Archive for March, 2018

17 March 2018

Amplification, Faint Noises, Chance, Receiving

My essay on Anna Maria Ortese’s forgotten book from the 1950s, Il mare non bagna Napoli, now available in English from New Vessel Press, was published last week on Minor Literature[s]. I call it a diptych: it started as a review, and developed into a series of considerations through the book (untranslated, translated) into other realms – which is, incidentally, one of the reasons I continue to enjoy writing around books: I become more and more drawn to what can be made to exist in the periphery of a given text, what impressions I can bring that exceed its boundaries.

Here’s an excerpt, with the usual amount of badly concealed self-reflection:

My aim […] is to begin to ask and reflect on how cultural lineage is established and how we can choose to take it as given, or question it, or reshape it; on hegemonies and canons; on visibility and systems of amplification; on what is legitimised, and how; on chance, supreme gatekeeper and supreme facilitator: because after all, a nod in passing by a renowned author is not a guarantee of visibility, and yet at one point in time, such incidental mention happens to be picked up, and magnified. My aim here is to step aside from the main point of comparison […] and, by doing so, invite a glance more askew, invite a reading which does not exclusively rely on references easily found on our doorstep […] It is a question of texture in critical understanding; the necessity to get away with laziness and dullness. What do we instantly, and easily compare books to? Which emotional and cultural scenarios do we read them against and with? What happens if we choose to omit the most immediate of these, and search elsewhere to articulate our reading? If we attempt to listen in more closely, what can be heard which is usually barely perceived because it has no means of amplification, or because certain sounds are best heard when quiet? What can be afforded by a glance from the periphery, a barely audible signal?

Untranslated, Translated: Il mare non bagna Napoli/Neapolitan Chronicles by Anna Maria Ortese


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