Red Dust was founded in 1961 by Joanna Gunderson (1932-), who has been writing since 1957 and publishing since founding Red Dust. Gunderson is both a novelist and playwright. Her works include Indrani and I, Sights Three Novellas, Kaleidoscope 1969, The Field, Lullaby, and Night. Her plays have been performed widely throughout New York.
The following is taken from a talk about Red Dust that Joanna Gunderson gave at the Colony Club in 1987:
Red Dust was started in 1961 with the purpose of “publishing work thought to be unpublishable because of length, form or content.”
In 1963 the first books came out: MATHIS AT COLMAR: A Visual Confrontation by Linda Nochlin and SIGHTS Three Novellas by Anna Holmes. In one of the novellas: Paris, July 14, 1959 the events of a woman’s life are not presented as they occurred in time but in the lights of that night.
I visited Paris in 1959 but came home quite ignorant of the “nouveau roman”. A friend gave me a copy of THE WIND by Claude Simon translated by Richard Howard. I saw that Simon had given a visual arrangement to his work. The story of the hero is not told in time but like the wind is throughout the book.
“All the elements of the story are always present” Simon has written.
In 1969 I first took the Red Dust books to the Frankfurt Book Fair. The books that interested me the most were on the publisher John Calder’s table. I saw THE THIRD WEDDING by Costas Taktsis (this was actually an Alan Ross book). In this novel a mother and daughter-in-law gossip and the history of Greece 1939-49 emerges.
Taktsis has let individual lives speak deliberately for themselves and unwittingly for their period with unforced authority. The Observer
I also saw THE PARK by Philippe Sollers and A SENTIMENTAL TALK by Daniel Castelain. I published these two along with LAW AND ORDER by Claude Oilier – a book that Grove Press bought and decided not to publish. In these three novels he, you and I may be one and the same person, events of one time cannot be separated from events of another or seen from one point of view, the climax is all through the story.
Several years later at the Fair, again on Calder’s table, I saw THE LIBERA ME DOMINE and PASSACAGLIA by Robert Pinget translated by Barbara Wright. Red Dust has been publishing Pinget’s works ever since. These are works of voices often with conflicting accounts of an event.
It is not what can be said or meant that interests me but the wayin which it is said. And once I have chosen this way it imposes both composition and subject matter on me.
Red Dust has published eight Pinget works with two more about to come out. EVENT by Philippe Sollers has followed THE PARK. In this work the real event is the narration itself. Barthes has written about the novel in an after word. He says in effect: No truth can be written about an event, it is only when we give up words in their function of naming things and allow them their own life that “a language of truth begins to speak.”
Although I feel that I know most about fiction Red Dust has published quite a lot of poetry. FOUR GERMAN POETS : Eich, Domin, Fried, Kunert translated by Agnes Stein came through the mail. I went on to publish 100 POEMS WITHOUT A COUNTRY by Fried and WINDY TIMES by Kunert. These German poets are characterized by a restlessness, an inability to forget, a sense of being a citizen between two camps.
My favorite of the German poets is Gunter Eich and my favorite poem: Oder my River
Oder my river,/ which has no source/ Drops trickle out of the mountains of time/ water tasting of childhood
Eich goes on:
Unrest in field furrows and elderbush/ the incomprehensible in the heart
Three years ago Red Dust published Antonio Cisneros, the great Peruvian poet: AT NIGHT THE CATS translated by David Tipton, Maureen Ahern and Will Rowe
Here is one of my favorites:
Wind Haut de Cagnes
The wind fucks me up
Even if it’s literary like the Mistral that
names hotels and wines
tangling my hair
from the water it brings sand, shipwrecked sailors, planks from wrecks
from the forests thorns, tall branches and pikes and owls
(from the streets of Lima:
and a little ground glass)
Paul Klee painted a painting called Le Tapis de la Memoire ö it is something which is there before you and yet it is woven with the past. Klee wanted you to take time to see a painting.
I want you to see the story all at once.
That is the sort of thing I am looking for and working with at Red Dust.
Joanna Gunderson, 1987