Mozart's Third Brain

Mozart's Third Brain

by Göran Sonnevi, Rika Lesser, Rosanna Warren
     
 

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Winner of the 2006 Nordic Council’s Literature Prize, Swedish writer Göran Sonnevi is undoubtedly one of the most important poets working today. In Mozart’s Third Brain, his thirteenth book of verse, he attempts “a commentary on everything” – politics, current events, mathematics, love, ethics, music, philosophy, nature.

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Overview

Winner of the 2006 Nordic Council’s Literature Prize, Swedish writer Göran Sonnevi is undoubtedly one of the most important poets working today. In Mozart’s Third Brain, his thirteenth book of verse, he attempts “a commentary on everything” – politics, current events, mathematics, love, ethics, music, philosophy, nature. Through the impeccable skill of award-winning translator Rika Lesser, Sonnevi’s long-form poem comes to life in English with the full force of its loose, fractured, and radiating intensity.

A poetic tour de force that darts about dynamically and imaginatively, Mozart’s Third Brain weaves an elaborate web of associations as the poet tries to integrate his private consciousness with the world around him. Through Lesser’s translation and preface, and an enlightening foreword by Rosanna Warren, readers of English will finally gain access to this masterpiece.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This ambitious, sprawling book-length poem from one of Sweden's leading lights aspires to consider almost everything: music in composition and performance, friends' illness and death, cosmology, sex, and metaphysics: “Within myself I hear the dichotomies, recurrent/ on many levels, ontologically, epistemologically Also/ emotionally.” Such abstract musings cut against Sonnevi's striking lyric interludes, as when he evokes “The whirlwind of ash at my feet, invisible/ Where shall I set them down.” Composed between 1992 and 1996, its 164 sections also react to European politics, including Sweden's vote on whether to enter the E.U. and the conflict and slaughter in Bosnia. Political economy makes an appearance, too (“The sea of finance capital, of over 7 trillion dollars,/ moving freely over the surface of the globe”). He wants, also, to see how social and artistic life and the sciences can merge and interact in his own mind, where “There's no end to analyses We stand at the beginning of everything.” Sonnevi's sentences sound admirably idiomatic in Lesser's rendering. Yet even Swedish readers (as Lesser notes) remain both fascinated and baffled by Sonnevi's informality and by his reach: for every American drawn to these long meditations, another may regard them as merely journals, a thoughtful poet's lengthy notes for an unwritten poem. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Sonnevi has been a major literary figure since the 1965 publication of On the War in Vietnam, a highly regarded poem that fueled the debate over U.S. involvement in the war. Considered the best poet to come of age in Sweden in the 1960s, Sonnevi has won nearly every significant Swedish poetry prize, including the 2005 Nordic Prize—known as the little Nobel. Sonnevi's 13th collection, published in Sweden in 1996, consists of two parts: "Disparates," a series of short, lyric poems, and the 200-page title poem. Primarily a meditation on family, death, and God, this lengthy work covers everything from music to history to politics to love. With its chiaroscuro imagery, it looks at the metaphysics of music as it poses existential considerations of loss, loneliness, and religious faith and is at times reminiscent of work by Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. VERDICT Sonnevi uses metaphors of light and shadow both to set a mood and to draw readers into what is primarily a stunning conversation between the narrator and his deceased father. Best for serious readers of contemporary poetry.—Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD
Richard Howard
“Just what we need, another poem that can never stop being read, only entered, continued, lived. . . Lesser (what a name for the translator of the latest “wisdom literature” to hit the fan!) had to hear Sonnevi’s voice before she could (or would) do the work. In other words, loved the poem. And that is why we may read it, not well but as well: to hear the voice, in English now: entered, continued, lived. . . Yes, just what we need.”—Richard Howard
Rosanna Warren
“A massive poem that breaks almost every poetic convention. . . .The poem lures us, step by step, to suffer, to care, to mourn, and to live in an enlarged state of awareness. So large, finally, that it brings microcosm together with macrocosm, and brokenness together with wholeness, in a visionary ending that does not really end. . . . In this majestic, original, and painful poem, Göran Sonnevi has released a new form of fertility into the world.”—Rosanna Warren, from the Foreword
C.K. Williams
“Göran Sonnevi is one of the most unique and most accomplished poets writing anywhere in the world. There is no one like him in terms of the scope, the magnificence of his ambition for his work, and few come close to what he can technically manage…Brilliantly translated, Rika Lesser’s verse in English is supple and capacious.”—C.K. Williams

Adam Zagajewski
“Göran Sonnevi tries in this book something that’s impossible and breathtaking: a poetic synthesis wherein our knowledge and emotions should merge. . . A synthesis is not possible but what we’re given here is a wonderful meditation on the world of pain and beauty, of politics and music, nature and human relationships. A fantastic poem and fantastically translated by Rika Lesser!”— Adam Zagajewski
PEN American Center - PEN Literary Awards in Poetry in Translation
Finalist for the 2010 PEN Literary Awards in the Poetry in Translation category given by the PEN American Center

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300145809
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
10/06/2009
Series:
Margellos World Republic of Letters Series
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.90(d)

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Meet the Author

Winner of the 2006 Nordic Council's Literature Prize, Swedish writer Göran Sonnevi is one of the most important poets working today. Rika Lesser is the author of four books of poems and six books of poetry in translation. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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