Read Jonathan Littell in the Little Star App . . . Little Star, What’s That?
This week, the new New York journal Little Star is featuring an excerpt from our fall book by Jonathan Littell—The Fata Morgana Books—on its app.
That’s a lot of info, so let me back up a bit. Little Star has been around since 2010, and in that time it’s put together 4 issues: you can see all the authors they’ve published here. Recently, they’ve begun releasing weekly blasts through their app. You can read our Jonathan Littell excerpt in #18, alongside Melissa Green and Jorge Luis Borges.
Here’s some context for the excerpt: it’s a self-contained section called “Between Planes” about 10 pages long, from a novella about 4 times as long titled “Etudes.” The novella chronicles a love affair across 4 separate years in 4 separate seasons (“Between Planes” covers “Spring 1997″). The whole thing takes place against a backdrop of an undefined conflict slightly reminiscent of the Second World War (although it can’t possibly be that since this is the ’90s).
The whole thing is a little Borgesian, a little like Tom McCarthy’s C., with people and places being replaced by cypher-like letters, everything taking place in an abstracted realm that feels once-removed from the world, yet also eerily real. I think if you read the excerpt you’ll also catch whiffs of Italo Calvino, and if you eventually read all of The Fata Morgana Books you’ll think a little of Clarice Lispector.
Here’s the first paragraph from “Between Planes.” To read more, get the app.
My misfortune is that there had been this contact, that a part of me had remained caught by her and had gotten me tangled up in the workings of this machine. Without that, nothing would have happened, I could have admired her, desired her calmly, and her indifference would never have touched me. It had begun during a brief visit to K…. I had met an old friend there, A., who had put me up at her place, on her sofa. C., who shared the apartment with A., had come back at four in the morning (the train, apparently, had gotten stuck), making a huge racket because she thought the door was locked, and had left again at six. During the day, I had come across her at A.’s office, overexcited, always in motion, a manic whirlwind that left no room for getting acquainted. She seemed unable to stop even for an instant. Her features were hard, but mobile, and not without beauty; and especially she had a furious energy, concentrated on work to the exclusion of all else, but capable too at times of generating bursts of lively cheerfulness that lit up those who otherwise just kept bouncing off of her or bumping against her. A. had already left, leaving me in the apartment. I would probably not have seen much of C., since I myself was supposed to leave the next day; that morning, there were riots in the city, all flights were suspended, and we stayed stuck in the apartment. In the afternoon, unable to bear it any more, C. decided to go out, and I offered to go with her; the authorities, because of the situation, had forbidden the use of vehicles; adhering to the letter if not the spirit of their instructions, we went out on foot. At the time I had a slight injury on my big toe, an injury that due to the climate and the irregularity of my way of life had degenerated into a nasty infection. So I was limping, and our journey across the city was a comic spectacle — she straight, proud, hurried, and I hobbling along, more than a little amused by the situation. Our shopping done with, as all work was out of the question for that day, we sat on the terrace of a bar on the main street for a beer. This was the first time since she had arrived in K…, she told me, that she had taken such a break. We chatted, she told me about her many trips, her stays in countries where I myself had long dreamt of going. An old comrade, whom I hadn’t seen in a year, joined us, just as surprised as us by this unexpected day off, and we traded a few memories of the country where we had met, an atrocious region, but one that had seduced us both. The beer was cold, the terrace sunny, the rioters passed by in commandeered trucks, waving green branches and chanting slogans against the new authorities. It was pleasant, I think I can say that even C. had relaxed a little, and we were both in a cheerful mood when we returned to the apartment. The state of my foot had grown worse, and it had become very painful to walk. C. offered to cut open the abscess a little in order to relieve it. I had had a few drinks, and I agreed. I settled into an armchair and lit a cigar as she set to work, my foot wedged between her thighs. Her colleague D., exhausted, had fallen asleep sitting on the sofa, and the wild laughter that the pain of the operation strangely caused me didn’t awaken her. Between fits of laughter I dragged furiously on my cigar, C. kept making me drink and scraping away at the infection; I took such a keen pleasure in this charming operation that I hardly noticed the discomfort. I put an end to it when I reached the end of my cigar. C. held my foot very tenderly, she cleaned it and bandaged it properly; D., awake, went to bed. C. and I, I think, stayed talking for a long time. Our hands sought each other, touched, played with each other, intertwined. We were still drinking, nothing else happened, the damage had already been done.