There really should be a RSS feed, or weekly summary, or title list recap, or something for the comments section of this Guardian blog feature. Every month the Guardian and its readers discusses literature from a particular country. Last month it was Germany, this month Hungary.
And every month we post about this, make silent promises to check in on a weekly basis to see which titles are being praised, and yet, and yet . . .
Thankfully, this first post about Hungary includes a brief recap of which authors came up during the German discussion. Most of the typical names were referenced: Mann, Heine, Holderlin, Hesse, Rilke, and Timm. Sasa Stanisic also got some praise for How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone, which is especially interesting, since he was born in Serbia, but has spent half his life in Germany. (This book is coming out from Grove in the very near future, and, if 2666 doesn’t arrive today—please US Postal Service gods, please—is the book that I’m going to start reading tonight.)
Anyway, the discussion on Hungary should prove interesting. Although the host has only read Kertesz’s Fatelessness, there are actually a number of interesting Hungarian writers whose books are available in English. There are many more Kertesz books available, including a few from Melville House, and George Konrad is a very interesting writer. Laszlo Krasznahorkai is fascinating, and his The Melancholy of Resistance pretty amazing, and Sunflower by Gyula Krudy was one of my favorite books of 2007.
Good to see Hungarian lit getting some attention . . . Maybe Sara Kramer from NYRB really is on to something when she claimed that this would be the year of the Hungarians . . .
The Guardian World Tour is off to China this month, which should be interesting. I assume that there are a lot of great untranslated Chinese books, but over the years I’ve found it more difficult to get info about Chinese lit than any other country. Thankfully, China is scheduled to be the guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2009, so things might get easier.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .