In the Mirror of the Eighth King and Depictions of Blaff - Christopher Middleton

Green Integer


Two small books by famed Walser translator Christopher Middleton: In the Mirror of the Eighth King (1999) & Depictions Of Blaff (2010), published by Green Integer (unread copies though with traces of storage and age wear)


In the Mirror of the Eighth King (91 pages): In this new book of essays, the noted British poet and translator explores a world in which all things are marvelous—and slightly awry. A dwarf in Trebizond is offended because his donors will not enter the cavern of a restaurant outside of which he waits; each June the head of Balzac appears on the plaster of a wall in a small French village; a warbler in the market at Rize on the Black Sea lets loose with a call that the author is sure is directly from the mountains of Georgia; a heart shaped “I Love You” balloon moves about the author's home and then suddenly disappears, escaping apparently into the world outside the house. In these beautifully written, poetic observations, Middleton explores through these odd events and coincidences the very nature and the meaning of our lives.

Depictions of Blaff (128 pages): In these forty short prose texts Blaff is depicted from at least three different angles: that of some young people (children at first), that of himself as he soliloquizes, and that of his (external) author. Who is Blaff? He appears as a troubled but dauntless captive of his time, an academic outsider at loose ends, an affable bluffer, a bit of a laugh. His 20th century antecedents are such soliloquists and solo figures as Robert Walser's Helbling, Henri Michaux's Plume, Albert Ehrenstein's Tubutsch, Raymond Linossier's Bibi la Bibiste, Brecht's Herr Keuner, even Paul Valery's Monsieur Teste. It remains to be seen if he could rank as a "hero"-antagonist (for all his baffled gentility) to a new century plunged in absolute commercialism and ignorant smartness. His brief appearances as an economist and paymaster are due only to his medium -- not the "short story," but, a genre apart, prose that is well and truly short.

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