In the November issue of Bookslut (now online) Megan Doll has An Interview with Margaret Jull Costa, the translator from the Spanish and Portuguese.
It's nicely, tightly focussed: by my count fourteen of the twenty-one questions include 'translator' or 'translation' or 'translate' (or some such variation)
in the wording (plus one that refers to: "reinventing [...] in English").
It's the same old story: Andrew Motion published a 'found poem', An Equal Voice, in The Guardian this weekend, and used more words that he ... found elsewhere than the original author of those words cared for.
Motion doesn't see what the problem is: as Dominic Kennedy reports in The Times: So what if I copied work says Sir Andrew Motion, Shakespeare did all the time.
Motion belittles both Ben Shephard and Shephard's complaint, noting -- or rather: claiming that such stealing borrowing:
has a long pedigree, which he seems not to be aware of."
This long and honourable tradition, the poet explained, involved quoting or rearranging existing texts to alter their emphasis.
He cited Ruth Padel’s book based on the writings of her great-great-grandfather Charles Darwin, work by James Fenton and Anthony Thwaite’s dramatic monologues in Victorian Voices.
Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra borrowed whole passages from Sir Thomas North’s Life of Mark Antony he said, including the description of her barge: "The poop was beaten gold; purple the sails . . ."
Funny how when authors cite all the venerable masters and authorities who stole before them they always cite the use of material originally written by folk who are dead or whose work is out of (or was never protected by) copyright .....
Theft Copying from material published in 2000 ... not so much.
And yet Motion (pardon: Sir Motion) has his defenders.
Erica Wagner, for example, writes in The Times that Plagiarism is a harsh word -- all real artists are magpies, and thinks:
This is a literary misunderstanding.
It seems harsh to describe what Andrew Motion has done as plagiarism -- particularly when he acknowledged his sources.
What exactly is harsh about describing Motion's use of someone else's copyright-protected words as plagiarism ?
He does not acknowledge his sources very directly (I had no clue what or how much he stole re-used and what he didn't when simply reading the poem), and surely if this were a prose- or scholarly piece no one would
have any doubts that this was plagiarism.
(I have little problem with such 'found' poetry,
but current copyright law surely does; it also seems to be to be in very poor form to 'borrow' in this way without asking and/or properly telling (sorry, his 'attribution' is nowhere near sufficient).
Wagner is right when she writes that etiquette was not followed here.)
I say pillorize the thieving bastard poet; 'Sir' or not, he needs to learn some manners (and maybe a bit about copyright law and proper attribution).
It's the twentieth anniversary of the 'fall' of the Berlin Wall, and the venerable institutions, Words without Borders and Open Letter have brought out an anthology to celebrate the event, The Wall in My Head: Words and Images from the Fall of the Iron Curtain; the book will be launched at an event at Idlewild Books tomorrow at 19:00.
The book has it's own official site (as well as the Open Letter publicity page), and with $20,000 in cash from Amazon.com to help with the production and promotion of the book (see the information at Three Percent) it should be getting a decent amount of attention.
(You can, of course, also get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
Reviews are also already up, at:
I find it relatively hard to get very enthusiastic about anthologies, so I'm not sure I'll be able to get to this.
In fact, quite a few of the excerpted pieces are from works already under review at the complete review, such as:
Berlin really seems to be attracting the literati: newly minted French prix Goncourt-winner Marie NDiaye has lived there for the past three years, and in an interview with Johanna Schmeller in Die Welt says she likes Berlin's heterogeneity, and that:
In Frankreich empfinde ich schon seit Jahren keine Frische mehr, keine Begeisterungsfähigkeit, wie es sie in Berlin noch gibt
[For years now in France I haven't gotten any sense of any freshness or enthusiasm of the sort you still find in Berlin.]
Meanwhile, Nobel laureates Herta Müller (Romanian-born) and Kertész Imre (Hungarian-born) have long lived there.
It's Kertész's eightieth birthday, and in Die Welt Tilman Krause interviews him.
Kertész explains why he prefers Berlin to Budapest -- saying Budapest has been 'balkanized' -- and that in Hungary:
Die Lage hat sich in den vergangenen zehn Jahren kontinuierlich verschlechtert.
Rechtsextreme und Antisemiten haben das Sagen. Die alten Laster der Ungarn, ihre Verlogenheit und ihr Hang zum Verdrängen, gedeihen wie eh und je.
[The situation has continuously worsened over the past ten years.
Extremist rightists and anti-Semites are dominant.
The old vices of the Hungarians, their mendacity and tendency to repress, are prospering as much as ever.]
And he calls himself a: "product of European culture, a décadent, if you so wish" -- not an Hungarian.
(On his birthday the NZZ also prints a German translation of a new story of his.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Vladimir Nabokov's much-anticipated The Original of Laura.
This 'book' has gotten an enormous amount of publicity because Nabokov-son, -heir, and literary executor Dmitri toyed with the press (and, especially, Ron Rosenbaum, who I hope is getting a cut of the profits for all his help in fanning the (non-)flames) like a master, pretending that it was actually a question of will-he/won't-he (burn the book, like daddy asked him to, that is) before letting -- who else ? -- Andrew Wylie secure him what is surely some ungodly amount of cash for the rights to this fragmentary manuscript.
I look forward to actually reviewing The Original of Laura, but for now it is (in the US) under an 'embargo' -- so 'tight' that they didn't even send out galleys [updated: I've now been told that apparently some galleys were sent out], or finished copies before the publication date --, and will only be available on or after 17 November.
Knopf did allow people to come take a look at the book in their offices -- see Rosenbaum's entertaining account
of doing that (in his role as impresario he, of course, had to take a peek, and 'report' on that) -- and I suppose that if I had asked nicely (trying to swallow the bile and contempt that I find hard to hide (as you may have noticed) re. all aspects of this particular matter) they might well have granted even me access, but since I fail to see the point of being granted access at the cost of agreeing not to speak about what I saw -- what possible good does that do anyone, except briefly letting me gloat that I'm part of some exclusive club and you're not ? -- I didn't even bother trying.
(Ah, yes, that air of exclusivity -- and that bribe of allowing the select few to be 'in the know' (while promising not to share with the common folk) ... god, it makes me sick to my stomach.
But Knopf's stage-managing of all this seems to have been tremendously successful -- good for them.)
Of course, the embargo might have been more effective if the German translation weren't published ahead of the English one (it's available now, and the book has already -- devastatingly -- been reviewed in the FAZ).
And Jeanette Winterson has reviewed it for The Times already, too .....
But much more review- and other coverage will surely follow (mine, too, eventually, I hope).
(Updated): Andreas Isenschmid has now weighed in (in the NZZ am Sonntag), and it's becoming clear that rushed German translation and hastily penned but pointless afterword do that edition of the book no favors; at least English-speaking readers will be spared those problems.
Which young Azerbaijani authors do you think could interest Western readers?
We have very interesting young writers. This year our publishing house has released an anthology of works by 13 young Azerbaijani authors. I am happy that the anthology has become a bestseller. Currently we are negotiating over distribution of the anthology in Russia and we have also received a proposal from France to translate the book into French.
Q was reviewed at the complete review, when they were still writing as 'Luther Blissett'; since then -- now writing as 'Wu Ming' -- they've come out (in translation) with 54 (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk) and now Manituana (see the Verso publicity page, the official site, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
I have copies of both 54 and Manituana but haven't quite felt up to tackling them; now Boyd Tonkin reviewsManituana in The Independent and has me wondering whether I shouldn't have a closer look.
The cabal's greatest, most mesmerising trick of all has been to fashion novels of true originality and page-riffling appeal.
What saves the Wu Ming crew from romantic sentimentalism is a trademark sophistication about political ideas and their impact on both words and deeds.
What a surprise: the Wall Street Journal (well, Juan Williams, writing there) finds there's: 'Precious' Little of Value in Ghetto Lit.
This is apparently: "the fastest-growing segment of African-American letters, a genre called "ghetto lit" or "gangster lit.""
(This claim seems anecdotal rather than factual; I'd love to see the numbers (and definitions ...).)
Anyway, Williams is no fan:
Also increasingly absent are textured stories about rising above the realities of poverty, alienation and racism.
Those redemptive works, with their calls for black people to be seen as fully human -- think of Native Son or Invisible Man -- are on the remainder table.
It is hard to believe, but legendary black writers telling stories about the full scope of the black experience, from Langston Hughes to Toni Morrison, are being pushed aside.
Inspirational books on black history or the civil-rights struggle are now for the classroom only.
(All this still sounds pretty anecdotal to me, but ... whatever.)
And he also argues:
The poor might like gangster lit or ghetto lit for its reflection of their lives.
But they are a secondary market. What makes the genre dominant at this moment is that middle-class black women have made it their escapist reading.
They are the ones publishers seek to titillate and thrill.
I'm looking forward to the reactions to this piece (especially from "middle-class black women" -- though since they're apparently so lost in this worthless second-rate escapist reading they might not get to the WSJ's opinion pieces ...).
The internet is there for snacking, grazing and tasting, not for the full, six-course feast that is nourishing narrative.
The consequence is an anorexic form of culture.
Narrative is not dead, merely obscured by a blizzard of byte-sized information.
A story, God knows, is still the most powerful way to understand. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word, in the great narrative that is the Bible, was not written as twitter.
Even Karl Kraus, who loathed Hofmannsthal and seized every opportunity to debunk him, acknowledged that Hofmannsthal was a great writer.
But the editor of this volume, J.D.McClatchy has his own ideas:
In fact, in McClatchy's hands the story of Hofmannsthal's life and work becomes nobler, but also less complex and therefore duller, than it was.
And Reitter is a bit disappointed by the selections -- or rather the lack of new translations:
He has also rendered seven of Hofmannsthal's poems beautifully: witness the lines from "An Experience" cited above, which come from McClatchy's translation.
But his renderings seem to be the only new translations in the entire volume, and the quality of the old ones -- some of which date back to the 1940s -- is mixed, with several of the important works, e.g., the "Chandos Letter", being among the least competently done.
Too bad; the 'Chandos-Letter' is an incredible piece.
Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009) has passed away, leading to widespread coverage, from The Independent's leader, An anthropologist for our age, to any number of solid obituaries -- see, for example, among the early ones:
Author Francisco Ayala has passed away; see, for example, the report in the Latin American Herald Tribune.
Despite a longtime American connection, very little of his work seems to be available in English.
(Updated - 5 November): See now also T. Rees Shapiro's obituary in The Washington Post.
It's not the most prestigious of the French literary prizes being handed out these days (see my previous mention), but at least it comes with a much bigger pile of cash than the Goncourt -- 30,000 euros: as, for example, Christine Rousseau reports in Le Monde, Le prix Décembre décerné à Jean-Philippe Toussaint, as his La Vérité sur Marie has taken the prize; get your copy at Amazon.fr.
The American University in Cairo Press admirably keeps churning bringing out translations of previously unavailable novels by Naguib Mahfouz, and the most recent addition to the complete review is my review of his Before the Throne -- further evidence of the Egyptian Nobel laureate's incredible versatility.
The longlist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is now available: 156 authors from 46 countries, with 41 books originally written in 17 languages other than English (a decent percentage).
Among the finalists are a good number (eighteen) under review at the complete review:
As usual, it's a fairly eclectic but not too challenging list.
As usual, also, there are a lot of authors who have been here before -- and a lot of titles that have been out for a while .....
Still, it's a fun and at least somewhat international mix.
The major French literary prizes have been handed out, with Trois Femmes puissantes (by Marie Ndiaye; get your copy at Amazon.fr) taking the prix Goncourt, and Un roman français (by Frédéric Beigbeder; get your copy at Amazon.fr) taking the prix Renaudot.
While the Goncourt, in particular, is seen as a sales-booster, it should be noted that Ndiaye's book has been at or near the top of the French bestseller charts for a while already.
A while ago Horacio Castellanos Moya wrote on the American Bolañomania phenomenon for La Nacion, Sobre el mito Bolaño, and now Guernica prints a translation of the piece, Bolaño Inc..
(See also Scott Esposito's earlier mention of Horacio Castellanos Moya Is Disgusted with the "Bolano Myth".)
In the main, it is actually a commentary on Sarah Pollack's piece from Comparative Literature, "Latin America Translated (Again): Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives in the United States" (see the abstract), with Castellanos Moya suggesting:
The key idea is that for thirty years, the work of García Márquez, with his magical realism, represented Latin American literature in the imagination of the North American reader.
But since everything erodes and ends up losing its luster, the cultural establishment eventually went looking for something new.
It sounded out the guys in the literary groups called McOndo and Crack, but they didn’t fit the enterprise -- above all, as Sarah Pollack explains, it was very difficult to sell the North American reader on the world of iPods and Nazi spy novels as the new image of Latin America and its literature.
Then Bolaño appeared with his The Savage Detectives and his visceral realism.
I don't find such oversimplifications -- "the North American reader" ? there's just one, distinctive kind ? --
very useful (and I have to wonder about the people Castellanos Moya meets if all his encounters are as he describes them -- who are these García Márquez-book-waving people and why don't I ever meet them ?).
Of course he (and Pollack) have a bit of a point, but I think the Bolaño-reception even in the US has been a bit more ... nuanced -- helped by the fact that Bolaño's books are such a varied lot.
(The Savage Detectives was the breakthrough work (in translation), but since then we've also had everything from Nazi Literature in the Americas to 2666 (to The Skating Rink and, coming soon, Monsieur Pain) -- a range that defies the easy embrace Castellanos Moya and Pollack seem to suggest.)
As someone completely uninterested in the 'wo/man behind the work' (i.e. authors, and the image the public has of them) I'm also not particularly receptive to
Castellanos Moya complaints about how Bolaño is seen -- these arguments are just as boring and inconsequential as the to-do over whether or not he was a heroin addict (a story that a lot of people who knew him (or were making money off him) weighed in on without ever providing any information that was in the least convincing as to proving whether he was, or he wasn't).
The only concern I have is the all-too-likely scenario that there will be authors -- Latin American or from elsewhere -- who will try to emulate Bolaño's jackpot-success by writing
The Savage Detectives-imitations (as far too many tried to follow in García Márquez's footsteps ...).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Boualem Sansal's The German Mujahid (which will be published in the UK as An Unfinished Business ...).
Amazingly, it's the first of Sansal's books to be translated into English -- and, unfortunately, the most programmatic (but that's why it got translated so fast ...).
The longlist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award will be announced today, and you should be able to find it at the official site later in the day.
[Updated: Indeed, the list is now available here.]
The public announcement is only due later in the day -- but Eileen Battersby of the Irish Times apparently got a sneak preview, and was thus able to file Impac list shows worldwide vitality of fiction before anybody else was in the know.
She unfortunately doesn't reveal the whole list (and misspells a few names), but does offer a good amount of information, including that there are 156 titles on the list.
Among those finalists she names are quite a few under review at the complete review:
The ridiculously named Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award for 2009 has gone to Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed (see The Penguin Press publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), and Andrew Hill reports on the prize and winner in the Financial Times, in Echoes from history.
Jeanette Winterson talks to Anna Metcalfe in this week's Small Talk-feature in the Financial Times.
Her answer to one question is a familiar one (i.e. we've heard it from her before), but still worth repeating
What is the best piece of advice a parent gave you?
My mother's parting shot when I left home: "Why be happy Jeanette, when you could be normal?" I've carried it with me ever since.
Another article about Korean literature and the relative lack of attention it gets abroad, as Han Sang-hee reports in The Korea Times that maybe (with a bit of translation) they could be Getting Closer to the Nobel Prize.
As if that were all that counted, and the only meaningful form of validation -- and as if it were so easy:
We have so many good works of literature but there are few translated ones).
I feel the need of more translated literary works, so someday the Nobel Prize may go to a Korean writer," said Han
Indian English writing needs to look at itself, if it wants to establish what is still lacking: a solid platform of evaluation that would be connected by bridges to the world, but will not come stamped 'Made in the West'.
At the moment, this is largely lacking -- or reduced, when it appears, to some kind of a nationalist simplification.
The first English-language newspaper review of the final volume of Javier Marías' trilogy, Your Face Tomorrow 3: Poison, Shadow and Farewell, that I've seen is Allan Massie's in The Scotsman -- and he concludes simply:
Your Face Tomorrow is one of the great works of modern European fiction.
Now the concluding book convinces me that this is indeed one of the most remarkable novels of our time, utterly compelling, as addictive as Proust, whom Marías resembles in the demands he makes of his readers.
That these demands are worth meeting is certain.
The book is just out in the UK (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk) and coming out in a month in the US (get your copy at Amazon.com); volume one -- Fever and Spear -- is under review at the complete review; I hope to get to the next two volumes before the year is out.
Issue 36 of Banipal -- with a focus on 'Literature in Yemen Today' (and some discussion of the Beirut39) -- is now out; unfortunately very littlecontent is accessible online (scroll to bottom for the few pieces that are).