The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi (NYRB Poets) (Paperback)

By Eugene Ostashevsky

NYRB Poets, 9781681370903, 144pp.

Publication Date: March 14, 2017

List Price: 14.00*
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An original collection from one of the most active poets in contemporary literature.

The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi
is a poem-novel about the relationship between a pirate and a parrot who, after capturing a certain quantity of prizes, are shipwrecked on a deserted island, where they proceed to discuss whether they would have been able to communicate with people indigenous to the island, had there been any. Characterized by multilingual punning, humor puerile and set-theoretical, philosophical irony and narrative handicaps, Eugene Ostashevsky’s new large-scale project draws on sources as various as early modern texts about pirates and animal intelligence, old-school hip-hop, and game theory to pursue the themes of emigration, incomprehension, untranslatability, and the otherness of others.

About the Author

Eugene Ostashevsky was born in Leningrad in 1968 and immigrated with his family to New York in 1979. He is the author of the poetry collections Iterature and The Life and Opinions of DJ Spinoza, both of which are published by Ugly Duckling Presse, and a scholar and translator of Russian avant-garde and contemporary poetry, especially by the 1930s underground writers Alexander Vvedensky and Daniil Kharms. He currently lives in Berlin and New York and teaches literature in the Liberal Studies program at New York University. His contributions to New York Review Books include translating Vvedensky’s An Invitation for Me to Think (winner of the 2014 National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association) and The Fire Horse: Children’s Poems by Mayakovsky, Mandelstam, and Kharms.

Praise For The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi (NYRB Poets)

“This isn’t just a book: It is a multi-vocal orchestra. It performs some of the most playful, surprising, and innovative musical effects of our day. Yet at the center of all this play there is the large emptiness of loss. Loss, the mother of metaphysics.”
–Ilya Kaminsky

"In this collection language is examined and experienced as a source of bafflement, tragedy, and pleasure. The poems are deftly woven from a variety of languages, traditions, and texts. Ostashevsky, whose first language is Russian, spins his song from the displacements and discoveries of his own voyages for our reading pleasure...Despite being buffeted by storm and shipwreck and existential questions, our pirate and parrot never lose their balance. Neither does Ostashevsky in this hilarious, deeply serious, collection." —Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr., Hyperallergic

"Like Wallace Stevens, mutatis mutandis, Ostashevsky inspires us to find pleasure, if not a firm foothold, in the shifting sands of mere being." —Boris Dralyuk, Los Angeles Review of Books Blog

"Language of every kind is at the heart of Ostashevsky’s little book of prose-poetry...This poetry captures emotional realities with moments of fleeting lyricism.... The ridiculous jokes and whimsical soundscapes are all part of the poet’s exploration of unfathomable, tragicomic human experience." —Phoebe Taplin, Russia Beyond the Headlines

“The Russian-American author of this deliciously sardonic parable of the non sequitur can find no assurance that things in this world happen for a reason. On the contrary, his is a poetic universe where, to cite Wittgenstein, ‘everything we see could always be otherwise.’”
– Marjorie Perloff on The Life and Opinions of DJ Spinoza

"The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi
deals with the fundamental inability of language as means of expression, utilising a lively and irreverent sense of humour in making the most complex of subjects accessible and familiar with a clarity and irony which warms and disconcerts simultaneously. There is a lyric and musical quality to his poetry informed by the traditions of jazz, early New York Music Hall comedy and the pirating life." —Eve Richens, The Quietus