Jascha Kessler


Epitaph for the Twentieth Century

It was an endless parade,
and they jammed Sixth Avenue:
Armies, Navies, and Airplanes,
Clerks, Workers and Bosses,
Actors, Dancers, Deep Thinkers...
I knew you waited for me,
but I couldn't cross the street.
Born in New York City, Jascha Kessler (Ph.D., Litt.D.) has received varied research grants, prizes, and writing fellowships since 1952 when he won a Major Hopwood Award for Poetry (University of Michigan). They include the NEA Fellowship in Writing, two Senior Fulbright Awards to Italy and one to Czechoslovakia. Since 1961, he has been a Professor of English & Modern Literature at UCLA, also teaching poetry, fiction, and playwrighting. In 1979, Mr. Kessler was a Rockefeller Fellow and worked at the Bellagio Study Center, completing his translation (with Amin Banani) of the Persian poet Forugh Farrokhzad: BRIDE OF ACACIAS: THE POETRY OF FORUGH FARROKHZAD (Caravan Books, Delmar, NY: 1983). He won a California Arts Council Fellowship in Fiction Writing for 1993-1994. He reviewed fiction and poetry weekly, theater and events on the air for KUSC-FM (Los Angeles) for 5 years in the 1980s; several dozen of his reviews, both broadcast and published in magazines and papers since the 1960s, have been anthologized in CONTEMPORARY LITERARY CRITICISM (Gale Research) over the decades. His literary essays have appeared widely. He also served as Arts Commissioner for the City of Santa Monica, California, from 1990-1996.

In 2001, his translation of TRAVELING LIGHT from the Finnish won the Finnish Literary Translation Centre Award.

Kessler has published several collections of fiction. AN EGYPTIAN BONDAGE, & Other Stories (Harper & Row, NY: 1967); DEATH COMES FOR THE BEHAVIORIST: 4 Long Stories (Lexis Press, San Francisco, CA: 1983); CLASSICAL ILLUSIONS: 28 Stories (McPherson & Co.: Kingston, NY, 1985); and TRANSMIGRATIONS: 18 Mythologems (Jazz Press: Capitola, CA: 1985).
Of this first collection of short stories, George P. Elliot wrote: At his best Kessler is one of the best. The title story is a masterpiece. His method is that of a symbolically heightened, witty naturalism. He is that rare sort of writer who is capable of both telling a story and creating an artistic effect.

His latest work, KING SOLOMON'S SEAL: 75 and More Legendary Confabulations was published by Xlibris.com in 2013. Hardback/Paperback/Kindle available from xlibris.com and Amazon.com.


His collection SIREN SONGS & CLASSICAL ILLUSIONS: 50 Stories" was published by McPherson & Co.(1992). As of 2013, this work was published as a Kindle book, with 13 new stories and a Preface added. [Available at Amazon.com]


RAPID TRANSIT 1948: An Unsentimental Education, a novel (2000): is available at Xlibris and Amazon.com.


An Egyptian Bondage and Other Stories (1999): is available at Xlibris and Amazon.com.


He has also published three volumes of poetry: WHATEVER LOVE DECLARES (The Plantin Press: Los Angeles, CA, 1969); AFTER THE ARMIES HAVE PASSED (NYU Press: NY: 1970); and IN MEMORY OF THE FUTURE (Kayak Press, Santa Cruz, CA: 1976). Revised as COLLECTED POEMS, with drawings by William Brice (2000), is available at Xlibris and Amazon.com.


Other works include... Our Bearings at Sea: A Novel In Poems. by Otto Orban, translated from Hungarian (Xlibris, 2001).


Tataga's Children, 23 Fairy Tales. By Grozdana Olujic, Translated from the Serbian (Xlibris, 2000).


TRAVELING LIGHT: SELECTED POEMS OF KIRSTI SIMONSUURI, translated from the Finnish (Xlibris, 2001). Finnish Translation Centre Translation Prize Winner, 2001.


Kessler has written several plays (produced in New York and Los Angeles) and THE ANNIVERSARY, a libretto for a full-length opera with a score by Ned Rorem. See Christmas Carols & Other Plays (Xlibris, 2000).


In 1979, he became the first American writer to be honored with the Hungarian PEN Club's Memorial Medal for his various collaborative translation projects in fiction and verse: THE MAGICIAN'S GARDEN: 24 Stories by Geza Csáth (Columbia University Press, NY: 1980), which won the Translation Prize from the Translation Center at Columbia University, and was republished in the Writers From the Other Europe Series, edited by Philip Roth, as OPIUM (Penguin Books: NY, 1983). In 1983, ROSE OF MOTHER-OF-PEARL appeared, as a fairy tale translated from the Serbian with the author, Grozdana Olujic, Illustrated by Kathy Jacobi (Hot Chocolate Books, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, MN). UNDER GEMINI: THE SELECTED POETRY OF Miklós Radnóti (Ohio University Press: Athens, OH) appeared in 1985. Further, he published a large translation project: THE FACE OF CREATION: 23 Contemporary Hungarian Poets (Coffee House Press, 1988, Minneapolis, MN), He has published a volume of poetry, MEDUSA: The Selected Poetry of Nicolai Kantchev, translated from the Bulgarian with Alexander Shurbanov (Quarterly Review of Literature Press, 1986, Princeton, NJ ).

In 1989, he won the Translation Center's George Soros Foundation Prize for a volume of poems from the Hungarian of Sándor Rákos, CATULLAN GAMES, Introduction by the Translator, Illustration by Richard Diebenkorn (The Marlboro Press, December 1989, Marlboro, VT). His translation of Sophocles' KING OEDIPUS, with an extensive essay as Translator's Preface, was commissioned by The University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia. December, 1999.)


His essays and reviews since 1980 are archived at Calitreview, Eclectica.org, Fogged Clarity, and other journals online.

Recently published: TAHIRIH: A PORTRAIT IN POETRY, Selected Poems of Quarratu'l-Ayn. Edited and translated by Amin Banani. Commentary on the life and work by Amin Banani. English Poems by Jascha Kessler [with additional by Anthony E. Lee]. Introductory essay by Jascha Kessler: On Translating a Persian Mystical Poet. Kalimat Press. Los Angeles. 2004.

You can also view a list of all Kessler's works for sale at  Xlibris.com.

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