Olga’s Book

by Rafaël Newman All my life I’ve been fascinated by the systems of mutual connections and influences of which we are generally unaware, but which we discover by chance, as surprising coincidences or convergences of fate, all those bridges, nuts, bolts, welded joints and connectors… —Olga Tokarczuk, Nobel Lecture, December 7, 2019 When I was quite…

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Donald W. Bonaparte

by Rafaël Newman It’s November 9 – what Europeans, with their rational, smallest-to-greatest date format, might call “9/11”, if that particular shorthand hadn’t already been otherwise coopted for the 21st-century world’s symbology. At the same time, Europeans, particularly Germans, would be hard pressed to say which of the several events to have taken place on…

A Portrait Of The Artist Among Young Dogs

by Rafaël Newman A system update recently downloaded to my cellphone included artificial intelligence capable of facial recognition. I know this because, when I subsequently opened the “Gallery” function to send a photograph, I discovered that the refurbished app had taken it upon itself to create a new “album” (alongside “Camera”, “Downloads” and “Screenshots”) called…

Home From Home

by Rafaël Newman A friend of mine, a retired Swiss high school teacher and an aficionado of American culture, has been compiling a list of “Pseudo Anglicisms”, words of evident English origin used in contemporary colloquial German (especially in Switzerland) which often have no actual correspondence in English as commonly employed by native speakers. His…

“A World of Tears”: Rubens, Nietzsche, and tragic ecphrasis

by Rafaël Newman Morgan Meis, The Drunken Silenus: On Gods, Goats, and the Cracks in Reality (Slant Books, 2020) Reviewing a new translation of the Iliad, the military historian Edward Luttwak speculates about the enduring popularity of the ancient epic: Why are our contemporaries so keen on buying and presumably reading the Iliad’s Iron Age reminiscence of…

Geronimo! Neural machine translation, post-editing, and the post-human

by Rafaël Newman Notwithstanding the spread of English as a global lingua franca, translation continues to be a vital component of international relations, whether political, commercial, or cultural. In certain cases, translation is also necessary nationally, for instance in countries comprising more than one significant linguistic group. This is so in Switzerland, which voted by…

Calendars

by Rafaël Newman For Eva, mère & fille; and for Tom Yesterday was James Joyce’s birthday. His one-hundred-and-thirty-seventh. Or would have been, if he hadn’t died, in Zurich, in January 1941, but were instead swelling the ranks of the current generation of supercentenarians, their increasing longevity bedeviling the demographics departments of local life insurers. Joyce…

“A way of shutting my eyes”: Reflections on the Photographic Turn in Recent Literary Memoirs

by Rafaël Newman For Fred Weinstein “What is hidden is for us Westerners more ‘true’ than what is visible,” Roland Barthes proposed, in Camera Lucida, his phenomenology of the photograph, almost forty years ago. In the decades since, the internet, nanotechnology, and viral marketing have challenged his privileging of the unseen over the seen by…