By Damion Searls
Publication Date: 04/21/2009
In his debut collection, Damion Searls gives us five extraordinary tales of the life of the mind in America today. “56 Water Street” and “Goldenchain” follow writers whose projects only lead them deeper into the labyrinth of modern relationships and friendships. The nasty office satire “The Cubicles” and the atmospheric “A Guide to San Francisco” take place in the sun and fog of West Coast dreams. In the final story, “Dialogue Between the Two Chief World Systems,” a Hungarian beauty creates a scholarly conundrum with surprising parallels to the book as a whole. Set amidst Ethiopian healing scrolls and sponges of the Adriatic and the guy who invented flashing the temperature on bank clocks, What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going plays in the intersection of knowledge and life in contemporary America. Searls’s flights of fancy and painterly eye for detail introduce a range of intelligent characters feeling their way toward complex moral and personal truths.
Damion Searls is a translator from German, Norwegian, French, and Dutch and a writer in English. He has translated many classic modern writers, including Proust, Rilke, Nietzsche, Walser, Ingeborg Bachmann, Alfred Döblin, Jon Fosse, Elfriede Jelinek, Gide, Christa Wolf, Patrick Modiano, and Nescio, as well as writing criticism and poetry, editing a one-volume abridgment of Henry David Thoreau's Journal, and producing a lost work of Hermann Melville's. His own books include What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going (stories), The Inkblots (a history of the Rorschach Test and biography of its creator, Hermann Rorschach, which has been translated into ten languages), and The Philosophy of Translation.