Mark Insingel was born in Antwerp in 1935. His father was a house painter, his grandfather, who lived with his family, was a painter. After completing his primary schooling, he studied drama for a number of years before he began writing concrete poetry and fiction. Insingel won distinction as a concrete poet by participating in many international expositions, and in 1970 Insingel won the Prijs van de Vlaamse Gids for his book Perpetuum Mobile. Insingel describes his writing as a concrete literature by which he means his texts (stories and novels as well as poetry) in which the language has its own reality apart from the reality it describes.
Books by Mark Insingel
My Territory—(translated from the Dutch by Adrienne Dixon)
The discord between a man and his wife emerges from a minute description of a house and its surrounding land. Of this complex and invigorating novel Insingel declared, “My Territory is, after all, a linguistic one.”
“If we should part, that is to say if all the rooms are emptied, how are we to divide the contents? Do we begin with everything the one cares for and not the other? Do we add up the value and will then begin, piece after piece, the weighing up, the disputation and deliberation? Must I go with a removal truck, most likely overloaded, to Italy and to Viviana? For the sake of a woman I must give up a life that leaves no questions and no wishes, a property, a house, an interior, a circle of acquaintances and friends, a privileged position in this hypocritical but obedient country, an equilibrium, at long last acquired, while Vera, and with Kim, moves in with Mon, where I shall probably pay no visits any more? Is choosing between women—a choice I try forever to avoid, try to postpone, try to conceal—a choice between possessions, between distant countries, between lives which mutually exclude each other?”
from My Territory
Reflections—(translated from the Dutch by Adrienne Dixon)
Reflections begins with the image of a rising/descending Ferris wheel. Within the pages a man reflects on his whole existence: childhood, adulthood, fantasies. There are no boundaries in place to separate these reflections.
Insingel describes his writing as a concrete literature by which he means texts (stories and novels as well as poetry) in which the language has its own reality apart from the reality which it describes. Reflections is a novel whose text and contents visualize its contents. The chapters become shorter towards the middle; from the middle onwards they lengthen. Approaching the middle the sentences begin to revolve, turn on themselves. Each chapter has its counterpart. The book is written not towards the end but towards the middle.
The little boy wonders: “Where is your grandfather? Are you only you when you are with him? When the boys are teasing you? When the girls are sorry for you?” The rug on which his grandfather is lying becomes a dark pond in which he is swimming. In the woods one point differs from another only because a car is seen in the background. The house glides by the ship or the ship by the house. Nothing exists except in motion.
Within conventional families, conventional neighborhoods, where the people seem most interchangeable, terrible events take place. A small boy is punished, humiliated, his dog dies after drinking paint, his grandfather is stricken, the rotting corpse of a woman is found seated in a car. Events are seen as the man sees them himself: transformed, no longer in ordered time, these events are mixed with his dreams and nightmares.
“Difficult? I am as understandable as Mondrian,” Insingel stated in an interview with Lidy van Marissing, “In my hands the text means what it says. My texts are never born from theorizing. The only thing is this: I abstract the text down to the very bone. I find a skeleton much more moving than a body, certainly more moving than a clothed body.”
Because of the perfect interconnection between form and content, Reflections is one of the most challenging and interesting works of modern fiction.
International Fiction Review
“…he stubs out his cigarette in the ashtray, you put your right hand on your left, the right little finger lies on the left thumb, the right ring finger lies on the left index finger, the middle fingers lie on each other, the right index finger lies on the left ring finger, the right thumb lies on the left little finger, the conversation which you keep going between you and him is a conversation with the lady beside him is talking with the lady beside you is talking with him while he talks with you, he smiles…”
When A Lady Shakes Hands With A Gentleman—Prose/82—Mark Insingel / Claude Ollier / Gertud Leutenegger/ Nikolai Bokov
When A Lady Shakes Hands With A Gentleman
Insingel looks for entrenched meanings and potentialities. He is repetitive, and redundant, and often very funny. The big blocks of mutable text ultimately represent his project, a sort of frustrated response and working with and through degraded language.
Joseph Houlihan—HTML GIANT
“(You don’t have to accept it as true, you are not obliged to see it (it isn’t being thrown into our teeth), you need not have anything to do with it (go into it) it can’t frighten you at all (the chances are much too small), you can dream about it (wet dreams—nightmares), you can actually have a cozy chat about it.)”
from When A Lady Shakes Hands With A Gentleman by Mark Insingel
Nocturne, The Station, The Keeper’s House by Claude Ollier
Claude Ollier is the author of more than fifteen books, including novels, plays and criticism. He lives in Maule, France. Despite being one of the major forces behind the nouveau roman and despite decades of critical success in his native France, Claude Ollier is virtually unknown in the United States.
Claude Ollier, explores sensations connected with memory images. In his project he interrogates some of the “word as signifier” aspects of language, dwelling on strange associations and essentially personal multiplicities in words.
Joseph Houlihan—HTML GIANT
“I climb up through the trees. My foot slips on the pine needles, on the tawny yellow earth and on the clumps of moss. Whenever the slope steepens, my foot hands suspended for a moment, hesitantly seeking some hollow to lodge itself in. When it finds one, it edges in cautiously and shuffles the loose pebbles to get a firmer hold. The upward thrust is now insured. The knee flexes, the hamstring slackens, the whole body leans forward in the next stride… A little higher up, etched against the sky, there is the contour of a ridge, of a line of ground that looks like a ridge, or the edge of another shelf. Yes, it’s a shelf. I’m still on the same slope: the line has disintegrated, blotted out by a curtain of trees.”
From Nocturne by Claude Ollier
The Ninth Street by Gertrud Leutenegger
Gertrud Leutenegger was born in 1948 in Schwyz, and studied directing at Zurich’s prestigious Theatre Academy. She spent many years in the French and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland and currently lives in Zurich.
The Ninth Street is from the novel Vorabend (on the eve) a novel of 11 chapters. A girl has agreed to take part in a demonstration that could be dangerous. The night before she walks the streets of Zurich. The Ninth Street explores her thoughts as she walks—school, first love, and the death of her father.
“Does no one ever die in the city? One could walk for weeks, for years through a city believing that death no longer existed. Only ambulances with their blind panes shrill more and more frequently through the streets. Not that death is something singular. Not that death should absorb us totally. But there is habit: lying down at night and wondering whether we shall drift from sleep into light. How will the skin between the knuckles, through which the sun gleams, look when we are dead?”
from The Ninth Street
Vasenka, The Ultimate Argument, Dolgorukov Unmasked, Death in the Wasteland
Nikolai Bokov was born in 1945. A former Samizdat writer and the author of the novel, Nobody, that was published anonymously by John Calder in 1975 shortly after he immigrated to France from the then Soviet Union. He published widely in the Russian émigré press and in translation into English, French and German. Bokov edited the avant-garde Russian literary journal Kovcheg in Paris from 1978 through1981. He subsequently abandoned literature and took to the road for several years. He began writing again in the mid-1990s and was awarded the Delmas Prize in 2001.
Bokov’s writing is a masterful expression of satire, and a direct, yet elegant, language that recalls both Bely and Gogol.
“Nine years ago Sergei Petrovich committed a crime. He wrecked a monument to the great Bestiev… The difficultly lay in the fact that Dogorukov had a perfect alibi: on the day that the monument in Passim Square was destroyed he had been out picking mushrooms. They even found witnesses to testify to this. His wife had been out with him, whilst his neighbor, Proharchuk, had dropped in afterwards to nibble on a mushroom or two….Here Sergei Dolgorukov should have confessed all! Repented! But he was overwhelmed by… a moment while I look in the dictionary for the appropriate pre-Revolutionary Church-Slavonic phrase…he was overwhelmed by pride.”
from Dolgorukov Unmasked
a course of time—Mark Insingel (translated from the Dutch by Adrienne Dixon)
Out of print in hardback—Red Dust is proudly releasing a paperback edition in the coming months! Please stand by for more information.
a the girl in the yellow raincoat
b who leaves her, goes abroad where he meets
c a spinster
d b’s best friend
Originally called A Joint Diary, a, b, c, and d speak/write in turn in 52 fragments of about equal length. They record images of themselves, of each other, fantasies, words they have spoken, they have heard others speak.
b of a:
‘Who was she? (‘When you’re so slim’ ‘A real woman’ ‘Yes, but you wouldn’t have thought it of her.’ ‘A very nice girl’ ‘A whore’ ‘So faithful’)
‘I can start with her what I want with her perhaps? Do I want anything? I thought.’
Although the work is a map of specific events, relationships, (a definite story is told) these shift in memory, grow stronger, fade:
‘I began to see her, imagine her more sharply when she had moved completely out of sight;’
I hadn’t even wished to see a photograph, so she came as if out of my imagination I came towards myself in those mirrors we pressed each other’s hand, she looked at me, We have all the time, she said; No, I must go; I felt how I moved as if away from myself from panel to panel (from table to table) I saw a slim black-haired still young, heard how she in my place (surely I could not look round), he beside her (opposite?) we were standing all the time smiling while he with his jokes (with his pretexts) to me as well as to her who apparently understood the language too…
from a course of time