Eurozine's new series of essays aims to provide an overview of different and diverse literary landscapes, describing the current literary climate in specific European countries, regions, or languages.
The articles in this series are published bi-monthly.
Taking the chess automaton as its point of departure, the joint exhibition by Budapest’s C³ foundation and ZKM | Karlsruhe, expands the image of Kempelen, the scientist, engineer, artist, actor, state official, and private person, by exploring the mechanical inventions of his epoch.
Kempelen's 'machine' is the subject of a recent book by Tom Standage, as well as a newly translated novel by Robert Löhr, just out in the US and UK.
What we're wondering, as we think about reviewing the Löhr-novel, is what is it about the guy and the machine that led US and UK publishers to select different titles for both these books ?
Standage's book is called The Turk in the US and The Mechanical Turk in the UK, while Löhr's novel is sold as The Chess Machine in the US (see the Penguin publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com) and The Secrets of the Chess Machine in the UK (see the Penguin publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk).
The logic of this defies us ... oh, that's right, it's publishing 'professionals' who are responsible for these decisions .....
We've seen variations on the idea, but we'd love to see more: in Anders gesagt – autrement dit – in other words Peter Utz apparently looks at works by Hoffmann, Fontane, Kafka, and Musil not only in the original but specifically in their translations -- do they read differently ? do they become different works ? etc.
Roman Bucheli reviews it in the NZZ (in German); see also the Hanser publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.de.
Not much literary news these days, but the "mini-penis scandal" (as they're calling it in Germany) is good for some laughs: it seems American publisher Boyds Mills Press was so scared of offending American parents (and library watchdog groups) that they asked Susanne Berner to change some ... graphic ? scenes in a children's book of hers that had done very well in Germany and that they wanted to publish in the US -- changes that presumably included lopping off the tiny penis of the little statuette in this picture (note that the woman gazing at the statuette appears to have a nose about fifty times the size of the
organ in question).
As the dpa report, German illustrator bans US adaptation of child book, notes:
The projecting male organ is a tiny but salient squiggle in the picture: the male statue itself is only 7.5 millimetres high on the page.
(Yes, the man is only 7.5 mm -- less than a third of an inch -- in height, never mind the penis itself .....)
But as they note:
Germans, who are accustomed to nudity on advertising billboards and sex scenes in prime-time television, often voice surprise that Americans and other nationalities frown on nudity or women sun-bathing topless.
Americans living in Germany have said they find some German taboos surprising the other way round, including a reluctance to depict gunfire on TV and public revulsion towards culling wild animals.
None of that disgusting nudity for American audiences, thank you (even if it involves the cartoon (!) depiction of works of art -- i.e. second-hand drawn nudity (of the sort found in most every art museum)).
And, of course, shoot-'em-ups, why that's what impressionable young minds should be exposed to !
In The Independent Tony Paterson reports that Author's nude drawings too hot for US publisher, and that:
She said Boyds Mills Press had informed her that she could either agree to have the offending images removed or the book would be withdrawn.
"This was a joke," the author said yesterday.
"The man's penis is about half a millimetre in length and the naked woman is clearly part of a work of art and not a real person," she added.
The author said staff at Boyds Mills Press appeared to be acutely embarrassed about their objections but told her they feared being confronted by hundreds of offended parents, if they went ahead and published the book in its existing form.
The sad thing is that the BMP folk are probably right -- they'd probably face boycotts and book-burnings.
Better to be a laughing-stock abroad than lose actual business over a half-millimetre penis !
At Der Spiegel Franziska Bossy and Elke Schmitter report that US Publisher Turns away from Cartoon Nudity -- showing the entire offensive panel (breasts ! a penis ! -- of sorts), with the caption: "American children have been saved from the above illustration".
We've long and frequently complained about the fact that The Year of the Hare is the only one of the incredibly popular Finnish writer Arto Paasilinna's novels readily available in English (and have reviewed three more of his as yet unavailable titles: Hurmaava joukkoitsemurha, Maailman paras kylä, and Paratiisisaaren vangit).
So our eyes lit up when we saw that Canongate (who apparently snapped up all the other English rights to his work) are finally offering something: The Howling Miller (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk).
Except, as Maya Jaggi also notes in her review in The Guardian today, they only offer a translation of Anne Colin du Terrail's French translation of the book .....
Regular readers know how we feel about second-hand translation, and so you understand that we're too livid to properly address this, but ... COME ON !
We can sort of understand (well not really, but ...) that publishers might have a hard time finding translators from the Albanian, but aren't the Nordic countries overflowing with
Sure, it's hard to find someone who is a native English-speaker who also knows Finnish, but there really aren't enough Finns with a command of English that would make them suitable for translating something like this ?
(And, if not, what's the secret of the French and Germans and the dozens of other languages which seem to have no problem finding translators ... ?)
But we still hope to have a look at the book.
Okay, okay: it's only three versions of the Koran that have been banned, but still.
Yes, Bernama reports that the Internal Security Ministry has been at it yet again, as Ministry Bans 14 Books:
The ministry's Publication and Quranic Text Control Division secretary Che Din Yusoh said some of the books were found to contain facts that deviated from the Islamic teaching to the extent of possibly endangering the moral of readers and causing public disorder.
He said the rest were banned because they contained explicit sexual descriptions and were not suitable for public reading.
"If the publications are allowed it can give rise to confusion and anxiety among the Muslims and hence can endanger public moral and order," he said in a statement Thursday.
(Paternalistic government, ain't it great ?
There's always someone looking out for the poor citizens who might get confused and anxious otherwise !
Almost makes you wish for a Publications and Quranic Text Control Division
in every country !
We don't know how we manage without one.)
Among the fourteen books are three versions of the Koran -- most notably the Oxford University Press World Classics edition, The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- but remember not to try to smuggle it into Malaysia, where you might be subject to god knows what sort of punishment !)
No doubt, the Publications and Quranic Text Control Division know best (this is their job, after all), but it's unclear what the problem is.
If M.A.S.Abdel Haleem offered a particularly racy translation, falling foul of the "explicit sexual descriptions"-prohibition then, for example, Ziauddin Sardar didn't choose to mention it in a review in the New Statesman.
Which leaves the threat of endangering the morals of readers and causing public disorder -- but what about the translation could cause all that ?
And with the promise of such an effect, won't everybody want to rush out and get a copy to see what the fuss is about ?
For additonal information about the OUP edition, and a useful general overview, check out Khaleel Mohammed's Assessing English Translations of the Qur'an
in the Middle East Quarterly.
Rivalling the Malaysian authorities in silliness (see
previous story), 'designer' Cleto Munari has commissioned pens dedicated to five Nobel Laureates in Literature.
You can see the results and get the gist here, at Core77; but there's more information at this guy's obnoxiously-Flash!-using site as well, as well as a 48-page long pdf-broshure about his five pens for five nobel [sic].
Look for our line of paperweights dedicated to five other Nobel laureates later this year .....
Korrespondent magazine held a contest for the Best Ukrainian Book for the second year in a row.
Six winners were picked from two categories: Fiction (novels and collections of stories) and Documentary (memoirs, biographies and non-fiction).
First place in the Fiction category was taken by Tantsi v Maskah (Dances in Masks), written by Larysa Denysenko
Robert Mugabe maybe isn't the worst clown-dictator in Africa -- there are an awful lot of contenders for the title -- but without any oil wealth to bankroll his inanities the impact of his megalomaniac rule (and misguided 'economic policies') has had the most catastrophic effect.
Given all the misery he's caused, the annual Zimbabwe International Book Fair is hardly high on the list of priorities, but we were surprised to hear they're still bothering to try to pull it off.
It was once a showcase event, the top book fair on the continent, but who the hell can (or would) show up to this thing nowadays ?
But allAfrica.com reprints a piece from The Herald where Wonder Guchu claims: Zimbabwe: Dates for ZIBF Set.
The 2007 Zimbabwe International Book Fair will open in Harare with an Indaba on July 31 and runs until August 4.
The fair, whose theme is "Transforming Lives Through Literature", will be held in the Harare Gardens, with most of the conferences being held at the Monomotapa Crowne Plaza Hotel.
(More tellingly, we were unable to access The Herald site itself to link to the piece, and the ZIBF site also looks like it is out of commission (with the alternate one stuck in 2005).)
But you have to admire their attitude: here's a fair where one of the Indaba-panels has the topic: "Censorship of Writers: A Blessing or an Evil".
Hey, at least they're debating it .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Gail Pool's look at The Plight of Book Reviewing in America, Faint Praise.
It's early days yet -- the book just came out -- but we're surprised there hasn't been more coverage of this book, especially on literary weblogs.
Given all the discussion about the state of book reviewing, as well as about the efforts at saving newspaper book reviews at the NBCC weblog, Critical Mass, here's finally a book that takes a closer look at book reviewing -- and it should certainly be included in the discussion.
Ha'aretz now have a monthly book supplement, and one of the features is a look at 'home libraries'.
This month Vered Lee and Alex Levac look at Aharon Appelfeld's.
Not too big -- "Estimated number of books: 1,500" -- but he offers an explanation for that:
Policy according to which you manage your library: "Books I do not return to are not found in my library."
We hope that in the future they also offer pictures of the libraries .....
We recently mentioned the tantalizing excerpt from J.M.Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year in The New York Review of Books.
Now we see there's a longer description of the book at his agent's site (and here we are always complaining how worthless 'literary' agents are ...)
An eminent, seventy-two-year-old Australian writer is invited to contribute to a book entitled "Strong Opinions".
It is a chance to air some urgent concerns.
He writes short essays on the origins of the state, on Machiavelli, on anarchism, on al Qaida, on intelligent design, on music.
We're not entirely sure about the turn the book is described as taking, but we are still very eager to get our hands on this thing.
Meanwhile, you can pre-order it at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
At New York they noted that the paperback of Bill Buford's Heat is now out -- and:
the new edition is -- or so the press release gleefully announces -- "Now stain-resistant !"
For ease of stoveside reading, Vintage promises the book is "kitchen-friendly" and "waterproof."
Oh, really ?
We decided to make use of New York Magazine's test kitchen to see if it really stood up to the usual culinary "accidents""
So in Cooking the Books they put it to the test -- with predictable results (i.e. the press release claims were about as close to the truth as most publisher's press release claims .....).
The photographic documentary evidence is a nice touch.
We're impressed: in The Times Elsa McLaren reports:
Borders said it is the first main high-street retailer to introduce a Polish language section in three of its main stores because of the migration of hundreds of thousands of Poles to Britain.
More than 100 Polish titles are now on sale in the retailer’s Southampton, Birmingham and London Oxford Street stores, with the bookseller planning to introduce the new section in its 42 stores throughout the year.
(We're a little bit less impressed that Jeremy Clarkson’s The World According to Clarkson is proving so popular in Polish translation, but still .....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review-overview of the two-volume study of The Novel edited by Franco Moretti.
Due out in paperback in a few weeks, we might even try to tackle it for real .....