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!

Rambling Jack
Rambling Jack by Micheál Ó Conghaile
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

“Rambling Jack—what’s that?”
“A novel. Novella, I guess.”
“Yeah, it looks short. What is it, a hundred pages?”
“Sorta. It’s a duel language book, so really, only about… 50 pages total.”
“50 pages?”
“Including illustrations.”
“And this—what. . .

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The Things We Don't Do
The Things We Don't Do by Andrés Neuman
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Many authors are compared to Roberto Bolaño. However, very few authors have the privilege of having a Roberto Bolaño quote on the cover of their work; and at that, one which states, “Good readers will find something that can be. . .

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Private Life
Private Life by Josep Maria de Sagarra
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In Josep Maria de Sagarra’s Private Life, a man harangues his friend about literature while walking through Barcelona at night:

When a novel states a fact that ties into another fact and another and another, as the chain goes on. . .

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Dinner by César Aira
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .

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We're Not Here to Disappear
We're Not Here to Disappear by Olivia Rosenthal
Reviewed by Megan C. Ferguson

Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .

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The Queen's Caprice
The Queen's Caprice by Jean Echenoz
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .

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French Concession
French Concession by Xiao Bai
Reviewed by Emily Goedde

Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .

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