Eric Karpeles on Józef Czapski
Thursday, November 29, 2018, 7:00 p.m., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
in conversation with Cynthia Haven
celebrating the release of three new books
from New York Review Books:
Inhuman Land: Searching for the Truth in Soviet Russia, 1941-1942
Almost Nothing: The 20th Century Art and Life of Józef Czapski
Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp
by Józef Czapski, introduction and translated from French by Eric Karpeles
Józef Czapski (1896–1993) was a writer and artist, as well as an officer in the Polish army. In 1918, he enrolled in the Warsaw School of Fine Arts, but shortly thereafter he suspended his studies in order to travel to Russia at the request of military authorities to search for officers in his division who had disappeared in action. At the end of the Russian Civil War, he went back to his studies, this time at Kraków's Academy of Fine Arts, and soon relocated to Paris with some fellow students, thus founding the Komitet Paryski (Paris Committee), later known as the Kapist movement. Czapski was drafted into the army at the beginning of World War II, soon after landing in a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp. Once free, he was assigned to investigate another disappearance of officers, who he would discover were victims of the Katyn Massacre, the subject of Inhuman Land. Czapski spent the rest of his years painting and writing.
Eric Karpeles is a painter, writer, and translator. His comprehensive guide, Paintings in Proust, considers the intersection of literary and visual aesthetics in the work of the great French novelist. He has written about the paintings of the poet Elizabeth Bishop and about the end of life as seen through the works of Emily Dickinson, Gustav Mahler, and Mark Rothko. The painter of The Sanctuary and of the Mary and Laurance Rockefeller Chapel, he is the also the translator of Józef Czapski's Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp and Lorenza Foschini's Proust's Overcoat. He lives in Northern California.
Cynthia Haven is a 2018 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar. She writes regularly for The Times Literary Supplement, and has also contributed to The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and World Literature Today. Her work has also appeared in Le Monde, La Repubblica, Die Welt, Zvezda, Colta, Zeszyty Literackie, The Kenyon Review, Quarterly Conversation, The Georgia Review, and Civilization. She has been a Milena Jesenská Journalism Fellow with the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen in Vienna, as well as a visiting writer and scholar at Stanford’s Division of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures and a Voegelin Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. Peter Dale in Conversation with Cynthia Haven was published in London, 2005. Her Czeslaw Milosz: Conversations was published in 2006; Joseph Brodsky: Conversations in 2003; An Invisible Rope: Portraits of Czeslaw Milosz was published in 2011 with Ohio University Press / Swallow Press.