Poetry. Asian & Asian American Studies. Translated by Lindsay Turner. Introduction by Sawako Nakayasu. Ryoko Sekiguchi takes the letters Fernando Pessoa wrote his would-be fiancée Ophelia Queiroz as her subject matter in ADAGIO MA NON TROPPO. ADAGIO's 36 prose blocks—appearing in Japanese, French, and English for the first time in the 2018 Les Figues Press trilingual edition (trans. Lindsay Turner)—echo the 36 letters Pessoa addressed to Queiroz dated from March 1, 1920, until January 11, 1930.
Sekiguchi reconceives the Lisbon Pessoa and Queiroz describe in their correspondence as a map over which rendezvous, affairs, and liaisons can be continued through writing. "Written words," she asks, "do they erase themselves? [...] or instead do all words, once read, never disappear?" Sekiguchi superimposes objects over a landscape where names carry shapes, directions, and the places to which they refer. In her Lisbon, a chair slid into daylight or set before a window punctuates time like comma in a sentence. An old couple contemplating ducks indicates a line between two points like a parasol taken from its stand announces a departure. As love establishes boundaries and relationships between people, if our objects convey our love for one another, then Sekiguchi traces the paths and perimeters lovers leave behind.
Originally published in a bilingual edition containing Sekiguchi's self-translation into the French (Le bleu du ciel éditions, 2007), ADAGIO MA NON TROPPO belongs in the same category as the modernist works of Franz Kafka and Pessoa—as well as the recent epistolary work of Marguerite Duras, Roland Barthes, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Maggie Nelson, and Claire-Louise Bennett—writing as a philosophic and aesthetic act that reshapes our notions of time, space, translation, and love.
"What a delicate pleasure, meeting with Ryoko Sekiguchi's ADAGIO MA NON TROPPO, planning such a meeting, being delayed, being fulfilled, moving through one's streets with this book in hand. This is such a work of commune. It is a machiawase and rendezvous and an appointment, lush but careful, anticipatory but reflective. It isn't simply an encounter between reader and author, but so, too, in that meeting place, is Fernando Pessoa and Ophelia Queiroz, Sawako Nakayasu (whose welcoming introduction induces our readerly pathways) and Lindsay Turner (whose vibrantly attuned translation underscores another set of correspondents, its three languages Japanese, French, and English). Through these instructions, volitions, and fleeting glimpses—the various kinds of light falling on interior and exterior places one and the same—we are reminded what it is to seek, as an everyday task, the beloved."—Ryo Yamaguchi
Born in Tokyo, Ryoko Sekiguchi has lived in Paris since 1997. Her work has appeared widely in French and Japanese. Her book of prose poetry ADAGIO MA NON TROPPO, translated by Lindsay Turner, was published in 2017 by Les Figues Press. Her other works include THE PRESENT VOICE (Threadsuns Press, 2021), HELIOTROPES (Fence Bools/La Presse, 2009), and TWO MARKETS, ONCE AGAIN (The Post-Apollo Press, 2008). In addition to recent performances and writings on food and aesthetics, Sekiguchi has also collaborated with visual artists and sound artists including Suzanne Doppelt, Christian Boltanski, and Ranier Lericolais. Her translations into Japanese include works by Jean Echenoz, Mathias Enard, Atiq Rahimi, and Daniel Heller-Roazen. Author City: PARIS FRA
Lindsay Turner is the author of the poetry collections SONGS & BALLADS (Prelude Books, 2018) and The Upstate (University of Chicago Press, 2023). Her translations from the French include books by Éric Baratay, Stéphane Bouquet, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Anne Dufourmantelle, Richard Rechtman, Frédéric Neyrat, and Ryoko Sekiguchi. Originally from northeast Tennessee, she lives in Cleveland, Ohio, where she is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Case Western Reserve University.