The translator, critic and writer, Patti Marxsen has written a thoughtful and incredibly detailed review of Beauty on Earth in this month’s Asymptote. She situates him, rightly, amidst the other great modernists of the era and shows how his fractured narrative style was his way of addressing modernism’s destabilizations. Marxsen translated Ramuz’s Riversong of the Rhone last year, and it’s stunning, published by Onesuch Press in a bilingual edition. Onesuch is slowly curating a fantastic list of Ramuz’s work, with two more coming this spring (Jean-Luc’s Persecution, tr. Olivia Lola Baes; What if the Sun…, tr. Michelle Bailat-Jones). It’s a honor to be among a group of translators working to bring his unusual work to an English-speaking audience.
Here is a taste of what Marxsen writes:
Ramuz was not born into modernity. Only in the wake of the First World War did he begin to grasp the human dilemmas that would turn him into a writer of stature: the shock of separation, the yearning for peace, and the deep desire for unity in a world inhabited by dark and mysterious forces. Even if Ramuz’s novels of the 1920s and 1930s can be read as romans paysans (“peasant novels”), the shock of modernity rips through his postwar work like shrapnel. The world itself is fragmented and torn as each subject stands alone with his or her unique perspective. Or, as Deleuze has said in another context, “Each subject expresses the world from a different point of view. But the point of view asserts difference itself, absolute internal difference. Each subject therefore expresses a world that is absolutely different.” In other words, many worlds exist simultaneously, which implies that everyone, sooner or later, becomes an other. By the age of forty, Ramuz was hard at work creating tales of destabilization told from multiple vantage points.
You can read the entire review here.