Raymond Federman

 

Raymond Federman's extensive bio follows his writing.

VARIATIONS ON ISAAC BABEL'S METAPHORS

all my life I've been against metaphors

all my life I've objected to metaphors

mocked them oppose them

took position against metaphors

metaphor

that figure of speech

in which a term or phrase is applied

to something to which it is not

literally applicable

in order to suggest a resemblance

sometime producing an incongruous assemblage

so says one of my dictionaries

metaphor

the bringing together

of two incongruous

often incompatible elements

objects or actions

and me incongruous to myself

and incompatible as I am

all my life I've been opposed

to metaphors

have rejected them in my work

except when inadvertently

they crept in

I hate metaphors

but then I come across

this marvelous list of metaphors

invented by Isaac Babel

and I could not resist

abusing those metaphors

Babel and the Sun

The sun hung from the sky

like the pink tongue of a thirsty dog

Personally I see it differently

The sun hung from the sky

like the pink ass of crapping monkey

The Sun poured into the clouds

like the blood of a gouged boar

Personally not being Russian

I see it more this way

The sun poured out of the sky

like a glass of wine

out of a bottle of

Château Latour 1959

The sun soared up into the sky

and spun like a red bowl

on the tip of a spear

Personally I prefer

The sun raced across the sky

and vanished into the darkness

like a bursting balloon

pricked by a needle

The orange sun is rolling

across the sky

like a severed head

Personally I like

Van Gogh's skies

The green sun

fell outof the sky

like a huge watermelon

and crashed

into the sun flowers

Babel and the stars

The stars scattered

in front of the window

like urinating soldiers

Personally I find this one

rather good I cannot

see how I can improve it

well perhaps this way

The stars poured out of the sky

in front of my window

like a pissing cow

Babel and the tablecloth

The velvet tablecloth knocked

his eyes right off their feet

Personally I find this one

rather weak in terms

of synesthesia

Personally I think it should be

The masculine tablecloth

knocked the woman's eyes

right on her ass

Babel and dreams

I sat to the side, dozed,

dreams pouncing around me

like kittens

Personally my dreams

are more ferocious

when I lay awake

fighting the spiders

of insomnia

my dreams whirl about me

like enraged coyotes

Babel and the smell of a woman

A sour odor rose from the ground

as from a soldier's wife at dawn

Personally I like this one

so much I am ashamed to touch it

perhaps just a little at the end

A sour odor rose from the chamber pot

as when a good bourgeois wife

takes a leak in the middle of the night

Well

there are more

such masterful metaphors

in Isaac Babel's oeuvre

I just hope I haven't been contaminated

that would be disastrous

imagine Federman doing metafors

Federman on Federman:

Born in France (1928), I am a bilingual writer. I emigrated to the U.S. in 1947. After serving

in the U.S. Army in Korea and Japan (1951-54), I studied at Columbia University under the G.I.

Bill (B.A. Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1957); graduate studies at U.C.L.A. (M.A., 1958, Ph.D. in

Comparative Literature, 1963 doctoral dissertation on Samuel Beckett).

1959-1964, I taught in the French Department, at the University of California at Santa Barbara;

1964-1973, in the French Department at The State University of New York at Buffalo [promoted to

Full Professor in 1968); 1973-1999, as a fiction writer in the English Department at

SUNY-Buffalo. In 1990, I was promoted to the rank of Distinguished Professor, and in 1992, I

was

appointed to the Melodia E. Jones Chair of Literature. I retired from SUNY-Buffalo in July

1999.

Distinguished Emeritus Professor, 2000.

Though I have published five volumes of poems (Among the Beasts,1967; Me Too, 1975; Duel-Duel,

1990; Now Then,1992, 99 Hand-Written Poems, 2001); four books of criticism on Samuel Beckett,

three collections of essays, numerous articles, essays, and translations, I consider myself

primarily a fiction writer.

To date I have published ten novels: Double or Nothing (Swallow Press, 1971, winner of the

Frances Steloff Fiction Prize and The Panache Experimental Fiction Prize); Amer Eldorado

(written

in French, Editions Stock, Paris, 1974, nominated for Le Prix Médicis); Take It or Leave It

(Fiction Collective, 1976); The Voice in the Closet (Coda Press, 1979); The Twofold Vibration

(Indiana University Press & Harvester Press Ltd., 1982); Smiles on Washington Square (Thunder's

Mouth Press, 1985, awarded The American Book Award by The Before Columbus Foundation); To Whom

It

May Concern (The Fiction Collective Two, 1990); La Fourrure de ma Tante Rachel (written in

French,

Éditions Circé, Paris, 1997). Loose Shoes [Weidler Verlag, Berlin], 2001; Aunt Rachel's Fur

[FC2,

2001].

My novels have been translated into German, Italian, French, Hungarian, Polish, Dutch, Rumanian,

Serbian, Greek, Portuguese, Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese, and soon to appear in Finnish and

Turkish.

My fiction, poetry, and translations have appeared in numerous literary magazines both in the

U.S.

and abroad, including Partisan Review, Paris Review, Chicago Review, Fiction International,

North

American Review, Mississippi Review, Formation, Caliban, The New Boston Review, Virginia

Quarterly, Tri-Quarterly, The Denver Quarterly, Black Ice, TXT, Le Monde, Esprit, Schreibheft,

Texturas, Lettre International, and others.

1966-67, I was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship; in 1977, I was a fellow in residence at the

Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France; 1982-83, I received a Fulbright Fellowship to Israel as

Writer-in-Residence at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem; I was awarded a National Endowment

for

the Arts Fellowship in fiction in 1985, and a New York State Foundation for the Arts Fellowship

for fiction in 1986; 1989-1990, I was invited by DAAD (The Berlin Kunstler-Programm) to spend a

year n Berlin as Writer-in-Residence. During that year, DAAD published in a bilingual edition a

collection of some of my experimental poetry and prose entitled Playtexts-Spieltexte, and The

Stopover Press in Berlin published Duel-Duel, a trilingual volume of poems. In 1995, I was

awarded Les Palmes Académiques by the French Government; in 1998, my play, The Precipice, had

its

world premiere in Jyvaskyla, Finland, and was adapted as a radio play by Deutschland Radio in

Berlin. All my novels have been adapted into radio plays in Germany.

From 1973 to 1976, I was a member of the Board of Directors of The Coordinating Council of

Literary Magazines. 1979-82, I served as Co-Director of The Fiction Collective, and I am

currently on the Board of Directors of The Fiction Collective Two. 1978-1981, I served on the

Literature Panel of the New York Council on the Arts, and from 1980 to 1983, on the Board of

Hallwalls. I also served as a judge for fiction for CAPS in 1980, for the Massachusetts Arts

Council in 1984, and the Wisconsin Arts Council in 1988, and as a judge for fiction for the New

York State Foundation for the Arts in 1986-87. In 1995, I was one of the judges for the

American

Awards for Literature.

Since 1977, I have read from my work in most major U.S. Universities, and I have lectured for

U.S.I.A in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary,

Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, India, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Japan, Turkey.

Several full-length books and numerous articles have been written about my work, and six

doctoral

dissertations. In 1998, a 400 page casebook entitled Federman From A to X-X-X-X by Larry

McCaffery, Doug Rice, and Thomas Hartl, was published by San Diego State University Press. In

1999, my collected plays were published in Austria in a bilingual edition (English/German) under

the title The Precipice & Other Catastrophes. In 2002 The Journal of Experimental Fiction

devoted

a 500 page issue to my work.