AUDIO: Deconstructing Edouard Levé: Jan Steyn and Lorin Stein

leve3We were very pleased to convene Edouard Levé’s two English-language translators for a night of investigation in his four strange books. Translator and critic Jan Steyn was joined by editor and translator Lorin Stein, in conversation with Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito.

The conversation was conducted in The Lab, in San Francisco’s Mission District, and it covered a wide range of topics: Levé’s beginnings as a graphic artist, his literary influences—ranging from Montaigne to Andy Warhol and the Oulipo—his tragic death, and, of course, his four books.

The evening’s moderator was Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito. And our two guests were Jan Steyn and Lorin Stein.

Jan Steyn is a South African translator from French and Afrikaans to English. He is the holder of a Comparative Literature degree from Emory University, and his translations include Suicide and Works by Edouard Levé, Alix’s Journal by Alix Cleo Roubaud, and Orphans by Hadrien Laroche (translated with Caite Dolan-Leach).

Lorin Stein is the editor of The Paris Review. Before taking the helm at the magazine, Stein worked as an editor at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, where he edited Natasha Wimmer’s translations of Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives and 2666. He is also the translator of Edouard Levé’s Autoportrait.


00:00 Introductions

1:56 Levé’s beginnings as a writer and influences

9:00 Levé’s fragmentary aesthetic

14:30 Why has Levé caught on so much?

19:35 Why is the “you” in Suicide?

22:00 How Levé’s books and art all fit together into a single text

25:50 The sense in which Levé’s books are “complete” or “incomplete”

27:26 Discussion of Levé’s Newspaper

34:00 Maintaining the mystery of Levé’s prose during the translation

40:00 Are any of the works in Works are impossible to create?

46:10 The origins of and reasons behind Autoportrait

49:30 The sense of completeness or incompleteness in Levé’s books

54:20 Levé and the Oulipo

59:00 The units of meaning in Levé’s books

1:01:15 Levé’s suicide

1:05:00 Most and least compelling things about Levé

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