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"Perhaps the most famous rhinoceros who ever lived..." Portrait of Clara in Paris in 1749, by Jean-Baptiste Oudry.

Interchange – The World at Large: Eliot Weinberger On Everything


“Doing no violence to living things, not even a single one of them, wander alone like a rhinoceros.”*

book-cover-ghosts-of-birdsAll of our songs tonight feature the whirlwind as a kind of tribute to a central essay called “The Vortex,” written by our guest Eliot Weinberger and found in his serial essay begun in 2007 called An Elemental Thing. That work continues through the book Oranges & Peanuts for Sale and on into the essay collection that comes out today, The Ghosts of Birds, all from New Directions.

This is from the publisher description:

The Ghosts of Birds offers thirty-five essays by Eliot Weinberger: the first section of the book continues his linked serial-essay, An Elemental Thing, which pulls the reader into “a vortex for the entire universe” (Boston Review). Here, Weinberger chronicles a nineteenth-century journey down the Colorado River, records the dreams of people named Chang, and shares other factually verifiable discoveries that seem too fabulous to possibly be true. The second section collects Weinberger’s essays on a wide range of subjects―some of which have been published in Harper’s, New York Review of Books, and London Review of Books―including his notorious review of George W. Bush’s memoir Decision Points and writings about Mongolian art and poetry, different versions of the Buddha, American Indophilia (“There is a line, however jagged, from pseudo-Hinduism to Malcolm X”), Béla Balázs, Herbert Read, and Charles Reznikoff.

We’ll also take this opportunity to talk about his master course on the art of translation, 19 ways of looking at Wang Wei, first published in 1987 and now updated with “More Ways” and published by New Directions also.

Eliot Weinberger joins us by phone from New York City. 

It’s hard to know exactly how to focus the program, and I thought to call it “The Vortices of Eliot Weinberger” and just let ‘er rip and see what fell out, but calling it “The World At Large” (while refraining from playing the Modest Mouse song of the same name) seemed even more appropriate and comes from the brief Preface written for an edited collection of International poetry called World Beat.  

All translation sends the essential message that one’s own culture is not enough, and that the way to avoid intellectual stagnation is to learn from other ways of thinking about, perceiving, luxuriating and despairing in, the world. This book appears at a moment when the United States is particularly self-absorbed. Less than a fifth of its citizens have passports; a third of its high school students cannot find the Pacific Ocean on a world map; its rulers dream without embarrassment of global empire. Poetry, though not the salvation of the world, presents a small alternate model: an endless net of individual dialogues between writers, and between writers and readers, regardless of governments, nations, and communal identities. Its books are a way out of one’s world and a way into the world at large.

Weinberger is probably best known for being unknown as an aspect of his work–a translator of Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges (I think Borges was my first introduction to his work via Seven Nights), Bei Dao, Vincente Huidobro, Homero Aridjis, Cecilia Vicuña, and Xavier Villaurrutia.

*From section V of “The Rhinoceros” in An Elemental Thing

Eliot Weinberger is an essayist and translator, the editor of The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry, and the series editor of Calligrams: Writings from and on China (New York Review Books and Chinese University of Hong Kong Press). He lives in New York City.

Who Won’t Be Voting for Trump by Eliot Weinberger
‘It was everything’: Eliot Weinberger watches the Republican Convention (11 August 2016)
What I Heard About Iraq in 2005 (LRB)
THE ELIOT WEINBERGER INTERVIEW: Interview by Jeffrey Arrington, June 6, 2011
Suspended Sentences, By Scott Saul

Clara the rhinoceros (?1738-14 April 1758) was a female Indian rhinoceros who became famous during 17 years of touring Europe in the mid-18th century [Wikipedia]

“Whirlwinds of My Mind” by Faron Young
“Whirlwind” by Roxy Music
“Dirtywhirl” by TV On the Radio
“Whirlwinds” by Deodato

wendy-brownUP NEXT
Wendy Brown is our guest for this first of a series of programs seeking to understand the term Neoliberalism. Brown is the author of the 2013 title Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution.

Producer & Host: Doug Storm
Assistant Producer: Rob Schoon
Board Engineer: Jennifer Brooks
Executive Producer: Joe Crawford

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