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Last Words from Montmartre (New York Review Books) [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Qiu Miaojin , Ari Larissa Heinrich

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3. Juni 2014 New York Review Books
An NYRB Classics Original

When the pioneering Taiwanese novelist Qiu Miaojin committed suicide in 1995 at age twenty-six, she left behind her unpublished masterpiece, Last Words from Montmartre. Unfolding through a series of letters written by an unnamed narrator, Last Words tells the story of a passionate relationship between two young women—their sexual awakening, their gradual breakup, and the devastating aftermath of their broken love. In a style that veers between extremes, from self-deprecation to pathos, compulsive repetition to rhapsodic musings, reticence to vulnerability, Qiu’s genre-bending novel is at once a psychological thriller, a sublime romance, and the author’s own suicide note.

The letters (which, Qiu tells us, can be read in any order) leap between Paris, Taipei, and Tokyo. They display wrenching insights into what it means to live between cultures, languages, and genders—until the genderless character Zoë appears, and the narrator’s spiritual and physical identity is transformed. As powerfully raw and transcendent as Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, and Theresa Cha’s Dictée, to name but a few, Last Words from Montmartre proves Qiu Miaojin to be one of the finest experimentalists and modernist Chinese-language writers of our generation.


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"Qiu’s voice, both colloquial and metaphysical, enchants.... It would be wrong to interpret the book’s—or, for that matter, the author’s—ultimate surrender to death as a rejection of the richness of life; rather, like Goethe’s young Werther, this 'last testament' (an alternative translation of the title) affirms the power of literature." —Publishers Weekly

Last Words from Montmartre is urgent, ecstatic, unbridled, and breathtakingly intimate. Qiu Miaojin is a writer who truly defies categorization, and this book, her last—part confession, part love letter, part fiction, part memoir, part suicide notes—is a thrilling testament to her original mind and impassioned heart.” —Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

Last Words from Montmartre is deeply, soulfully moving in its excruciating revelation of the author’s innermost self, which is after all what makes the magic of literature. I felt a secret intimacy with Qiu Miaojin from the first page.” —Wang Dan
“Qiu Miaojin...had an exceptional talent. Her voice is assertive, intellectual, witty, lyrical, and intimate. Several years after her death, her works continue to command a huge following.” —Tze-lan Deborah Sang
“What makes Kerouac or Salinger timeless is not necessarily literary, but perhaps didactic: the fact that there is wisdom to be found at the fountain of youth, no matter what time one arrives. Of course, there is also a saintliness reserved for those authors who are able to make an interesting life story for themselves, and that order includes Qiu Miaojin.” —Bonnie Huie, PEN America blog
“Qiu’s unique literary style mingl[es] cerebral, experimental language use, psychological realism, biting social critique through allegory, and a surrealist effect deriving from the use of arrestingly unusual metaphors.” —Fran Martin

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Qiu Miaojin (1969–1995)—one of Taiwan’s most innovative literary modernists, and the country’s most renowned lesbian writer—was born in Chuanghua County in western Taiwan. She graduated with a degree in psychology from National Taiwan University and pursued graduate studies in clinical psychology at the University of Paris VIII . Her first published story, “Prisoner,” received the Central Daily News Short Story Prize, and her novella Lonely Crowds won the United Literature Association Award. While in Paris, she directed a thirty-minute film called Ghost Carnival, and not long after this, at the age of twenty-six, she committed suicide. The posthumous publications of her novels Last Words from Montmartre and Notes of a Crocodile (forthcoming from NYRB Classics) made her into one of the most revered countercultural icons in Chinese letters. After her death in 1995, she was given the China Times Honorary Prize for Literature. In 2007, a two-volume edition of her Diaries was published.

Ari Larissa Heinrich received a master’s in Chinese literature from Harvard and a PhD in Chinese studies from the University of California at Berkeley. Heinrich and Qiu—who would have been the same age if Qiu were still alive—crossed paths without knowing each other in Taipei and in Paris. He is the author of The Afterlife of Images: Translating the Pathological Body Between China and the West and the coeditor of Queer Sinophone Cultures. He teaches at the University of California at San Diego.

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3.0 von 5 Sternen ‘Last Words from Montmartre’ by Qiu Miaojin 10. Juni 2014
Von scoundrel - Veröffentlicht auf

I know this letter will reach you too late. Almost 20 years too late, since you died at the age of 26 in 1995. This is the first of your novels to be translated into English, and before reading it, I hadn’t known of your influence on the gay and lesbian culture in Taiwan and in the Chinese-speaking world at large. I wonder what you would have thought of the ascendency of the Internet and the instant globalization of art, literature, ideas.

Ah, but you were already ahead of the times, weren’t you? The global outlook of Last Words from Montmartre looks beyond Taiwan and presents a Chinese lesbian living in Paris and travelling to Tokyo, finding and losing lovers along the way. And yet, for all the globetrotting, the book’s focus never veers far. It’s aimed square at the narrator’s heart, a magnifying glass, and the light that comes through sharpens like a laser.

It’s tempting to read this book as autobiographical—you, yourself, were studying in Paris with Hélène Cixous at its writing—but I know this is the wrong approach. I get the sense that you blend these elements together—fiction, autobiography, aphorism, journal entry, poetry—to disorient the reader. You want us to inhabit the narrator’s headspace so fully that her feelings of dislocation become our own.

And what a dislocation it is. Though you insist that the 20 letters that comprise Last Words can be read in any order, I had to resist piecing together a timeline, organizing your lovers, men and women, in their proper sequence. I apologize: as a reader, I’m used to the comforts of chronology and of psychological causality. But I realize that, for this book, it’s a futile task. You don’t mean to present a standard narrative. You don’t mean to offer the back-and-forth of the traditional epistolary novel. Instead, these letters constitute an eternal present—a pain so palpable that it seems to have no past and no future. It can only be felt now.

Can I say that I often could not read more than one letter in a single sitting? Not because of the language—your translator, Ari Larissa Heinrich, has made an excellent effort, rendering your work into colloquial English—but because the emotional intensity can get overwhelming. The depths of your heartbreak seem limitless, and as I plunged deeper and deeper into it, I felt as if the letters were not meant for their intended recipients, but were instead a last will and testament. Indeed, as Heinrich points out, the title can also be translated literally as Last Testament from Montmartre.

But here I go again, conflating your narrator with you. Maybe there never was that separation to begin with. Maybe this book exists in the intersection of text and author, just as you lived in the intersection of genders and cultures, in the intersection between Eros and Thanatos. But as your narrator spirals out of control, the letters becoming more disjointed and fragmented, recounting not only her emotional state but her increasing violence towards herself, I think about your own death, at your own hands.

Miaojin, I know that you cannot read this letter. I know that time continues on its forward trajectory and that I cannot diverge from it to speak to you directly. But know that I am thinking about your book and that you speak through it still.
0 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Last Words 12. Juli 2014
Von Bartok Kinski - Veröffentlicht auf
It's hard to imagine what could have compelled Qiu Miaojin to take her own life, hardly anything is written about her, so her death eludes us.

Her book is interlaced with daily observances and penetrating regards.

I read it all in one day.
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