the shock of juxtaposition unmitigated

MOBILE, A Study for a representation of the United States, by Michel Butor, Simon & Schuster, 1963

Through an error of the inter-library loan system, I read the french edition first, and it was a fortunate error: my french being at the schoolboy level, meanings leapt at me from a turmoil of incomprehensibility – the french that I knew, the occasional english phrases flashing – you get the sense of us that Olson means, speaking of the Mayans, “the ball still snarled”, plain meaning being the exception, the miracle

the whole things is a dream, the materials being our own flat realities, it is the dreamstate we get into in driving this country, in which we sleepdrive off a straight level highway, or, as, the two grayhound buses, some years ago, near Waco, Texas, in the middle of night, the middle of nowhere, vision ahead limitless, slamming together headon

as in dreams, time-space are shattered, within the punctuation of present place and incident, we get history, anthropology, etc. – the motif of indian attention to peyotl is apt

as is the dedication to Jackson Pollock, it is the first full-length prose work I know in which – as in Pound, Williams, Olson – the meanings are stripped of all literary trappings, lying (as pigments) nakedly side by side, the shock of juxtaposition unmitigated

has Butor read our poets, or did he get it from the painters? in any case, this is a re-emergence of an old tradition of franco-american interchange, one that involved Jefferson, Franklin, Crevecoeur and de Toqueville . . . it is also in the tradition of that secondary European greed, not the landgrabbers, but those who gathered, at second hand, the land’s natural life: as, Coleridge mining the Bartrams – here, Butor makes a feast of Audubon, picking the birds clean

(Paul Metcalf, in Fire Exit, No. 3 (ca. 1969), ed. William Corbett, p. 67.)

statues of liberty

Marcel Duchamp’s cover for André Breton’s Young Cherry Trees Secured Against Hares (1946):

Young Cherry Trees Secured Against Hares

The cover of the first American edition of Michel Butor’s Mobile (1963), designed by Janet Halverson:

mobile by michel butor

(I would have a better image of that, but there doesn’t seem to be one on the Internet and thieves stole the scanner cable, so the phone & Photoshop will have to do. Alas.)

One would imagine that someone would have similarly made a splendid cover for Kafka’s Amerika of the Statue of Liberty holding a sword aloft, but the closest one I can find is the New Directions cover by Gilda Kuhlman:

gilda kuhlman cover for amerika by kafka

But the best cover for Amerika that I could find is the poster for this French theatrical version of the novel, which captures more of the novel’s spirit:

french kafka