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Re: [johnbarth] Aha! A response to the call!

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  • M. Sedaghat Payam
    Hi Krzysztof (Really a difficult name to write and pronounce, by the way I would like to ask the cliche question that you may have answered for 1000th time.
    Message 1 of 8 , Jun 17, 2006
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      Hi Krzysztof (Really a difficult name to write and pronounce, by the way I would like to ask the cliche question that you may have answered for 1000th time. So please answer it for 1001st time because there are still some people are confused whether to pronounce Kieslowski's name as Krishtof or Kristof. The question as you may have noticed is: What is the correct pronunciation of your name in English?)

      Anyway thanks for your reply. As for the translations of J.B. I am the pioneer in the field and there no other translations of J.B.'s novels into Persian. I have M.A. in English Literature and I have translated and published Kurt Vonnegut's Timequake to Persian.  The main problem for translating Barth here, in addition to his stylistical difficulties, is that some people still are reminded of Roland Barthes when I speak about Barth with them, and I have to explain them again and again that "No he is not that French critic"  The fact that only two articles of Barth, literature of exhaustion and literature of replenishment, are the only writings of Barth that are translated to Persian, adds more to this overall confusion about Barthes and Barth. On the other hand they are both pronounced as Baart in Persian. I have chosen to translate Dunyazad from Chimera and a few other stories from Lost in Funhouse. So it's gonna be a collection of his older works.

      When I said that there are many writers who have tried to make an analogy between Universe and University I had no specific novel in mind, I just tried to be on the safe side. Because there are many novels published each year and for me in Iran, which is like an Isle at the end of the world, there is a very little chance of obtaining them and checking them out.

      Finally thanks a lot for introducing Barth's story. I'll try to find it on the web. However there seems to a real craze these days to change some printed texts of fictions into hypertexts. You can find some works which are actually transformed into hypertext on the following link:
      http://www.duke.edu/~mshumate/print.html

      I intended to write to a hypertextual article about Hypertext and Barth, but it seems one can hardly find a hypertextual work by Barth other than Lost in Funhouse.

      Thanks again for your reply.
      MEhdy

      P.S. Would mind telling me which university are you teaching in?

      Krzysztof Majer <kmajer@...> wrote:
      Hi Mehdy! Thanks for responding!

      > I have not read only few of Barth's books and I am already
      > translating one into Persian.

      Always a worthy and important enterprise, translation! I do remember
      several e-mails from you a while back, but could you remind me if
      there have been any JB translations into Persian already? Are you a
      pioneer in the field, so to speak? I do a bit of translating myself,
      mostly academic articles, although my training is in literary
      translation and I hope to do more of it in future.

      JB is rather tough to render into another language, and he actually
      makes a point of that himself once or twice in 3 Roads (I think in the
      3rd novella, "this will be lost in transcript and translation" ,
      sonething like that). Back in university days we could often choose
      our own texts for translation projects, so long as they were fiction
      and short - could be stories or bits of novels - and I once did the
      opening 5 or so pages of Coming Soon!!!, probably the most challenging
      bit of translation I've ever done (and that includes the first several
      pages of Gravity's Rainbow on a similar occasion). But fortunately at
      least half of JB's catalogue is available in Polish, some of it done
      very well by experienced translators far abler than Yours Truly. Alas,
      "Giles" is still not among them...

      > I am really amazed by how different each book of his, has been from
      > the otherI have read Floating Opera, Lost in Funhouse, and right
      > now I am reading Giles Goat Boy which is really wonderful.

      True - surely my recent gibe would not apply to these three. "Giles"
      and "Sot-Weed Factor" are two of my absolute Barth favorites, so I go
      along with this heartily. Of course, we have quite a bit of dissent in
      the group here - fortunately! - as regards JB's favorites and
      most-hated. Cheers for diversity, anyhow.

      > At first it was a bit difficult to understand the analogy that he
      > wonderfully made between Universe and University.

      I had that, too, the first time around, my main problem being that it
      is specifically the American university that the Universe resembles
      (or, rather, is). Surely for someone who has been through it, the
      humor would have been still more appealing. The Polish system is in
      many ways very different and so it took a bit of learning how the
      American university actually works to clarify some aspects of the book
      for me. The second time it went much more smoothly.

      > The idea of Universe as a University may have struck many authors,
      > but I believe that only few can change it to a true work of art.

      It may have, indeed, but can we think of any? Probably no-one but the
      elegant, diligent JB would have pushed this "extended metaphor" quite
      this far and have it spawn a 600-pages-plus novel, but do other works
      which attempt at least a similar thing spring to mind? I don't of
      course mean the "university novel" done by people like Amis the Elder,
      Bradbury or Lodge. But it would have been someone endowed with a
      satirical bent, Swiftian perhaps? Or maybe Swift himself did it? I
      read "Gulliver" all too long ago to remember. Anyone?

      > Currently I am working on an article about the electronic textuality
      > and I wonder if I anyone can introduce me any of Barth's novel that
      > can be easily changed into a hypertext,

      I'm not sure about novels, since I guess that JB - despite all his
      metafictional tricks - is after all a linear writer. OK, so he did
      have "The Frame Tale" in Funhouse, but still... There's the story
      "Click!" in the recent volume of short fiction, The Book of Ten Nights
      and a Night. I rather liked the story and even assigned to students
      last year in an additional class dedicated to postmodernist writing
      (along with Coover's "Shootout at Gentry's Junction", brilliant for
      exemplifying genre parody, high/low culture mixup, etc, and extracts
      from Calvino's "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler"). It is not, I take
      it, itself a hypertext, but rather a story about hypertextuality, its
      point being that language & reality themselves are hypertextual, and
      therefore all writing must be. So since the story tries to prove, as I
      see it, that all writing is per se hypertextual, it might be just a
      tad disconcerting to transform that into an actual hypertext (?). A
      fun story to read, anyway, and it used to be available online, maybe
      still is. Surely our linkmaster Mark here has it stored somewhere? Or
      maybe Dave Edelman's site lists it?

      Once again, thanks for weighing in, Mehdy! Do tell us more about the
      reception of JB in your country or how much of his work is actually
      available. Also, which one are you working on, translation- wise?

      K



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    • Krzysztof Majer
      ... people are confused whether to pronounce Kieslowski s name as Krishtof or Kristof Neither. :) Most people get confused by the r in Krz , but in this
      Message 2 of 8 , Jun 17, 2006
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        Mehdy asks:
        > So please answer it for 1001st time because there are still some
        people are confused whether to pronounce Kieslowski's name as Krishtof
        or Kristof

        Neither. :) Most people get confused by the 'r' in 'Krz', but in this
        case both the 'rz' and 'sz' are pronounced 'sh'. So Kieslowski's name,
        and mine, is actually pronounced 'kshishtof', stress on the first
        syllable. 1001st time, I like that. :)

        > As for the translations of J.B. I am the pioneer in the field

        Three cheers, and may you persist in the effort!

        > I have translated and published Kurt Vonnegut's Timequake to
        > Persian.

        Poland's got Vonnegut pretty well covered, I think all of his books
        have been translated (possibly not "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater", but
        can't remember now). Any reason for translating "Timequake" and not
        something else? (again, depending on what's available in Persian, of
        course?) Was it the latest at the time? I remember when it came out,
        but I wasn't that thrilled with it - possibly zoomed through it too fast.

        > The main problem for translating Barth here, in addition to his >
        stylistical difficulties, is that some people still are reminded of
        Roland Barthes when I speak about Barth with them

        Heh! We Poles also tend to pronounce both names similarly or
        identically, and yes, sometimes it's necessary to distinguish "the
        American writer" from "the French critic".

        > I have chosen to translate Dunyazad from Chimera and a few other
        > stories from Lost in Funhouse. So it's gonna be a collection of his
        older works.

        The good thing about the three Chimera novellas - among plenty other
        good things about them! - and some of the Funhouse pieces is that, fit
        though they do in the overall scheme of the whole book, they stand
        pretty well on their own (maybe not Bellerophoniad, so much - that
        probably requires the preceding two as launchpad?). Looks like an
        interesting collection! Make sure to tell us which pieces have been
        finally selected. And I assume there are opportunities to publish this?

        > When I said that there are many writers who have tried to make an
        analogy between Universe and University I had no specific novel in
        mind, I just tried to be on the safe side.

        Sure, no problem - I was just trying to rack my brains and think of
        someone else who might have done so, it was an interesting question.
        Still is! Anyone?

        > You can find some works which are actually transformed into
        hypertext on the following link:
        > http://www.duke.edu/~mshumate/print.html

        Unfortunately it seems like the site hasn't been updated in quite a
        while as hardly any link works. I browsed a few essays, but was most
        interested in the new, hypertextual garb for such warhorses as
        Melville's "Bartleby", which was linked on the page but could not be
        accessed. Come to think of it, "Moby Dick" would make a nice
        electronic version! Lots of work, of course.

        > I intended to write to a hypertextual article about Hypertext and
        Barth, but it seems one can hardly find a hypertextual work by Barth
        other than Lost in Funhouse.

        And I would argue that even Funhouse is perfectly linear. :) But then
        you could write about Barth's "rebelling along traditional lines", or
        however he called it, and why - contrary to his peers such as Robert
        Coover, who coaches young hypertextualites at Brown University - he
        shirks from the new mode altogether. And why he never did go in for
        the forking, alternative story-paths that Coover explored way before
        actual hypertext in his "Pricksongs and Descants" collection, and that
        came out more or less at the same time as Funhouse (1969 or so for
        Coover?). Barth never did write such things as "The Babysitter", "The
        Magic Poker" or "The Gingerbread House"... and always claimed he's
        interested in taking "a more scenic route", the destination being
        nonetheless fixed. Would be interesting to explore, methinks. Why does
        the old rebel draw a line where he draws it? Etc.

        > P.S. Would mind telling me which university are you teaching in?

        Uni of Lodz, Poland. I also work at a teacher's college in a nearby town.

        K
      • Krzysztof Majer
        ... is still there, there was a link on Dave s site. http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/barth.htm K
        Message 3 of 8 , Jun 17, 2006
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          ... is still there, there was a link on Dave's site.

          http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/barth.htm

          K
        • M. Sedaghat Payam
          Hi Krzysztof Thanks a lot for the pronunciation, but now in addition to being hard to write and pronounce, it has a bit funny meaning in Persian. Of course
          Message 4 of 8 , Jun 18, 2006
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            Hi Krzysztof

            Thanks a lot for the pronunciation, but now in addition to being hard to write and pronounce, it has a bit funny meaning in Persian. Of course with a slightly different pronunciation it sounds "Spit on the Priest." No offense intended, but it makes me like that much more because I hate them and all the clergies and all those whose profession is making money out of religion.

            I chose to translate Vonnegut's Timequake because it was (and still is) his last novel and I had just finished my M.A. thesis on Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse-five. Furthermore the book was offered to me by a prominent publisher and the offer was too good for me to put it down. TQ can not repeat the past successes of K.V. such as B of C, or SF5, but it is still a very good book because of its plot structure, which is highly experimental and even different from the circular narrative of SF5. It's just a hotchpotch of everything Vonnegut has experienced or still experiences in his life. I may include it in may article on Hypertext Fiction.

            I believe too that the first and second stories of Chimera can be read and enjoyed on their own, but Barth by choosing Chimera, which has, as you know, he body of a goat, the tail of a snake or dragon and the head of a lion, weaves the stories together internally. Very clever of him. Sure I will tell you about the stories which I will include. Until now I have chosen Lost in Funhouse, Title, and Night-sea Journey. And yeah there is a good chance of publishing them if the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, doesn't understand that the narrator of the Night-see Journey is a sperm. They are all the only barrier, if I can overcome that and they consider the stories as "Not Harmful for the Common Faith" Barth will be published in Persian too.

            I prefer the novels which have a "more scenic route" too, and maybe that has made me a huge fan of Barth. But I like to have a research on the hypterxtuality in literature because it has a great potential for innovation. Moreover I believe in order for a writer to be rebelious, as you put it, he mustn't be a radical or at least I prefer him not to be like that.

            Hurray for the "old rebel"

            MEhdy

            Krzysztof Majer <kmajer@...> wrote:
            Mehdy asks:
            > So please answer it for 1001st time because there are still some
            people are confused whether to pronounce Kieslowski's name as Krishtof
            or Kristof

            Neither. :) Most people get confused by the 'r' in 'Krz', but in this
            case both the 'rz' and 'sz' are pronounced 'sh'. So Kieslowski's name,
            and mine, is actually pronounced 'kshishtof', stress on the first
            syllable. 1001st time, I like that. :)

            > As for the translations of J.B. I am the pioneer in the field

            Three cheers, and may you persist in the effort!

            > I have translated and published Kurt Vonnegut's Timequake to
            > Persian.

            Poland's got Vonnegut pretty well covered, I think all of his books
            have been translated (possibly not "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater", but
            can't remember now). Any reason for translating "Timequake" and not
            something else? (again, depending on what's available in Persian, of
            course?) Was it the latest at the time? I remember when it came out,
            but I wasn't that thrilled with it - possibly zoomed through it too fast.

            > The main problem for translating Barth here, in addition to his >
            stylistical difficulties, is that some people still are reminded of
            Roland Barthes when I speak about Barth with them

            Heh! We Poles also tend to pronounce both names similarly or
            identically, and yes, sometimes it's necessary to distinguish "the
            American writer" from "the French critic".

            > I have chosen to translate Dunyazad from Chimera and a few other
            > stories from Lost in Funhouse. So it's gonna be a collection of his
            older works.

            The good thing about the three Chimera novellas - among plenty other
            good things about them! - and some of the Funhouse pieces is that, fit
            though they do in the overall scheme of the whole book, they stand
            pretty well on their own (maybe not Bellerophoniad, so much - that
            probably requires the preceding two as launchpad?). Looks like an
            interesting collection! Make sure to tell us which pieces have been
            finally selected. And I assume there are opportunities to publish this?

            > When I said that there are many writers who have tried to make an
            analogy between Universe and University I had no specific novel in
            mind, I just tried to be on the safe side.

            Sure, no problem - I was just trying to rack my brains and think of
            someone else who might have done so, it was an interesting question.
            Still is! Anyone?

            > You can find some works which are actually transformed into
            hypertext on the following link:
            > http://www.duke. edu/~mshumate/ print.html

            Unfortunately it seems like the site hasn't been updated in quite a
            while as hardly any link works. I browsed a few essays, but was most
            interested in the new, hypertextual garb for such warhorses as
            Melville's "Bartleby", which was linked on the page but could not be
            accessed. Come to think of it, "Moby Dick" would make a nice
            electronic version! Lots of work, of course.

            > I intended to write to a hypertextual article about Hypertext and
            Barth, but it seems one can hardly find a hypertextual work by Barth
            other than Lost in Funhouse.

            And I would argue that even Funhouse is perfectly linear. :) But then
            you could write about Barth's "rebelling along traditional lines", or
            however he called it, and why - contrary to his peers such as Robert
            Coover, who coaches young hypertextualites at Brown University - he
            shirks from the new mode altogether. And why he never did go in for
            the forking, alternative story-paths that Coover explored way before
            actual hypertext in his "Pricksongs and Descants" collection, and that
            came out more or less at the same time as Funhouse (1969 or so for
            Coover?). Barth never did write such things as "The Babysitter", "The
            Magic Poker" or "The Gingerbread House"... and always claimed he's
            interested in taking "a more scenic route", the destination being
            nonetheless fixed. Would be interesting to explore, methinks. Why does
            the old rebel draw a line where he draws it? Etc.

            > P.S. Would mind telling me which university are you teaching in?

            Uni of Lodz, Poland. I also work at a teacher's college in a nearby town.

            K



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          • Krzysztof Majer
            ... Haha, well, that s just about the coolest thing I ve ever heard about my name. :)) Not that I identify with the concept, it s just hilarious. Wait till I
            Message 5 of 8 , Jun 19, 2006
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              Mehdy sez:
              > Of course with a slightly different pronunciation it sounds
              > "Spit on the Priest."

              Haha, well, that's just about the coolest thing I've ever heard about
              my name. :)) Not that I identify with the concept, it's just
              hilarious. Wait till I tell my friends this!

              > I chose to translate Vonnegut's Timequake because it was (and
              still is) his last novel and I had just finished my M.A. thesis on
              Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse-five.

              I read it in my "going off Vonnegut" phase, which possibly explains
              why I wasn't riveted by it. Also, I wouldn't have been too familiar
              with postmodernist tactics at the time (apart from what Vonnegut
              himself did in his novels, but that wouldn't have been clear enough in
              my mind either); could be I'd appreciate it much more now. I might
              also have read too many Vonnegut novels in a row.

              There are some I often think of revisiting - obviously "Slaughterhouse
              5", but also "Sirens of Titan" (not a favorite among Vonnegut fans, it
              seems, but I loved it) or "Deadeye Dick". Not sure about "Breakfast of
              Champions", I thought it was too experimental for its own good, if one
              may say so. Or, to put it differently, this particular kind of
              experimentation didn't seem to me like Vonnegut's forte. But - again -
              I think fondly about a lot of his novels, and am quite sure there were
              tons of things I missed out on, reading them quickly in high school.

              > Until now I have chosen Lost in Funhouse, Title, and Night-sea
              > Journey.

              Sounds like a fairly representative bunch. I started liking
              "Anonymiad" very much the second time around. I had a very hard time
              figuring it out when I first read it, not to mention - Mark just did -
              "Menelaiad"! I was completely lost in the frames (or rather in between
              them). My ignorance of Menelaos' story as told by the Greeks can't
              have helped, either. "Menelaiad" I still find very patience-trying,
              but "Anonymiad" has become one of my favorite stories in the set. At
              the same time such pieces as "Title" have largely lost their allure
              for me. But - as I said above - that one also is representative of his
              ideas at the time, at least some of them. Of course, the best bet
              would be to do the whole book... :)

              > And yeah there is a good chance of publishing them if the Ministry
              > of Culture and Islamic Guidance, doesn't understand that the >
              narrator of the Night-see Journey is a sperm.

              I think it's very likely that they will miss that. :) A lot of readers
              do, including some critics (at least that must have been the case at
              the time of publishing; in one of his essays JB mentions his
              astonishment when he read that his narrator was "some kind of strange
              fish", or somesuch). I was luckily (unluckily?) exempted from that
              test, because the blurb of the Polish edition of Funhouse made it
              clear that it's a sperm, who later, etc., etc. Incidentally, that's
              how I got into Barth, having picked up "Funhouse" at a second-hand and
              being sufficiently intrigued to give it a shot...

              > Moreover I believe in order for a writer to be rebelious, as you
              > put it, he mustn't be a radical or at least I prefer him not to be
              > like that.

              I mostly said that's JB's view, which I take to be at least slightly
              self-serving. I think we'd mostly agree here - our liking or disliking
              his recent pieces aside - that he hasn't been pushing any new
              boundaries for a long while. Although he is remarkably (or, perhaps
              frightfully?) consistent in continuing to push the ones one would have
              thought are almost not there anymore... But there, I'll get off the
              horse before I start ranting about "3 Roads" again. :)

              > Hurray for the "old rebel"

              Hurray indeed, although I can't help but see him more as a war veteran
              than someone who is "old and still a rebel". Which is not bad, the
              former, methinks?

              K
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