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About Damion Searls
Damion Searls is the author of "The Inkblots": a scientific and cultural history of the Rorschach test and the first biography ever of its creator, Hermann Rorschach. He has also written fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; translated thirty books from German, French, Norwegian, and Dutch; and produced an abridged edition of Thoreau's "Journal" and an experimental edition of Melville's "Moby Dick." www.damionsearls.com
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Late in 1967, Uwe Johnson set out to write a book that would take the unusual form of a chapter for every day of the ongoing year. It would be the tale of Gesine Cresspahl, a thirty-four-year-old single mother who is a German émigré to Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and of her ten-year-old daughter, Marie—a story of work and school, of friends and lovers and the countless small encounters with neighbors and strangers that make up big-city life. An everyday tale, but also a tale of the events of the day, as gleaned by Gesine from The New York Times: Johnson could hardly foresee the convulsions of 1968, but some of the news—the racial unrest roiling America, the escalating war in Vietnam—was sure to be news for some time yet to come. Finally, it would be a tale told by Gesine to Marie about Gesine’s childhood in a small north German town, of her independent and enterprising father, of her troubled mother, of Nazi Germany (Gesine was born the year Hitler came to power) and World War II and Soviet retribution and the grimly regulated realities of Communist East Germany. An ambitious historical novel as well as a wonderfully observed New York novel, Anniversaries would take in the unsettled world of the present along with the twentieth century’s disastrous past, while vividly depicting the struggle of a loving, though hardly uncomplicated mother and a bright, indomitably curious girl to understand and care for each other and to shape a human world.
Gesine and Marie are among the most memorable and engaging characters in literature, and Anniversaries, at once monumental and intimate, sweeping and full of incident, stylistically adventurous and endlessly absorbing, is quite simply one of the great books of our time.
This reader’s edition, the largest one-volume edition of Thoreau’s Journal ever published, is the first to capture the scope, rhythms, and variety of the work as a whole. Ranging freely over the world at large, the Journal is no less devoted to the life within. As Thoreau says, “It is in vain to write on the seasons unless you have the seasons in you.”
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR • New York Post • Sunday Times (UK) • Irish Independent
In 1917, working alone in a remote Swiss asylum, psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach devised an experiment to probe the human mind: a set of ten carefully designed inkblots. For years he had grappled with the theories of Freud and Jung while also absorbing the aesthetic movements of the day, from Futurism to Dadaism. A visual artist himself, Rorschach had come to believe that who we are is less a matter of what we say, as Freud thought, than what we see.
After Rorschach’s early death, his test quickly made its way to America, where it took on a life of its own. Co-opted by the military after Pearl Harbor, it was a fixture at the Nuremberg trials and in the jungles of Vietnam. It became an advertising staple, a cliché in Hollywood and journalism, and an inspiration to everyone from Andy Warhol to Jay Z. The test was also given to millions of defendants, job applicants, parents in custody battles, and people suffering from mental illness or simply trying to understand themselves better. And it is still used today.
In this first-ever biography of Rorschach, Damion Searls draws on unpublished letters and diaries and a cache of previously unknown interviews with Rorschach’s family, friends, and colleagues to tell the unlikely story of the test’s creation, its controversial reinvention, and its remarkable endurance—and what it all reveals about the power of perception. Elegant and original, The Inkblots shines a light on the twentieth century’s most visionary synthesis of art and science.
Praise for The Inkblots
“Impressively thorough . . . part biography of Herman Rorschach, psychoanalytic super sleuth, and part chronicle of the test’s afterlife in clinical practice and the popular imagination . . . Searls is a nuanced and scholarly writer . . . genuinely fascinating.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A marvelous book about how one man and his enigmatic test came to shape our collective imagination. The Rorschach test is a great subject and The Inkblots is worthy of it: beguiling, fascinating, and full of new discoveries every time you look.” —David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z
Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
Young Once is a crucial book in the career of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano. It was his breakthrough novel, in which he stripped away the difficulties of his earlier work and found a clear, mysteriously moving voice for his haunting stories of love, nostalgia, and grief. It has also been called “the most gripping Modiano book of all” (Der Spiegel).
Odile and Louis are leading a happy, bucolic life with their two children in the French countryside near the Swiss mountains. It is Odile’s thirty-fifth birthday, and Louis’s thirty-fifth birthday is a few weeks away. Then the story shifts back to their early years: Louis, just freed from his military service and at loose ends, is taken up by a shady character who brings him to Paris to do some work for a friend who manages a garage; Odile, an aspiring singer, is at the mercy of the kindness and unkindness of strangers. In a Paris that is steeped in crime and full of secrets, they find each other and struggle together to create what, looking back, will have been their youth.
Asle is an ageing painter and widower who lives alone on the southwest coast of Norway. His only friends are his neighbour, Åsleik, a traditional fisherman-farmer, and Beyer, a gallerist who lives in the city. There, in Bjørgvin, lives another Asle, also a painter but lonely and consumed by alcohol. Asle and Asle are doppelgängers – two versions of the same person, two versions of the same life, both grappling with existential questions. In this final instalment of Jon Fosse’s Septology, the major prose work by ‘the Beckett of the twenty-first century’ (Le Monde), Christmas is approaching. Tradition has it that Åsleik and Asle eat lutefisk together, but this year Asle has agreed for the first time to celebrate Christmas with Åsleik and his sister, Guro. On Christmas Eve, Åsleik, Asle, and the dog Bragi take Åsleik’s boat out on the Sygnefjord. Meanwhile, we follow the lives of the two Asles as younger adults in flashbacks: the narrator meets his lifelong love, Ales; joins the Catholic Church; starts exhibiting with Beyer; and can make a living by trying to paint away all the pictures stuck in his mind. After a while, Asle and Ales leave the city and move to the house in Dylgja. The other Asle gets married too, but his wedding ends with a sobbing bride and is followed soon after by a painful breakup. Written in melodious and hypnotic ‘slow prose’, A New Name: Septology VI-VII is a transcendent exploration of the human condition by Jon Fosse, and a radically other reading experience – incantatory, hypnotic, and utterly unique.
‘Fosse’s portrait of memory remarkably refuses. It will not be other than: indellible as paint, trivial as nail clippings, wound like damp string. This book reaches out of its frame like a hand.’
— Jesse Ball, author of Census
‘Jon Fosse is a major European writer.’
— Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of My Struggle
Praise for I is Another: Septology III-V
‘The reader of I is Another is both on the riverbank and in the water being carried forward, and around, by the great, shaping, and completely engrossing, flow of Fosse’s words. It’s a doubleness of view that is reflected in the characters, named Asle, who are both one and other, and through which we can see and feel the world, and ourselves, more clearly.’
— David Hayden, author of Darker with the Lights On
‘[P]alpable in this book is the way that the writing is meant to replicate the pulse and repetitive phrasing of liturgical prayer. Asle is a Catholic convert and, in Damion Searls’s liquid translation, his thoughts are rendered in long run-on sentences whose metronomic cadences conjure the intake and outtake of breath, or the reflexive motions of fingers telling a rosary. These unique books ask you to engage with the senses rather than the mind, and their aim is to bring about the momentary dissolution of the self.’
— Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
‘There is a sense of something gathering here, the culmination of a life. The stream of consciousness has matured into something slower, deeper and more winding.’
— Rónán Hession, Review 31
The stunning final novel from East Germany's most acclaimed writer
Three years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the writer Christa Wolf was granted access to her newly declassified Stasi files. Known for her defiance and outspokenness, Wolf was not especially surprised to discover forty-two volumes of documents produced by the East German secret police. But what was surprising was a thin green folder whose contents told an unfamiliar—and disturbing—story: in the early 1960s, Wolf herself had been an informant for the Communist government. And yet, thirty years on, she had absolutely no recollection of it.
Wolf's extraordinary autobiographical final novel is an account of what it was like to reckon with such a shocking discovery. Based on the year she spent in Los Angeles after these explosive revelations, City of Angels is at once a powerful examination of memory and a surprisingly funny and touching exploration of L.A., a city strikingly different from any Wolf had ever visited.
Even as she reflects on the burdens of twentieth-century history, Wolf describes the pleasures of driving a Geo Metro down Wilshire Boulevard and watching episodes of Star Trek late at night. Rich with philosophical insights, personal revelations, and vivid descriptions of a diverse city and its citizens, City of Angels is a profoundly humane and disarmingly honest novel—and a powerful conclusion to a remarkable career in letters.
Longlisted for the 2020 International Booker Prize
“Fosse’s fusing of the commonplace and the existential, together with his dramatic forays into the past, make for a relentlessly consuming work: already Septology feels momentous.”—The Guardian
The Other Name follows the lives of two men living close to each other on the west coast of Norway. The year is coming to a close and Asle, an aging painter and widower, is reminiscing about his life. He lives alone, his only friends being his neighbor, Åsleik, a bachelor and traditional Norwegian fisherman-farmer, and Beyer, a gallerist who lives in Bjørgvin, a couple hours’ drive south of Dylgja, where he lives. There, in Bjørgvin, lives another Asle, also a painter. He and the narrator are doppelgangers—two versions of the same person, two versions of the same life.
Written in hypnotic prose that shifts between the first and third person, The Other Name calls into question concrete notions around subjectivity and the self. What makes us who we are? And why do we lead one life and not another? Through flashbacks, Fosse deftly explores the convergences and divergences in the lives of both Asles, slowly building towards a decisive encounter between them both. A writer at the zenith of his career, with The Other Name, the first two volumes in his Septology, Fosse presents us with an indelible and poignant exploration of the human condition that will endure as his masterpiece.
Bright Magic includes all of Döblin’s first book, The Murder of a Buttercup, a work of savage brilliance and a landmark of literary expressionism, as well as two longer stories composed in the 1940s, when he lived in exile in Southern California. The early collection is full of mind-bending and sexually charged narratives, from the dizzying descent into madness that has made the title story one of the most anthologized of German stories to “She Who Helped,” where mortality roams the streets of nineteenth-century Manhattan with a white borzoi and a quiet smile, and “The Ballerina and the Body,” which describes a terrible duel to the death. Of the two later stories, “Materialism, A Fable,” in which news of humanity’s soulless doctrines reaches the animals, elements, and the molecules themselves, is especially delightful.
In 1869, at the age of twenty-four, the precociously brilliant Friedrich Nietzsche was appointed to a professorship of classical philology at the University of Basel. He seemed marked for a successful and conventional academic career. Then the philosophy of Schopenhauer and the music of Wagner transformed his ambitions. The genius of such thinkers and makers—the kind of genius that had emerged in ancient Greece—this alone was the touchstone for true understanding. But how was education to serve genius, especially in a modern society marked more and more by an unholy alliance between academic specialization, mass-market journalism, and the militarized state? Something more than sturdy scholarship was called for. A new way of teaching and questioning, a new philosophy . . .
What that new way might be was the question Nietzsche broached in five vivid, popular public lectures in Basel in 1872. Anti-Education presents a provocative and timely reckoning with what remains one of the central challenges of the modern world.
Scenes from a Childhood is the latest collection of stories by Jon Fosse, one of Norway's most celebrated authors and playwrights, famed for the minimalist and unsettling quality of his writing. In the title work, a loosely autobiographical narrative covers infancy to awkward adolescence, unearthing the moments of childhood that linger longest in the imagination. In 'And Then My Dog Will Come Back To Me', a haunting and dream-like novella, a dispute between neighbours escalates to an inexorable climax. Taken from various sources, the texts gathered here together for the first time demonstrate that the short story is one of the recurrent modes of Fosse's imagination, and occasions some of his greatest works.
'Jon Fosse is a major European writer. He takes some effort, but that is only a sign of quality if you ask me.'
– Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of My Struggle.