Two Reviews of Nights as Day, Days as Night
By Michel Leiris
In her article titled “Nocturnal Disturbances” in Diabolique Magazine, Samm Deighan gave Nights as Day, Days as Night a fascinating (rave!) review.
A book that largely resists classification, this is a combination of surrealist autobiography (literally, in the sense that is was written by a leading Surrealist and figuratively in the sense that it is predictably and wonderful surreal), prose poem (which is how translator Richard Sieburth refers to it), and dream journal. Anyone who has a fascination with the Surrealists or 20th century Paris will find much to love and the work’s appealing strangeness certainly lingers in the memory — I can’t stop thinking about it.
Spurl’s new volume captures the poetry, absurdity, and beauty of Leiris’s book thanks to a translation from Richard Sieburth. A comparative literature professor at New York University, Sieburth specializes in writing about and translating German and French literature; perhaps I’m biased, because he has translated a number of some of my favorite authors, from Walter Benjamin and Georg Büchner to Henri Michaux, as well as Nerval, and I suspect his knowledge of the latter assisted him here. Regardless, he does Leiris proud.
And in “The Pepys of Sleep” (in Strange Flowers), Berlin-based writer/translator James Conway talks about dreams and literature; Michel Leiris, Raymond Roussel, and André Breton; and the real-life dream of an Italian game show. A highly recommended read.
As language rests from its customary labours, Leiris takes words apart, comparing them, rearranging them, rousing the associative logic slumbering in their syllables.
You can also read an excerpt from Nights as Day, Days as Night online at The Brooklyn Rail.