21 June 2018

Sigh, A Dream

I’ve started to record.

I could write pages around context and motives for this; in due time.

For now, you can listen to the first instalment on the ever-visionary RIC Journal, where the more-than-visionary Saudamini Deo and Philippe Charlier have welcomed this piece:

Sigh, A Dream / Daniela Cascella

17 April 2018

but the string that binds them

When I was asked to contribute to the Visiting Practitioners Lecture Series at LCC on Thursday 19 April, I knew this would be a great chance for me to begin and re-read my three books as chapters of one book; and to begin and hear the less deliberate yet present echoes and returns in the three of them, and to begin to sense where chapter 4 might rebegin. I started indexing the three books, and my attention was driven as much to the echoes and premonitions (the thread around sigh, breath, necessity and Ananke is not yet exhausted: I know this, having spent the last few months re-reading Calasso and Hillman) as to the lacunae and what is still unspoken. I realised how these books do not seek explanation but connections: to be in other ears and eyes, and to nest in them.
Maybe chapter 4 will rewrite or paraphrase these books inside-out: from their inner lining, lingering on words such as chance, taste, quietude.
Meanwhile, this Thursday: old songs, speechlessness, a post-punk band from Italy, some Robert Aldrich. And this, from John Cage’s Lecture on Something:


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


16 November 2017

Singed: a book and an interview

My new book Singed: Muted Voice-Transmissions, After The Fire is now published by Equus Press.

I exchanged some thoughts around the book with Tristan Foster on 3:AM Magazine.



15 April 2017

Reading Isak Dinesen’s The Blank Page


I spent the end of last summer, and the rest of the year, reading everything by Isak Dinesen I could get hold of. As ever, this compelling proximity in reading leads me to attempt to write, or to think of writing, and the closer the proximity, the harder writing becomes, and urgent, and necessary — and how charged, and meaningful, those states of speechlessness are — when you think writing is impossible and when you perceive writing has to happen somehow nonetheless: it will have to take some form, it will — and how much material is worked through in those states of apparent stillness.
I started to put myself deliberately in this type of situations since last year’s texts on Marlene van Niekerk’s The Swan Whisperer and on Clarice Lispector. Drawn to the state of speechlessness generated by sustained closeness to certain artworks (the condition of aesthetic perception James Hillman writes so eloquently about in The Thought of the Heart and The Soul of the World, more on which in my next book), and wondering how to rebegin to articulate words in such states — by means of small variance, interference and noise.

I’d been trying to write around Isak Dinesen’s The Blank Page for months, failing and failing, until my eyes rested on a photocopy of the story I’d made to take with me while travelling, and on a picture I’d made of the same photocopy, as seen though the cracked screen of my iPad. To actually work with the page, in writing around a story about a page, and to work with different levels of concealment, distortion and deception in a story all formulated around ambiguity and deception, seemed to be the only way I could articulate my thoughts while avoiding clichés on silence and trite references to the High Priests of Silence.

The text is published on this month’s issue of Numéro Cinq.

P.S. It might be worth wondering whether all the annotations on the photocopy came before or after or during the actual writing of the piece — as some of you might know from reading En Abime and F.M.R.L., I am more attracted to what certain unexpected formal devices allow me to say and to layer in writing, rather than sticking to any presentation of a document/record as keeper of unmovable truths. Nothing to explain, much to experience.


27 March 2017

Michel Leiris: Nights as Day, Days as Night

Those of you who are familiar with my book F.M.R.L. will be aware of the importance of Michel Leiris’ writing in that project; in particular, the way his texts were often generated by sounding clues, and misreadings contributed to meaning—all of which enabled my material/sensuous/sounding reading of L’Afrique Fantôme in Chapter 12.

I’ve now reviewed Leiris’ Nights as Day, Days as Night (Spurl Editions, tr. Richard Sieburth) for Minor Literature[s]:

Michel Leiris had been dreaming at least since 1923, if we believe the first date noted in his collection of dream journals Nuits sans nuit et quelques jours sans jour. Before 1923 however, the collection opens with an undated text labelled as ‘Very Old Dream’, shifting back the beginning of Leiris’ dreamwriting to a much less clear origin, suggesting hazier chronological and perceptual limits for his project. Where do dreams begin, and when? Do they begin at the edge of writing, or is the writing of dreams a translucent surface that allows them to be perceived in spite of words and through and beyond them?

[continue reading]


8 February 2017

Shelf for a Lost Voice / The Library at Akerman Daly

I have a shelf at Akerman Daly’s The Library featuring words, footage and sounds through which I’ve been writing my new book. With Orson Welles, Isak Dinesen, Amelia Rosselli, James Hillman, Marcel Schwob via Fleur Jaeggy, Clarice Lispector, Marlene van Niekerk.


17 December 2016

…and the name of the next book is


A transmission of muted voices, after the fire

‘Our songs will all be silenced — but what of it? Go on singing.’ (Orson Welles, F for Fake)

1. Fire. With weighted reverberance
2. Rebeginnings. Between the chronicle and the chronically lyrical
3. Da capo. Anecdotes of destiny.

Can you explain yourself?’ I was asked once. 
‘Explain myself?’ I replied, echoing one of Isak Dinesen’s dreamers and remembering Orson Welles. ‘You are asking much. You might say: “Disguise your meaning into such phrases as I am used to hear, which mean nothing”.’
Then I lost my voice.






20 November 2016

Smarginature: Residues, Rebeginnings, Untranslated-in-Translation

Smarginature is a project I started last year with Natasha Soobramanien, exploring the ways in which language, or languages—written, spoken, or overheard—can elude definition and trespass boundaries. The title comes from a word used by Elena Ferrante in the Neapolitan Novels, that describes the way in which one of the protagonists intermittently experiences a state of psychological and existential crisis. ‘Smarginature’ cannot be translated literally in English, and it was translated by Ann Goldstein as ‘dissolving boundaries’, or ‘dissolving margins’. It is in this untranslatability-in-translation that the conversations between Natasha and I took place.

Our conversations resulted in three texts, Smarginature: Residues (Echoes) Smarginature: Rebeginnings (Shadows) by myself and Five Notes on Smarginature by Natasha.

We also commissioned new texts by Juliet Jacques, Hannah Black, Bhanu Kapil, Jen Hofer, Ashaki M. Jackson and Mg Roberts. They are all available online here.

The project continues at Lydgalleriet in Bergen on 26 and 27 November, where we will welcome Cia Rinne and Claire Potter to present two performances and lead two workshops. 

During the same weekend, Natasha and I will record Radio Ferrante, in which we have invited a number of guests to discuss their involvement with the Italian writer’s work with us. These will be made available online as podcasts, between December and January.

…to be continued…

10 September 2016

Untranslated at minor literature[s] / Fleur Jaeggy, Le statue d’acqua

I wrote a review of Le statue d’acqua by Fleur Jaeggy. It opens a new section on minor literature[s], in which we will be publishing reviews of books not translated in English.
You can read the review here.
Below are some thoughts that I gathered while writing the review.



As a teenager growing up in a provincial Italian town pre-internet, I came across a lot of artworks by reading of them. The words of certain art historians still inform my understanding of those works even after I actually encountered them. Those reviews and essays were never perceived as ancillary, but as contributing to the artworks. In more recent years, my activities within the contexts of music and sound have led me to engage more closely with the tension that writing experiences when confronted with an elusive or absent material.

The review of an untranslated book heightens such tension. It is not derivative of the book: it merges with it, as it re-reads it and re-writes it. It exists around an intermittent emptiness, and temporarily fills it with its presence and its contingency with the substance of the book: it takes shape in more or less illicit traffics with the book, it is infected by it and infects it. What is quoted, echoed, stolen, paraphrased, misshapen into the review writer’s language? How do languages collapse into one another?

In the review of an untranslated book the complex relationship between a text and its references is made more vivid, priorities and hierarchies are disarranged.

The review of an untranslated book holds a tremendous potential for imaginary and fabulatory activities. It incorporates motions of desire, longing, and writing-as-telling, as it amplifies and heightens the fabricated element of writing, the doing and undoing of meaning, the fictions of reading. 
I’m interested in how the review of an untranslated book could morph into an essay, a tale, a prose poem: in how a writer can take advantage of the not immediate availability of the book to shape up a text in the visionary, ambiguous space between document and fable.

I’ll never forget my first experience of that moment of displacement when a book, so close and so crucial in shaping up the sensorial-perceptual context in which I write, appeared to lose its bearing and substance because it was not translated into English. It’s a particular feeling, that I’ve encountered again and again since I switched my writing from Italian to English: the feeling of being on a threshold, as the material from an Italian book resounds in my English writing yet is silent within the context in which I write. The opacities and unheard layers of language, that every instance of reading and writing hold, become even more apparent.

All my books and all my texts exist in the unstable territory between understanding and misunderstanding, presence and absence, voice and muteness, brought about by my and by their being across languages. As I write and as I look for reviews of books not translated into English, I’m choosing to linger on this unstable territory: to insist on its relevance, and to see what sort of transmissions, at once precarious and exploratory, might be received and broadcast from there.

The review of an untranslated book is a prompt for everyone who’s been in a similar situation of displacement—a book so close, yet silent to many because it’s not translated: how to give it voice again? It is a prompt to begin to write through this silence, and not feel belittled by the hegemony of what is directly accessible. Just because it’s not there, sold, presented, available, translated, it does not mean a book doesn’t exist. This is not a time for counting lacks and losses: it’s time for writing.

And time to torment English words even, to make them say what they cannot say if they remain closed and confined. When I started writing in English, an editor (obviously maintaining there is only one way to write; he didn’t speak any other languages and neither was he bothered with being aware of them), an editor remarked that my writing had ‘too many metaphors.’ Of course, I thought: I grew up reading Dante! Elements such as this—the linguistic substance of a culture?—materially migrate from my Italian to my English as infiltrations that distort language but remake it too, and make it a language, one of many: like the gesticulations which I still retain from Italian, as much as I might speak in English.

The review of an untranslated book transmits despatches from another language and allows it to disturb another language. It exists in a tension with no fixed domain, articulated through time, where writing is also what exceeds it: not only a text, but the changing atmospheres around it, and the time spent turning around and around words, to hand them over to you, and you and another you.

I’m drawn to the elaborate ethnographies that may emerge in a review of an untranslated text, and in how a remote and other region might be presented, by someone who once existed in that other region, moved away from it, and occasionally goes back there—or who inhabits more than one of those regions at once.
I’m also drawn to see how a book—published recently, or years/decades/centuries ago, popular in another country, or forgotten and out of fashion—might emerge, from another language, in the English words of a writer today. I’m drawn to the book as much as to the words of the writers who will say something around that specific book: why that one of many, how does it affect the way they write?

The review of an untranslated book asks to be retold, turned around and over, never enclosed—discomfortable presence, distorted assonance. I’m interested in the type of signal that can be broadcast in these flows and transits, through words made present and heard. And in how someone else might pick that signal up and amplify it further. A frequency might meet another and resonate. Some of those books might be translated eventually; some might not. Misunderstandings, dead ends and noise make up the transmission as much as all the rest.

To interfere with language with languages.


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