In Part I of my interview with Haute Culture Books’ Luis de Miranda the writer and publisher spoke about the uniqueness of his publishing venture. Here the focus is on the books themselves, particularly The Sublimes by Yuri Mamleyev and Flaubert’s Felicity, translated by De Miranda and available as a free download here.
Literalab: How did you specifically come upon Yuri Mamleyev?
Luis de Miranda: I read it in the French edition published by Le Serpent à Plumes Press, maybe ten years ago. It was an illumination. It looks like a naughty strange book in the beginning (but with the immediate absurdity of the best masters), and little by little the author manages to squeeze our brain and leave us, by the end of the reading experience, ten feet above the ground, wondering who we are, laughing at the power of the mind and the existential possibilities hidden behind Mamleyev’s ferocious tale. This is better than LSD, as are a lot of classics. Unfortunately, the way classics are all too often taught in high-schools (but not always) is counter-productive. Official programs turn classics into boring and pompous monuments, and that is probably part of a secret and more or less unconscious political agenda to create an early disgust for texts that would become dangerous for any dominant over-realistic power if they were properly read and discovered, for the fertile drugs they are, for the mental ecstasy visions they suggest, for the revolutionary manifestos they sing between the lines.
So if Haute Culture Books can help give classics a new virginity and counter the schooling system tendency to neutralize high culture before it’s too late for the dominant standard world-vision, I’ll be very happy. The Sublimes by Mamleyev is a perfect example of a book that might be considered politically incorrect and disturbing by some fake moralists who’ll only read the first 3 chapters and declare it horrific. But in fact, for those who have the courage to follow the journey until the end, the purity of the author’s intentions will seem obvious and contagious.
Literalab: And to go to the other extreme from an obscure Russian writer, what led you to retranslate and publish a well-known classic work by Flaubert?
De Miranda: For the same reason as mentioned before: to give this tale a new perspective, a new clarity, a new sound. Why do we keep interpreting Bach? The English translations of this Flaubert tale that could be found for free on the web were all very old and a bit dated. Thanks to Haute Culture’s new freely downloadable translation, anyone can today (re)discover Flaubert’s eternal simplicity. This is a book about the quest for love and ecstasy, about all the painful mistakes we make before we surrender to death in a final delirious hallucination. Or maybe it’s a book about something else, as is the property of a classic, that it can be read in many fertile and renewed ways.
Literalab: Is this mix of classic and obscure works something that will typify your future publications or will it vary depending on other factors?
De Miranda: Mamleyev’s Sublimes is not obscure. It’s a classic. Call me back after you’ve read it and after the author’s death: many critics will say it’s a classic in ten to twenty years time. It will be counted as one of the best and bravest Russian books written in the last 50 years. Now of course our future production will be limited by the fact that we’re penniless, so cannot just follow our desire and publish along the dancing lines of our caprice. But instead of compromising we’ll rather wait for the good projects to come and the book angels to join our effort, even if in the meantime we have to take other responsibilities to pay the rent, or sell some parts of our body to some extraterrestrial scientist. If we only publish one book a year, but a book that we’re very proud of, that’s fine with me.
Read Part I of the interview here
Read an excerpt from The Sublimes by Yuri Mamleyev in B O D Y
Photo – Yuri Mamleyev by Viktor Pivovarov (whose exhibition, together with Ged Quinn, Cake and Lemon Eaters, is on display in Prague until April 20 and is incredible).