3.5 The Romance of Recovery: Ben Bateman talks to Shola von Reinhold (AV)

Shola von Reinhold is the author of  LOTE, a novel about getting lost in the archives and finding what the archives have lost. LOTE won the 2021 James Tait Black prize so who better to join Shola on Novel Dialogue than Ben Bateman of Edinburgh University, lead judge of the prize committee? This conversation takes listeners back to all yesterday’s parties as Shola, Ben, and Aarthi time travel to the Harlem Renaissance and the interwar modernist era. Shola offers up Richard Bruce Nugent as their current figure of fascination (or “transfixion” to use a key image from LOTE), and wonders what it would have been like to move through Harlem and London by Nugent’s side.

Recovering the stories of black writers and artists is essential to Shola’s literary project.  It is also inseparable from restoring queerness to the once hyper-masculine and “muscular” paradigm of modernism. In a stirring discussion of the aesthetic forms and moods of historical recovery, Ben and Shola sink into the “purpleness” of the fin-de-siècle and explore the critical power of black sensuousness. Talk of decadence, ornamentality, and frivolity shapes the latter half of this episode, and Doris Payne, the West Virginian jewel thief, emerges as an exquisitely improbable modernist heroine!

Mentioned in this episode:

Richard Bruce Nugent
Dorothy Heyward and DuBose Heyward, Porgy
E.M. Forster
David Levering Lewis, When Harlem was in Vogue
Saidiya Hartman
Benjamin Kahan, The Book of Minor Perverts
James Joyce, Ulysses
Willa Cather, “Paul’s Case”
Ornamentality via Kant, Hegel, and Adolf Loos
Susan Sontag
Doris Payne – a.k.a “Diamond Doris”

Édouard Glissant

Listen and Read:

Audio: The Romance of Recovery

Transcript: 3.5 The Romance of Recovery

4.2 Light and Sound: Boubacar Boris Diop with Sarah Quesada Novel Dialogue

Boubacar Boris Diop is the author of Murambi: The Book of Bones, (Indiana UP, 2016; translated by Fiona McLaughlin), an unforgettable novel of the Rwandan genocide that blends journalistic research with finely drawn characterizations of perpetrators, victims, and bystanders. In this episode, Mr. Diop reads from Murambi, translated from French by Fiona McLaughlin, and speaks to Duke professor Sarah Quesada and host Aarthi Vadde about how his work on the novel spurred him to rethink his language of composition. Mr. Diop wrote his first five novels in French, but after Murambi, shifted to Wolof, the most widely spoken language in his home country of Senegal. Asked to describe the difference between writing in French and writing in Wolof, Mr. Diop sums it up memorably: “When I start writing in French, I shut the door; I shut the window…I don’t hear the words I’m writing. When I write in Wolof, I hear every word.” Sarah and Mr. Diop discuss whether translation can be an ally to a Wolof worldview or whether the sounds that Mr. Diop hears through his window will inevitably be lost to readers who encounter his Wolof novels in English or French. Their dialogue suggests that, while Wolof represents a form of linguistic emancipation from the legacy of a French colonial education, there is also discovery and freedom in raising the literary profile of Wolof for an international audience. Mr. Diop’s Doomi Golo: The Hidden Notebooks is the first Wolof novel to be translated into English and an excerpt from his second Wolof novel Bàmmeelu Kocc Barma is available in translation here. In response to our signature question of the season, Mr. Diop proposes that the Wolof word “keroog” is very difficult to translate but not impossible. And it spurs an impromptu comparison to the Spanish word “ahorita,” which like “keroog,” blurs the distinctions between present, past, and future. In an episode about personal and political memory, nothing could be more fitting! Mentioned in this episode: –Toni Morrison –Gabriel Garcia Marquez –Mario Vargas Llosa –Ernesto Sábato –Léopold Sédar Senghor –Doomi Golo: The Hidden Notebooks –Les Petits de la guenon (French Translation of Doomi Golo) –Bàmmeelu Kocc Barma – literally translated as Kocc Barma's Grave (Diop’s second Wolof novel) –Malaanum Lëndëm – Diop’s third Wolof novel –Alice Chaudemanche (French translator of Malaanum Lëndëm) –Pierre Nora – French historian –Marianne Hirsch –“Sites mémoriaux du génocide” – memorial sites of genocide (term used by UNESCO that qualify as heritage sites.) –Rwandan term – “ejo” (similar to keroog) from the language: Kinyarwanda Find out more about Novel Dialogue and its hosts and organizers here. Contact us, get that exact quote from a transcript, and explore many more conversations between novelists and critics. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  1. 4.2 Light and Sound: Boubacar Boris Diop with Sarah Quesada
  2. 4.1 “Sometimes I’m just a little disappointed in English”
  3. 4.0 Novel Dialogue Season 4: Transitions and Translations
  4. 3.6 Why are You in Bed? Why are You Drinking? Colm Tóibín and Joseph Rezek in Conversation
  5. 3.5 The Romance of Recovery: Ben Bateman talks to Shola von Reinhold (AV)

Photo credit: Retouched by Mmxx, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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