Stories from the Country of the Dead

Last year, I was invited to write a story for a Latin American crime fiction anthology.  The idea was to use elements borrowed from murder mysteries and noir to reflect on the reality in our countries.  I liked the sound of the project, accepted the invitation, and then spent the following…...read more »

Where Is My Home?

When I was looking for my aunt’s grave a couple of years back in the New Jewish Cemetery in Prague, I came across a section of maybe eight or nine recent burial mounds. I felt a sudden burst of gladness because, for all its oddness as a reaction, these recent deaths meant that there was still an…...read more »

The Week in Translation

SUBMIT what: Beltway Poetry Quarterly's Translation Issue submission deadline: November 30 more info: http://ow.ly/E4VYI what: Call for Papers: Translating the Literatures of Small European Nations (International Conference, University of Bristol, September 8th-10th, 2015) submission deadline:…...read more »

Dispatch from ALTA: Politics and Translation: No Easy Answers

What are the links between literary translation and politics? Do literary translators have obligations in the political sphere? If you wanted more questions than answers, then this weekend’s annual conference of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was the…...read more »

The Week in Translation

GO what: Jenny Erpenbeck in Conversation with Susan Bernofsky about Erpenbeck's new novel, The End of Days when: Monday. November 17, 7pm where: McNally Jackson Books more info: http://ow.ly/Ep8fV what: Ari Larissa Heinrich, the translator of Last Words from Montmartre by Qiu Miaojin,…...read more »
Image of The City and the Writer: In A Coruña with Marta López Luaces

The City and the Writer: In A Coruña with Marta López Luaces

If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains. —Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities Can you describe the mood of A Coruña as you feel/see it? It is a melancholic…...read more »

Ayotzinapa

On October 26, 2014, a national assembly of Morena (Movement for National Regeneration) was held at the Zócalo in Mexico City, marking one month of the disappearance of the forty-three students of the rural teachers’ college of Ayotzinapa. Amid the crowds chanting “Vivos se los llevaron,…...read more »

The Week in Translation

GO what: Esmeralda Santiago: A Writing Life when: Wednesday, November 12, 7pm where: Americas Society, 680 Park Avenue, New York, NY  more info: http://ow.ly/E4VBG SUBMIT what: Beltway Poetry Quarterly's Translation Issue submission deadline: November 30 more info: http://ow.ly/E4VYI…...read more »
Image of Where the Sidewalk Bends: Translation History in the Capital of the Future

Where the Sidewalk Bends: Translation History in the Capital of the Future

The Third Annual Seminar on the History of Translation, organized by University of Brasília professor Germana Pereira, took place from October 6-8 on the UnB campus, inside a moat-rimmed, mushroom-shaped silver building. The speakers included graduate students and professors from Brazil, the US,…...read more »

The Week in Translation

APPLY what: Banff International Literary Translation Centre when: June 8, 2015 - June 27, 2015 where: Banff. Canada application deadline: February 18, 2015 more info: http://ow.ly/Dohfw

Most Recent Entry

Brave New World of European literature, or Eurovision Story Contest?

On the eve of my departure to attend the EU Prize for Literature in Brussels as part of a group invited by the European Commission Representative in the UK, literary critic Nick Lezard Facebooks: "I have been sent a list of my fellow-attendees, and all I can think of is: this is the list of dramatis personae at the beginning of an Agatha Christie novel. At least one of us is going to get bumped off, maybe on the Eurostar, and one of us is going to be the murderer. I do hope I'm neither of them." Luckily his skills do not lie in divination and fortune-telling.

We are a motley group of “literature and publishing professionals,” from a range of organizations, including: translators from Spanish, Polish, and French; the British Council and Arts Council England; English PEN, the Free Word Centre, the Writers’ Centre Norwich, Speaking Volumes; publishers MacLehose Press, Portobello Books, Peter Owen, Bloomsbury; agents Conville and Walsh, Janklow & Nesbit, Marsh Agency; the Institut Français in London; The Royal Society of Literature Review, the Guardian and the Independent newspapers.

Such is the fame of Brussels's gray sixties architecture there is even a Belgian advertising agency named GREY. Serious-looking people of all nationalities with a common interest in politics or business walk to and from huge glass buildings. There is something brave new world about it all and most particularly the technocratic language spoken by the Eurocrats who gave us presentations on Creative Europe policy, funding for “cross-border cultural projects and innovation,” digital policy strategy and copyright.

In the evening, seated in the ballroom of the Concert Noble, we watched the thirteen winners of this year's EU Prize for Literature go up on stage to receive their award and say a few words. Their stories reflect the Commission's commitment to promote cultural diversity. Bulgarian revolutionaries fighting against the tyranny of Turkish rule in the 1870s; a novel about a Czech photographer “master of the nude who never had much luck with women”; a fifty-something Greek loser’s darkly comic monologue about his struggle not to collapse into defeatism and despair; Latvian alternative culture and heavy metal music; a historical whodunit set in Berlin; a collection of Turkish stories with a focus on the politics of mourning; a novel about an eighteen-year-old Dutch girl’s first love during the build up to World War Two; a tale of two brothers, one in Serbia and the other in New York . . .  I hope some find their way into English.

It made a positive change from the usual stories about Blighty losing its sovereignty and swastika politics.  It is easy to forget that the European Economic Community was originally formed to foster peace and prosperity.

We were fuelled by champagne, cordon bleu cooking, coffee, croissants and—in some instances—those famous “frites avec mayo” and beer. It’d be easy to put on weight living it up in Brussels. You think you’ve tasted chocolate? Well you haven’t—not until you’ve savored Pierre Marcolini


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