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 Little Horse
The Little Horse by Thorvald Steen
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .

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Guys Like Me
Guys Like Me by Dominique Fabre
Reviewed by Peter Biello

We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .

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Birth of a Bridge
Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .

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Faces in the Crowd
Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
Reviewed by Valerie Miles

At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .

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Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia by Julio Cortázar
Reviewed by Cameron Rowe

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .

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Self-Portrait in Green
Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .

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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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