Ivan Juritz, editor at Make It New
So light is thy weight on Tellus
Thy notch no deeper indented
Thy weight less than the shadow
Yet hast thou gnawed through the mountain,
Scylla's white teeth less sharp.
How does one talk about a young man whom one barely knows and who died? Remembering scraps of conversation? Reviewing endlessly whether there was something one said or did that deranged the universe and brought this outcome? Thinking that if one had only been near, this horrible disaster might have been prevented?
Or else revisiting what one knows: here was Ivan, in his twenties, not merely promising fulfilment of his intelligence and talent, but making good on the promise. As a PhD student at the University of Queen Mary in London, he was working on a thesis about the soul: drawing a line from Aristotle to Freud, Pound and Laplanche. When he told me about it in the only skype conversation we had, I must have stared, as these lines of ideas were unknown to me. But at the time, he had already won a four-month research fellowship to pursue his project. I found that much later, trying to follow his light footprint on the internet.
I was more curious to know why he wanted to be editor of Make It New, whether there was a part of the magazine that he especially liked. Here the answer came quickly: he liked the music column, he was interested to see how he could use musical knowledge in scholarship. I pricked my ears, but asked almost casually whether he played an instrument? “I play the piano a little,” he answered rather sheepishly. Now was the time to pounce: “What do you play?” “Well, I like Ravel.” This time it was too late to let go: “Ravel, what?” “Alborada del gracioso.” Jesus, Mary and Joseph! I happen to have Ravel’s Miroirs at home: The Alborada has 16 pages of score, well beyond your accomplished “grade 8” level. Even for a professional, an enormous challenge.
So I told him that if he liked music, there was a little job he could do to ease his transition into editorial duties. There was a recent event, a German composer, Matthias Pintscher, had chosen a few lines by Pound for a new musical composition, “A Whirling Tissue of Light” - would he care to write a short bit of reportage? Nothing complicated, just follow the event and the comments online, show a bit of the score, give some info on the composer and pianist? He said he would do that.
Then I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Then I said to myself, what the hell, I should drop him an email and ask what he was doing. Turns out, he was not interested in writing reportage after all. He wanted to write something on a par with Margaret Fisher’s articles for the music column. And he was stuck: this was the first time he was trying to write on music and poetry. So we discussed it together. My approach was something like Agassiz and the fish: look at the score: what do you notice, how does the musical writing reproduce, or rather provide an interpretation in musical terms of the rhythm, the imagery and the emotion in the lines? It was enough. He came up with an excellent article which I could have very well placed in the music column and which Margaret herself loved. This was Ivan: he had a mind of his own and was tremendously ambitious for his work. “Please don’t change a word,” he told me. I didn’t.
When the time came to edit MIN 1.4, I wanted to be careful and prudent, after all, this was a young man I barely knew. So I gave him the pdf of the issue so that I could see what he was doing. He could not actually change anything, just alert me to what needed changing. Did I want just proofreading, he asked me, or everything? I naturally said I wanted everything, after all, I wanted an editor, not a proof-reader: comments on the texts, personal evaluations, proposals of improving sentences and layout where appropriate, and yes, of course, typos, grammar, well, everything. I also told him he can skip the Italian bibliography at the end, I had corrected that twice, and Massimo Bacigalupo had also looked at it twice, so we’re good.
Ivan’s “everything” was so detailed, thorough and cogent that I thanked my lucky stars. I especially prized his comments and personal impressions, they were funny, challenging, interesting. And well, would he listen to me to leave the Italian bibliography alone? No, of course not, he edited it and was I glad he did. He had the editor’s magical gift for pouncing on the error. He was a natural.
Ivan was good at the raw business of living, he was making it up as he went, he was putting his imprint on the minds of people who knew and respected him. All he needed was experience: something that one gets by living, not dying.
Did he believe in the soul? Do we?
FIVE DAYS IN MARCH
a play by TOSHIKI OKADA
FellSwoop Theatre made their first site-specific show in East-London,
performing for two nights only in November 2012 at the Allpress Espresso Cafe, Shoreditch.
Ivan Juritz was a deeply valued and respected member of our group and will always remain in our memories. His comments were always measured and extremely intelligent, always delivered to perfection and with a beautiful balance of elegance and wit. There were none of us who did not learn immensely from Ivan every month. It was a privilege to be in his company. His loss will be felt most keenly, not only in the silences that his joyful erudition would otherwise have filled, but also in the absence of the gravity of his personality and kindness, which filled the room whenever he spoke. His loss to our generation is immeasurable.
James Dowthwaite, co-organiser of the London Ezra Pound Cantos Reading Group
Ivan’s loss is a deep and painful sadness to us, as it must be to all who knew him, and, as James has said, his perceptive, thoughtful and wise contributions will be acutely missed by our group. Ivan had a warm, engaging, vitally alive personality, with all the promise of a very brilliant career. He thought deeply and with originality, and was impressively widely read, yet he was also sensitive to the feelings of others, and was unfailingly courteous and kind. I know he was much loved and admired by his fellow students and staff alike at Queen Mary, University of London, where he was working for his PhD. He was always fascinating to talk to and his intellectual curiosity and verve were a joy to see. Our hearts go out to those close to him.
Helen Carr, co-organiser of the London Ezra Pound Cantos Reading Group.
King’s College London
Ivan Juritz : « Un Coup de Dés/ English in a Couple of Days »
The story goes that when the functionaries of the Inspection académique came to check up on Monsieur Mallarmé’s English class at the Lycée Fontanes in Paris, they duly reported that the entire class of boys, working collaboratively for an hour, could not string together in correct syntax the simple request : « May I please have a glass of milk ? »
But conversely, in his famous hermetic experiment, Un Coup de dés (n’abolira jamais le hasard), Mallarmé exploded, or rather extended syntax to an absolute breaking point. It was of this astonishing text (the Master’s final poem, dated Paris 1897) that his disciple Paul Valéry gave a memorable account, when he first got a glimpse of the poem in the rue de Rome: he seemed to see a thought unwinding exactly, with its parentheses and pentimenti intact, as it would appear when laid out in space. And Mallarmé, with an angelic smile, asking : « Do you not think it an act of utter madness ? »
And then, he describes one starlit July night, returning from Mallarmé’s riverside home at Valvins, « two shadowy smokers » at the station, below the great constellations… and on the train Valéry had a kind of revelation concerning the Poem – that if the heavens had put Kant in mind of the Moral Law, they put Mallarmé » in mind of a poetics, an Imperative, and his ambition had been to « raise a page to the power of the starry sky ».
Doctor Henri Mondor, Mallarmé’s most ardent annotator, speaks of the poet’s « exquisite abandons », for example his curious treatise Les Mots anglais, written as a pot-boiler, would be one such – in which the poet descends from his rarified climate to « show us his toolbox ».
But perhaps the good doctor overlooked one essential part of Mallarmé : the Hoaxer. This is the Mallarmé that Ivan Juritz has recognized.
Wittily and delightfully, Juritz has a « Mallarmé scholar » discover among the poet’s papers « a primer for the English language (‘English in a Couple of Days’) that contains the whole of Coup de dés », and this valuable addition to Mallarmé’s Marginalia joins the Arctic Poet and the Lycée Drudge eternally together.
The interleaving of the lines of the poem with the English primer leads to what might be termed sublime moments of bathos. Juritz has unearthed such gems as :
Any speaker, native or otherwise, would feel thrown by the
tourbillon d’hilarité et d’horreur
eruption of hilarity or horror on the part of one’s interlocutor. If you feel you are
autour du gouffre
sans le joncher
edging toward the unknown, you need neither flee nor feel distraught. One may
et en berce le vierge indice
always ask for a clear and simple indication about tone during a lull in the conversation.
Mallarmé once said that there may be an Orphic Solution to the Universe in the words of a newspaper article ; simply, the words are in the Wrong Order.
Similarly, of the great mass of notes and accumulated pages left of the grande Œuvre that the poet was supposedly toiling over for so many years, but which never appeared, he wrote this message to his wife and daughter, when in his last illness : « Burn it, dear ones, burn it all, alas, there is nothing there. »
I like Ivan Juritz’s conflation of Mallarmé’s two languages, « ici brut, là essentiel » in « Un coup de dés/English in a Couple of Days » because in its mischievous way it comes to resemble something like Mallarmé’s ideal linguistic field, a vast autonomous network of inference and pun, and indeed it prepares the groundwork for a post-modernism that is centred upon the poet’s linguistic turn.
Stephen Romer, 24 June 2014
PhD Thesis: Pound and Man’s Soul: Pound, Cavalcanti and the Science of the Soul.
Supervised by Jacqueline Rose and Mark Currie.
Queen Mary University of London.
List of publications
(translation – contributor) The Penguin Anthology of Russian Émigré Short Stories (forthcoming autumn 2017).
Rev. of Seductions and Enigmas: Laplanche, Theory, Culture, by Nicholas Ray et al. Textual Practice (forthcoming 2015).
Rev. of Mayakovsky: A Biography, by Bengt Jangfeldt. The Nation (forthcoming).
“A Whirling Tissue of Light.” Make It New 1.4 (February 2015): 63-67. Web.
“English in a Couple of Days. A Textual Source for Mallarmé’s ‘Un Coup de Dés’.” Textual Practice 29.1 (January 2015): 11-35. Print. (Prize winning piece).
Rev. of Personae, by Sergio de la Pava. The Literary Review October 2013.
Rev. of Five Debut Novels. The Literary Review. September 2013.
Rev. of A French Novel , by Frédéric Beigbeder. The Independent 17th August 2013.
Rev. of The Spectre of Alexander Wolf , by Gaito Gazdanov. The Independent 23rd June 2013.
Rev. of Letters from the Palazzo Barbaro , by Henry James. The Observer 9th June 2013.
Rev. of The Gardener of Ochakov, by Andrey Kurkov. TLS 9th August 2013.
Rev. of The Garden of Evening Mists , by Tan Twang Eng. The Literary Review September 2012.
Rev. of Samuel Beckett’s German Diaries, ed. Mark Nixon. TLS 1st June 2012.
Rev. of Somewhere Else, Or Even Here, by A. J. Ashworth. TLS 30th March 2012.
Rev. of The Outlaw Album, by Daniel Woodrell. TLS 18th November 2011.
Rev. of The Storm at the Door, by Stefan Merrill Block. TLS 4th November 2011.
Rev. of The Accident, by Mihail Sebastian, trans. Stephen Henighan. TLS 9th September 2011.