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Preview: Arnon Grunberg - Blog

Arnon Grunberg - Blog

The day-to-day life of Arnon Grunberg



Thu, 14 Dec 2017 00:31:02 +0100



An evening with Dubravka Ugrešić in Amsterdam, on the occasion of the publication of the Dutch edition of her novel "The Fox" -- she insisted that it is a novel, so it's a novel.
A quote: "Everywhere we leave constant traces of our existence, of our struggle against vacuity. And the greater the vacuity, the more violent our struggle—"
A struggle agains vacuity and the traces of that struggle, what else is there?



Wed, 13 Dec 2017 01:32:47 +0100



Q and a in a high school in Amsterdam. A charming and well spoken young man said: "Mr. Grunberg, I need your advice."
Ah, he wants to be an author I thought.
But he said: "I'd like to a diplomat. Do you I can pull this off?"
"Yes," I said. "You can do this."
Then he said: "To be honest, I'm underwhelmed by your work. I haven't read your novels, but your columns..." He shook his head.



Tue, 12 Dec 2017 01:26:15 +0100



An evening in Ghent about my book on the writer as hotel citizen, thanks to J. Roth. Due to the snow only a handful of the about 150 people who had reserved a seat came to the venue.
The front door appeared to be closed.
An elderly man approached me with the words: “Will the event take place, Mr. Grunberg?”
“I hope so,” I answered, “I stumbled through the snow for more than twenty minutes.”
The event started, my feet were still wet.
Then I realized that Charlotte, a poet, had knitted a scarf for me and that I had forgotten the scarf in NY, and she planned to attend the evening. I was deeply ashamed.
Then I said to myself: no, because of the snow, she won’t be here.
Well, despite the weather she made it to the event. She was in the company of a charming psychiatrist, I said: “Charlotte, I have to ask you for forgiveness. Your scarf, your lovely scarf, is in my closet in New York.”



Mon, 11 Dec 2017 01:32:24 +0100



The train from Paris Airport to Brussels stopped in Lille.
"There is a defect train ahead of us. We will be here for two hours of for twenty minutes. I cannot tell you more at this moment," the train manager announced.
I decided to leave the train and take a taxi to Ghent. Time is of the essence.
A room was reserved for me in hotel 1898 the post, it was my first time in this hotel and the driver from Lille said: "Where is it? Is it a hotel? I don't see a hotel. It looks like a church."
I gave him the name of the hotel, but the driver insisted: "It looks lik a church. Are you going to sleep in a church?"
Then he added: "It's not my business anyway."



Sat, 09 Dec 2017 22:28:40 +0100

Plant Last night over dinner the publisher talked about the Egyptian author Ahmed Naji, who was jailed for sex scenes in a novel. I had not heard of him, so the publisher forwarded me this article by Zadie Smith in last year's december issue of NYRB: 'I first heard the name Ahmed Naji at a PEN dinner last spring. I looked up from my dessert to a large projection of a young Egyptian man, rather handsome, slightly louche-looking, with a Burt Reynolds moustache, wearing a Nehru shirt in a dandyish print and the half smile of someone both amusing and easily amused. I learned that he was just thirty and had written a novel called Using Life for which he is currently serving a two-year prison sentence. I thought: good title. A facile thought to have at such a moment but it’s what came to mind. I liked the echo of Georges Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual—the coolness of that—and thought I recognized, in Naji’s author photo, something antic and wild, not unlike what you see when you look at pictures of Perec. You could call it judging a book by its cover: I’d rather think of it as the readerly premonition that this book might please me. If he had written a book called Peacocks in Moonlight and posed for one of these author portraits where the writer’s head is resting on his own closed fist, I would have been equally shocked and saddened to hear he was in prison, but perhaps not as keen to read it.' (...) 'In an attempt to draw more attention to Naji’s cause, Mona recently translated three very short, flash-fiction type stories for PEN’s website. They published one, “The Plant,” which begins like this: I will not come through the door or the window, but as a plant you cannot notice with your naked eye. I will grow day after day, to the sound of your singing and the rhythm of your breath at night. A small plant you will not notice at first, growing beneath your bed. From door to bed, to bathroom to closet, standing or sitting against the mirror. Through all these acts, and to the sound of your humming, I will grow. A small green plant. With grand slim leaves sneaking out from beneath your bed. I read this voice first as the spirit of underground resistance, then as the essence of pervasive dictatorship, and then back to resistance once more. The second story, unpublished, was called “Ambulance” and began like so: “She was sucking my dick when suddenly she stopped to ask if I had given grandmother her medicine.” The last, also unpublished, was called “Normal,” and it opened this way: “One time as I was heading back to Sixth of October city, a prostitute showed up on the way dressed in the official uniform, a black cloak without a headscarf, and instead she had bangs and black hair falling over her shoulders. She was carrying a huge neon bag.”' Read the article here. Needless to say, in the West 'the spirit of underground resistance' is a synonym for marketing, but there are places where literature is taking (too) seriously. Like Zadie I did feel a superficial but strong sense of kinship. As soon as I'm done with Schmitt (Carl), Kehlmann and Ugrešić I will continue with Naji. And I'm wondering what my Arabic translator and/or editor may have changed in my novel "Tirza". [...]


Sat, 09 Dec 2017 00:33:04 +0100


What else?

My publisher asked: "Have you ever eaten Kushari?"
I answered: "No."
Later I remembered that my friend Sabri had invited me for Kushari in the summer of 2014. But this time the Kushari made a bigger impression on me.
I could come back for Kushari, and it's vegan. What else do you want from a main dish?



Thu, 07 Dec 2017 23:47:24 +0100



Pension Roma, Cairo. The elevator reminded of old French movies. Dinner in Eish + Malh. The Egyptian publisher was charming, helpful and rather silent. The outlook from Cairo in short: "The future is bleak but life goes on."
Before we went home I asked: "Do I need a coat tomorrow during the day?"
"We need a coat below 25 degrees Celsius, but you may have different needs," he answered.


Next time

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 01:30:47 +0100



The bar in Hotel Lancaster did not only offer a cocktail course this afternoon but also a cocktail named "touch of evil". Four to six more or less young people appeared to take part in the course.
I skipped the course, I tried the cocktail.
Next time I'll do it the other way around.



Tue, 05 Dec 2017 23:51:50 +0100



Off to Egypt, via Paris.
The last time I was in Cairo I met the mother of my friend Sabri. He said: "Paradise is where your mother's feet are."



Tue, 05 Dec 2017 06:48:12 +0100



"The premise might remind you of any version of “Cape Fear” (except maybe the one from “The Simpsons”) or countless horror movies," A.O. Scott writes in the Times about Yorgos Lanthimos' movie "The killing of the sacred deer".
(Read the review here.)

I was not reminded of horror movies, yes a bit of Haneke but also of "Sophie's Choice" and "The deer hunter", but horror movies? Not really. Maybe I've not seen enough horror movies.
Mr. Lanthimos asks: what does an ordeal mean when there's no agent anymore responsible for the ordeal? Are we being punished, but for what exactly? Yes, an ordeal without horror is no ordeal. But what's an ordeal without meaning? Absurdism? Estheticism?