Throughout, Camus’ talent, humor, and passion glisten like rare jewels.

COMMITTED WRITINGS

A focused collection of the political and moral writings and speeches by the Nobel laureate.

After a fresh foreword by Camus scholar Alice Kaplan, the compilation begins with four letters Camus (1913-1960) published during World War II, purportedly to a German he knew but who is likely the author’s creation. The letters assail the Germans for what they have done—and continue to do—with fierce candor: “violence is more natural to you than thinking”; “you scorned knowledge and spoke only of strength.” The longest piece is “Reflections on the Guillotine” (1957), which describes and condemns capital punishment, employing logic, passion, grim detail, and skillful prose. Camus begins with his father’s vomiting after witnessing a beheading; later, he includes a horrible description of another beheading gone wrong. The author argues that capital punishment is not punishment but “revenge” and includes comments about how the death penalty is related to religious history. The volume concludes with two speeches related to the author’s acceptance of the Nobel Prize in literature. The first is the official speech he gave at the ceremony in Stockholm; the second, a lecture he delivered at Uppsala University. In the first, Camus is humble and grateful and talks passionately about the significance of his art in his life. The second explores the idea of realism in literature—and how absolute realism is impossible. It would require, he writes amusingly, the author to devote their life to following the entire life of another. Camus is also playful with the old metaphor of the broken eggs and the omelet: You don’t need to break thousands of them to make one omelet. The author ends by saying that truth should be the aim of the artist.

Throughout, Camus’ talent, humor, and passion glisten like rare jewels.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-56719-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A scrupulously honest and consistently thoughtful love letter to “the most intense form of reading…there is.”

TRANSLATING MYSELF AND OTHERS

The acclaimed author and translator offers thoughts on the latter art and craft.

A Pulitzer Prize–winning author of fiction in English, Lahiri moved to Rome in 2012 to immerse herself in Italian. Since then, she has published both a memoir and fiction in Italian and translated several works from Italian to English. This volume collects several pieces written over the past seven years—her translators’ notes to the novels Ties (2017), Trick (2018), and Trust (2021) by Italian writer (and friend) Domenico Starnone; stand-alone essays; and lectures and addresses—as well as an original introduction and afterword. A few themes emerge: Lahiri frequently returns to Ovid and Metamorphoses, most notably in her lecture “In Praise of Echo” and her moving afterword, which recounts her process of translating Ovid as her mother declined and died; metaphors of immigration and migration—Lahiri is both the daughter of Bengali-speaking Indian immigrants and an immigrant herself, twice over—ground other musings. Possibly the most provocative piece is “Where I Find Myself”—on the process of translating her own novel Dove mi trovo, from the original Italian into English as Whereabouts (2021)—an essay that finds her first questioning the ethics of self-translation (probed with a surgical metaphor) and then impelled to make revisions for a second Italian edition. The weakest essay is “Traduzione (stra)ordinaria / (Extra)ordinary Translation,” an appreciation of Italian revolutionary and thinker Antonio Gramsci, whose Letters From Prison reveal a linguist as ferociously compelled to investigate the process of translation as Lahiri herself. Composed originally as remarks for a panel, it reads like an elegantly annotated list of bullet points that will have readers wishing Lahiri had revised it into a cohesive essay. Readers may also find themselves envious of the author’s students of translation at Princeton, but this sharp collection will have to do. Two essays originally composed in Italian are printed in the original in an appendix.

A scrupulously honest and consistently thoughtful love letter to “the most intense form of reading…there is.”

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-691-23116-7

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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