Authors Rosalind Palermo Stevenson and Stephanie Dickinson converse about writing through the personas of Franz Kafka and Jean Seberg in their books Kafka At Rudolf Steiner’s and Heat: An Interview with Jean Seberg
By Amy Geduldig
To engage in conversation and explore some aspect of the vast world of literature brings readers together in the spirit of community, and transforms what is generally the private experience of reading into one that is shared. It is in this spirit, and with audience participation in the form of questions and answers, that we will converse about those two cultural giants, Franz Kafka and Jean Seberg, and discuss what it was like to write through their voices and personas.
Kafka At Rudolf Steiner’s imagines Kafka’s 1911 visit to the spiritual scientist Rudolf Steiner and juxtaposes it with his idealized ten-day love affair with a young girl while at a sanatorium in Riva in 1913. Heat: An Interview with Jean Seberg, is an intimate and revealing rendering of the legendary actress written in the form of a fictional interview. In both these books we have written people who are real but at the same time fictitious by combining what is known with an imagined unknown.With the historic and beautiful Jefferson Market branch of the New York Public Library as our setting, we will talk about what drew us to these two iconic figures and what it was like to write in a kind of embodiment of their personas. Subjects we will delve into are: the challenge of stepping outside the known into the unknown in recasting the real into fiction; ways in which each of these icons were victims of the life they were given to live; Kafka’s bleakly self-reflective vision of his life and the foreshadowing in his work of the coming evil that could not be held back; Jean Seberg’s life lived as a woman ahead of her time and being censured for acts that would in the next generation be commonplace—her life being a bridge between then and now; the particular challenges we had as writers in bringing the sensibility of these individuals into a fictional landscape; and the endurance of these two icons in time and the way they continue to speak to the 21st century. We will invite you, the audience to join in this conversation by asking questions and sharing your thoughts and impressions.
We love this quote by Sara Holdren, which we find resonant with our intention for our conversation to be a tribute to Kafka and Seberg. “There’s a word in Russian: obraz. Translated simply it means image, but more accurately it refers to an icon… More than a symbol, an obraz is an instant that contains an entire cosmos.” We believe that with Franz Kafka and Jean Seberg there is inherent in them the idea that their lives were an instant that contained an entire cosmos.
Please come join us in the welcoming atmosphere of the Jefferson Market Library on February 29th on a winter afternoon at 3 p.m. and explore these subjects with us.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Rosalind Palermo Stevenson is the author of the novel The Absent, the novella Insect Dreams, and the chapbook Kafka At Rudolf Steiner’s. Insect Dreams has also been published in the anthologies Poe’s Children (Peter Straub, ed.) and Trampoline (Kelly Link, ed.). Her work appears in numerous literary journals. She is currently working on a book of lyric prose exploring speculative autobiography and the female Adam.
Stephanie Dickinson is the author of the novels Half Girl and Love Highway. Some of her other books include Heat: An Interview with Jean Seberg, The Emily Fables, and Girl Behind the Door. Her work appears in numerous literary journals and anthologies and has been reprinted in Best American Nonrequired Reading, New Stories from the South, and New Stories from the Midwest. She is the publisher of Rain Mountain Press.