Publication Date: March 2, 2021
"A raw literary meditation on loss."
"Friederike Mayröcker, among the world’s greatest living writers, reinterprets literary vocation as total theater."
Friederike Mayröcker met Ernst Jandl in 1954, through the experimental Vienna Group of German writers and artists. It was an encounter that would alter the course of their lives. Jandl’s death in 2000 ended a partnership of nearly half a century. As writers have for millennia, Mayröcker turned to her art to come to terms with the loss. Taking its cue from André Breton’s work of the same name, The Communicating Vessels is an intensely personal book of mourning, comprised of 140 entries spanning the course of a year and exploring everyday life in the immediate aftermath of Jandl’s death. Rilke is said to have observed that poetry should begin as elegy but end as praise: taking this as a guiding principle, And I Shook Myself a Beloved reflects on a lifetime of shared books and art, impressions and conversations, memories and dreams. Masterfully translated by Alexander Booth, these two singular books of remembrance and farewell offer a stunning testament to a life of passionate reading, writing, and love.
Friederike Mayröcker was born in 1924 in Vienna. One of the leading figures of German literature, she is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Georg Büchner Prize. Among her books to have been translated into English are brütt, or The Sighing Gardens and Scardanelli.
Alexander Booth is a writer and translator who, after many years in Rome, at present lives in Berlin. His work has appeared in numerous print and online journals and he is the recipient of a 2012 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for his translations of the poetry of Lutz Seiler.
“A raw literary meditation on loss.” —Kirkus
In Mayröcker’s death-haunted late style, the poet’s power expresses itself in a rigorous program of documentation and transcription… to preserve in poetry what is being lost or has been lost in life.
—Ryan Ruby, Poetry Foundation
With breathless abandon, [Mayröcker] has continually expanded her oeuvre and exploded notions of genre and convention, while always getting to the heart of this earthly living.
Through the powerful immediacy of her at times heart-wrenching language, Mayröcker proves that grief does not have to be private and can acquire a dignity that triumphs over any worry about decency.
—Heide Kunzelman, Times Literary Supplement
“In his masterly translation of Vessels, a work that confidently flouts grammatical rules and linguistic convention, Booth manages to enter Mayröcker’s mind and interpret her raw, cascading thoughts. It’s heartbreaking to witness her anguish and disorientation, while simultaneously astounding to revel in her complete liberation from the confines of language.”
—Sophia Stewart, Asymptote Journal
Isn’t That So: an excerpt from The Communicating Vessels in the Paris Review