For this week’s podcast, Tom and I answered our first mailbag question about literary journals, discussed the old adage that “short stories don’t sell,” and complained about the unbeatable Milwaukee Brewers.Read More...
I know that Romanian lit has received a lot of love over the past few years (according to our translation database 13 books have been published in English translation since Jan 2008), and that the Romanian Cultural Institute is very proactive and persuasive, but it’s still a bit of a surprise that two (two!) major literary journals just came out with special Romanian-centric issues.
The new issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction from the folks over at Dalkey Archive is all on “Writing from Postcommunist Romania.” This was edited by Ehren Schimmel and looks pretty interesting. (I would write more, but don’t have a copy, and there’s nothing available online. If I get a copy, I’ll post some sort of update.)
One of my favorite
drinks journals is Absinthe, and this “Spotlight on Romania” issue looks particularly good. The guest editor for this issue is Jean Harris—novelist, editor, critic, and translator who used to run The Observer Translation Project and is now working on a new site called the Romanian Literary Exchange.
In addition to pieces from a number of interesting Romanian writers—Mircea Cartarescu, Lucian Dan Teodorovici, Stelian Tanase, Dumitru Tsepeneag, etc.—there’s also an informative opening piece by Carmen Musat on “Contemporary Romanian Literature: A Tale of Continuity and Innovation.” Wish this was available online to link to, but instead, here’s a brief excerpt:
In the early ’90s Romanians hungered for new expressive forms—viscerally. A long-denied craving for the real coincided with a reaction against fiction—all those novels we used to praise for their resistance-packed political references. We ached to salvage the forgotten/forbidden past. Publishing houses brought out titles and promoted authors taboo under the Communist regime. They immersed themselves in autobiographical texts: secret diaries never published before and comprehensive memoirs. True stories, destinies dramatically changed: the most impressive came from well-known politicians and writers of the inter-war period, people who refused to collaborate, who defected or became prisoners of the regime. Many of the titles had documentary value. The new books helped to reconstruct (shine light on or through) the formerly impenetrable atmosphere of terror, the virtual daily prison of communist Romania. And, of greatest significance for contemporary literature, these reconstructive texts functioned as a literary school sui generis for the writers who would publish in the middle ’90s. All in all, literature worked to recover direct discourse and rebuild authenticity.
Definitely worth checking out. And hopefully the Romanian Cultural Institute is sending copies of both of these to dozens of editors at a range of publishing houses. It would be great if these anthologies led to the translation and publication of a few more Romanian novels . . .
This actually came out a month or two ago, but I recently received the new Review of Contemporary Fiction, which is a special focus issue on New Catalan Fiction. (Full disclosure: I set this project into motion at Dalkey Archive after returning from a trip to Barcelona, but left before seeing it to fruition.)
It’s a very good collection—which isn’t surprising, due to the quality of Catalan fiction and the fact that everything the Institut Ramon Llull is involved with is always of very high quality—with a “Then” section featuring classic Catalan authors (such as Merce Rodoreda, whose Death and Springtime we’re bringing out next summer) and a “And Now” section with pieces from a number of more contemporary authors, such as Quim Monzo, Albert Sanchez Pinol, and Empar Moliner.
As Jaume Subirana (the guest editor) made an excellent selection, although as he points out in his intro, there are a number of equally worthy writers (Jaume Cabre, Biel Mesquida, Jorida Llavina) that had to be left due to the lack of space.
Mary Ann Newman’s afterword is also very interesting, putting the selections into a broader, linked context. (I would actually recommend reading this before the individual pieces to get a better sense of Catalan literary history.) Another reason this collection is so strong is because of the quality of the translators. In addition to Mary Ann Newman, other pieces are translated by Peter Bush, Martha Tennent, and Matthew Tree, among others.
Not sure exactly when this came out, but the Spring 2007 issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction now shows up on the Dalkey site as being available.
It’s the first “Dalkey Archive Annual” and is made up of excerpts of Dalkey titles. What’s disappointing is that these are all old Dalkey books—nothing there to whet the appetites of real fans. And nothing from the issue—not even the book reviews—is available online.
Also, it’s odd that the look changed from this to a more zine-type feel, to the new look for the Summer Issue (on Juan Emar), but all the changes at Dalkey over the past month might have something to do with that.
Regardless, it’s nice that RCF seems to be back, and hopefully the new issue of CONTEXT will be fully online in the near future. The TOC is intriguing, and the readable quote on the pdf placeholder is solid, but clearly that’s not enough . . .
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Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .