Florentine Nights (German Classics)

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A Year in Reading: Yoko Tawada


Vladimir Nabokov: The Gift
When I go for a walk in Berlin, I often think of Nabokov. The letters of shop signs spring to life before my eyes, and words from different languages merge. Who can describe an ordinary moving van as inspiringly as this Russian author who spent several years of his life in Berlin before immigrating to the U.S.?

Amos Tutuola: The Palm-Wine Drinkard
An outsider lives in a constant state of inebriation, communicating with dead ancestors. The currency circulating in this imaginary in-between realm is neither dollars nor euros. I’m fascinated by books that dispense with realism yet nonetheless depict real-life economic and political developments in their own idiosyncratic way.

Heinrich Heine: Florentine Nights
Young brides who died before their wedding days gather in the moonlight to dance on country roads. Like our own everyday lives, this book is made up of disjointed thoughts that arise out of nothingness as well as conversations that come about as if by chance and draw us in deeply. A precisely woven tapestry of memories and dreams.

This piece was translated by Susan Bernofsky. Bernofsky, one of the preeminent translators of German-language literature, directs the program Literary Translation at Columbia in the MFA Writing Program at the Columbia University School of the Arts.

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