4 December 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

On the same day that we try and celebrate literature in translation, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (still trying to bring their website into the 1990s) fired Drenka Willen one of the most influential editors of international literature of the past half-century. She’s responsible for Harcourt’s string of great foreign authors, like Gunter Grass and Jose Saramago and Italo Calvino and on and on.

Sure, I haven’t finished my MBA and don’t understand “business,” but I think this is a blindly stupid decision. I can’t imagine many of Drenka’s living authors—Umberto Eco, Saramago, etc.—will be all that thrilled to publish their future works with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. And why did Houghton Mifflin buy Harcourt in the first place? One would hope that the world-class caliber of authors Drenka had acquired and cultivated was one of the reasons . . .

It’s clear that HMH is in turmoil, and based on these recent decisions (freezing acquisitions, firing top editors, complete fail on digital initiatives) I feel pretty safe in saying that HMH is not a publisher I’ll be paying any attention to in the future.

On a happier note, here’s a nice profile that PW did back in 2002.

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The Madmen of Benghazi
The Madmen of Benghazi by Gerard de Villiers
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .

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The Four Corners of Palermo
The Four Corners of Palermo by Giuseppe Di Piazza
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The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .

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Writers
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Reviewed by P. T. Smith

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My Brilliant Friend
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Reviewed by Acacia O'Connor

It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .

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Stealth
Stealth by Sonallah Ibrahim
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

From the late 1940s to the early 1950s, Egypt was going through a period of transition. The country’s people were growing unhappy with the corruption of power in the government, which had been under British rule for decades. The Egyptians’. . .

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Miruna, a Tale
Miruna, a Tale by Bogdan Suceavă
Reviewed by Alta Ifland

Miruna is a novella written in the voice of an adult who remembers the summer he (then, seven) and his sister, Miruna (then, six) spent in the Evil Vale with their grandfather (sometimes referred to as “Grandfather,” other times as. . .

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Kamal Jann
Kamal Jann by Dominique Eddé
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Kamal Jann by the Lebanese born author Dominique Eddé is a tale of familial and political intrigue, a murky stew of byzantine alliances, betrayals, and hostilities. It is a well-told story of revenge and, what’s more, a serious novel that. . .

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