Literary archeology


The Boston Review on Steve Moore’s must-read history of the novel.

We tend to think of the novel as a more-or-less modern invention; the expression “Ancient Egyptian novel,” for example, seems a contradiction in terms. For this, we have etymology to thank. The word “novel” is a transliteration of the Italian novella (piece of news, chit-chat, tale), meaning a structured, realistic story, along the lines of Boccaccio’s Decameron.

Rise of the machines

Brendan Byrne on Nanni Balestrini’s 1966 experimental novel Tristano.

When composing Tristano, Balestrini used a computer algorithm to shuffle the sentences of the ten paragraphs which comprise each of the ten chapters. The exact methodology is not clear, but it was likely similar to the process he used for an earlier computer-manipulated text, Tape Mark 1 (1961). For that work, snippets of Lao Tzu, Michihito Hachiya, and Paul Goldwin were divided into fifteen short phrases and then remixed combinatorially by an IBM 7070 and a program comprising 322 punched cards to create short texts, each a unique sequence of ten elements.

Introducing: John Holten


Editors’ note: As we head towards publication, we thought we would introduce our contributors.

John Holten is an Irish writer and artist based in Berlin, and runs the ‘fictional’ publishing house Broken Dimanche Press, an avant-garde press that takes its queue from Yves Klein‘s one-day newspaper, Dimanche-Le Journal d’un Seul Jour. John is the author of The Readymades, a novel that documents a fictional network of Serbian artists known as the LGB group (“in defiance of the 21st century’s obsession with the virtual, LGB strives to produce an art of the everyday — having experienced the everyday in its murderous aspect”). We’re pleased to run an extract from Oslo, Norway, a roman fleuve on “love and the creation of fictions.”

Introducing: SJ Fowler

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Editors’ note: As we head towards publication, we thought we would introduce our contributors.

SJ Fowler has been exploring the boundaries of European poetry in his Maintenant series, a project that takes its name from pugilist, poet, hoaxer and nephew of Oscar Wilde, Arthur Cravan. It’s an astonishing project, one that has profiled the work of almost 100 contemporary poets, placing the likes of Frédéric Forte, Tadeusz Różewicz and George Szirtes alongside Ann Cotten, Luna Miguel, Holly Pester and Ragnhildur Jóhanns. Says Fowler,

“For years I was completely isolated in my reading too…and as such I was in a bubble, didn’t have the chance to develop any sense of prejudice against poetry in translation, or avant garde work, as somehow otherly. That’s perhaps why I read this kind of work alongside poetry that might be better known in this country in equal measure.”