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Articles tagged "History"

Not Necessarily About Politics: Contemporary Czech Prose

The Czechs are cultural overachievers. In film, photography, theater, architecture, music, art, they punch above their weight, with an impact far beyond what you’d expect from a nation of ten million people. The same goes for literature. Authors writing in Czech have always had plenty to say, and plenty of ways to say it, but the best-known writers in English translation have historically been those whose work is viewed as political, or at least as having an underpinning of politics....

from “Kumait”

He couldn’t help but see the school; from the time he had left the bus at the township’s station, he had never thought of going any other way. His feet felt at home on the township’s roads. So be it. Why should he take any other route? When he drew near the school, he paused opposite it, turning his back to the river. A giant willow tree rose from the center of the school’s courtyard. He really didn’t want any of the township’s residents to spot him,...

An Interview with Péter Esterházy

Péter Esterházy is one of Hungary's foremost contemporary novelists, having won literary distinctions both at home and abroad. A number of his works, including Helping Verbs of the Heart, The Book of Hrabal, She Loves Me, and A Little Hungarian Pornography have all been translated into English. In this interview, we speak about some of the predominant themes in Esterházy's literature, particularly family and language. Esterházy hails from a long line...

The Last Farm Novel?: An Interview with Michiel Heyns

I met Michiel Heyns—author, translator, and professor of English at Stellenbosch University from 1987 until 2003—last year when he was here in the U.S. as a visiting professor at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He's a tall, large-framed man who easily dissolves into crinkles of laughter, quickly revealing a gentle spirit beneath the somewhat imposing exterior. He's an ideal dinner companion—charming, erudite, gracious, and full of wit. And though our...

The Trial of Jean-Marie Le Pen

By the time it starts the Blistier trial has already been known for months as "the trial of Jean-Marie Le Pen." Civil rights groups were the first to call it that, but by now the phrase, borne along on waves of public indignation, is showing up in all the headlines. Shouldn't the leader of the National Front be held responsible for the murder committed by one of his brainwashed teenaged supporters? Shouldn't Le Pen appear before the court, at least as a witness? Pierre Mine is...

A Drawing Textbook

The main characters: Sergei Ilyich Tatarnikov: a dissolute and disaffected sixty-year-old historian. Roza Crantz: a middle-aged academic, an art historian and culturologist, enthusiastic about the fall of Soviet Communism, ambitious, and keenly attuned to Western intellectual currents. German Basmanov: a seasoned Party functionary who has adroitly exploited the transition to post-Soviet politics and business life. He has recently been named the director of the Russian branch of...

Annihilation, from Pyramid Texts

. . . of an old family, much noted, mentioned in manuscripts that have yet to be printed. He personally was well known, much in demand in the town and elsewhere. Those with experience in climbing its four corners assert that his extraordinary gifts were obvious. His steps over the stones had a different rhythm and, despite his forefathers' long history, he brought to it something that no one before him had, for no one before him had ever reached the summit by night. And when! On...

Llywelyn’s Breath

For the Welsh original, please click here. (at the Llanelwedd National Eisteddfod) The border is near, its rugged soil continuing to sear its history on the face of our language's acres, our no man's land. Our language is Llywelyn's faint breath on these stones, challenging others to utter it, and stir over its existence. I catch it, imagine it as a leaden rain, a featherbed, our soul, our secret, blush of life, a little darling: a moment, a...

Our Holocaust

The Holocaust extended its reach beyond the neighborhood. Traces of Shoah lurked in the most surprising places, like the little shops where Dad went to order wallpaper or buy light bulbs. He often took me with him to Attorney Perl's hardware store on Yonah HaNavi Street. Apart from buying plaster or little boxes of screws, it was a place where you could talk, ask questions and watch Attorney Perl at work. People used to stand with their elbows on the counter and gaze at the wall...

Halls of the National Museum

I lost sight of my child in the Yi dynasty hall: Like a forgotten royal concubine, I had been staring at the king's rice bowl, goblet and spoon. I dash back at once to the Goryeo dynasty hall, shedding the lotus petals from the white porcelain ink-water container. I scamper amid the jade-green vases. It is as if the vases are falling to one side, collapsing. A dainty crane leaping up, a young pine tree, fresh-water fish falling on the floor and I, helter-skelter. I call out my...

The Infinite Horses

I have seen them sleeping in the pastures, repeated through the fields, at rest; furious and on their knees I have seen them, like haughty gods, completely white, dressed and with ribbons, and wild with manes like the loosened hair of ancient sirens on the beaches. The snakes have dreamed of them, the rushes and the mothers resting were afraid of them beneath the palm trees. Trembling they announced battles, announced the fear and the constancy, like the drumroll they...

The Lanterns of Seville

To Julienne Peters of Brussels, who was moved to tears by the beauty of the Alcazar in the Seville of the Arabs, I dedicate these lanterns. "Would you look down on a cousin of yours if he addressed you in a language other than his own?" said Professor Alsido—for this is how the dancer with the magical eyes had introduced me to him—as he gulped his first drink. "I've heard you speak fluent French, so allow me to converse with you in that language." I nodded in agreement and...

Basra Stories

I was born in Basra many times, in all of the stories that I heard about it-in the stories which were told around me when I was a child, in the images I formed of it during my first trips there with my mother, and in all of the experiences I lived through there in later years. Later I left Basra to roam in exile like a sailor circling the earth, until, with the years, the picture I had of it became a mix of truth and illusion, of reality and fantasy, of the original and invention. I have...
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