New Star Blogs

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.