiction. But that is just his ´literary version´of their relationship, part of his lore.
In reality, in typical Zelda fashion, she defied her parents, despite being aware of the fact that Scott, who was in training at a nearby military base, would soon be shipped off to fight in France and might not return. He did leave, but the war ended before he arrived. A tumultuous two-year courtship followed, during which Scott tried to establish a writing career in New York. It is believed that Scott didn’t want Zelda to join him until he could show her the lifestyle he felt she deserved, but another version that seems more probable, is that her father didn't allow Zelda to leave home until he could support both of them. So, Zelda, still in Montgomery with her family most of the time was in denial that she wore Scott’s mother’s engagement ring and officially continued to see other men. Her mother genuinely liked Scott, but worried about the realities that would come with marrying a struggling writer. Zelda’s father thought Scott would be unable to support his daughter and didn’t like that he was Irish, Catholic and a boozer. When Fitzgerald finally sold his first novel, This Side of Paradise, for very little money, and then sold a short story to the movies for a bit more, Zelda immediately left home to marry him. She was not yet 20 years old.
They married on April 3, 1920 in New York, just a week after the publication of the novel. Neither of their parents were there for their wedding in New York, which was a small ceremony at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral just a day before Easter Sunday. Only eight people were invited to join them. Scott insisted the wedding happen early, before noon, before a few of the guests even made it there. Zelda’s biographer Milford wrote:
¨Zelda wore a suit of midnight blue with a matching hat trimmed with leather ribbons and buckles; she carried a bouquet of orchids and small white flowers. It was a brilliantly sunny day and when they stepped outside the cathedral Zelda looked for all the world like a young goddess of spring, with Scott at her side as consort.¨
Zelda’s marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald was a toxic one, complete with alcoholism, mutual infidelity, and jealousy. Zelda accused her husband of having a gay relationship with his friend and fellow writer Ernest Hemingway, and she had nervous breakdowns throughout their marriage. Although they never divorced, the couple was estranged when F. Scott died in 1940 of heart attack. The most legendary couple of the 1920s, faced the grim realities of alcoholism and mental illness, infidelity and literary rivalry, of a marriage in which, according to their friend Ring Lardner, "Mr Fitzgerald is a novelist and Mrs Fitzgerald is a novelty".
Generally biographers and friends have taken the side of one of the partners, at one extreme endorsing Hemingway's view that Zelda was a madwoman who undermined Scott's sexual and artistic self-confidence and drained him emotionally and economically, and at another seeing Scott as a monster. Most probably, both partners were victims of a social system and psychological practice that punished creative women, especially those married to creative men.
But before all that happened they made a name for themselves in New York as a golden couple, a perfect marriage free of jealousy, which was very far from their real situation.
The era we know as the Jazz Age was just beginning. Women drinking and smoking in public, wearing revealing dresses, dancing to wild music, kissing men without intending to marry them – it was all scandalous in 1920, and the newlywed Fitzgeralds wanted to lead the trend. Determined to be famous, Scott wrote stories about such independent “flapper” girls, Zelda modelled the dress and behaviours, they played pranks, held parties in hotel suites, defied rules, and very soon became celebrities – the first It couple – in this post-war time of growing excess.
F. Scott based some of his characters on Zelda, and he adapted his real-life interactions and experiences with her into his novels. He also copied entries from Zelda’s journals and put them into his books, blurring the line between fiction and reality. In a piece she wrote for The New York Tribune, Zelda Fitzgerald famously reviewed her husband’s masterpiece The Beautiful and the Damned with an accusation of plagiarism, it was received with a sense of humour. “Mr. Fitzgerald — I believe that is how he spells his name — seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home”, she famously told the New York Herald, and the world laughed. It was taken as witty, charming, but never serious. The same can be said for her entire career. Save Me the Waltz is arguably a stronger novel than many of Scott’s late works. Yet people wanted to read about Zelda, not read her. She was an intellectual eunuch. It is well known that Scott’s leading ladies are Zelda in disguise, with borrowed character traits and neuroses. Scott would read over Zelda’s private diary and take as he saw fit.
Daisy’s (from Great Gatsby) famous “I hope she’s a beautiful little fool” line was originally Zelda's. She said it when their only child, Frances Scott "Scottie" Fitzgerald was born on October 26, 1921. When planning Tender is the Night, Scott compared Zelda and Nicole’s mental histories in a chart entitled “Classification of the Material on Sickness”. Scott sent her to an asylum, yet banned her from writing about it. It was his story, and he had the power to claim ownership. Scott’s genius was celebrated, thus his alcoholism tolerated. Zelda was not afforded the same privilege. When her eccentricities lost their charm, she was institutionalised. A career was made out of fetishising her hysteria. The career, however, was not her own.
Zelda's influence on Scott's fiction at the beginning of their marriage is inestimable. In addition to inspiring his major heroines, she supplied him with many other memorable lines, including an evocative description of Montgomery's Oakwood Cemetery that appears in his short story "The Ice Palace." All that has fueled scholarly debate that Zelda was Scott's collaborator and that he appropriated her personal experiences in his work. Such charges were given additional weight by the frequent addition of his name to her bylines on nearly two dozen stories and articles she produced between 1922 and 1934. In fact, Scott's agent or editors added his name in several instances without his knowledge because the joint byline increased the price that these works received from leading magazines. Claims that Zelda "co-authored" her husband's writing certainly are exaggerated, but few would deny that her personality was key to its appeal.
In 1927, Scott met Lois Moran, a 17-year-old silent film actress. Scott's affair with Lois was neither his first nor his last. In fact, Scott and Zelda had an established pattern of non-monogamy, but before meeting Lois, Scott had retooled their marital contract to insist on Zelda's fidelity. It was always said that they both had affairs, pretending not to care about it, but in reality the only documented affairs were those of Scott. In a letter to Scott dated September 1930, Zelda writes, "In California, though you would not allow me to go anywhere without you, you yourself engaged in flagrantly sentimental relations with a child."
Over the course of their affair, Scott steadily compared the two women. Even though Scott forbade Zelda from accepting a movie role offered to her, viciously panned her writing and blatantly discouraged her dancing and painting pursuits, Scott audaciously criticized Zelda's lack of ambition while applauding Lois' drive. And yet, Scott propagated stories that positioned Zelda's outrage as yet more evidence of Zelda's "crazy." He implicitly denied culpability.
He himself accused Zelda of having an affair with a French aviator, Edouard Jozan, in 1924 and claimed that it changed their relationship forever. However, Jozan, after both Fitzgerald's were dead said that there never was any affair, that both Scott and Zelda were generally very dramatic, usually over nothing. All that undermined her already fragile mental health.
What is more, Zelda was a real artist, which people refused to see when she was still alive. As a child, Zelda had taken ballet lessons, but her interest in dance was renewed in her late 20s while the couple was living in France. Hoping to become a professional ballerina, she took ballet lessons in Paris with Russian dancer Lubov Egorova. Zelda trained obsessively for a few years, spending all day practicing until her dancing dreams ended when she suffered a mental breakdown in 1930. A belated effort to became a ballerina in Paris had driven her to anorexia and obsessive behaviour, but Scott's chief reasons for having her committed were sexual; she declared an attraction to her ballet teacher, and, in the asylum, was caught masturbating. Her sexual frankness conflicted with his anxieties and pruderies, especially with his own fascinated dread of homosexuality. "The nearest I ever came to leaving you," he told her, "was when you told me that I was a fairy in the Rue Palatine."
Zelda's hospital letters were censored by her caretakers, and have to be seen as written by a prisoner to her jailer. Although she often expressed an extravagant love for Scott, and he loyally supported and wrote affectionately to her, they quarrelled bitterly and endlessly over her ambitions as a writer and painter, her sexuality, and her right to work and to be independent. Zelda repeatedly said that she wanted a divorce, but without any money of her own, and without the means of earning any, she was utterly powerless in the relationship.
So, the crack-up of the marriage and their lives came quickly; by 1930, after less than a decade of fame and high living in New York, the Riviera and Paris, they had entered what would become a long decline. Just as their married life had been lived in hotels, Zelda's post-1930 life became an odyssey between hospitals and clinics; some were four-star European establishments with all the luxuries of a spa resort, some much more basic and punitive with cold baths, strait-jackets and long hikes.
Zelda felt that she had lived the life of a pampered child: "I don't seem to know anything appropriate for a person of 30." Confinement in a series of institutions certainly made it hard for her to grow up. Scott was a control freak who wanted to arrange and order every detail of her life, as he would also for their daughter, but he also did his best to find her the most advanced care. Zelda's doctors included many of the famous names of psychiatric medicine of her day, but their understanding and treatment of women's psychological conflicts was lumbered with traditional expectations that healthy, normal women should be content to limit themselves to secondary domestic roles. Zelda was forced to restrict or give up her dancing, painting and writing and to submit to versions of the rest cure that made her worse. As she wrote: "Enforced inactivity maddens me beyond endurance."
Diagnosed as schizophrenic, although she did not meet most of the criteria for the illness, Zelda was regularly subjected to insulin shock therapy, which induced memory loss and weight gain, and dosed with a battery of drugs including morphine, belladonna, potassium bromide and horse serum. From the beginning, Zelda perceived her treatment as "a sort of castration". Scott, meanwhile, was not institutionalised for his drinking. Moreover, he insisted that she was the real drunkard, while he needed drink in order to work.
Yet the biggest crisis in their marriage and its tenuous balance of power came in 1932, when Zelda wrote an autobiographical novel, Save Me the Waltz, drawing on the same material with which he was struggling in Tender is the Night. She wrote it in only two months: January and February at Phipps Clinic of John Hopkins Hospital and sent it to Max Perkins in March without informing Scott. He was outraged that Zelda should presume to poach on his territory. He wrote in fury to his publisher Max Perkins telling him not to publish.
In May 1933, the Fitzgeralds sat down with Zelda's doctor for a debate on the subject which was transcribed by a stenographer and ran to 114 pages. The transcripts read more like a trial than a negotiation. Scott demanded "unconditional surrender" - he accused Zelda of being an opportunist and called her "a third-rate writer" and a "useless society woman" with an "amazonian and lesbian" personality. "It seems to me that you are making rather a violent attack on a third-rate talent then," Zelda replied. She wanted a divorce and stressed her need to be independent.
In a journal entry outlining his divorce strategy if Zelda insisted on continuing to write fiction, Scott noted: "Attack on all grounds. Play (suppress), novel (delay), pictures (suppress), character (showers), child (detach), schedule (disorient to cause trouble), no typing. Probable result - new breakdown." In the event, Zelda capitulated and Scott allowed the novel to be published with several cuts.
Zelda's letters are saturated with the need to find meaningful work and to support herself. But Scott could not consent, and gradually Zelda developed symptoms of religious mania and suicidal depression.
In the late 1930s, when Scott was too hard up to pay her hospital fees, he moved her to Highlands Hospital in North Carolina, where Dr Robert Carroll believed in vigorous physical activity and reprogramming rebellious women through electro-shock treatments into "wholesome" wives and mothers. Although Carroll eventually relented enough to support Zelda's painting, he was also involved in a case of raping a female patient. Another psychiatrist, Dr Irving Pine, said that "Dr Carroll took advantage of several women patients, including Zelda".
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Zelda was in and out of mental hospitals. Although she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, her fluctuations between depression and mania would most likely get her a bipolar diagnosis today. During her time in these hospitals, Zelda kept herself creatively occupied by writing and painting. She worked on her second novel, called Caesar’s Things, and she painted scenes from Alice in Wonderland, the Bible, and New York locations like Times Square, Washington Square Park, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Since the ballet didn’t work out, and writing books didn’t seem to be her calling, Zelda desperately turned to painting. She had been painting for years—it was a hobby that occupied her while she was in and out of mental institutions. Her paintings were displayed in 1934 but, like her novel, faced a cool reception. One critic said:
Paintings by the almost mythical Zelda Fitzgerald; with whatever emotional overtones or associations may remain from the so-called Jazz Age.
Zelda’s and Scott’s relationship remained understandably rocky. He was off in Hollywood most of the time, carrying on an affair with Sheilah Graham, a movie columnist. She was once again in a mental institution—this time in Asheville, North Carolina. Zelda “made progress” in Asheville, and in 1938 Scott had a falling-out with Graham, resulting in husband and wife taking a trip to Cuba. They returned from the trip exhausted, and Scott returned to Hollywood. The pair continued sending each other letters, but it was the last time they would see each other.
Scott predeceased her, in 1940, and after his death, Zelda spent much of her time in Montgomery with her family. The years until her death in 1948 were among Zelda's most creative, although her unfinished novel from the period, Caesar's Wife, is the product of her religious obsessions.
On March 10, 1948, a fire started in the hospital’s kitchen. Reportedly, Zelda was scheduled for an electroshock therapy session and was sedated and locked in a waiting room. Regardless of where exactly she was, the fire spread through the floors of the building via the dumbwaiter shaft, and Zelda was killed along with eight other women. She was 47.
In 1975, the Catholic archdiocese overturned an earlier decision and allowed Scott and Zelda to be buried together in St Mary's Church cemetery in Rockville, Maryland. Their inscription quotes the last line of Gatsby: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
This text is a compliation of a few very interesting articles I came across:
Thank you so much for our last meeting! As always I've enjoyed talking to you a lot. Although most of you didn't realli like reading Zelda Fitzgerald, a blog post about her will be available sometime next week on our blog.
Our next book is ¨The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy¨ by Douglas Adams. Let me know if you need help with getting a copy!
Also I attach the calendar of all the events I've told you about. Remember if you are interested in Paseo Literario, you should send an email to liburutegiaalderdieder at donostia.eus as the number of participants is limited.
I also hope you will be interested in our Public Reading. This year it's on April, 23rd at 18:00. Since it is dedicated to William Shakespeare we will read a fragment of ¨Interred with their bones¨ by Jennifer Lee Carrell. Please if you want to participate, let me know as soon as posible, so that I can choose an appropraite fragment and send it to those who will be reading. As you probably remember we are usually rewarded with a little surprise for our participation...
As in May our meeting is dedicated to Philip Roth's ¨Everyman¨ and Jordi Fibla, Roth's Spanish translator will be our guest, so you might want to look for a copy of his book now.
Finally, also in May we will have another guest: a Macedonian autor, Kocho Trajchevski. I will send you a part of his text that we will analyse after our April meeting.
If you have any questions, send me an email and I will try to answer!
Donostia Book Club