“What are we going to do with all those cats?”
On the High Wire was written in 1972, when Petit was all of 23, and Paul Auster’s new translation of the book has just been published by New Directions. On the High Wire (2019) is a little (ahem, petit) thing, all of 115 pages including notes, with a trim size—4.5” x 7.3”—to match. In the hand it feels like a guidebook and reads like a dream diary. The book is both of those things.
At the risk of generalizing perhaps too broadly, prose by poets—that is, prose written by writers whose primary mode is poetry—seems to fall into two camps. Either the writing is extremely sober, to clearly differentiate it from the poet’s poetry (think criticism, or op-eds), or
The Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail’s new book of nonfiction, “The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq,” tells one aspect of this story: the kidnapping and enslavement of Yazidi women by Daesh. More specifically, The Beekeeper is about one man’s efforts to rescue these women through a network that he set up himself.
The portrait these letters paint of an artist trying to hone his craft at all costs transforms them from obscure Proustiana into a richer portrait of Proust the man, neighbor, and writer.