Cantos: A New Directions Blog

Archive for January 2010

Mishima’s Only Film

with one comment

The Criterion Collection released Yukio Mishima’s 1965 film, Patriotism, based on the story, which is being reissued in the ND Pearl series next month.  It is the only film that Mishima made.  We found a it on YouTube as well.  The film is very faithful to the story, with no dialog and only written narration.  Even the sex scene is still pretty hot.  Mishima said that “Patriotism” was his favorite story.  The film is especially haunting when considering that Mishima took his own life in a similar fashion only five years later.  Click here for parts two and three.


Written by New Directions

January 27, 2010 at 6:52 am

New Pearl Series

with 2 comments

Beginning in February, New Directions will release a new series by favorite ND authors in small format books, similar to the ND Bibelot series that ran from  1993–2004.  The Bibelot series served as short introductions to the great 20th century modernist authors such as Henry Miller and Ezra Pound, as well as reissuing short modern classics.  The new Pearl series will relaunch some of the Bibelots and introduce short works by new ND authors such as Javier Marías and César Aira.

The editions are pocket sized, with clean designs by Rodrigo Corral, New Directions’ Creative Director at Large, whose minimalist style gives the books a unique look—a rhombus expanding in shape and growing in color; an abstraction of a pearl shining on the spine.

These gorgeous-looking, affordably priced ($9.95!) miniature masterpieces are also quite pragmatic.  I really can’t leave my house without something to read, which can be problematic at times, like when I just have to walk down the street to meet a friend or something, does it really makes sense to carry a book with me?  But there’s always the chance that the person I’m meeting will be late and I’ll be stuck without a book, but then I end up having to carry a bag with just one book in it, or folding a paperback in half and stuffing it in my back pocket.  The Pearl series can solve a lot of these problems for me.

February will see the release of the first series of Pearls, including Patriotism by Yukio Mishima, Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico by Javier Marías, In Search of Duende by Federico García Lorca, and Tales of Desire by Tennessee Williams. The two I’ve read so far have been great.  Patriotism is one of the most intense reads I’ve experience in a while, and Bad Nature is a wry tale that takes a comic premise down a dark alley.  I used the descriptions from the back jacket of each book:

Patriotism by Yukio Mishima, Translated by Geoffrey W. Sargent

Shinji Takeyama, a lieutenant in the Japanese army, comes home to his wife and informs that his closest friends have become mutineers.  Torn between his allegiances to the Emperor and his rebellious friends, Shinji and his beautiful, loyal wife Reiko decide to end their lives together.  Incredible detail Mishima describes Shinji and Reiko making love for the last time and the ritual suicide by seppuku that follows.

Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico by Javier Marías, Translated by Esther Allen

“It all happened because of Elvis Presley.”

A boiled-down gem of a Marías story about how Elvis (in Acapulco to film a movie) and his hard-drinking entrouage abandon their interpreter in a seedy cantina full of enraged criminals after insults start to fly.  When the local kingpin demands to be told what the Americans are saying, Elvis himself delivers an even more stinging parting shot–and who has to translate that?

In Search of Duende by Federico García Lorca, Translated by Christopher Mauer (Poems translated by Norman di Giovanni, Edwin Honig, Langston Hughes, Lysander Kemp, W. S. Merwin, Stephen Spender, J. L. Gili and Christopher Mauer)

The notion of “duende” became a conerstone of Federico García Lorca’s poetics over the course of his career.  In his lecture “Play and Theory of the Duende,” he says, “there are no maps nor disciplines to help us find the duende.  We only know that he burns the blood like a poultice of broken glass, that he exhausts, that he rejects all the sweet geometry we have learned…”  The duende is portrayed by Lorca as a demonic earth spirit embodying irrationality, earthiness, and a heightened awareness of death.  In Search of Duende gathers Lorca’s writings about the duende and about three art forms most susceptible to it: dance, music, and the bullfight.  A full bilingual sampling of Lorca’s poetry is also included, with special attention to poems arising from traditional Spanish verse forms.  The result is an excellent introduction to Lorca’s poetry and prose for American readers.

Tales of Desire by Tennessee Williams

“I cannot write any sort of story,” said Tennessee Williams to Gore Vidal, “unless there is at least one character in it for whom I have physical desire.”  These five transgressive Tales of Desire—”The Mysteries of the Joy Rio,” “One Arm,” “Desire and the Black Masseur,” “Hard Candy,” and “The Killer Chicken and the Closet Queen”—show the iconic playwright at his outrageous best.

Love and Other Stories

leave a comment »

It’s rare for a movie to find its inspiration in a short story, but such is the case with Szerelem (1971), inspired by two short stories, “Two Women” and “Love,” written by Tibor Dery, both collected in his book published by New Directions: Love and Other Stories. The stories don’t obviously go together, apart from a slight ache and loneliness left inside the reader, but the movie weaves the two in such a way that the combination, once made, becomes inevitable.

Szerelem (Love) is a Hungarian movie by Károly Makk. Its rhythm is slow and lilting; moments are spent on silence and small words between a newlywed (played by Mari Torcsik) and her aged mother-in-law (Lili Darvas, pictured on the cover of Love and Other Stories). The old woman is slow and methodical. Her thought process flashes across the screen as she reads a letter from her son––amplified imaginings of Eleanor Roosevelt, a feathered hat, a black cat, a keyhole, Victorian silhouettes of women.

The letter, however, is a fiction created by her daughter-in-law, resolutely trying to hide the fact that her husband, the mother’s son, had recently been captured by the police. The letters describe a larger-than-life account of his doings in America while on the set of a film:

“The first night of the film will be a month from today in a New York film theater that holds thirty thousand people. It is just being built on the outskirts of the city on top of a high mountain and has to be completed for the first night because they want to open it with my film. From the roof you can see half of America down to the Cordilleras and the Andes, not to speak of the Atlantic Ocean, which is just as blue here as the Adriatic at Abbazia, where we were together one summer….”

The letter goes on, and his mother laps the grand story up. The fiction is thin, however, and on her more lucid days she’s able to tell something isn’t right. The question then becomes how much she wants to know and how much she allows herself to question.

Large sections are taken verbatim from the stories, lending credence to the movie’s existence as a separate but worthy component. The movie takes the simplicity of the two stories, the silence and longing and compassion, without adding sentimentality or dramatics. The darker undertones are drawn out and explored––difficult times with the Hungarian police, the need to conform and what happens to those who don’t, the paranoia and worry that set in. Sometimes it’s hard to empathize with the daughter-in-law, other times it’s harder to empathize with the mother, but throughout it’s vastly clear that all they’re trying to do is survive, and whatever mechanisms in their lives that seem foreign to us–cushioned on a couch or in bed while watching the film or reading the stories–are their means of survival. When the second story enters the movie in the last twenty minutes, it’s with a mixture of sorrow and relief.

Posted by Kelsey Ford

Written by New Directions

January 22, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized