California Literary Review

Profile of Jascha Kessler


Jascha Kessler is a Professor of English and Modern Literature at UCLA. He has published seven books of his poetry and fiction as well as six volumes of translations of poetry and fiction from Hungarian, Persian, Serbian and Bulgarian.

Email Address:

jkessler (AT) ucla (DOT) edu

Web Site:

Articles written for the California Literary Review:

  • Centuria: 100 Ouroboric Novels by Giorgio Manganelli
    Posted on 10 Apr 2007 in Fiction Reviews, Short Stories

    Americans in this therapy-mad epoch tend to take, rather mistake, an “experience” for that fateful “event.” Perusing Centuria, we may come to understand that the myriad catastrophes blazoned in newspapers and splashed over our screens — love, celebrity, athletic prowess, failure or fame, marriage, illness, crisis, smashup — do not concern the soul; nor can they illuminate whatever meaning life might propose.

  • Between Alpha and Omega: Some Observations on Poetry and Poetry’s Task in our Time
    Posted on 26 Mar 2007 in Literary Themes, Non-Fiction Reviews, Poetry

    We lived heretofore in the multitude of villages scattered world-wide amongst the ruins of the Tower of Babel. Civilization’s tapestry, its complicated patterns interwoven from multitudes of poets and poetries, once covered their walls and held our attention. Will there come to be in the global village but one faceless, boring bard who speaks with the reduced, infinitely reductive voice the simplified and platitudinous messages of the Media?

  • Archival Culture(s)
    Posted on 26 Mar 2007 in Anthropology, Education, Literary Themes, Non-Fiction Reviews, Sociology

    It is scarcely news that in a vast, pluralistic country like the United States, minorities should feel themselves threatened with absorption into the larger society, and that they should cling to some form of cultural identity. It begins poignantly when school children pledge allegiance to “ … one nation, indivisible, with freedom and justice for […]

  • Dianetics: A Dialogue
    Posted on 26 Mar 2007 in Biography, Non-Fiction Reviews, Religion

    “You clear me? I clear you? It’s not hypnotism, if that’s what scares you. You’re fully conscious. You merely learn how to scan your tapes. Then you’ll be getting full recalls in real time. Visio, sonic, tactilic, and olofactoric. Kinesthetic — which is weight and motion. Somatic — that’s pain. Thermic and organic — your insides. In Dianetics, organic is also emotive. The fact is, you don’t cry because you’re sad. You’re sad because you’re crying. Emotion is physical, not mental like that spooky Freudian stuff.”

  • A Long Day’s Day with James Dickey
    Posted on 26 Mar 2007 in Biography, Non-Fiction Reviews, Writers

    “Ah yes,” he whispered to me, ”I spent one helluva long night wrassling all over the floor of a room there with one terrific Jew gal. You know Susan Sontag?” “Personally, no, I never met her, though I’ve read her.” “Well, that novel,” he chortled, “that opening … in the abandoned railway tunnel? That was me! That shadow man; that spook; that brute. None other than Jim Dickey! One helluva a long night that was, boy, lemmee tell you!”

  • Frau Braun and The Tiger of Auschwitz
    Posted on 26 Mar 2007 in Biography, Germany, History, Israel, Non-Fiction Reviews

    The principal accused was an Auschwitz commandant, one Wilhelm Boger, whose sobriquet was “The Tiger of Auschwitz.” He was a man who had been arrested after a successful post-war career, having become a rich businessman who’d never been questioned before. At that time he was in his late 60s. Of the many witnesses for the prosecution there was a woman called Frau Braun.

  • No Heroes Need Apply
    Posted on 26 Mar 2007 in Literary Themes, Mythology, Non-Fiction Reviews

    By the time we come to T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway in the 1920’s, we find a hero characteristic of the period of entre les deux guerres: he is either passive and/or maimed in his masculinity; that is, fatally in his (phallic) heroism.

  • Stemming from … Nowhere?
    Posted on 26 Mar 2007 in Literary Themes, Non-Fiction Reviews, Philosophy, Religion, Writers

    To sum up in a phrase the true and deepest character of Lawrence’s genius, it was given by his close friend Aldous Huxley in an introduction to the first collected letters shortly after his death: he was a mystical materialist. And thereon hangs the tale I shall unfold.

  • Lola! Lola! Lola!
    Posted on 26 Mar 2007 in Literary Themes, Non-Fiction Reviews, Writers

    The notion of Art’s secular epiphany takes us to Vladimir Nabokov, a reader of Joyce. As I recall, it was about 1956 or so that an excerpt of his then unpublishable LOLITA appeared in an early number of Anchor Review.

  • Nick Bottom’s Blessing
    Posted on 26 Mar 2007 in Literary Themes, Non-Fiction Reviews, Sociology

    The relativism that relishes diversity for diversity’s sake is one that eschews æsthetic judgment or choice. Both however are necessary.

  • Roses & Bulbul Birds
    Posted on 25 Mar 2007 in History, Iran, Non-Fiction Reviews, Politics, Sociology

    What’s intriguing about the dreadful psychology of Muslim, particularly Shiite [read Hizbollah] fundamentalism, is that aspect of terrible fixity, that manifests itself as a kind of violent sleepwalking in its adherents.

  • Watchman, What of the Night?
    Posted on 16 Mar 2007 in Literary Themes, Non-Fiction Reviews

    The novel as a perpetually-remade form of high style and sophistication is, in our commerce, scarcely recognized, let alone understood.

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