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Today in International Lit

By David Varno

Etgar Keret's Complicated Characters

Sydney's Morning Herald has a great profile on Israeli short story writer Etgar Keret today. In the interview, Keret describes what he calls Israelis' schizophrenic nature, which he says many politically-charged readers have refused to face abroad. He describes a character that inhabits his real life: "For 340 days of the year [my dentist] is a tofu-eating vegetarian who drives a hybrid car and takes care of people's teeth. The other 25 days of the year, he kills people."

This past winter, WWB hosted a month-long discussion of Keret's short story collection Girl on the Fridge, and featured an interview with the author by Adam Rovner (which Rovner also translated from the Hebrew).


Palestinian-American's Film Shares Stories

Palestinian-American filmmaker Cherien Dabis is profiled this month in Guernica, for her film Amreeka, which opens in wide release this week. It is the first Arab-American film to gain significant funding (National Geographic), and it evidently has a feel-good tone of acceptance in America, despite hardships. Though it may remind critical viewers of the issues raised by Slumdog Millionaire, which is that the popular, well-funded movies that deal with America's relationship to most other countries tend to be self-glorifying, this film has the authenticity of addressing the hardships faced by the filmmaker's family during the 2003 invasion. On the need for cultural dialogue, she says: "Whether it's film or literature or poetry or stand-up comedy, we all seem to put our stories out there and get more realistic portrayals of who we are out to the world."


Debate over Hamsun's Politics vs. Literary Achievements Continues

Hunger, by the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun, is one of the great modern novels, and his novel Mysteries is indispensable as well. But over the past half-century, many readers have been hard-pressed to read Hamsun's books without a tinge of guilt over the knowledge that he was a Nazi-sympathizer (or they refuse to read his books period). According to the Guardian, as Norway prepares to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Hamsun's birth, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman is calling the nation anti-semitic. Hopefully the controversy won't dissuade a new generation of readers from exploring Hamsun's indispensable meditation on the sacrifice of an artist.


From PEN American Center: Call for Submissions

At the beginning of the month, PEN opened submissions in ten categories of annual awards, including two for translation: The $3,000 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and the $3,000 PEN Translation Prize.


WWB Events: September and October

Words without Borders in Hudson, NY

As part of our Walking the World issue, published in partnership with Orion magazine, we've partnered with Ledig House International Writers Residency to bring two contributors, translator Edward Gauvin and fiction writer Agur Schiff, to upstate New York for two readings. The first will be at Spotty Dog Books and Ale on September 19 at 3 p.m. Spotty Dog Books and Ale is located at 440 Warren Street, Hudson, NY 12534.

Writer and translator Edward Gauvin has received a travel fellowship from the American Literary Translators Association and a residency from the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. His work on fabulist Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud in Words without Borders and in AGNI Online, Epiphany, The Café Irreal, and The Brooklyn Rail mark the author's first appearances in English. Other translations have been featured in Two Lines XV and Silk Road. He translates graphic novels for Tokyopop, First Second Books, and Archaia Studios Press.

Agur Schiff was born in Tel Aviv in 1955 and is a graduate of St. Martin's School of Art in London where he specialized in Animation. He won critical acclaim as a filmmaker before turning to writing. His award-winning debut collection of short stories, Dying Animals and Bad Weather (1995), was followed by a second collection entitled Stories for Short Trips (1999) and two novels: Bad Habits (2004) and What You Wished For (2007). His third novel, In the Sand, will be published early next year.

This project is made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Book Launch for Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia

Reading and Reception at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, 126 Crosby Street. Monday, September 21st, 2009 at 7:00pm

Join Tin House Books and CEC ArtsLink in celebrating the launch of a new volume of contemporary Russian prose edited by Mikhail Iossel and Jeff Parker. With readings from the volume by featured authors Oleg Zobern and Natalia Kluchareva. The event is sponsored by the Open World Cultural Leaders Program and The Saint Petersburg Review, with support from the PEN American Center and Words without Borders.

Words without Borders at Ledig House

The Omi International Arts Center is welcoming its fall residents to the Ledig House Writers Residency Program. The session runs from September 11-November 20. The only community reading for the season will take place on Saturday, September 26th, in the Charles B. Benenson Visitors Center at the Omi International Arts Center (Route 22 near Letter S Road, see website The residents will read from their work at 5PM and there will be a BBQ to follow. This event is free and open to the public.

The evening will include readings from the following writers:

Luìsa Costa Gomes (Portugal, Fiction/Playwriting/Translation)

Jacek Dehnel (Poland, Poetry/Fiction/Translation)

Edward Gauvin (US, Translation)

Agur Schiff (Israel, Fiction)

Chanda Rule Bernroider (US, Lyrics/Poetry)

Allison Amend (US, Fiction)

Glaydah Namukasa (Uganda, Fiction)

Nora-Eugenie Gomringer (Germany/Switzerland, Fiction)

Pa Ousman Darboe (Gambia, Nonfiction)

This event is cosponsored by Words without Borders through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

Published Sep 15, 2009   Copyright 2009 David Varno

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