Letters From Oblivion – Andrew Condous




Les Éditions de L’Oubli & Zagava MMXIV


My previous reviews of Ex Occidente Press / Zagava books are linked from HERE

24 thoughts on “Letters From Oblivion – Andrew Condous

    “…could not halt a small press edition sprouting its powerful and uncompromising form, emerging from within the splendid ruins of Bucharest…”
    Appears to be a fascinatingly textured, surreal-dada-dadao slant on the true history of the actual ‘Les Editions de L’Oubli’ imprint. I have noticed in their books before and again in this one words ending to this effect about ‘You begin to understand’ dated 1943, words that seem significant in the seeping light of this book’s first section of main text:


  2. SLOVA
    “…the virgin paper destined to only absorb the liquids emanating from the reader’s finger tips.”
    An amazing description (the only flaw being the context’s minor typo of ‘stationary’ instead of ‘stationery’ on page 12): a tract adumbrating the 1930s/1940s history and audit trail of this very book’s publisher: ‘Les Editions de L’Oubli’, with textual prose deployment of highly redolent and specialised printing materials: these materials’ pragmatics as well as their rich exotics, as part of the historically rarefied Romanian Avant Garde plus the coverage of Jewish topics in this difficult era. Two names stand out so far: Avraham Feller and Victor Valeriu Martinescu (VVM).
    (My own tentative credentials in the Avant Garde: here.)

    “Leta (Lethe), the land of L’Oubli, the province of oblivion.”
    We are granted, I sense, a hybrid English translation of this Romanian publisher’s first publication in 1940 of THE LEOPARD poem (the first line of which is ‘In a few days you will find your shadow’) and a description of its publication history, and the Rorschach maps (one like the shape of Romania itself?) as a stilamancie, which I have now researched for myself:
    Stilamancie (or stilomancie ) subst. technique invented by surrealist Romanian avant-garde graphics Dolfi Trost, thus producing drawings like Rorschach tests.
    Tristan Tzara, too, a hero of mine, and it reminds me of the concrete poetry a few of us at Lancaster University in the 1960s performed to an audience, with the help of the now legendary Anne Cluysenaar.
    But the most intriguing thing is that the poem was also published in its original language of ‘Leopard’ as well as Romanian. This English language luxuriously stiff-covered 2014 book is wonderful. But I’d love to get a copy of their original publication in the original Leopard language.
    I can’t wait till I read more of this Condous book and I hope I shall be able to continue tomorrow.
    By the way, on page 20, should the trees be dripping ‘pus’ rather than ‘puss’?

    “…’illustrated’ with 944 steel quill nibs. Each nib an original, differentiating themselves through size, colour, shape, age or engraving.”
    I cannot ‘spoil’ this book by describing its contents nor can I give it true justice by anything I say. You will just have to trust something unseen till you see it and have your trust fulfilled. This section’s description of the next publication — a verse poetry book — is itself, at least, partly that very book’s contents as well as being a tautly sublime adumbration of its materials or manufacture with the surrounding Mittel European political history when it was published in 1944 and how the publisher’s next book would be openly published instead of covertly so.

  5. image

    “Unencumbered thoughts allowed to freely coalesce into creative constructions beyond the mere reformulation, evolution or mutation of the known.”
    Our publisher’s open but uncredited publication of ‘The Catalogue for the exhibition held by Gherasim Luca and Dolfi Trost between 7 January to 28 January 1945 on the first floor of 19 Strada Brezoianu in Bucharest…’
    This substantive section is tantamount to you experiencing the catalogue’s history, the catalogue’s review of the exhibition as well as the physical catalogue itself, even experiencing the actual exhibition in three-dimensional real-time! An erotic cubomanie laced with chaos theory – and much else. ‘Non-Euclidean geometry, non-Newtonian mechanics and non-Pasteur biology.’
    I am mugging up on my knowledge of Romanian surrealists etc as a result of my reading this book, and in honour to such a real book, I am trying to do this through other real books already in my possession, rather than resorting to Wikipedia etc on the fragile internet.
    I also like the sound of the Enescu-Banat Sonata Recital…

    “The filters in my eyes are multiplying, thickening.”
    …as are mine, sadly, having been told recently that, at the age of 66, I have cataracts fast growing in both eyes. Luckily my lifelong recurrent light-hurting iritis only occurs usually in the left eye. Phegophobia, in this context, is an interesting word to have learnt for the first time from this section of the book. Photalgia, certainly, too. Thanks!
    This ‘Le Vampire Passif’ book was published in 1945 by Les Editions de L’Oubli and not many copies remain? However, the brief rich prose here plus its bibliographic history allow you to experience it all by osmosis, I suspect. Meanwhile, I give it the benefit of the doubt that it fully intended the word ‘discretely’ used in its last sentence rather than the quite different meaning of ‘discreetly’.
    Finally, believe it or not, and I find this synchronicity amazing, within my theory of ‘the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ — I took this top photograph earlier today and wrote the words about it on that blog post before reading this section of the Condous book and his use of these words: “The faces of trees have become rigid, last expressions locked,…”

    “…remnant shards shrivel into loose memories, the retina’s work recommences.”
    And so be it. The next LEDLO book (‘Vision Dans Le Cristal’) is the first one by Dolfi Trost alone. It is, for me, modern art as dream or flash synaesthesia through the words of stunning prose as filtered through the book in question by this Condous book about that very book, reading ‘like a collection of extremely surreal flash fiction’, its meticulous bibliographic details notwithstanding. You begin to understand.

    Uninhibited ink spreading – this (‘Le Profil Navigable – Negation Concrete de la Peinture’ by Dolfi Trost) is the last book LEDLO published in Bucharest until 2012. The prose describing that spreading of the ink is an extended masterstroke of description as is that of the materials upon which it spreads, a description entailing “microscopic blue mounds and cervices,…”, “the unexpected cacophony of a conductor-less symphony” and much more.

    “They viewed such physics to be consistent with surrealism…”
    We have Condous to thank, I feel, that 1940s L’OUBLI does not now remain entirely ‘oubli’. This is a fascinating glimpse of what could have been and why it wasn’t. More books from the work of Dolfi Trost and Gherasim Luca itemised as what I shall call a sort of hologrammatic bibliography, except some of these titles thankfully were picked up by other publishers. But what about their book ‘The Law of Gravity’? Some of the information we are given about that is astonishing.

    “A strange history,…” indeed — and I have cheated by googling ‘uitarii’…but many of the mysteries remain. Yet, I feel that the ‘Letters from Oblivion’ title of the book I am actually holding is digressed upon in this section, a book full of the titles of other books and incredibly it has seemed to cause those past LEDLO books to become just as real-in-the-hand as this beautiful LEDLO one I am holding that has told me about them!
    I don’t know if the last section of this book that I have yet to read solves some of those remaining mysteries but I very much hope to be able to read it some time this evening after dinner.

    “…unclassifiable but embedded with a complex cocktail of futurism, surrealism, and expressionism. This novel, or more accurately anti-novel…”
    I do not fear issuing spoilers but I should warn there may be some here; indeed this section itself warns some of you not to read it at all and I do sense this section is the crux of the LEDLO history, even though not an official part of it; the earlier SLOVA section of this book seemed then to me to be a vital part of LEDLO’s gestation, where VVM was first mentioned and where I first mentioned him in my own real-time review above. Real-time attempts at ‘gestaltation’ as well as perceived gestation can lead either to shafting beams of elucidation or to premature confusions. I think I have respectively enjoyed and suffered both in my assessment, so far. And I am relieved that I am still tussling with that dilemma, but now with more certainty that it is a dilemma that holds both sides of the truth. There is a Goodreads page on the Internet for VVM. Look him up. I gave his full name in the Slova section of my review.
    Anyway, from ‘cervices’ in the previous ‘ART’ section to ‘crevices’ in this one, we learn more about Feller and more fulsomely about VVM (via Feller as well as Condous?) and VVM seems also to contain both sides of the truth, where his political associations act against his art, and vice versa, as well as acting in synergy. His what I assume to be his long lost masterpiece of an anti-novel entitled ‘Cocktail’ should surely now be published by LEDLO, as, in hindsight, my own anti-novel possibly should have been, but I am so very proud that, given LEDLO’s fine hinterland, what is very likely to be my last ever independently published work (the collection ADMTOAH) was published by LEDLO in 2013, kindly granting me, as well as the few others who have been published by a latter day LEDLO, ‘no oblivion, no uitarii, no l’oubli’. You now can end beginning to understand…
    There was a book by Trost and Luca mentioned in a previous section entitled ‘The Invisibility of Dream’ and now in this section the words: “Only my dreams have hardened.” But who said them? Feller? VVM? Condous? Ghetu as publisher of the modern day versions of LEDLO and so of this Condous book? Me? You? Whatever the case, this book is a wonderfully crafted hybrid of both sides of the truth, and thus, after decades of believing in them, I’d say that any ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ surely now need to be salted away forever.
    “It is an exquisite book made from very thick paper, 64 pages long…”


  12. admtoahh I have now slept on this book. It has haunted me ever since closing its covers on a job well done. As far as my researches have gone so far, it is a wonderful summary of a real history of a publisher with impressions of its books and the Romanian avant garde circle involved, the politics of the time, art’s cyclic aesthetics still within our very fibre, eyes as a positive force for everything as well as a pit to fall within — but the work as physical form and text is, as well as representing that factual truth, a beautiful poetic truth. A book that describes itself. Even in that last quote I made above!


  13. The modern day canon of the LES ÉDITIONS DE L’OUBLI to date:


    Aornos by Avalon Brantley
    A Dead Church by Harold Billings
    HISTORY OF ‘LES EDITIONS DE L’OUBLI’: Letters from Oblivion by Andrew Condous
    Plus these three books that are also modern day LEDLOs from Bucharest:

    The Aesthete Hagiographer by Derek John
    O Altítudo by Thomas STRØMSHOLT

    All the above links are to my real-time reviews.

  14. Pingback: Today’s “found art” – and L’Oubli | NEMONYMOUS: "...pulse of our slumber, dreambookpage..."

  15. I have just received my purchased copies of:

    THE MONK’S BIBLE by Harold Billings

    THE STREAM & THE TORRENT by Brian Howell

    bill bill2

    Les Éditions de L’Oubli MMIV

    Previous ‘Les Éditions de L’Oubli’ in the modern age are shown here.

    Previous reviews of all my purchased Zagava – Ex Occidente books are linked from here.

  16. pess2

    I have just received my purchased copy of this luxurious, richly artworked book…

    288 pages – No. 31 of 110 numbered copies


    Stories and novellas from Quentin S. Crisp, Jonathan Wood, Colin Insole, Andrew Condous, Mark Valentine, Damian Murphy, John Howard, Rhys Hughes, Adam S. Cantwell, D.P. Watt, Avalon Brantley.

    Les Editions de L’Oubli XXXIV

    Zagava / Ex Occidente Press

    I am particularly intrigued by the prospect of this book as it seems to be operating a form of Nemonymity (author late-labelling) that was operated in NEMONYMOUS 2001 – 2010.

    My previous reviews of this publisher’s books linked from HERE


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