<![CDATA[Amanda Sarasien - News]]>Wed, 15 Nov 2017 05:03:07 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Book Review - The Consequences]]>Wed, 15 Nov 2017 12:23:59 GMThttp://amandasarasien.com/news/book-review-the-consequences
DoppelHouse Press has just released the first English translation of the highly lauded, bestselling Dutch author Niña Weijers, with her novel The Consequences, in a "lithe, sinuous" translation from Hester Velmans. This raw, ambivalent novel asks us to consider the relationship between art, life and commodification, in the character of Minnie Panis, a performance artist toying with an idea for a new project which quickly becomes more personal than she could have ever imagined. The book's conclusions, or lack thereof, will leave the reader unsettled. Read more of my thoughts at The Literary Review.
]]>
<![CDATA[Book Review - Kintu]]>Mon, 14 Aug 2017 14:30:28 GMThttp://amandasarasien.com/news/book-review-kintu
At The Literary Review, I explore Transit Books' epic new release, Kintu, by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. Conceived as a national mythology, Uganda's answer to Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, this ambitious novel, I argue, is a timely tale for all audiences, and thus, with this debut, Makumbi stands to become a powerful voice for our globalizing world. What is, ostensibly, a knitting together of multiple personal stories -- of seemingly disconnected characters whose individual searches for identity do not crystallize until they themselves converge -- becomes a collective tapestry of personal versus communal, national versus global, and the ripples of meaning colliding with unexpected beauty. 
]]>
<![CDATA[Publication Announcement]]>Mon, 20 Mar 2017 13:18:06 GMThttp://amandasarasien.com/news/publication-announcement2730688
Rogue critic GLB Pym is up to his old tricks, and this time he's starting a movement. I managed to convey his manifesto to the editors at FLAPPERHOUSE, where it appears in Issue #13, out today. Ever the tireless (yet pedantic) crusader for forgotten vanguards, Pym will convert you to the cause of Italian Futurist Ennio Alata, in this his "Manifesto for Alata, Transcinematist; or Winged Imagination." Available in print or digital, tossed into this latest iteration of FLAPPERHOUSE's standard literary brew: one part surreal, one part shadowy, one part outré, and a heaping dose of provocation.
]]>
<![CDATA[Book Review - Motherland Hotel]]>Fri, 17 Mar 2017 12:12:14 GMThttp://amandasarasien.com/news/book-review-motherland-hotel
At Reading in Translation, I review the first novel of Turkish modernist Yusuf Atilgan to appear in English, Motherland Hotel, translated by Fred Stark. In this psychological thriller, Atilgan bends and shapes language, testing its mettle in the fire of his disturbed protagonist's mind. The result is "a shape-shifting tour de force, a stumble through a noirish house of mirrors," which seeps into the "shadowy recesses of consciousness," thereby pushing literature into the realm of cinema. A wildly experimental novel which boldly treads new existential territory, Motherland Hotel announces the arrival of a voice who should have long ago climbed to a place within the canon of "the world's most daring modernists."
]]>
<![CDATA[Notes on an Exhibition - Shakespeare's Characters: Playing the Part]]>Thu, 08 Sep 2016 16:13:59 GMThttp://amandasarasien.com/news/notes-on-an-exhibition-shakespeares-characters-playing-the-part
Picture
Image courtesy Toledo Museum of Art
2016 has seen a wealth of Shakespeare-related programming, performances, carefully timed book releases, and even a special hashtag, all in observance of the 400-year anniversary of the Bard's death in April 1616. Now that the dust of this international ferment has more or less settled, the Toledo Museum of Art offers up its own variation on the theme, with Shakespeare's Characters: Playing the Part. Promising to "bring the beloved writer's works to life," this exhibition engages visitors well beyond the works and their iconic roles, where the characters serve as diverse points of entry into a multidisciplinary exploration of Shakespeare's far-reaching influence.
Picture
My immediate impression upon entering the gallery chosen for this exhibition was its scale. The blurb simply does not prepare you for the variety of materials on display, much of it meticulously culled from the Museum's own collection. Unfortunately, the space allotted to such an extensive array does not do the exhibition justice, particularly given its current popularity. Visiting on a Wednesday afternoon, an unlikely rush hour, I found myself jostled more than once out of that prime viewing territory each museum-goer stakes out before the respective works, unable to contemplate them at my leisure. Soon, a crowd streamed in to listen to the exhibition curator discuss her choices, and the small size of the room became even more apparent. 

Spatial constraints notwithstanding, one could happily spend hours of discovery in this gallery alone. (Yet for those who do feel claustrophobic, a handy exhibition guide is available containing detailed directions to other works with a Shakespearean connection scattered throughout the Museum's collection.) The exhibition demands much of its viewers. This is to be expected when its subject is a playwright. Text abounds, whether in the copious labels accompanying each piece, on the wall decal of that oft-quoted line "All the world's a stage...," or in the printed and bound plays themselves, exhibited under glass and open to key passages. Nevertheless, this text is precisely what fulfills the exhibition's stated purpose of animating Shakespeare's enduring characters. Beside each artistic portrayal of a given character, the label contains the role's most memorable lines, so that the static image comes to life and speaks to viewers across the centuries. 
Picture
That, alone, would make Shakespeare's Characters: Playing the Part a resounding success. For such is the challenge of Shakespeare four-hundred years on. As aficionados are well aware, and as the exhibition makes clear, the First Folio was not printed until after the Bard's death. (Then came the Second Folio, a copy of which is on display and which was, for me, a highlight.) Despite the numerous stagings and cinematic portrayals which have intervened, what was originally an immediate and dynamic performance has since become distanced, lost in translation, as it were. Shakespeare did not compose for the page. But it is only through the cold text of the printed Folios that we have access to the ephemeral performances. Like the man who resurrected mythical figures and historical heroes only to himself become the stuff of myth, Shakespeare's characters have transformed the cultural lexicon, but at what cost? Four centuries of reinterpretations, all sifting together in our collective memory, risk burying these lively personages, preserving them immobile in the amber of their iconic monologues. Pairing textual excerpts with artistic representations of dramatic scenes and complex figures represents a new and multifaceted approach to Shakespearean appreciation, allowing visitors to participate in a sort of aesthetic dialogue across place and time. Thus, the work of the Bard becomes a kind of crossroads transporting our inherited myths, mores and history from antiquity into the modern day

Picture
And here is where the exhibition surpasses its stated objective. Because in its assemblage of paintings, lithographs, photographs, pottery and other material artifacts, the characters do far more than speak. Thanks to the curator's painstaking connections, they function more like ambassadors negotiating art's conversation with art. ​A marble bust of Julius Caesar from about 50 CE, accompanied by the famous Act III, Scene I betrayal ("Et tu, Brute!"), sits beside a 2009 Murano glass mirror from American artist Fred Wilson (glass being the Museum's specialty), titled "Iago's Mirror" and accompanied by Iago's Act I, Scene I profession, "But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve / For daws to peck at. I am not what I am." Arthur Hughes' Pre-Raphaelite imagining of Ophelia, whose label details a fascinating discovery on the back of the painting, faces an early sixteenth-century Italian maiolica plate depicting Pyramus and Thisbe, characters portrayed by the actor-characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream's meta-drama. This latter, self-referential, example in particular calls attention to Shakespeare's plays as artistic creations - conversant with a daunting array of other works of art - which themselves became sources of inspiration for artists of succeeding generations. To chip away at the inter-textual palimpsest could prove daunting. Yet, in spotlighting Shakespeare's characters, this exhibition gives visitors a point of reference, a base from which to explore the circuitous lines of influence radiating across civilization.

Perhaps the exhibition did not need to bring Shakespeare's characters to life. Because, despite the passing of four centuries, this year's plethora of Shakespearean tributes shows us that his characters are alive and well in popular culture. But Shakespeare's Characters: Playing the Part offers one of the most convincing answers to why and how these compelling figures continue to speak to us.  

Shakespeare's Characters: Playing the Part
Toledo Museum of Art
September 2, 2016 - January 8, 2017
Gallery 6, free admission
​www.toledomuseum.org

Blog post and exhibition photos © Amanda Sarasien
]]>
<![CDATA[Book Review - War, So Much War]]>Thu, 01 Sep 2016 15:03:56 GMThttp://amandasarasien.com/news/book-review-war-so-much-warPicture
My review of Catalan modernist Mercè Rodoreda's War, So Much War was selected for publication in the summer issue of The Puritan. The novel, which I call "literary quicksilver" for its defiance of conventional literary forms, was published only three years before the prolific writer's death in 1983 and now appears, courtesy of Open Letter Books, in a "hypnotic" and "incandescent" English translation by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent. Tensely psychological, Rodoreda's deft manipulation of voice serves as a perfect vehicle of expression for the novel's existential themes, foregrounded in this nameless, place-less war which suggests an interior, rather than a geographical, landscape. Yet despite the vague setting, Rodoreda devotees will recognize the author's recurrent pastoral imagery, simultaneously violent and bucolic, and her provocative stream-of-conscious narration peopled with fascinating characters. Explore the enigmatic territory of the self with my review of a welcome addition to the Rodoreda corpus in English.

]]>
<![CDATA[Book Review - I'll Sell You a Dog]]>Tue, 09 Aug 2016 04:00:00 GMThttp://amandasarasien.com/news/book-review-ill-sell-you-a-dogPicture
Today sees the English-language release of Mexican novelist Juan Pablo Villalobos' I'll Sell You a Dog (translated by Rosalind Harvey), which I reviewed for The Literary Review. Featuring a curmudgeonly narrator, Teo, who repeatedly disavows writing the novel you are reading, I'll Sell You a Dog is at once an uproarious satire and a poignant meditation upon art, frustrated ambition, aging, and the human need for meaning-making. Surrender to this "riotous ouroboros" of a novel, as Teo, heading a cast of quirky characters, flings you haphazardly through his life story. 

]]>
<![CDATA[Book Review - Quiet Creature on the Corner]]>Wed, 22 Jun 2016 12:56:02 GMThttp://amandasarasien.com/news/book-review-quiet-creature-on-the-cornerPicture
In my latest review, I reflect on Quiet Creature on the Corner, from contemporary Brazilian writer João Gilberto Noll, recently released in a "stirring" English translation by Adam Morris. A provocative plunge into the "absurdity of human condition" which leaves the reader grasping for some enduring truth, this slim novel is "a play of tantalizing incongruities," a coming-of-age story in which the narrator never fully comes of age, featuring an orbit of characters whose attempts to reach out to one another shroud them in deeper darkness and isolation. Probe this "fascinating, if inscrutable" voice in contemporary Brazilian fiction, with my review at Reading in Translation.

]]>
<![CDATA[Essay Publication]]>Thu, 14 Apr 2016 13:44:47 GMThttp://amandasarasien.com/news/essay-publication

My essay "Portrait of a Pink Lady: Booth Tarkington and the Changing Face of America" examines writer Booth Tarkington's 1918 Pulitzer-winning novel, The Magnificent Ambersons, through the author's personal collection of portrait paintings, some of which are now on display at the Indianapolis Museum of Art's exhibition "A Gentleman Collector: Portraits from the Collection of Booth Tarkington." Using the enigma of a particular painting, Portia in a Pink Blouse, as a jumping-off point, I reflect on the novel's provocative facial imagery: How do the paintings in Tarkington's collection elucidate the themes in his writing but also paint a beguiling portrait of the author himself, "struggling to make sense of the changing face of America?" Read more of my thoughts on The Mookse and the Gripes.

]]>
<![CDATA[Book Review - One Hundred Twenty-One Days]]>Wed, 13 Apr 2016 08:49:35 GMThttp://amandasarasien.com/news/book-review-one-hundred-twenty-one-days

Today sees the release of an important work out of the contemporary Oulipo school, One Hundred Twenty-One Days, by Michèle Audin (translated by Christiana Hills), marking only the second novel by a female Oulipo member to appear in English. At Reading in Translation, I take a closer look at this debut, "a story in numbers." Recalling that Oulipo writers are mathematicians using linguistic puzzles (palindromes, anagrams, etc.) as "constraints" to compel creativity, a meditation on this book as a translation compels a deeper appreciation for the role of the translator as "the ultimate mathematician." Explore with me the intimate connection between language and figures in my review of this poignant "riddle" of a novel.

]]>