Both a little magazine and a small, independent publishing house, Living Hand, which took its name from Keats (“This living hand, now warm and capable”), was started in Paris by Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy, The Music of Chance, The Art of Hunger, The Invention of Solitude), who was then working as a telephone operator for the Paris Bureau of the New York Times and translating French poetry. Living Hand, which included a great number of Auster’s translations, numbered eight issues, with numbers 1 and 4 being the most conventionally magazine-like; the other numbers were monographs. They included translations of Paul Celan, Georges Bataille, Edmond Jabès, Maurice Blanchot, and other modern European writers, alongside original work in English by editors Auster and Davis (who were then married), Allen Mandelbaum, Sarah Plimpton, Russell Edson, and Rosmarie Waldrop, among others.
Living Hand published two volumes of translations by Auster, Jacques Dupin’s Fits and Starts: Selected Poems (issue 2) and The Uninhabited: Selected Poems of André du Bouchet (issue 7), as well as Auster’s own first collection of poetry, Unearth (issue 4). Living Hand 3 was The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories, a sparkling collection of short works by Lydia Davis. Leaves of Absence, a collection of poems by Allen Mandelbaum, an award-winning translator (of Ungaretti and the Aeneid, for instance), was Living Hand 6, and a collection of work by Sarah Plimpton was Living Hand 8. Living Hand did not accept unsolicited submissions and was, in the most positive way, the product of an intellectual community intensely dedicated to avant-garde (in the sense of on the edge, ahead of its time) writing. In this, and in its concern for the friendship of French and American letters, Living Hand is also, and paradoxically, part of a century-long tradition of ultramodernism.
The six Living Hand monograph issues are
Auster, Paul. Unearth. 1974. Living Hand 4.
Davis, Lydia. The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories. 1976. Living Hand 3.
Du Bouchet, André. The Uninhabited: Selected Poems of André du Bouchet. 1976. Living Hand 7. Translated and with an introduction by Paul Auster.
Dupin, Jacques. Fits and Starts: Selected Poems of Jacques Dupin. 1974. Living Hand 2. Translated by Paul Auster.
Mandelbaum, Allen. Leaves of Absence. 1976. Living Hand 6.
Plimpton, Sarah. Single Skies. 1976. Living Hand 8.
Living Hand 2 (1974), Fits and Starts: Selected Poems of Jacques Dupin, translated by Paul Auster.