Respice Futurum: Reading Plans for 2020

It’s time for my annual Respice Futurum post about possible books and reading projects I am interested in for the new year.  I’ve explained in previous years that the institution where I have had the privilege of teaching Latin and Classics for many years now is one of the oldest secondary schools in the United States and has this simple yet profound Latin motto which reflects and respects this tradition: Respice Futurum–-translated literally as “Look back at your future.” This is a fitting way for me to think about and discuss my reading plans for the new year since my previous literary patterns help to shape what I will read moving forward.

There are authors this year whose work I’ve just started to explore and am very eager to continue reading.  These include Camus, Gabriel Josipovici, Fanny Howe, Jorge Luis Borges, Peter Handke and Milan Kundera.  I’m also thrilled to read Boris Dralyuk’s new translations of Tolstoy’s short stories out now from Pushkin Press. I never got around to reading Michael Hamburger’s The Truth of Poetry which I really want to read this year.

I also continue to be heavily influenced by the wonderful readers I’ve met on literary Twitter and in the blogging community.  Some of the recommendations from these friends include Sandor Marai, Hélène Cixous, E. Arnot Robertson and Thomas Mann. I’ve also been inspired to tackle some challenging books such as  Broch’s Death of Virgil, Joyce’s Ulysses, Pound’s Cantos, and to reread Milton’s Paradise Lost.  Thanks to my literary friends, you know who you are!

I usually like to have a least one long-term reading project every year.  While I was reading Proust over the summer I decided it would be interesting to read a series of books on music.  So far I have Adorno’s Essays on Music, Gide’s Notes on Chopin, Quignards The Hatred of Music and Ian Penman’s It Gets Me Home.  There is a thread on Twitter with a wonderful list of additional recommendations as well and I have ordered several more books for this project.

And finally, here is a list of my favorite presses who have new/forthcoming books I am very excited to purchase and read:


Fifthy Fifthy: Carcanet’s Julilee in Letters, ed by Robyn Marsack

Forgetting by Gabriel Josipovici

Prose by Yves Bonnefoy, ed. by Stephen Romer and Anthony Rudolf

The Woman Who Always Loved Picasso by Julia Blackburn and with illustrations by Jeff Fisher

Contra Mundum:

Microliths by Paul Celan, tr. Pierre Joris

Chapter on Love by Miklós Szentkuthy

Seagull Books:

The Red Scarf by Yves Bonnefoy, tr. Steven Romer

Invitation to the Voyage: Selected Poems and Prose by Charles Baudelaire, tr. Beverley Bie Brahic

Mysterious Solidarities by Pascal Quignard, tr. Chris Turner

There is also a new Jean-Luc Nancy forthcoming from Seagull translated by Charlotte Mandell

New York Review of Books:

Abigail by Magda Szabo, tr. Len Rix

The Criminal Child: Selected Essays by Jean Genet, tr. Charlotte Mandell and Jeffrey Zuckerman

Margery Kempe by Robert Glück

The Magnetic Fields by by André Breton and Philippe Soupault, tr. Charlotte Mandell

The End of Me by Alfred Hayes

Pushkin Press:

The Marquise of O by Henrich Von Kleist, tr. Nicholas Jacobs

And the Earth Will Sit on the Moon: Selected Stories by Nikolai Gogol, tr. Oliver Ready

I will also keep my subscriptions to A Public Space, Poetry, and maybe Ugly Duckling Presse for poetry books and chapbooks.

Of course, all of this reading is subject to mood, the weather, the alignment of the stars, etc.  I never really know where my reading adventures will take me.  At least this gives me a few ideas…

Happy New Year!



Filed under British Literature, Cahier Series, Classics, French Literature, German Literature, New York Review of Books, Nonfiction, Poetry, Pushkin Press, Russian Literature, Seagull Books, Short Stories, Tolstoi, Vergil

15 responses to “Respice Futurum: Reading Plans for 2020

  1. alilauren1970

    I just hopped onto the computer and saw this post so I wanted to comment. What great reading plans! You’re in for a treat with Portraits of a Marriage (I loved it), as well as Mann (I loved Buddenbrooks and enjoyed Magic Mountain). Additionally, Handke is an author I’ve just begun to explore and I just finished Repetition. It is a great novel, and it has made an impression on me. I definitely want to check out Across next. Milan Kundera has a book of essays the name of which is escaping me now (it includes his essay on his love of Broch’s fiction) that I own, which I really like. And I love Josipovici (especially his nonfiction). Be sure to check out After & Making Mistakes–those are my favorites of his fiction.

    This is the year I am finally going to tackle Paradise Lost. I have dipped my toes in the water but not gotten very far. But I want to get through it. I actually purchased four different annotated copies of the poem and have decided to use the one in the book of his complete works edited by Kerrigan, et. al. Dartmouth also has an online Milton Reading Room, which is a great resource. And my other projects are Proust, more of Henry James, and more of Conrad.

    I look forward to reading your posts in the coming year. Happy New Year.


    • I’ve been looking for more of Josipovici’s fiction so Thanks for the recommendation. So glad to hear that you like Mann and Kundera.

      I hope you love Proust! I tried one James novel and it didn’t suit me. I hope you have better luck with him.


      • alilauren1970

        Thanks, Melissa. (It’s so interesting how a people’s taste can be similar with certain authors and diverge with others; I recall your reading Portrait of a Lady–I think–and not being bowled over by it. And that is a desert island book for me!) Also I came back to say that I’m glad you posted about the new releases you are going to read. Bonney is a new name to me. I went and ordered several of his upcoming works, as well as a used copy of one of his poetry collections. And the Josipovic, too, was another buy!


  2. Some amazing books there, Melissa! Like you, I am feeling very drawn to Camus and French authors in general at the moment. The Ian Penman book is excellent so I hope you enjoy it!


  3. Some great reading plans as always. I’m also intending to read more Handke – I read A Sorrow Beyond Dreams before Christmas and it was very powerful.


  4. I will follow your reading adventures with interest, as usual.

    No wishes for the New Year from me yet, as in France, it’s customary not to say it in advance.
    (Like not buying presents for a baby who isn’t born yet. This baby shower thing baffles me)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I wish you joy with Ulysses, which is more than worth the effort; I keep getting nudges that it’s time to re-read it. You may find The Bloomsday Book, by Harry Blamires, a useful companion as you read (if you want one).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Vishy

    Beautiful reading plans! I was so happy to see Andre Breton there! I once did a French Literature year and at that time I read Breton’s Nadja. It was a slim novella and it was less than a hundred pages, but at that point it was one of the most challenging books I had read. It is also nice to see Heinrich Von Kleist’s The Marquise of O in your list. That story has a sensational start and we can’t wait to turn the page to find out what happens next. Many of Kleist’s stories are like that. Happy reading!


  7. Such a rich list, thank you. Re music, the best music book of the past year was, for me, Paul Kildea’s ‘Chopin’s Piano’. Kildea takes a quirky (and creaky) piano, used by Chopin to compose a few of his utterly gorgeous preludes. By tracing its history, Kildea takes the reader on an excursion through a slice of European history and music of the past 150 years.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I like the idea of a year long reading project that follows a particular theme. I’ve done multi year projects but I find I get tired of them before they are finished – a year long project is more manageable.

    I havent followed the Twitter thread but if you want another music related book you could look at English Music by Peter Ackroyd

    Liked by 1 person

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