Another day, another post that should’ve been written weeks ago . . . (In case you haven’t noticed, today is themed. And this extends beyond the blog to responding to dozens of e-mails I should’ve responded to way back when.)
Last month, the Susan Sontag Foundation announced that Benjamin Mier-Cruz won the 2010 award for his proposed translation of Modernist Missives of Elmer Diktonius, a collection of letters and poetry from the Finnish-Swedish avant-garde writer. Here’s the bio cribbed from the Susan Sontag site:
The letters originate during the Finnish Civil War in 1918, when Diktonius was just 22 years old, and conclude with his final correspondences in 1951. The exchanges reveal the private conflicts and travels of a vanguardist of literary expressionism. In the true spirit of modernism, Diktonius sought a new literature that reconciled antiquated art forms with the psyche of a changing Europe; one that represented and provoked revolt against political and economic establishments. [. . .]
Born in Helsinki in 1896, Diktonius, also a composer and fluent in Finnish, fervently sought to abandon the rigid structures of traditional rhythm in verse. He promoted literary expressionism in Finland by giving voice to man’s internal consciousness and social unrest as it came into modernity and confronted new technology. Diktonius’ poetry demonstrates his visionary aspirations for literature, the working-class, and the fate of his native Finland. His swaying political views can be seen throughout his writing, which ended in 1951. Diktonius died in 1961.
(For more info on Diktonius, I recommend checking out this page at the insanely complete “Books and Writers” site.)
And re: the translator:
Benjamin Mier-Cruz is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Scandinavian Languages and Literatures at UC Berkeley. He received his B.A. in German Language and Literature from Arizona State University and completed his M.A. at UC Berkeley.
In case you’re not award of this award, it was launched a few years back as a way of encouraging translators under the age of 30 to continue in the profession. It’s a brilliant award and comes with a $5,000 cash prize. Past winners can be found here.
This year’s honorable mention went to Salka Gudmundsdottir for her proposed translation of Icelandic author Steinar Bragi’s Rafflesíublómiò (or “The Rafflesia Flower”). Having met Steinar and read some short excerpts of his work, I’m really interested in finding out more about this project . . .
The article I wrote for Publishing Perspectives about the Iceland Literary Festival (along with a video interview with Kristjan B. Jonasson, the head of the Icelandic Publishers Association) will go live tomorrow morning, but in the meantime, I thought I’d put together a short write-up of some of the interesting contemporary Icelandic writers I met at the festival last week. This is obviously an incomplete list, but if you’re at all interested in finding out about Icelandic literature, it will hopefully serve as a good starting point:
More information about these and other Icelandic authors can be found at the Icelandic Literature Fund website (Agla at bok at bok.is is the person to contact for sample translations, etc.) and the Fabulous Iceland site that was set up to promote Iceland culture in advance of their being Guest of Honor at the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair.
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. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .