Srikanth Reddy’s second book of poetry probes this world’s cosmological relation to the plurality of all possible worlds. Drawing its name from the spacecraft currently departing our solar system on an embassy to the beyond, Voyager unfolds as three books within a book and culminates in a chilling Dantean allegory of leadership and its failure in the cause of humanity. At the heart of this volume lies the historical figure of Kurt Waldheim—Secretary-General of the U.N. from 1972-81 and former intelligence officer...

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Srikanth Reddy’s second book of poetry probes this world’s cosmological relation to the plurality of all possible worlds. Drawing its name from the spacecraft currently departing our solar system on an embassy to the beyond, Voyager unfolds as three books within a book and culminates in a chilling Dantean allegory of leadership and its failure in the cause of humanity. At the heart of this volume lies the historical figure of Kurt Waldheim—Secretary-General of the U.N. from 1972-81 and former intelligence officer in Hitler’s Wehrmacht—who once served as a spokesman for humanity while remaining silent about his role in the collective atrocities of our era. Resurrecting this complex figure, Reddy’s universal voyager explores the garden of forking paths hidden within every totalizing dream of identity.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Reddy uses as the source for his long-awaited second collection the controversial memoir of Kurt Waldheim, the U.N. secretary general who was found to have been a Nazi SS officer. All the language in Reddy's book comes from Waldheim's; Reddy's three sections comprise three erasures (in which all but a few words are deleted from the source text) of Waldheim's book by different methods. In the first, a series of clipped poetic lines is as much a hazy expression of an everyman's guilty conscience ("He knew the topography of injustice./ It had neither inside nor outside") as it is a specific indictment of global political life since WWII: "One would not wish this account to become a catalogue of the disappeared." Part two is a virtuosic and surprising prose narrative told by someone obsessed with the golden records sent up with the two Voyager space shuttles in 1977, "full of popular tunes and beautiful technological problems." In the third and longest section, a sequence of mostly first-person lyrics in Waldheim's voice beautifully mixes the personal and political concerns of the book: "He complained/ that I did not believe/ in his extraordinary world." The book closes with a series of epilogues that reveal something of the process by which it was composed. Taken together, these recastings form a highly ambitious book of political poetry that speaks hauntingly of our world. (Feb.)
“The paradoxical lives of historical figures have long inspired poets, a tradition Reddy embraces and transforms in his audacious, deeply interrogative second collection. . . . Nuanced yet piercing.”
Chronicle Of Higher Education
“Through Reddy’s ‘erasures’ and the negative capabilities of his excavated text we feel, even if we cannot see, what’s missing, what’s gone—into outer space, into self-denial, into the ironies of history and of the role between the wielders of pens and of swords. We find ourselves—culpable, impressionable, alive—in the human space he has created.”
New Yorker - Dan Chiasson
“Reddy has fashioned an arresting, very personal voice by committing himself to using only words and phrases that appeared in—wait for it—Kurt Waldheim’s memoirs. . . . Reddy is so gifted that the poems, despite their weighty origins, soar.”
“Voyager is a nuanced and haunting book of geopolitical, literary, moral, and spiritual inquiry.”
The Believer Magazine - Jeannie Vanasco
“Erasurists find their imaginative space by reading creatively. One of the genre's most creative readers in Srikanth Reddy. Not only is his erasure, the book Voyager, conceptually captivating, but the writing is amazing. Let me repeat that: the writing is amazing.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520268852
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 2/7/2011
  • Series: New California Poetry
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Srikanth Reddy is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Chicago and the author of a previous collection of poetry, Facts for Visitors.

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Read an Excerpt


By Srikanth Reddy


Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-94826-6


    The world is the world.
    To deny it is to break with reason.
    Nevertheless it would be reasonable to question the affair.
    The speaker studies the world to determine the extent of his troubles.
    He studies the night overhead.
    He says therefore.
    He says venerable art.
    To believe in the world, a person has to quiet thinking.
    The dead do not cease in the grave.
    The world is water falling on a stone.

    Some serve the state.
    Some an interminable kingdom.
    In the end he would have no objection to the study of nations.
    Nations occur.
    For a time, Finland.
    Likewise, Namibia.
    The Namibian people journey through the story of Namibia.
    As a footnote, the Soviet Union is an interesting case.
    He also will one day collapse.
    A world is a world is a world.

    Even so the world has to go on.
    To complain about love in front of the famous Chagall window does not
    make a difference.
    He shall be placed in the first circle.
    The Chinese province of Sichuan continues to change form.
    Subject the globe to assembly.
    Mark in the empire thus.
    [Figure 1].
    In his mind he views a dark glass sea.
    Before diving in he talks of dialectical space.
    Jerusalem. Jerusalem indeed.

    Is is.
    There is no distinction between ideology and image.
    He records his name on a gold medallion.
    The philosopher must say is.
    The world is legion.
    The self is a suffering form.
    Is is.
    Waves rise and fall, but the sea remains.

    Open the box.
    The box is a brief history of post-war Europe.
    Opening it would be against the interests of the authorities.
    They could bring influence to bear on a man.
    De facto world.
    Black palace.
    One would not wish this account to become a catalogue of the
    Disappearance should not fashion books.
    Aldo Moro found in the boot of a parked car is the great private work of

    If there is a story, it is this.
    He had a professorship at the university and had been out of contact with
    his personality as a result.
    His parting words made mention of the dark work of fact.
    Fact is the script of the unknown.
    Its shadowy disclosure documents the further world.
    And was he some obscure thwarted figure in byzantine constraints?
    The question arose.
    He knew the topography of injustice.
    It had neither inside nor outside, like love.
    Like a long ago fire in the world.

    War is.
    War is a failure of form.
    Thus sink each day's dead softly in the hearth.
    Some suffer within flagrant circles.
    Some take refuge in the avenues of the cross.
    He was seeking an interpretation of arms and the man that would not
    further legitimize the regime.
    Autumn was in pieces all across America.
    Death may be a change of style, but surely not of substance.
    There there.
    The river lives in a mobile home.

    Is desire present throughout the line?
    Yes she said.
    He said the final object is the cross.
    Is the world one muted figure cut down with hands tied?
    Carry out the bodies.
    The body in the line means little.
    Weigh voice.
    Namibia Namibia Namibia Namibia.
    Within seeds, increase.
    Within uncertainty, understanding.

    The failed idea repeatedly described in this book is alter ego.
    On the shield, endless ranges beyond an agricultural field, and an observer
    there, regarding it all in perspective.
    Peace. Peace.
    The sovereign subject thinking of time reasons accordingly.
    One. One. Two. One.
    Constraint fathers compulsion.
    Do the dead work beyond sense?
    Say creature into the mirror.
    If the image displeases, the remedy does not lie in shattering the mirror.

    On stage, the Cold War.
    To the west, the canal moving through the corridors of a burning former
    Critics should take into account the function of repetition in disciplined
    states of mind.
    Peace. Peace.
    Picture the deep sea bed.
    Is the sea crafted by the will to believe?
    The enlightened believe.
    They live together in a village in history.
    Seven. Six. Five.
    The flames continued until a world appeared.

    He wrote formally in private.
    Vote for a.
    Make wings of straw.
    Vote for the.
    Everybody say servant in the cross.
    Thanks be to the university research professor for diplomacy.
    Is is a number?
    Enter one.
    Österreich ist eine kleine Welt, in der die Große ihre Probe hält.
    A is the ground for the.

    On a cold winter's day, a pack of porcupines huddled together seeking
    refuge from the frost.
    Soon they had to move apart again as their quills struck home.
    Need drew them together.
    They found themselves repelled by stabs of pain.
    Thus in his fable Schopenhauer the German philosopher describes
    unending peace.
    Approach the pendulum.
    There is a school of thought that sees constraint as the basis of relations
    with other people.
    The book of the is taken apart and put together again with relation to a.
    Over the centuries the oceans have remained unshattered.
    The good interpreter shifts ever on.

    He is fashioned in the assembly of his book.
    Kurt Waldheim is a formal negotiation.
    A collective music circles history.
    The world is the largest picture in the world.
    Of the individual, only a number remains.

    Death is a little door in the world.
    Vis pacem.
    The star systems pyace in perception.
    Process. Blind process.
    The nature of systems is now becoming clear.
    The world is a world.
    Overcome all emotion.
    Wherever possible alleviate the misery of others.
    There is nothing in victory.
    The silent alone lie united.


In November last year, I became interested in the fate of a machine which had been launched into creation and disappeared from sight during my boyhood. The thought of it roaming our system unconcerned about the policies of the regime was a relief from the strains and suspicions that surrounded us at home. Every morning, I would visit the library to dig out information for my dissertation on the principles of writing, and in the night, overhead, sought refuge in the parallel journey.

Aboard, I read, was a deeply-etched record of the world that floated away, full of popular tunes and beautiful technological problems. Perhaps an observer far in outer space might study this information in days to come. He would have to weigh carefully in his heart the words of a man who by some quirk of fate had become a spokesman for humanity, who could give voice to all the nations and peoples of the world, and, so to speak, the conscience of mankind.

This man, legend states, likely knew of the mass execution of groups of people as a capable officer required to collect and analyze data, prepare reports, conduct investigations, and otherwise facilitate operational projects in the last world war. At the time, however, he did not express concern at this action. To a degree this is understandable. His voice failed. Now, after years have passed, our little record is carrying his words as Secretary General of the United Nations to a government above.

Thus I built up a dossier about him over a considerable period of time. His story cast a shadow of unreality over everything. The summer heat relentlessly continued. At home, my wife sent for a parcel of china that one day will come. Whether this will happen in the far distant future I cannot predict. Certainly the china plays no part in the tribulations of the last year.

Even if he had intelligence of disquieting matters, I do not wish to judge here the person of Dr. Waldheim. The dead do not cease in the grave. The world is water falling on a stone. True, I began to cross out words from his book on world peace. But I had mixed emotions about this new development in my life. As a child, spelling out world was to open a world in myself, private and byzantine, with mountains by a pale, fragile sea, the coast stretching southwards in the curtained evening hours. Now, to cross line after line out of his work seemed to me a slow and difficult process that verged on the ridiculous.

I labored, often tempted to throw up my hands in frustration, on this form. I expunged colonial wars, the Cape Verde Islands, the dilemma of self, and a broken government thus. Within a year, the little declarations that remained seemed to me to silence any hope for a united world. Nations occur. / For a time, Finland. / Likewise, Namibia. / The Namibian people journey through the story of Namibia. / As a footnote, the Soviet Union is an interesting case. / He also will one day collapse ...

In my office a globe was set up, less a world than a history of imperialism and corruption. I used to search that poor political patchwork in the period leading up to my tenure. As a scholar, it became obvious to me that my little book would be unsuccessful. I had no reason for undertaking this form. But the thought of making a new beginning started to operate on me in the midst of Spring. In Austria, obviously ill and depressed, the Secretary General survived the turmoil within, with considerable reserve. I had to cross his world out anew. This history is the effect of that curious process.

On the Indian sub-continent, a prince was isolated from all knowledge that might upset him. In the palace he began to lament his captivity. Could this self, born in a stream of sad time, only be makeshift? I consider my position over and over. In ships, the sea is law. In famine, the field. Therefore he took the occasion to visit the country. My my, he said, I understand nothing. The map of Asia was in the making during this period. Serious political disturbances were causing people to flee warfare, drought and famine. Some thrust aside their tragedies to cope. The self in theory is a problem. The word does not even cover the remains.

If there is a story, it is this. At one point I had tears in my eyes. Now I consider the light of morning in a major university, reflecting on the failure of reason in Alice in Wonderland. Each week, I plan an assignment. Students, interrogate form down to the last comma. Students, broadcast the crimes of history. In March, the government, mired once again in a morass of confusion and double-dealing, had no way of explaining American casualties in the war. It had neither inside nor outside, like a long ago fire in the world.

The history of Iraq developed long ago, along the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The Ottoman Empire followed years later. In Baghdad, the formalized line in the Persian fashion deteriorated when the Arab world appeared to dissolve in turmoil and disorganization. So, for some Iraqis, silence became a figure for the infinite. Thus sink each day's dead softly in the hearth. The china, meanwhile, approached home, but not directly, and in pieces.

I had started Tolstoi's War and Peace on a number of occasions, and was much moved by his understanding of nations, foreign policy, and many other realms. But I have to say that it is interminable. Sometimes a work is clarified by ironies, as in the scene of complete disarray during which the troops go in the river with their heavy equipment, and substantial casualties result among the French within minutes. As I write these lines, people with pictures of fighters killed in action run through New York's traffic-choked streets, rising to the spirit of the occasion, while I, sitting in my second-floor office connected to various communications cables, maintain control over some very unruly emotional forces.

To me, the people on the roadside waving placards and banners appeared to be immobilized, without force, and, paradoxically, representative of our troops. It was difficult to see how to stop the activities of the government. I had an essential volume which touched upon the question of autonomy, a copy out of our library. I studied it carefully, surprised by the extent to which political philosophy was marked by faith. The style, formal and cool, highlighted the limitations of feeling. In my office I would often consider that bleak voice, convinced that, in the end, it was a splendid lamentation.

To cross scenes out of a text would not be to reject the whole text. Rather, to cross out a figure such as [begin strikethrough]to carry out programmes they approve the various regional economic commissions and inter-governmental[end strikethrough] bodies sometimes increases the implications. I had hoped to voice my unhappiness in the world thus. More and more, it seems to me the role of the Secretary General in this book is that of an alter ego. In a nightmare, Under Secretaries General, Assistant Secretaries General, and other officials of rank reported directly to me. I was given an office and a globe. But I wondered why the forest just beyond the window seemed so cold when it was, to be sure, rapidly burning.

In the flames I distinguished many strange and ambiguous forms. But I remained among the voluminous archives. I had to write my memoirs in German—Ist Welt die Probe?—again and again. Elsewhere in the darkness, a messianic little devil was screaming The world is constraint as the words that I wrote were taken apart and put together again, this time as a study of John 2:1. This subconscious vision has shaken my view of the world as singular. So I silence myself in a book of the a. Kurt Waldheim is a formal negotiation. A collective music circles history.

In the ruined remains of the china, one can discern a figured individual in the background of a far field. I have seen him with his basket of soil, a private man, stocky, with a manner that makes conversation an effort. Bridges to the East. I was intrigued by a sentimental touch in the image. In the office I had ample opportunity to observe this piece, obsessed by the idea that it was a figure for life on our planet, which, having reached the abyss of immeasurable outer space, has now come to Earth.

Now I realize that, in the theatres of neutrality, the heart freezes. This is a difficult problem. Everybody watches the wheel as it turns. Apparently incapable of peace and well-being, and unable to draw political conclusions, in the late summer, on the outskirts of a small town to the south, I embraced a new work. It was engendered in my dream. It was built of desire. Experience taught me that, in the final analysis, nothing ends. The first steps must follow.


    It was a forlorn eve,
    my descent wintry.
    In that foreign midnight,
    I sounded
    the chanceries of doubt
    as day drove up
    in an ordinary yellow cab.
    To my astonishment,
    I seemed to be blindfolded
    but the clock
    —talk talk
    continuing called me,
    a voice ever stranger
    in complaint.
    With my staff I came
    to the first step,
    sanguine indeed,
    and dressed in a well-cut Western suit
    —quite the best I saw on anybody
    during my whole stay
    in that unstable regime.
    There were people in plots
    bowing to creation.
    Please I protested,
    I had not come to stay.
    You will go in
    said Nobody,
    all will be quiet.
    I looked down
    and could see thousands
    crowding into the grounds
    —my my
    and climbed into the burial site.
    Within the twisted
    rows of graves,
    the teeth of under,
    some spoke of hatred
    and some of hope.
    Blind, they wept on command,
    in wheelchairs,
    on crutches,
    waving stumps.
    It was rather haunting—
    the gate of shadows,
    the path unlit,
    and ahead,
    also dark,
    an abandoned fortress.
    Carried along by the crowd,
    our way lit by flashlights
    through dim corridors,
    I said Citizens,
    no no.

    Ahead, a door opened.
    I recognized the old council
    sitting round a table,
    some in religious collars,
    the atmosphere a court.
    Chairing the proceeding,
    a tall, bearded figure
    uttered a few words in German
    for my benefit.
    He had lived for a time
    and remarked
    that I needed
    to be dealt with.
    Listening quietly,
    I tried to avoid
    any show of emotion.
    This clearly displeased him.
    He seemed to expect me
    to present my own commentary.
    I said in reply
    the following,
    shaken and uneasy,
    the slim thread of truth but little help ...


Excerpted from Voyager by Srikanth Reddy. Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Book One
Book Two
Book Three


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