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Tuesday, May 3rd – 7 pm
Nachoem Wijnberg reads
from his novel, The Jews
Dutch poet and novelist Nachoem M. Wijnberg, acclaimed as one of the foremost Dutch authors of the last decades, will visit San Francisco in May to read from his recent novel, The Jews (punctum books, 2016, tr. Vincent W. J. van Gerven Oei) and Divan of Ghalib (White Pine Press, 2016, tr. David Colmer).
Bird & Beckett is pleased for the opportunity to present a reading by Mr. Wijnberg of these works on Tuesday, May 3rd at 7 pm, accompanied by translator Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei and Eileen Joy, founding director of punctum books.
Wijnberg’s first book of poetry De simulatie van de schepping (The Simulation of the Creation) was published in 1989 and nominated as a best debut. His work went on to receive a series of Dutch and Belgian awards, including the highly prestigious 2009 VSB Prize for the best book of poetry published in the Netherlands, for Het leven van (The life of), and the Gedichtendagprijs 2010 for Divan van Ghalib (Divan of Ghalib). In 2015 he published his fifth novel Alle collega’s dood (All Colleagues Dead) and his sixteenth book of poems Van groot belang (Of Great Importance). Translated poems have appeared in journals and anthologies in English, French, German, Chinese, Italian and other languages. A book of English translations by David Colmer was published by Anvil Press Poetry in 2013 as Advance Payment. An Italian translation of Divan van Ghalib was published by La Camera Verde in 2015. The same book appeared in 2016 in an English translation, again by David Colmer, from White Pine Press. Wijnberg is Professor of Cultural Entrepreneurship and Management at the University of Amsterdam Business School.
The Jews is an anti-historical thriller in the form of a Talmudic tragicomedy, taking place sometime during the Second World War. Stalin and his Minister of Security Beria are worried about the political developments in Germany, where Martin Heidegger has replaced Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of the Third Reich. Suspecting that the Frankfurt School, headed by Vice-Chancellor Walter Benjamin, has masterminded this takeover, he dispatches two Jewish actors, Salomon Maimon and Natalia Goncharova, to investigate the situation in the hope of uncovering the extent of the Jewish conspiracy.
Upon arrival in Berlin, Maimon and Goncharova are received by Benjamin, who introduces them to Heidegger. The latter has stopped speaking to anyone except his mother since his rise to power, and Benjamin holds long speeches on the history of theater, the law, God, the royal gods and the old goddesses. Eventually, prodded by his mother, Heidegger marries Goncharova, surrounded by a merry audience.
The novel ends on a plain somewhere between Moscow and Berlin, where the final battle for Jerusalem is being waged. In front of the entrance of a camp, Maimon and Benjamin are joined by a group of old Jews arriving by train, bringing the news of Stalin’s death by circumcision. They reenact scenes from the Old Testament while Jerusalem is burning. Did the world to come finally arrive?
About Divan Al Ghalib:
Nachoem Wijnberg’s Divan Al Ghalib is not an imitation of Ghalib, but is written in a form that adopts some core characteristics of the ghazal. Like Ghalib, he is not afraid of simple words and often-used symbols but uses them afresh. Wijnberg creates an astounding edifice filled with mirror-rooms and concealed doors; the entrance may not be easy to find but inside there are treasures of the utmost importance. The further you go, the more you find. The result is one of astonishing richness as he takes on the original Divan of Ghalib and renders it his own much as Robert Bly absorbed the lessons of Ghalib and created his own Ghazals.
Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, translator of The Jews, is a philologist with a background in music composition, linguistics, conceptual art, and philosophy. He studied under Avital Ronell at the European Graduate School and Christopher Fynsk at the Centre for Modern Thought. As a translator, he has worked on Jean Daive, Alessandro De Francesco, Hervé Guibert, Dick Raaijmakers, Avital Ronell, and Nachoem Wijnberg, among others. He is a co-director of punctum books.
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