Over-sized results from a Slovene small, English language literary press: corona\samizdat books

Rooted in Izola, Slovenia, corona\samizdat is a non-profit literary press that began on April 24, 2020, and has already managed to publish 30 high quality books. C\S combines a receptive attitude to new and/or little known writers with a knack for finding lost classics, and persists with the philosophy that each book must be as well-made as possible…in case it’s the last. We’ve also brought back–if it was actually gone–the pocket book, in the truly small size of 148 centimetres tall (about 2.5 tooth picks):

The pocket books are all 10 euros, the large paperbacks are 20€.

These two large paperbacks, Cactus Boots and Arlt’s Flamethrowers are representative of the range of corona\samizdat books published over the last 19 months or so. Freedenberg’s (and Walton’s) Cactus Boots has been praised by virtually every reader we have heard from, including notable current youtube critic Chris Via of Leaf by Leaf, and Steven Moore, who may be retired but has not let that change his reading habits. Arlt’s mysterious book is still missing for all practical purposes; that is, from the English literary public. After Godine made the disastrous decision to print just the first half of his novel, The Seven Madmen (the full book is stuck with the awkward title The Seven Madmen and The Flamethrowers), written by 1929, finally translated into by 1978. A second translation of The Seven Madmen was published by Serpent Tail in 1998 and later again by NYRB classics. This translation was an Arltonian oddity, a mad autodidact did it, beginning around the turn of the century. After a few years he was convinced his efforts fell short, but once people familiar with Arlt read it–eagerly, as we all had wanted to read the book since finishing The Seven Madmen–it was clear that Larry Riley’s translation captured the essence of Arlt, and needed little more than something like the scissorcutting many Spanish language readers have always felt his works need. Regardless, this is the only translation, published here for two reasons: to ensure that Larry Riley’s work will survive, and in case River Boat Books, which offers separate copies of this and the legendary original translation of The Seven Madmen, happens to run out or otherwise lose the ability to keep The Flamethrowers in print.

Fortuitously, as I have trouble working my way around this website, combining photos and print, just below me right now is the novel by Joao Reis, Bedraggling Grandma with Russian Snow.

This is award calibre fiction by a novelist becoming known throughout the world, literally, as though he makes his living primarily as a translator of Scandinavian languages, and Finnish, into Portuguese, his own first novel has been translated into several languages besideds English, including Serbian and Azerbaijani. This, his second translated novel, is one of five waiting to be revealed, and reviews indicate that this is of the highest quality of modern fiction, blending philosophy, absurdist mentalite, and invention with gripping humour.

CHANDLER BROSSARD

Chandler Brossard

These are out of order, in fact backwards. We published Raging Joys, Sublime Violations first. A short novel, Raging Joys combines a daffiness with as sharp a critique of US war criminal behavior in Vietnam as you’ll find in any fiction. Yes, JFK was a priapic coupmonger responsible for two assassinations just about a month before his own. The other two pictured here are what these days are called maximalist novels, just as wild as Raging Joys, and with that daffy surface it appears many critics missed the diamond sharp and hard intelligence of Brossard’s critique of the US empire. As free a writer as I have ever read, Brossard, as close to a combination of Henry Miller and Hunter Thompson as anything else I can think of, was one of the great US writers of his century.

Backing up to try to find out when Chandler Brossard became a wild man, we found Did Christ Make Love, published, believe it or not, by Bobbs Merrill. New York was unkind to Mr. Brossard. Our Brossard expert, Zachary Tanner, wrote his third consecutive Brossard introduction, this one as electric as his first two. He also found out from Steven Moore that the title Brossard intended was The Wolf Leaps. So it’s The Wolf Leaps. This is a short, ecclesiastical, interracial noir, in which Brossard begins to express his refusal to conform to publisher expectations. His next from c/s was also titled against his wishes: He wanted it to be called The Double Dealers, and so it shall be.

Canadians

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When I use the word whining to describe protests of writers who face a cruel publishing world, I mean to emphasize that not only do they live in the most comfortable country in history in terms of wealth, they also have it a lot better than the Canadians.

Both Jeff Bursey and W.D. Clarke are talented, virtually unknown writers whose talents are on a par with, say, Patrick White, Nadine Gordimer, and exceed that of John Updike.

I don’t like to say that corona\samizdat is lucky to have such writers, for they should be household names in the English language literary world. In fact, when Jeff Bursey told me that he would publish his third novel, unidentified man at left of photo, a classic satire of writing told in some vein of modernist tacticals, I was near shock, and frankly appalled. I had read his amazing skintight satire Verbatim, and his extremely fine, Mirrors on which Dust has Fallen, a book of strange allure and hidden meanings.

David Vardeman




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As important as anything, corona\samizdat has had the pleasure to freely publish according to the dictates of literary quality. We don’t have to, in fact refuse to, consider money as part of the equation. So a writer such as David Vardeman, who was over 60 when we began our endeavors, a writer who had never been deemed worth the money to publish, has now been introduced to a small but significant readership, and the comparisons keep pouring in–Kafka? Beckett?…well, Vardeman. Each story is unique, each novel is unique. Often hilarious, Vardeman, who cannot seem to write long about ordinary US American folk without making you laugh, has just as much trouble restraining his empathy, and the emotions roil as you read. The short novel An Angel of Sodom (it’s followed by 13 short stories) was one of the funniest I had ever read, I thought, til I read it again, when it literally had me in tears. Maybe he won’t produce enough to win a Nobel Prize, but then again, with free ranging support beginning 30 years ago, maybe he would have.

One by the Chief Editor, and others

I began the press to rescue The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas from a flailing press. Often forgotten, even by me, it was being published alongside my Walk Like a Duck, a Season of Little League Baseball in Italy. The responses to Eddie Vegas have been numerous and extremely positive, and so after selling it in the US and 30 some other countries for over a year, it came as no surprise that it was finally picked up by a prestigious US press, Zerogram. But it is difficult to talk in such a venue about one’s own books, for the most part. There was no difficulty deciding to rescue books that had been published by other presses, like The Driftless Trilogy and Skulls of Istria. And Walk Like a Duck was going to be published elsewhere. As time passed, I published most of what I’ve written and finished, deciding against my first two novels, both of which have remained in the typewritten stage. Reviews have been pleasing, especially for Walk Like a Duck, though they have been few, as expected, but it’s a 648 page book on baseball, and all the anecdotes in Fascist Italy won’t make it a bestseller.

Unfortunately, Fascist Italy anecdotes are legion, and most unknown to most in the US, despite the intense involvement of the US government on the post WWII fascist side. In fact, the US involvement on the fascist side began before the end of the war. The Assassination of Olof Palme book was written for Italian victims of fascism after the war, particularly Giuseppe Pinelli, an anarchist arrested for a fascist bombing in 1969 who was shoved to his death by cops in Milano. That was the event darkly mocked by Dario Fo in his play The Accidental Death of an Anarchist. What is little known is that the US military stationed in Italy supplied the C4 explosive that killed 17 people before the cops killed Pinelli. None of this seems terribly funny, but the book is a satire (I can’t restrain myself from calling it a Menippean satire) nonetheless. To illustrate the satirical quandary, we have the circumstances such as the US working with Klaus Barbie while the French were trying to get their hands on this ‘Butcher of Lyon’. The US had higher purposes. He was unveiled by a linguistic talent lending his talents to the US military in Augsburg in late 1945 or early 1946, who went to his boss to tell him the exciting news. The boss told him to shut the fuck up and get out of his office. What kind of satire then is it when back in his office Barbie comes in to tell him to buck up, that such is the way of things, nice try and all that? Barbie remained protected by the US in Germany until 1951 when they sent him by ratline to South America, where he lived luxuriously until 1982 (or was it 83?). A lot of secret and utterly insane shit went on under the auspices of US ‘spies’ after the war, including an attack on a munitions dump in Belgium, a US ally. Of course nothing can match the self-satire of the Reagan bungling drug and gunrunners, except perhaps for the steady straight stream of Nancy Reagan’s consciousness.

Writers are quite often said to be looking for new ways to tell stories, and this one, The Assassination of Olof Palme, an Anthological Novel, shoved me to a cliff and kept shoving: luckily it was a low cliff, and I came out of it all right, but the book didn’t survive intact. Certain passages required certain writers, some of whom were not me. And half of what was me may as well not have been. That’s a question that the book might answer. I wrote about 85% of the book, and a couple dozen or more wrote the rest, from a line to several chapters. I don’t know of anything like this having been done before, and that’s why this is the one book I don’t mind drawing attention to here.

More

The press has published 30 volumes in 19 months, and the list for coming year is already 16 volumes long. We’ll see how it goes. You’ll find a catalogue at http://www.coronasamizdat.com

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