Bruno Jasieński’s Parisian dance of death

“The ambulances’ ominous horns wailed in the black tunnels of the streets, like a lonesome scream for help. The dancing stopped here and there and the unsettled crowd quickly dispersed to their homes. In Montparnasse, the Latin Quarter and a few other districts inhabited by foreigners, dancing continued.

The horns howled relentlessly, mournful and terror-stricken.”

– Bruno Jasieński, I Burn Paris

The latest issue of Asymptote contains an extract from Polish Futurist writer Bruno Jasieński’s novel I Burn Paris, which is due to be published by Twisted Spoon Press in April 2012. The book tells the story of a factory worker who exacts his revenge on the world by poisoning Paris’s water supply with the Black Plague. With the bodies piling up the city’s inhabitants fracture into divided ethnic and cultural groups.

The serial publication of the novel in 1928 led to Jasieński being deported from France, where he had come to live in 1925. Asymptote  also has an essay by the book’s translator Soren Gauger on the origins of the book and the external and internal tragedies that afflicted this highly gifted, renegade literary talent.

Jasieński eventually settled in the Soviet Union, where he was arrested and executed in 1938.

The magazine also has an extract from Bohumil Hrabal’s Harlequin’s Millions, translated by Stacey Knecht and due to be published in full in April 2012 by Archipelago Books.

One thing I have noticed lately is that publishers keep using the Kundera quote about Hrabal that he is “Czechoslovakia’s greatest living writer.” Whether he is the greatest writer of that former country is something that can be debated, but it should be obvious that to be the “greatest living writer” it is necessary to still be alive, something Hrabal hasn’t been since he died.

Photo – Bruno Jasieński

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Categories: Books


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