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.
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .