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Lost in Franzlations


FranzlationsLast fall, we published a book called Franzlations. A collaboration between Gary Barwin, Hugh Thomas, and Craig Conley, Franzlations takes semi-familiar aphorisms from Franz Kafka, and gives them an additional twist and a visual interpretation. Like so many interesting books that come out, it’s hard to describe; our publisher’s catalogue-ese shorthand doesn’t really nail it.

In the modern age, books of this sort seem to require a trailer, so Barwin built one for Franzlations. It’s pretty cool; more of a gloss on the book than an attempt to epitomize it, or to dramatize a scene from it. More of a book extension than a trailer, really. Here it is on Gary Barwin’s YouTube channel.

It helps that Barwin is also a musician, can draw excellent stick figures, and is clever enough to figure out how to use the toys on his computer to turn those abilities to brilliant cinematic effect.

He has since also posted a video of himself doing a short reading from Franzlations. Only, it bears the same relationship to a typical video of a typical reading that the Franzlations trailer does to Franzlations; and, for that matter, that Franzlations does to Franz. And, he’s gone to the trouble of explaining himself to an interviewer.

Eric Smale’s review / report on last November’s launch at The Ossington, on the Toronto Review of Books site, captures our own response to Franzlations when we read the manuscript:

A tribute to Kafka stripped of the element of narrative might easily risk being a fragmented experience, a mere collection of paradoxes and non-rational linguistic puzzles. Fortunately, Barwin and Thomas inject the word-play of Franzlations with exactly the kind of wit and dark humor often overlooked in Kafka’s own work. . . . While Barwin and Thomas moved deftly between these registers Thursday night, between light-heartedness and cerebral absurdity, so many mirrors, inversions and mazes eventually sent this reviewer’s head spinning. Clearly, Franzlations is a book to be absorbed slowly and revisited. After all, as the authors themselves noted, “a road is a labyrinth unfurled.”

Thanks to Google’s free surveillance service, Google Alerts, we’re able to keep up not only with the world’s conversation about Franzlations, but also to learn quite a bit about Barwin himself.

We already knew of his interest in aggregates from his blog site, Serif of Nottingham, and his Tumblr node,  and that he’s a musician (and, in his other life, a teacher of music to Hamilton’s young)  Here’s a link to his Soundcloud site. There’s a bunch of his stuff up on the Penn Sound site.

Did you know that Barwin’s previous book, The Porcupinity of the Stars, published by Coach House Books in 2010, won the Hamilton Literary Award for Best Poetry Collection? (Hamilton has produced some pretty good poets, including David McFadden and Donato Mancini, so don’t call that faint praise.) A video of Gary reading a poem from that book, “Shopping for Deer”, was performed at the Wild Culture New Vaudeville Show last February in Toronto.

And hey! Like any other self-respecting poet with career ambitions, he’s writing a novel. Here’s the entrance.