[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
[Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.]
[Some of LQ’s contents are available free.]
[L.Q. cover, quotes, and images are from Lapham’s Quarterly April/May 2022:Migration, except where noted.]
[Click or right-click on an image may give the option to open it separately.]
[NEW to Lapham’s Quarterly? See the standard notes at the end of this review. After 50+ LQ summaries I jump right in.]
[This is a READING section, for those who might stumble in looking for photography. My edits/summaries of the L.Q. historical journal continue.]
Speaking of Dante’s Inferno and The Divine Comedy, as I did in Pt. 1, I’ve found Allen Mandelbaum’s translation more readable than Longfellow’s. I think the terza rima of the original, with a rhyming sequence of aba, bcb, cdc, etc., is a bit of a lost cause in translation, and both translators largely abandoned it. Mandelbaum is less laborious for this modern reader. A side-by-side view can be found here. Select Text & Translations and the comparisons you want.
The three sections of Voices In Time this issue are Setting Forth, On The Move, and Finding Refuge.
Time marches on, as does Migration. On The Move:
The first extract is a 2020 report on transversing the nearly impenetrable no-man’s land of the Darien Gap, between Panama and Colombia, a sixty-six absence of the Pan-American Highway. This piece is free online and I recommend it.
Late 19th, early 20th, century hobo, criminal, author Jack Black has a notable account of ‘riding the rails’. It’s free at L.Q. online and his Wiki Page is short.
Farley Mowat writes beautiful descriptions of a 1935 train ride into the far northern reaches of Canada from The Pas, Manitoba, to Churchill on Hudson Bay, pausing for a passing river of caribou migration.
“Then the steel bends northward, and in time the train passes through the flat farmlands, and little villages go by—each marked by the bulge of an orthodox steeple and the square monument of a grain elevator. Slowly the forests extend their rough fingers into the black soil of the farms, until the fingers close tightly. The prairies are gone, and only the matted disorder of forests remains.
…at last it draws up with gusty relief at the frontier town of The Pas. Here, in a decaying cluster of buildings, the Winnipeg train turns gratefully back to the south and hurries to leave behind it the anonymous tangle of forests and muskegs.
I climbed up to the high bench of the caboose cupola to have a better look at the new lands which were appearing, and I was there when the marker for Mile 410 came into view, and simultaneously the rusty whistle of the old engine began to give tongue. It was to continue sounding for a full half hour, with a reckless disregard for steam pressure. But at the first blast, I looked forward over the humped backs of the freight cars—and noticed the whistle no more!
A brown, flowing river had appeared and was surging out of the edge of the dying forests and plunging across and over the snow-covered roadbed ahead. A broad, turbulent ribbon of brown ran out of an opening to the southeast and traced its sinuous course northwest over the snows of a land that was still completely gripped by the frosts—for this was no river of water, but a river of life. I have my binoculars to my eyes in the instant, and through the lenses I saw the stream dissolve into its myriad parts, and each part of that river was the long-legged shape of a deer!” (p. 87-88)
I mentioned John Steinbeck and Richard Dawkins in Pt. 1. Steinbeck reminds me it has been many, many decades since I read some of his works. Perhaps a revisit is in order.
Primo Levi is beyond eloquent in his microscopic On The Move tracing of a carbon atom, this time in wine:
“He traveled, therefore, at the slow pace of vegetable juices, from the leaf through the leaf stalk and the stem to the trunk, and from there descended to an almost ripe cluster of fruit.”
“It’s the fate of wine to be drunk, and the fate of glucose to be oxidized. But it wasn’t oxidized right away: its drinker kept it in his liver for more than a week, peacefully curled up in a ball, as reserve nourishment for an unexpected effort: an effort that he was compelled to make the following Sunday, chasing a horse that had turned skittish. Farewell to the hexagonal structure; in the space of a few instants, the ball was unwound and became glucose again, which was carried by the flow of blood to a muscle fiber in the thigh and there brutally broken into two molecules of lactic acid, the sad herald of fatigue. Only later, a few minutes afterward, could the panting of the lungs obtain the oxygen necessary to patiently oxidize the lactic acid. Thus a new molecule of carbon dioxide returned to the atmosphere, and a parcel of the energy that the sun granted to the leaf stem passed from the state of chemical energy to that of mechanical energy and then settled into the slothful condition of heat, imperceptibly warming the air shifted by the run and the blood of the runner.” (P. 128)
…from Chapter 21 of Levi’s book of short stories The Periodic Table. Sadly, not available free.
Native or Invasive by ANJALI VAIDYA leads this last section of Voices In Time. Sadly, not available free in L.Q., it is available online via the previous link and worthy of your contemplation. It ponders the migration of the ‘invasive’ lantana plant from West to East, as well as her own migration as a U.S.-born Asian-Indian-American to India in her teenage years. Neither quite fits in.
“LANTANA IN A GARDEN is pretty in an understated way: sweet while you’re looking at it, but forgettable the moment you glance away. It has tiny clusters of multihued flowers, which range in color from white to purple to pink to red to yellow. The plant’s berries, poisonous when unripe, lie nestled between dark, serrated leaves. Those who try to pick them may come away with tiny thorns.
Away from a gardener’s shears, there is nothing lovely about lantana. The bush sprawls into a tangled mess. It covers up the soil, blocking out the sun for lower-lying plants. Here we have none of the majestic arches of trees, none of the delicacy of a trailing vine, not even a sweet aroma to lend the plant a favorable impression. Lantana climbs, twines up with itself, and grows a woody labyrinth where small creatures hide.” (P. 131)
A very brief extract (FREE!, but you have to look for it) gives one insight into the unfriendly ‘wisdom’ of 1923 Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland’s dissent in denying U.S. citizenship to a Sikh WWI veteran of the U.S. Army. Thind, the Sikh, finally gained citizenship in 1936 due to newer Congressional laws.
Another freebie, short, and in a slightly stilted translation of the 17th century language of Hugo Grotius, expounds on the right of passage and settlement of refugees and displaced persons, while also touching on the right to private property.
“It is upon the same foundation of common right that a free passage through countries, rivers, or over any part of the sea which belongs to some particular people ought to be allowed to those who require it for the necessary occasions of life, whether those occasions be in quest of settlements after being driven from their own country, or to trade with a remote nation, or to recover by just war their lost possessions.”
A permanent residence should not be refused to foreigners who, driven from their own country, seek a place of refuge.” (P. 137, 138)
William Gross provides a noteworthy account (free!) of a slave’s captivity and finding refuge in the first half of the 19th century. A worthwhile peruse, lest we forget Man’s inhumanity.
“Here’s something I want to say to the colored people in the United States: You think you are free there, but you are very much mistaken. If you wish to be free men, I hope you will all come to Canada as soon as possible. There is plenty of land here, and schools to educate your children. I have no education myself, but I don’t intend to let my children come up as I did.” (P. 142)
J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur gushes briefly, and FREE-ly, about the magnanimity of living in America in the 18th century.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, much of Finding Refuge reflects the difficulties thereof. Some people, such as the 1939 load of Jewish people attempting to escape Europe on the liner St. Louis, find themselves back where they started.
‘The Voyage of the Damned’ on the MS St. Louis Wikipedia page mirrors the L.Q. account. Of the 937 people who voyaged for over a month it is estimated that some 254 were eventually murdered during the holocaust.
Edward Said expresses it well in a 2000 essay:
“Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a na- tive place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted. And while it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even tri- umphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement. The achievements of exile are permanently undermined by the loss of something left behind forever.” (p. 153)
Jacob Riis (free) details the ‘borders of the melting pot’ of immigrants in 1890 New York City. This excellent book How the Other Half Lives has superb descriptions of living conditions in the tenements at this time. It’s available for free at Gutenberg.org.
The Further Remarks section at the end has full length contemporary essays. Of these I found DeGooyer’s The Right To Leave the most compelling. Slave owner Thomas Jefferson advocated said right to emigrate, with limits. There lies the rub.
Be safe, be well, be historic.
The standard notes:
1. Since L.Q.’s inception with the Winter 2008 issue its size is always 7″ x 10″ x 1/2-17/32″. It is white-covered, printed on high quality paper throughout, with richly printed reproductions of fine art from time immemorial, and 221 pages up to a page or two of addenda at the back.
2. Each issue contains extracts about the title topic from great authors and thinkers spanning all recorded history. It begins with an eloquent, to a fault, preamble/introduction by editor Lewis Lapham. The main body is called Voices In Time and contains 3 or 4 subcategories of the topic with about 25 extracts per section. Noteworthy sidebars, side quotes, and depictions of appropriate art from the ages are liberally distributed throughout. Several extended contemporary essays bring up the rear. There are several other small sections every issue (Among the Contributors, Conversations, Miscellany, ‘The Graphic’).
3. Per the L.Q. website:
“Lapham’s Quarterly embodies the belief that history is the root of all education, scientific and literary as well as political and economic. Each issue addresses a topic of current interest and concern—war, religion, money, medicine, nature, crime—by bringing up to the microphone of the present the advice and counsel of the past.”
4. I encourage all to subscribe to this fine publication. It is a rich supplement to anyone’s reading.