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Today in International Lit

By David Varno

Nabokov Screaming his Head Off

The new online newspaper The Faster Times was linked by the New Yorker yesterday for their take on the new Nabokov publication, the unfinished novel The Origin of Laura. They also link to the 92nd Street Y's recording of Nabokov reading selections from Pale Fire and Lolita in 1964. As TFT's Lincoln Michel wrote, it's good to hear the man's voice. It's also easier to imagine him screaming at us for reading the new book, which wasn't intended for publication. Also see Conversational Reading's excellent round-up of reviews.


Darwish in Translation

On occasion of the new Mahmoud Darwish collection, If I Were Another, translated by Fady Joudah, a follow up to The Butterfly's Burden, The Quarterly Conversation's new issue will feature an essay on Darwish and his new life in translation.

Meanwhile, their blog, Conversational Reading, is running excerpts from a piece on Darwish in The National. The article's writer claims, "With a little luck, Darwish might one day join that small group of foreign poets – like Lorca, Cavafy, or Mandelstam – whose idiom becomes a touchstone for peers writing in English." The article goes on to raise issues about the limited picture that English-speaking readers are getting of the late Palestinian poet. We're curious to see how the QC essay will address this.

Here is a bio of Darwish at WWB, where we've published several poems translated by Fady Joudah along with exceprts from his diary.


Gombrowicz and Shaw

The blog Salonica World Lit has built a group of essays on twenty writers from Eastern Europe, and currently features a piece on Witold Gombrowicz. The writer argues that the great Polish fiction writer was in dialogue with George Bernard Shaw's famous dictum, "Youth is wasted on the young," in his novel Pornografia.

Salonica's writer focuses on the novel's relationship between the eponymous narrator and Fryderyk, and eloquently summarizes the origin of their conflict: "As it will happen with intellectuals without anything to analyze, they will create a psychological situation to exercise their intellects without any regard for whether the outcome is negative or positive."

As the narrator and Fryderyk become obsessed with a young farmhand, the passion turns to distain: "He was second-rate because young. Inferior because young. Sensuous because young, Carnal because young. Destructive because young. And in this youth of his--contemptible."

For those still interested, the acclaimed new translation, by Danuta Borchardt, with an introduction by Sam Lipsyte, is out now from Grove/Atlantic.


n+1 on Friday

Editors and contributors to n+1's new issue, which includes fiction by Juan Villoro, are scheduled to appear in conversation this Friday at McNally Robinson.

Keith Gessen, Mark Greif, Chad Harbach, Allison Lorentzen, David Noriega, Marco Roth, and Katherine Sharpe are among the participants, and according to their announcement the topics will include "recession and the environment, the neuronovel, gay marriage and abortion, Juan Villoro's fiction, and, of course, Internet dating--as well as anything else of interest from Issue 8."

Friday November 20 at 7PM
McNally Jackson Bookstore
52 Prince Street (btwn Lafayette and Mulberry)
New York, NY 10012
Free and open to the public

Published Nov 18, 2009   Copyright 2009 David Varno

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