Music & Literature is one of the finest and truly rarefied journals in circulation. The care and thoughtfulness that goes into each issue is a blessing to those who want a deeper connection with an artist’s work.”

— Peter Maravelis, City Lights Booksellers & Publishers


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Music & Literature’s most ambitious and daring volume yet sheds light on the exquisite interiorities of three artists whose catalogs are too often defined by single works or perceptions. Headlining the issue is Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, whose 140-page section collects, for the first time in English, an expansive portfolio of her writings on music and convenes the maestro’s closest collaborators, including internationally renowned writers, conductors, stage directors, musicians, and other artists, for a celebratory retrospective on her thirty-five years of music making. Meanwhile, Stig Sæterbakken’s highly provocative career—both on and off the page—incited outrage and earned him a fervent readership across Scandinavia prior to his suicide in 2012. The Norwegian’s relentless and public exploration of his deepest anxieties posed unanswerable questions and brought into stark relief paradoxes of existence. Presented here are three of the last essays Sæterbakken wrote, ever searching and ever fearless, while his longtime publishers, editors, and colleagues turn their own eyes inward to reveal the value of this consummate artist whose works demand attention. Finally, Can Xue has been called China’s answer to Kafka, a claim that is refuted in this portfolio; rather, through two newly translated short stories—one of which is narrated by a speck of dust!—and a series of tributes, her writings are regaled for their raw and sensual qualities, and the artist is revealed as an intense original, deserving of her own status, her own name, and worthy of acclaim today and for many years to come.



I. Kaija Saariaho

Scream If You Wish, But Fly! / Kaija Saariaho, trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman

Credo / Kaija Saariaho, trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman

My Library, from Words to Music / Kaija Saariaho, trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman

An Excerpt from Birds / Saint-John Perse, trans. Derek Mahon

The Four Poems of Bruden / Edith Södergran, trans. Stina Katchadourian

Earth and Air / Kaija Saariaho, trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman

In Music, of Music, toward Music / Kaija Saariaho, trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman

Five Acts in the Life of an Opera Composer / Kaija Saariaho, trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman

A Conversation with Kaija Saariaho / Clément Mao-Takacs, trans. Sophie Weiner

Conversations with Three Conductors / Clément Mao-Takacs, with Esa-Pekka Salonen, Ernest Martinez-Izquierdo, and Susanna Mälkki, trans. Sophie Weiner

A Conversation with Anssi Karttunen / Clément Mao-Takacs, trans. Sophie Weiner

A Discussion and a Monologue / Esa-Pekka Salonen and Peter Sellars

The Flute Music of Kaija Saariaho / Camilla Hoitenga

Kaija Saariaho and Musical Research at IRCAM / Jean-Baptiste Barrière

The Blossom from the Darkness: Reflections on Kaija Saariaho’s Nymphéa / David Harrington

Graal théâtres / Paul Griffiths

An Excerpt from Graal théâtre / Jacques Roubaud and Florence Delay, trans. Jan Steyn

The Making of Adriana Mater / Kaija Saariaho & Amin Maalouf, trans. Daniel Levin Becker

A Conversation with Aleksi Barrière / Daniel Medin

Tsunemasa / Paul Griffiths

II. Stig Sæterbakken

A Tribute to Stig Sæterbakken / Karl Ove Knausgaard, trans. Benjamin Mier-Cruz

Sacred Tears / Stig Sæterbakken

The Terrifying / Stig Sæterbakken, trans. Gry Bakken, drawings by Sverre Malling

The Impossibility of Living / Stig Sæterbakken, trans. Stokes Schwartz

Some Autobiographical Notes / Stig Sæterbakken, trans. Stokes Schwartz

Ineluctable Catharsis / VeronicaScott Esposito

The Wind from Outside / Audun Lindholm, trans. Benjamin Mier-Cruz

Enthusiastic and Merciless / Henning Hagerup, trans. Benjamin Mier-Cruz

Holding Him by the Scruff of His Neck / Herdis Eggen, trans. Benjamin Mier-Cruz

Twenty-Five Years of Tenderness / Carl-Michael Edenborg, trans. Benjamin Mier-Cruz


III. Can Xue

acta poetica / Sjón

Dust / Can Xue, trans. Annelise Finegan Wasmoen

The Tenant of Room 801 / Can Xue, trans. Annelise Finegan Wasmoen

An Excerpt from The Last Lover / Can Xue, trans. Annelise Finegan Wasmoen

An Interview with Can Xue / Annelise Finegan Wasmoen

The Shining World of Can Xue / Jonathan Brent

Sour, Salty, Bitter, Spicy, Sweet: On Five Spice Street / Paul Kerschen

Editing Blue Light in the Sky / Declan Spring

Publishing The Last Lover / John Donatich

The Tenant of the Soul: Commentary on “The Tenant of Room 801” / Deng Xiaomang, trans. Annelise Finegan Wasmoen

hark: à Kaija Saariaho / Paul Griffiths