3 January 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Following up on earlier announcements, Ed Nawotka writes about Kalima’s ambitious program in today’s International Herald Tribune.

Part of the United Arab Emirates’ Authority for Culture and Heritage, Kalima is a nonprofit enterprise with the goal of translating 100 titles a year into Arabic and distributing them throughout the Middle East. Which sounds like it will be quite a challenge:

Karim Nagy, Kalima’s chief executive, acknowledges the hurdles. The Arabic-speaking world comprises about 300 million people in more than 20 countries. Censorship laws vary, and often there is no strong bookselling community or distribution channel.

“First, we will worry about getting the books translated,” he said. “Then we will work to optimize their distribution.”

To put this program in perspective, Nawokta cites some interesting figures:

About 10,000 books have been translated into Arabic in the past millennium, according to a 2003 study by the United Nations Development Program. The demand has been small, partly owing to the historical tendency to focus most reading on religious texts and classical poetry. About 300 new translations appear each year, so Kalima’s planned 100 titles represents a substantial addition.

Along with Europa Editions new enterprise Sharq/Gharb, the Arab world is about to get in an influx of international literature.

Kalima is still in the process of acquiring rights to its first 100 books, but the current list includes Milton’s Paradise Regained, Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Collected Stories, Alan Greenspan’s The Age of Turbulence, and The Kite Runner.

2 August 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The International Herald Tribune has a feature today on the production of Russian playwright Ivan Viripaev’s “Genesis No. 2” as directed by Bulgarian Galin Stoev, which sounds like a fascinating play.

Two men and a woman perform several roles against a backdrop of mirrors that reflect their outbursts and transformations. The setting is a psychiatric institute where a professor of mathematics named Antonina Velikanova has been interned, diagnosed with acute schizophrenia. She believes she is Lot’s wife, and converses with God – or her psychoanalyst.

The play opens on the narration of a letter Velikanova purportedly has written to Viripaev asking him to stage her script. Her name even appears next to his in the credits as co-author, and a character named Viripaev also appears on stage.

Too bad there’s no reference to touring America . . .

2 July 07 | Chad W. Post |

To keep on with my dislike of the term “Summer Reading,” and how it’s frequently used only in reference to aesthetically-suspect titles, I want to share these two articles from the International Herald Tribune as examples of what “summer reading” can be.

First off is a review of Less than One by Joseph Brodsky, followed by a review of Anna Akhmatova’s poetry.

Both are listed under the rubric “Summer Reading.” So take that Salon!

....
This Life
This Life by Karel Schoeman
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

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. . .

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A Dilemma
A Dilemma by Joris-Karl Hyusmans
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

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. . .

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Walker on Water
Walker on Water by Kristiina Ehin
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

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. . .

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The Nightwatches of Bonaventura
The Nightwatches of Bonaventura by Bonaventura
Reviewed by J. T. Mahany

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. . .

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Pavane for a Dead Princess
Pavane for a Dead Princess by Park Min-Gyu
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

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. . .

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Tram 83
Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
Reviewed by Caitlin Thomas

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. . .

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Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic by Octave Mirbeau
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .

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