The Pessoa Festival

Nov, 16 2018

The Pessoa Festival

Book Culture

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Related: John Keene

Letters from a Seducer: John Keene on translating Brazilian great Hilda Hilst and the influence of Brazil on his own work

Newly-minted MacArthur Genius John Keene discusses his work translating Hilda Hilst, to whom the 2018 Pessoa Festival pays tribute. Hilst’s Letters from a Seducer is a work which describes the everyday life of Karl, a wealthy, erudite, and amoral man who seeks an answer to his incomprehension of life through sex. Karl writes and sends twenty provocative letters to Cordelia, his chaste sister. The letters’ text becomes intertwined with the life of the poet Stamatius, who finds Karl’s letters in the trash.

Moderated by Anderson Tepper of Vanity Fair.

John R. Keene was born in St. Louis in 1965. He graduated from the St. Louis Priory School, Harvard College, and New York University, where he was a New York Times Fellow. In 1989, Mr. Keene joined the Dark Room Writers Collective, and is a Graduate Fellow of the Cave Canem Writers Workshops. He is the author of Annotations, and Counternarratives, both published by New Directions, as well as several other works, including the poetry collection Seismosis, with artist Christopher Stackhouse, and a translation of Brazilian author Hilda Hilst’s novel Letters from a Seducer. Keene is the recipient of many awards and fellowships—including a MacArthur Genius Award, the Windham-Campbell Prize, and the Whiting Foundation Prize for fiction. He teaches at Rutgers University-Newark.