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The Attraction of Things
     

The Attraction of Things

by Roger Lewinter, Rachel Careau (Translator)
 

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Stunning fragments that offer an epiphany of grace and beautyThe Attraction of Things concerns the entirety of beauty and the possibility of grace, relayed via obsessions with rare early gramophone records, the theater, translation, dying parents: all these elements are relayed in a dizzying strange traffic of cultural artifacts, friendships, losses, discoveries,

Overview

Stunning fragments that offer an epiphany of grace and beautyThe Attraction of Things concerns the entirety of beauty and the possibility of grace, relayed via obsessions with rare early gramophone records, the theater, translation, dying parents: all these elements are relayed in a dizzying strange traffic of cultural artifacts, friendships, losses, discoveries, and love. Roger Lewinter believes that in the realm of art, “the distinction between life and death loses its relevance, the one taking place in the other.”Whereas Story of Love in Solitude is a group of small stories, The Attraction of Things is a continuous narrative (more or less) of a man seeking (or stumbling upon) enlightenment.“The Attraction of Things,” states Lewinter, “is the story of a being who lets himself go toward what attracts him, toward what he attracts—beings, works, things—and who, through successive encounters, finds the way out of the labyrinth, to the heart, where the bolt of illumination strikes. This is the story of a letting go toward the illumination.”

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/19/2016
Lewinter’s serpentine “fragments of an oblique life” nominally recount three years in a man’s life, but they more closely resemble a work that his narrator wants to translate: “a text that, improvised on each occasion in a state of concentration, was a simple verbal process” for its writer, but for the reader becomes a “labyrinth from which to find the way out.” The narrator is an accomplished translator and avid collector of antique records, Kashmir shawls, and other objets d’art, and is increasingly solitary. His elderly father, his only living parent, is growing fragile: “Making up for twenty years in three weeks he suddenly became an old man.” An ex-girlfriend whose new book is finally finished mentions that she’s “getting married in two hours.” The narrator’s relationships with men afford him the understanding that gender is ultimately unimportant, “since it is negated for the body that in its fulfillment is escaped,” but these relationships have also proven transitory. In this ephemeral world, the flea market offers consolations and coincidences within which the narrator locates a deeper meaning. Finding an intricately woven shawl, or the old sound recording of a dancer in which only the music and “a sharp tap of the castanets sufficed to evoke in its brilliance the entirety of beauty,” he moves closer and closer to revelation. Lewinter’s sentences can span several pages, moving backward and forward through narrative time; through their possible frustration, readers too may approach enlightenment. (Nov.)
Scott Esposito - Conversational Reading
“Short and vvvery powerful.”
Monica Carter - Best Translated Book Award
“With Lewinter, beginning a sentence is an entryway to a maze that guides you through a labyrinthine use of time that ends back at the beginning. He is at his most intricate in The Attraction of Things, a fictional treatise on the magnetism of things and how we are inexplicably drawn to them without knowing why.”
Poupeh Missaghi
“It takes some patience to walk with Lewinter through these passages, but if you do stay with him, you might arrive at that gem you have been looking for, or one that you weren’t even aware youneeded.”
Lydia Davis
“Roger Lewinter’s works, both humanly touching and artistically innovative, are spectacularly individual. Obsessively, and in the most incisive detail, they portray some of the crucial events and ideas of his life in prose at once headlong and passionate in its pacing, and tight and cerebral in its articulation. In this volume, Lewinter’s highly intricate syntax, which necessarily so closely reflects and reproduces his complexly layered thinking, has been meticulously and eloquently recreated by Rachel Careau in her masterful translation.”
David Lispiau - D-Fiction
“You absolutely must read Roger Lewinter, beginning with two perfect narratives: The Attraction of Things and Story of Love in Solitude.”
Kirkus Reviews
2016-08-22
A reissue of the author’s 1985 novella, an elliptical meditation on possessions and their loss.This work by French-born novelist Lewinter (Story of Love in Solitude, 1989, etc.) has a definite arc, following the declining health of the narrator’s parents. But it’d be off-base to say it has a plot: Lewinter is a prose poet, delivering long, sinuous, and complex sentences that switch back and forth in time and weave around the story. (This edition includes the original French text to compare to Careau’s translation.) So though he’s contemplating mom’s and dad’s mortality, Lewinter’s hero is doing so through the filter of objects: a coveted LP; a bespoke shawl; Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry; a set of vintage porcelain. Rather than suggesting that the narrator’s fixation on stuff is misguided, Lewinter delivers an appreciation of the spiritual power of things: the shawl, for instance, possesses a “serene luminosity” whose threads are “equal parts solid, liquid, ethereal”; a singer on a record “becomes an elaboration of the divine.” Compared to the blunter depictions of his father’s trips in and out of the hospital and ultimately to hospice, the narrator can seem shallow; a brief fling with a street drunk only bolsters the notion. But Lewinter’s narrator is more interested in aesthetics than in morals. He seeks “that which transfigures the void,” and because he feels that’s more likely to be found in a song that can’t die, his remove from his father has a certain poignancy. The wooliness of the narration doesn’t wholly sell the point, but Lewinter unquestionably brings a lot of gravitas to a brief, abstracted tale. A provocative, sometimes-baffling set of riffs on inanimate objects and death, in that order.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811225205
Publisher:
New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
11/01/2016
Edition description:
Bilingual
Pages:
128
Sales rank:
777,486
Product dimensions:
4.40(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author

Roger Lewinter was born in Montauban, France, in 1941, to Austrian Jewish parents. The family moved to Switzerland during the war, and he has lived much of his life in Geneva. For more than forty years he has worked as a writer (of both literary and scholarly works), an editor, and a translator (of Georg Groddeck, Karl Kraus, Elias Canetti, Robert Walser, and Rilke, among others). Among his dozen books are three works of fiction.

Rachel Careau is a writer and translator and the author of one book of prose poems, Itineraries. She is working on a translation of Roger Lewinter’s L’Apparat de l’âme.

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