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Weekend Reading

By Bud Parr

I've recently begun reading Eduardo Galeano's beautiful Mirrors, which is one of those books that defy categories as well as time. Instead of one long narrative, the book is full of short myth-like tales with titles like "Voice of Wine" and "When Ships Navigated by Land." I find that I like to read just a few at a time, soaking them in like poems, so I've been hunting down some material on Galeano on the Web to get my fill. He of course became a momentary household name in America when Hugo Chávez gave a copy of Open Veins of Latin America, which Galeano wrote some 40 years ago, to President Obama. In this Washington Post Bookworld podcast (embedded below) Galeano says if he were to write it today it would be a very different book: "It was a point of departure, not an arrival."

Also at Bookworld see "Scenes From the Life of a South American Literary Legend".

I found this passage from an interview with Galeano at The Monthly Review tragic, but telling in terms of where he his coming from:

J. M.: Okay, more to the point, could you sum up cruelty in an image, in a situation that you have experienced?

E. G.: It happened to me years ago, in a truck that was crossing the upper Paraná. Except for me, everyone was from that area. Nobody spoke. We were packed closely together, in the bed of the truck, bouncing around. Next to me, a very poor woman, with a baby in her arms. The baby was burning with fever, crying. The woman just said that she needed a doctor, that somewhere there had to be a doctor. And finally we arrived somewhere, I don't know how many hours had gone by, the baby hadn't cried for a long time. I helped that woman get off the truck. When I picked up the baby, I saw that the baby was dead. The killer who had committed this cruelty was an entire system of power, neither in prison nor traveling around on rickety old trucks.


Much is being said about Daniel Mendelsohn's translation of Constantine Cavafy's poetry. At The Nation, Maria Margaronis, who is a translator herself, writes:

Mendelsohn is at his best as a translator of these poems, rescuing them from the slight coyness that dogged earlier versions with a voice as tender and forthright as Cavafy's own. (This is not an easy task. Some of Cavafy's favorite words have no good English equivalent. Idoni, from which we get "hedonism," is deeper and richer than "pleasure"; aisthitikos combines refinement, sensuality and beauty with a faint hint of the consciously decorative.) Rightly, though, Mendelsohn wants his readers to look beyond Cavafy as gay icon avant la lettre and comprehend his whole artistic project, which "holds the historical and the erotic in a single embrace."

Also see James Longenbach's praise from the New York Times last April.


This has nothing to do with literature, but Etgar Keret (on Keret at Words Without Borders) is one of my favorite writers and he has a piece in Tablet: A New Read on Jewish Life, called "Throwdown at the Playground"

I don't want to brag, but I've managed to earn myself a unique, somewhat mythic status among the parents who take their children to Ezekiel Park, my son's favorite spot in Tel Aviv. I can't attribute that special achievement to any overwhelming charisma I might possess, but rather to two common, lackluster qualities: I'm a man, and I hardly ever work. And so, in Ezekiel Park, I have been dubbed íha-abbaë or íthe father,ë an almost religious and slightly gentile nickname intoned with great respect by all the park's regulars.

(rarely do I remember where I first heard of these articles, but this one came from Maud Newton)


Lastly, for some fun, my friend Carolyn Kellog has a piece at the LA Times "Jacket Copy" blog called "61 essential postmodern reads: an annotated list". It's a visually oriented list, so I'll just leave you to go check it out instead of excerpting it here.


UPDATE: Via Scott Esposito, I see that there's an interview with Chris Andrews (translator of Bolaño and Aira, among others) at "The Mookse and the Gripes."

UPDATE 2: We've got runaway content here people: Also at the LA Times "Jacket Copy" blog, Carolyn Kellog interviews Dalkey Archive Press founder John O'Brien. Part 1, Part 2

Published Jul 17, 2009   Copyright 2009 Bud Parr

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