Link of the week

Will Self’s foray into digital writing. Erudite and wide-ranging, the essay places Kafka’s story “A Country Doctor” in a broad historical and cultural context supported by a wealth of material, ranging from Klesmer music, Self’s own video travelogue of Prague, animation, interviews with the translator and  even a reading of the story in its original German. You can find the piece here:

Will Self: Kafka’s Wound



The Ocean Within

Solaris Bokk Cover resizedAdmittedly, I have been somewhat prejudiced towards science fiction literature throughout most of my adult reading life. I always pictured the genre as very male and very Anglo – a refuge for boys spending way too much time in their bedrooms building spaceships with their Meccano sets and adults posing at fan conventions as their favourite heroes in full costume and face paint.

I was happily proven wrong by last year’s controversy in the run-up to the genre’s most prestigious award, the Hugos. The Hugos are voted for by attendees to the annual World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) and in 2015, a faction of conservatives calling themselves the Sad Puppies tried to highjack proceedings. Their grievances mirror the wider gripes of angry white middle-aged men fearing cultural irrelevance: in their view, the awards have become too highbrow, too progressive, too politicized, too foreign. Alas, as a sign of how times have changed, their campaign failed miserably. The main award went to female Chinese writer Liu Cixin and for categories dominated by Puppies nominees, the fans overwhelmingly returned “no award” votes.

The whole saga made me think about diversity in science fiction, if not in terms of gender then of works originally written in languages other than English and I decided to revisit one of the classic works of foreign language SciFi: the philosophical space opera Solaris by Polish author Stanilaw Lem, originally published in 1961 and now available in a new translation by Bill Johnson. Continue reading “The Ocean Within”

Link of the week

IMG_8850_resizedThis week I start a new feature on my blog. Alternating with my fortnightly book reviews I’ll be posting links to articles or videos that caught my attention and are related in one way or the other to the theme of this site. First cab off the rank is this recent interview with the translator of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels  which I reviewed on thetranslatedworld last month:

Ann Goldstein talks about her experience of translating Elena Ferrante and becoming the public face of the elusive Italian author


French Noir

Fatale CoverThe French have always had an ambivalent attitude to “les Americans”. On the one hand, their peak body for literature and language, the Academy Francaise, spends considerable time and effort to cleanse the French language from Anglicisms. On the other, there has always been a fascination with American popular culture – jazz, Hollywood and hardboiled crime fiction amongst it.

Fatale by Jean-Patrick Manchette (1942 – 1995) firmly falls into the latter category. Economically told in an emotionally detached voice, it tells the story of a modern femme fatale, Aimee Joubert, who arrives in provincial Bleville and turns the smug, self-satisfied life of the town’s bourgeoisie onto its head. She is a killer, seemingly without a cause, although as it turns out in the end, there is a moral to the mayhem she unleashes. Continue reading “French Noir”