The inner monologue of a woman haunted by German composer Arnold Schoenberg’s portrait, following a complex romantic encounter with an American-German pianist-composer in Berlin. As the irresistible, impossible narrator flies home she unpicks her social failures while the pianist reaches towards a musical self-portrait with all the resonance of Schoenberg’s passionate, chilling blue. A contemporary novel of angst and high farce, Blue Self-Portrait unfolds among Berlin’s cultural institutions but is more truly located in the mid-air flux between contrary impulses to remember and to ignore. In Blue Self-Portrait Noemi Lefebvre shows how music continues to work on and through us, addressing past trauma while reaching for possible futures.
It was only late in her life that Louise Bourgeois was recognized as one of the greatest artists of our time. The art world’s grande dame and its shameless old lady, spinning personal history into works of profound strangeness, speaks out with her characteristic insolence and wit, through the words of a most discrete, masterful writer. A phosphorescent poem-in-prose describing Bourgeois’s inner life as only one artist regarding another can. From her childhood in France to her exile and adult life in America, to her death, through the moods, barbs, resentments, reservations and back, at full speed.
Translation as Transhumance is half-memoir, half-philosophical treatise musing on translation’s potential for humanist engagement. One of the great contemporary French translators, the author has lived her life as a risk-taker.
Going back to her childhood in post-war France, she reflects on her origins as a translator. Gansel’s travels took her to important places at seminal points of the 20th century, such as her encounters with banned German writers in 1960s East Berlin. During the Vietnam war, she went to Hanoi to work on an anthology of Vietnamese poetry.
The book offers a fascinating account of wartime danger, hospitality and human kinship as the city under bombardment. Gansel is brilliant at conveying the sense of exile and alienation that is the price paid for the privilege of not dwelling exclusively in the comforting home of the mother tongue, as she explores her relationship with French, which she has come to know very differently because of her activities as a translator. Her lyrical, delicate text offers a profound engagement with humanist values and a meditation on communication.