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!

....
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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The Four Corners of Palermo
The Four Corners of Palermo by Giuseppe Di Piazza
Reviewed by Patience Haggin

The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .

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Writers
Writers by Antoine Volodine
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .

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My Brilliant Friend
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Reviewed by Acacia O'Connor

It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .

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