Penn Book Center Reading Group, 2018
2017 changed the conversation for women. From the Women's March to #MeToo and everything beyond and in between, popular culture is coming to a reckoning and women's voices are raised louder and stronger than ever. In an era of growing political nationalism, we want to turn our ears to the words and voices of women beyond our land and language. From the Caribbean to South Africa to Northern Europe, here are women's voices that reverberate in and beyond our urgent moment.
All texts are from Archipelago Books, a not-for-profit literary press devoted to promoting cross-cultural exchange through innovative classics and contemporary international literature in translation.
All meetings will be on the third Saturday of the month at 3 pm. Coffee and snacks will be provided.
Dance on the Volcano, Marie Vieux-Chauvet (Haiti, French)
Love, Hanne Ørstavik (Norway, Norwegian)
Absolute Solitude: Poems, Dulce María Loynaz (Cuba, Spanish)
Moscow in the Plague Year: Poems, Marina Tsvetaeva (Russia, Russian)
Incest, Christine Angot (France, French)
The First Wife, Paulina Chiziane (Mozambique, Portuguese)
Pearls on a Branch, ed. Najla Khoury (Lebanon, Arabic)
The Expedition to the Baobab Tree, Wilma Stockström (South Africa, Afrikaans)
Dreams and Stones, Magdalena Tulli (Poland, Polish)
Cockroaches, Scholastique Mukasonga (Rwanda, French)
Angel of Oblivion, Maja Haderlap (Slovenia, German)
To Mervas, Elisabeth Rynell (Sweden, Swedish)
ABOUT Moscow in the Plague Year and Marina Tsvetaeva:
Representing some of Tsvetaeva’s most remarkable work, this collection of poems, written during the years of the Moscow famine and the Russian Revolution of 1917, is suffused with biting irony and vibrant imagery. Frequently invoking images of resistance, Tsvetaeva approaches female resilience with sustained strength and an infectious sense of humor. “For a woman,” she observes, “God is the equivalent of an aging husband.” Deeply admired by Rainer Maria Rilke and Vladimir Nabokov, Tsvetaeva is widely considered one of the most important poets of twentieth-century Russia. This is the first time many of these poems have appeared in English.
“No more passionate voice sounded in Russian poetry of the 20th century.” –Joseph Brodsky
“The range of style and feeling is striking, from a forceful colloquialism akin to Mayakovsky to a lyric tenderness which evokes Cummings.” –Library Journal
“Unique, profound, passionate, inspiring … Asks questions we didn’t know existed until she offered them to us, and answers to some of poetry’s most enduring mysteries.” –C.K. Williams
Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) was a Russian poet and memoirist. Tsvetaeva's work was admired by many poets of her time, including Rainer Maria Rilke, Boris Pasternak, and Joseph Brodsky, among others. The Russian Revolution prompted Tsvetaeva's husband to join the White Army, and she and her young children were trapped in Moscow and thrown into extreme poverty for five years, the subject of the poems in Moscow in the Plague Year. In 1941 her husband was shot on the charge of espionage, her daughter sent to a labor camp, and Tsvetaeva herself sent to Yelabuga, where she found herself once more desperately looking for work until her suicide later that year.
ABOUT Absolute Solitude and Dulce María Loynaz:
Absolute Solitude is a comprehensive selection of the prose poems from Dulce María Loynaz’s Poems Without Names. First published in Spain in 1953, Poems Without Names achieved both critical and popular success. Gabriela Mistral called them “pure condensations of poetry, the pure bone of the affair: it is interior poetry.” Absolute Solitude also contains a selection of prose poems from Autumn Melancholy, published posthumously in 1997. This is the first major selection dedicated to Dulce María Loynaz’s prose poetry and it brings to American readers one of Cuba’s most celebrated poets, a poet Juan Ramón Jiménez described as “archaic and new, a phosphorescent reality of her own incredibly human poetry, her fresh language, tender, weightless, rich in abandon.”
"A cosmos of paradoxes, of encounters and failed encounters, of reality made into literature and literature seeped into reality." — Esperanza Lara Velázquez
"That equilibrium between fortitude and tenderness—the strong and the sensible—never denies its feminine cast; just like it was never hidden in the life of Dulce Mariá Loynaz." — César López
"If a picture is worth a thousand words a line from Loynaz is worth many times more." — Joseph Spuckler
Dulce María Loynaz (1902-1997) is one of Cuba’s most celebrated poets. Her first book, Verses 1920-1938, was published in Cuba in 1938, but her novel and subsequent books of poetry were published in Spain in the 1950’s, where she achieved great success. After the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Loynaz did not go into exile. She chose to remain in Cuba, but when she refused to join the Communist Party, her books were removed from Cuba’s public libraries and she herself was ostracized. In less than a year, Loynaz went from a widely published poet in Spain to a forbidden poet in Cuba. For the next thirty years, she lived in seclusion in her Havana home, unpublished and virtually forgotten. Loynaz was a 90-year-old widow when Spain’s Royal Spanish Academy unexpectedly awarded her the 1992 Premio Miguel de Cervantes, the highest literary accolade in the Spanish language. After the prize, Cuba finally published Loynaz’s novel, Garden, her Complete Poems, and her essays. She died five years later.