Archive for August 2007
From signandsight, again, Cees Nooteboom on a classic of Dutch literature:
I know of no other book whose characters keep each other in such a stranglehold of withheld information, until it seems as if the story itself is being played out in a cocoon of silence…
The book is Karakter, by Ferdinand Bordewijk (1938), a merciless study of a father-son relationship played out amid the mean, and now vanished, streets of pre-war Rotterdam. The cover shown above is from the current Dutch edition, the 40th. Whether it “misses the quintessence of the book”, as Nooteboom feels, or not, I can’t say, but it made me read his article, and it would certainly make me pick the book up in a bookshop. Peter Owen published a translation in 1966, now unfortunately out-of-print , which I’d like to get hold of.
German storytellers made a strong showing this spring, right across the age spectrum. And foreign books in translation tell of violence in holiday camps in Sweden, refugee smugglers in Piedmont and down-and-out writers in the streets of Sofia.
Coming late to this, but what with “Rabelaisian word cascades” – Werner Bräunig’s Rummelplatz (“Fairground”) – a novel set in a bismuth mine in the DDR, completed in 1965 – Antje Ravic Strubel’s trans-gender romance and coming-out novel peopled by fairies and the dead (Kältere Schichten der Luft – “Colder Layers of Air”) and the fourth of Peter Kurzeck’s seven attempts at “putting the whole world into poetry” (Oktober und wer wir selbst sind – “October and who we ourselves are”) – to name but three, German fiction seems to be in a healthy, and very intriguing state. English translations, please!
This feature from the very, very informative signandsight also refers to novels by Roberto Bolaño, Per Pettersen, Davide Longo (an Italian novelist compared to Cesare Pavese), the Bulgarian Vladimir Zarev, and Massimo Carlotto (the latter, incidentally, a member of terrorist group Lotta Continua), among others – all recently published in Germany.
- Yordan Kosturkov’s Letter from Bulgaria, in Dalkey Archive’s CONTEXT magazine, is a good introduction to Bulgarian literary culture, and mentions Zarev.
- “A success in Italy, selling 10,000 copies with the small independent publisher Marcos y Marcos, Davide Longo is considered one of Italy’s most talented young writers.” – [Kylee Doust Rights Agency blog.]
- If you missed design blog The Serif’s series of redesigned book jackets from a week or so ago, go back and take a look. Standouts for me were Mitchell McLain’s version of Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, Premjit Ramachandran’s Naked Lunch, and Ray Slater’s classic Penguin look for James and The Giant Peach.
- Babelio is a very nice-looking French LibraryThing clone. It’s early days yet, but Voyage au bout de la nuit by Louis-Ferdinand Céline is currently the site’s most popular title.
- “Every man has his own patch of earth to cultivate. What’s important is that he dig deep.” – José Saramago, profiled in the New York Times by Fernanda Eberstadt.