In Zadie Smith’s introduction to the Writers Bloc series, she writes that the program sought essays “that were not only pious, charitable or analytical but also readable, engaging, exciting.” The essays published by Guernica certainly meet this criteria. I particularly recommend Aleksandar Hemon’s essay on first graders in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“Think of landscape. Think of how elements come to be attached to one another, how it’s impossible to separate the road from the field, the field from the tree, the tree from the water, the water from the sky. We cannot attribute natural features to the lines we design just as we cannot attribute natural causes to those dying as they try to cross them.” For Tin House, Portuguese writer Susana Moreira Marques meditates on the concept of borders and Wolf Böwig’s photography project, “Borders and Beyond.”
On his podcast, David Naimon spoke with poet Morgan Parker about her new collection, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé. It’s a book “at the intersections of mythology and sorrow, of vulnerability and posturing, of desire and disgust, of tragedy and excellence,” Naimon says. (Bonus: Parker’s book was recently featured in Nick Ripatrazone’s list of five poetry collections you should buy.)
Why do Americans read so few translated works? A lot of reasons come to mind, but one is that translated books are often the purview of small publishers, who don’t have the same marketing budgets as the larger companies in the industry. At The New Yorker’s Currency blog, Vauhini Vara looks at the statistics compiled by Three Percent, a database at the University of Rochester that tracks publications of translated works in the country. Related: Oliver Farry’s interview with the Portuguese writer António Lobo Antunes.
In a piece for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Jonathan Farmer responds to the recent pieces in the New York Times that ask poets to debate the question “does poetry matter?” As Farmer points out, ” it’s a bit like asking a bunch of religious figures if religion matters,” but the conversation is worth following and pairs well with our own recent pieces on poetry’s power and popularity.
In 1913, four years before the Russian Revolution, Tsar Nicholas II made the now-baffling claim that a writer named Teffi was the only major Russian writer. At the time, however, his endorsement made sense, because everybody in Russia, from royalty on down, read Teffi’s work and “delighted” in it. Until the revolution, at which point she was consigned to oblivion. William Grimes writes about a new collection of her stories.
At long last Renata Adler’s re-released Speedboat is out from NYRB Classics. The book’s attracted quite a bit of (deserved) pre-release hype. Also out today are a pair of books covered in our Great 2013 Book Preview: Vladimir Nabokov’s The Tragedy of Mr. Morn (no relation to yours truly) and Aleksandar Hemon’s The Book of My Lives. In three days you can get your hands on Kristopher Jansma’s debut novel The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards.