Osvaldo Lamborghini/Mihail Sebastian (Books acquired, 10 Nov. 2020)

Two new “objects” in translation from strangish newish indie Sublunary Editions arrived at Biblioklept World Headquarters the other day: Two Stories by Osvaldo Lamborghini (translated by Jessica Sequeira) and Fragments from a Found Notebook by Mihail Sebastian (translated by Christina Tudor-Sideri).

Intrigued by the three-word blurb from Roberto Bolaño (“It scares me”) on its back cover, I read the two stories in Lamborghini’s Two Stories. I skipped César Aira’s introduction—I always skip introductions—and then after a few baffling pages, I went back to the introduction. Aira’s introduction didn’t exactly explicate the text for me. It did, however, read like a few pages from a Bolaño novel, describing a strange heroic exotic Argentine writer, a poet-artist romantically disposed to self-exiles. (I actually did a basic internet search just to make sure it wasn’t like, an elaborate fake. It’s not. Lamborghini was real, although he could have been a Bolaño invention.)

The texts of Two Stories are not exactly surrealist, not exactly automatic writing…Sublunary publisher Joshua Rothes described Lamborghini as “…a surrealist white hole… like de Sade and Lautréamont were sucked in by the surrealists, and Lamborghini’s what came out the other side.” Sublunary’s blurb describes the stories collected here as “an accurate sample of his work in much the same way that a bucket of seawater is an accurate sample of the ocean.”

I also started in on Mihail Sebastian’s Fragments from a Forgotten Notebook. Again, the whole affair has that romantic-Bolañoesque tinge to it. Sebastian presents the Notebook as a literal found object. Is it? Or is it invention? Here’s Sublunary’s verb, which begins with Sebastian’s introduction:

“One November evening (in circumstances that would take too long to narrate here) I found in Paris, on the Mirabeau Bridge, a notebook with black, glossy, oilcloth covers, like the ones in which grocers used to keep accounts. There were exactly 126 pages—commercial paper—filled with small writing, streamlined, without erasures. A curious reading, tiring in places, obscure passages, notations that appeared foreign to me, in fact even absolutely contrasting.”

Presented here for the first time in English, the late Mihail Sebastian’s debut book, seldom mentioned by scholars or even the author himself, Fragments from a Found Notebook casts an important light on a young writer—later to be known primarily as a diarist and documentarian—struggling with the identity of the I at the tip of his pen.

 

 

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