In the winter of 2015, Ben Lerner wrote a short story, The Polish Rider, incorporating fictionalized elements of the life and work of the artist, Anna Ostoya, who had recently lost two of her canvases in the back of an Uber. As the narrator of the story helps the artist search for the missing canvases, he fantasizes about “recuperating the lost paintings through prose,” about how the verbal might take the place of the visual. After the story was published in The New Yorker, Ostoya painted the painting Lerner had invented based on her earlier work, transforming the fiction without changing any of the words. Ostoya went on to produce a series of compositions that respond to the story she’d helped inspire.
The Polish Rider is the result of this ongoing conversation across media and genres. In addition to the story, this volume includes an essay by Lerner that describes how Ostoya’s actual body of work catalyzed the fiction, as well as the contingencies and uncanny correspondences that have shaped their exchange. Ostoya’s compositions — both those that prompted Lerner’s writing and those that take it up — are never merely illustrative. Instead, they keep literature from having the last word. In this unclassifiable volume, the boundaries between fact and fiction, original and reproduction, text and image, flicker as you read and look.