This week in the New Yorker Jane Hu analyzes the “dispassionate first-person narrators” prominent in works by English-speaking Asian authors and questions whether that makes it easier to identify with the narrator. She uses Chemistry by NBA 5 under 35 honoree Weike Wang as an example along with other recent works. “Against this tradition, there is, perhaps, another emerging, of Asian-Anglophone writers who both play with and thus begin to undo these tropes of Asian impersonality. The novels by Ishiguro, Park, Lin, and Wang all feature first-person narrators who keep their distance—actively denying readers direct interior access. This is true, it’s important to note, even when the characters they write are not themselves Asian.”
A team of archaeologists just found Cervantes's body, and while that seems like a fun literary and historical event, the New Yorker's Ilan Stevens has a slightly different perspective: "Frankly, there is something creepy about bringing Cervantes back from the dead."
Recommended Reading: From The New Yorker, it's Tessa Hadley on fiction as anthropology: "When I’m writing a story, its world is thin, unsatisfactory, untrue, until I start to find my way to those details, those 'small cultural signifiers.' As these accumulate on the page, the life in the piece thickens, the details breed, and the story begins to stir."
Iowa City, which is one of six UNESCO Cities of Literature, will honor renowned Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor with a memorial reading this Monday, October 14. Awoonor was among those killed in the attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The reading, which will be hosted by Awoonor’s nephew, Kwame Dawes, will take place on the University of Iowa campus, but it will also be open to anybody with an internet connection. People are invited to tune in to the event’s streaming webcast, and also to submit questions for Dawes online to the @UIIWP Twitter account by utilizing the #Awoonor hashtag.
"At first, I didn’t realize that AlexanderIII was translating the book; I thought he was just a fastidious Russian reader with a loose command of the English language. It was fun to see people debating the meanings of my thoroughly worked-over phrases...Then I remembered that no Russian publisher had acquired the rights, and realized that AlexanderIII must be translating it for some kind of book-pirating outfit." Over at The Atlantic, Peter Mountford recounts the experience of watching book piracy in action.
In the Times, Jennifer Schuessler reviews Ishmael Beah’s new novel, Radiance of Tomorrow, which takes place in the same war-ravaged setting as the author’s 2007 memoir. Schuessler writes that Beah “delivers a glimpse of the hardships of postwar Sierra Leone along with strong and repeated assurances about the redemptive powers of stories themselves.”