Archives

May, 2009

Dispatches: Echoes of an Autobiography by Naguib Mahfouz

My reaction to the work of Naguib Mahfouz has been exceptionally mixed. I have enjoyed the light touch and raffish characters of short novels like Adrift on the Nile (my review) yet I could make no headway on the first volume of the Cairo Trilogy, which seemed almost a parody of the ponderous family…...

Translating “The Tale of Genji”, the World’s First Novel

In her second blog post for our issue of Japanese literature, Juliet Grames explores the roots of contemporary writing by discussing the now 1,000-year-old Tale of Genji. —Editors You may have heard the exciting news: it's the 1000th-anniversary of The Tale of Genji, the Japanese epic commonly…...

Words Without Borders Staff Picks for Summer Reading

It was awkward at first. Halfway through our annual Memorial Day Words Without Borders vs Doctors Without Borders softball game, Joshua – our shortstop – starts asking us all what we’re recommending to our friends to read this summer. You can guess the outcome of the game, but I did…...

International Literary News

In the LA Times blog Jacket Copy's Memorial Day roundup of 20th Cenutry war literature, Thomas McGonigle generously rememberd Carlo Emilio Gadda's That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana as "the only Italian novel of the 20th century that is reasonably compared in power and scope to James Joyce's Ulysses."…...

Deus Ex Tezuka: The Inaugural Episode of “Black Jack”

In his third post for our Japan issue, Yani Mentzas dissects the the moral (and national) background in Tezuka's work and discusses the religious imagery of a miracle-working doctor. —Editors Tezuka's ability to explore matters of divinity within manga, a form that was deemed inherently frivolous,…...

International Literature News

We're all saddened by the death of past contributor Mario Benedetti, though it is amazing to see the immediate, creative responses to his work from around the world. Don't miss A.M. Correa's report from yesterday. ---------------------- This past Tuesday at the CUNY Graduate Center, the PEN American…...

Outpouring for Mario Benedetti

In posting on the recent death of Uruguayan poet and author Mario Benedetti at the age of 88, José Saramago wrote of the spontaneous outpouring of poetry that has spread around the world via the internet:The decipherers of code cannot cope with all of the work, too many enigmas to decode, too…...

Dispatches: Leaving Tangier by Tahar ben Jelloun

Most readers, I think, know the Moroccan writer Tahar ben Jelloun from his novels The Sand Child (my review) and its sequel The Sacred Night. Those books are marked by a prose style that is rich yet never overdone, and a slightly old-fashioned voice. They are the very illustration of control and authority…...

New Writers Explore the Dark Side of Japanese Literature

Book sales are generally down in Japan, and for that matter, they've been down for more than a decade. Sure, you've heard of the rise of keitai shosetsu, novels written and read on the ubiquitous cell phones, but it's no Kindle and no one's getting royalties there. Excuse the pun, but it's something…...

Divine Comics

In his second post for our Japan issue, Yani Mentzas talks about the divine in the work of Osamu Tezuka —Editors In my previous post I pointed out that Osamu Tezuka—the God of Manga (manga no kamisama) and indisputably the most important figure in the history of Japanese comics—needs…...

Weekend Reading

"Witness to war: Evelio Rosero on fiction that fights for the truth" on Rosero's win of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for The Armies, translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean: As many as 100,000 people - mostly civilians - have been killed or "disappeared" in the past 20 years in a conflict…...

Translation and Proficiency Language Teaching

In a previous post, I suggested that the covers of books make for rather poor soil in which to cultivate an appreciation for translated contemporary literature among the general English-reading public. Of course the essential work of translators should be recognized whenever possible, on covers and title…...

Dispatches: Machete Season by Jean Hatzfeld

In the New Yorker recently, Philip Gourevitch published a follow-up article to his book We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families (my review). In it, he explored what is sometimes seen as a nearly miraculous exercise in Christian forgiveness: the fact that in villages across…...

Tanikawa Shuntaro, The Greatest Living Poet You’ve Never Heard Of

In her dispatch for this month's issue on Japanese literature, Juliet Grames directs her attention to the post-war poet Tanikawa Shuntaro and his verse— lyrical, unusual, and largely unheard of in the U.S. —Editors There's nothing quite as exciting and frustrating as finding a piece of extremely…...

PEN World Voices Festival: Richard Ford and Nam Le at Morgan Library

Richard Ford and Nam Le at Morgan Library, May 3, Gilder Lehrman Hall, also part of BOMBLive! series Venerable fiction man Richard Ford gave a particularly generous introduction to young short story writer Nam Le, whose debut collection The Boat received several awards and much critical recognition last…...

International Literature News

On occasion of Zoetrope’s Latin American Issue, editor Daniel Alarcón talked last Friday with the New Yorker’s Book Bench. Contributors include Guillermo del Toro, Daniel Alarcón, Diego Trelles Paz, Carolina Sanín, Ronaldo Menéndez, Inés Bortagaray, Patricio…...

The World According to shinji ishii

In her second dispatch this month, Bonnie Elliott tells us more about shinji ishii and the difficulties of resolving the real with the literary. You can find an excerpt from shinji ishii's Once Upon a Swing in this month's issue of the magazine. —Editors In our first email exchange, shinji explained…...

PEN WORLD VOICES FESTIVAL: Faith and Fiction

The Faith & Fiction panel at the Powerhouse Arena felt like a transcendental experience altogether. The Arena is made up of giant glass windows for walls, and stands hidden at the foot of the East River and under the Manhattan Bridge surrounded by cobblestone. Outside it was pouring warm rain and…...

Is Tezuka God?

Continuing our blog coverage this month to celebrate our Japan issue, Yani Mentzas, who many of our readers will remember from his appearance as a blogger during our Graphic Novels issue, holds forth on Osamu Tezuka. —Editors Back in February, when the Graphic Novels issue was up, I wrote here…...

PEN WORLD VOICES FESTIVAL: Nawal El Saadawi and Kwame Anthony Appiah

On the last night of this year's PEN festival, the Egyptian writer Nawal El Saadawi appeared at Cooper Union to deliver the fourth annual Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture and to talk with Kwame Anthony Appiah. To someone who knows her only through her sharp, uncompromising writings, El Saadawi…...

PEN WORLD VOICES FESTIVAL: Enrique Vila-Matas and Paul Auster at FIAF

This was an interesting talk, very well moderated by Eduardo Lago, between two writers who admire one another and have been compared to one another, and even appeared together in public at point wearing the same pair of shoes.Vila-Matas told an anecdote in Spanish that took a few minutes to reach the…...

Book Critics Circle Asks: Which Work in Translation has had the Most Effect on your Reading and Writ

James Marcus (who recently contributed to our PEN World Voices Festival coverage) asked members of the Book Critics Circle "Which work in translation has had the most effect on your reading and writing?" He found some great responses, including Mann's Dr. Faustus, works by Camus, Kundera, as well as…...

Shinji Ishii and The Story Behind the Novel

As part of our month-long celebration of contemporary writing from Japan this May at Words without Borders, Bonnie Elliott provides an informative glimpse into the provenance of Shinji Ishii's novel Once Upon a Swing. You can read an excerpt from the novel, in Bonnie's translation, in this month's issue.…...

Weekly News Update: Round-up of PEN World Voices Thus Far

And now for the coverage on the coverage. Our own reports are still coming in, so continue to check over the next couple of days. I have posts due on Kafka's Amerika, Enrique Vila-Matas and Paul Auster, Richard Ford and Nam Le, and David Grossman on Bruno Shultz, so you'll be witness to a minor miracle…...

PEN World Voices Festival: On the Edge: Writing in Reunified Germany

Moments before Clemens Meyer read this past Friday evening, at the Deutches Haus on the Washington Mews, I spotted him outside on the curb with a can of Budweiser. Inside from the rain, the small room filled up quickly and eventually he came in with an interpreter and Three Percent blog's Chad Post (on…...

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