Voices from Elsewhere

The Archives of the 92nd Street Y

Recently Manhattan’s peerless and endlessly vibrant 92nd Street Y released thousands of recordings of events held there over the years in honor of the institution’s 75th anniversary. I have only just begun to delve into the trove of offerings, but I have the following recommendations to make —

Vladimir Nabokov being jolly. He calls Wyoming one of his “favorite states” (the butterflies!) and pauses before adding “of being” to audible laughter. He reads a handful of poems and a passage of prose from Pale Fire, speaking English without a trace of Russian-ness, sounding like what Alfred Hitchcock looks like (perhaps it’s in the jowls).* Boyd’s essay is, as usual, illuminating and warm-hearted.

W.G. Sebald reading with his eyes downcast about Europe’s traumatic twentieth century, remarking with straightforward and striking accuracy about what little time he had left (as a reason for never self-translating), and generally being deft, erudite, and wonderful.

Pablo Neruda in his first American appearance, reading his poems in the original Spanish (the English translations are read by Clayton Eshleman, James Wright and Ben Belitt). He is introduced by Archibald MacLeish. I strongly recommend Edith Grossman’s accompanying essay.

Also, a happy birthday to two Nobel laureates, the Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz and the Russian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

*Some other descriptions for Nabokov’s voice: a nefarious, clumsy teapot; an American grandfather who did a bit of acting, years ago, reading A Christmas Carol to his grandchildren; a mailbox as King Lear.