At The Guardian, the intriguing case of historian Orlando Figes and his wife’s savage Amazon reviews of her husband’s rivals’ books. The case begs the question: should Amazon allow anonymous reviews?
Recommended Reading: Carl Wilson on short books and “too long; didn’t read” syndrome.
There are plenty of new books to this week to fill that post-election void: Both Flesh and Not: Essays, a posthumously published collection from David Foster Wallace; Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior; Prosperous Friends by Christine Schutt; Magnificence by Lydia Millet; and These Things Happen, a debut by longtime TV writer Richard Kramer. From the indies, we have The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets by Diana Wagman and Keyhole Factory by William Gillespie. Also out are Philip Pullman’s new version of Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm; Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks; and a big new Michael Jackson biography by a former Rolling Stone editor.
“As energy loss is an unavoidable fact of mechanics — no mechanism can be 100% efficient, and the best a designer can do is manage the loss as productively as possible — so translation loss is similarly unavoidable,” explains Mark Davie, who recently translated Galileo’s Selected Writings. But what if the “energy loss” isn’t a failure of the work’s translator so much as a failure of the organization commissioning (or failing to commission) the translation? What if, as is the case for much Arabic literature, “the process [of selecting works for translation] is based on a political consideration” that deprives Western readers of the best Arabic literary work?
Can’t get enough Murakami? In the lead-up to the announcement of this year’s Nobel Prize for literature, Dan over at “How to Japonese” will post a short, new Murakami translation each week. The translations come from an unpublished (in English) collection of Murakami’s answers to his readers’ questions. This week, Murakami tackles safe sex.
Translating is notoriously difficult work, and translating Proust even more so. The Boston Review has published a very thoughtful piece about the history of In Search of Lost Time in English, the trouble with annotations, and the general “tension in translation between the spirit and the letter.” We highly recommend you take the time to read it, even if you don’t have time for Proust just yet.
Seeing as yesterday was Donald Barthelme’s birthday, it’s as good a time as any to remember the short fiction icon. At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova reads Barthelme’s essay “Not-Knowing,” which you can find in the author’s collection of essays and interviews. Sample quote: “Art is not difficult because it wishes to be difficult, but because it wishes to be art.”