I can’t access the full review (yet), but according to Stephen Mitchelmore at This Space the new issue of the TLS has an interesting review by Nick Caistor on Enrique Vila-Matas’s Dublinesca. Here’s an interesting bit that Stephen pulled out:
Vila-Matas insists that there is a “moral contract” between writer and reader, and that the reader should be active, showing a “capacity for intelligent emotion, a wish to understand the other person, and to get closer to a language that is different from that of our daily tyrannies”. He goes further, declaring that: “the same skills needed to write are also needed to read. Writers can fail readers, but the reverse is also true, and readers fail writers when all they look for in them is a confirmation that the world is exactly how they see it”. In spite of all the playfulness therefore, the game of literature is the most serious and urgent there is.
Vila-Matas is a personal favorite—his Montano’s Malady is pure genius—so I’m excited to find out more about Dublinesca. And I did hear from Declan at New Directions that they signed this book on, so it will be available in English at some point in the future. In the meantime, ND is bringing out Vila-Matas’s Paris Never Ends sometime next spring (?). Can’t wait . . .
In anticipation of announcing the fiction longlist for the “Best Translated Book of 2008” on Thursday, here are a couple other “year end” lists worth checking out.
I don’t remember The Guardian using this format for its year end lists in the past, but then again, I have a hard time remembering things from last week. Regardless, this format of having authors, politicians, etc., write a couple lines about their favorite book of the year works really well. This is the same format that TLS uses every year, although the complete list from The Guardian is available online, whereas TLS only has a sampling . . .
Nevertheless, there are some good entries, including two from William Boyd (one in each paper), and this one from Doris Lessing in the TLS:
Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night (Yale). As a boy Alberto Manguel used to read to blind Borges at a time when Buenos Aires was a nest of poets and storytellers and love of literature. He dreamt of becoming a librarian, and in his mind were the great exemplary libraries of Alexandria, Pergamon and Carnegie, whose librarians got so many letters of thanks from writers and scholars. There were long years before he achieved his own library. In the fifteenth century a barn, at other times a temple to Dionysus, a Christian Church. The library had different characters at night and in the day. In the dark were the glittering books. One book calls to another, unexpectedly creating alliances across different cultures and centuries. Manguel muses over the possibilities of classification using Chinese and Arabic thought, but for me the image that stayed is of a hand reaching out to a book but being deflected, attracted by remembering the weight and balance of it and perhaps, “If time flows endlessly, as the mysterious connection between my books suggests, repeating its themes and discoveries through the centuries, then every misdeed, even treason, every evil act will eventually find its true consequences. After the story has stopped just beyond the story of my library, Carthage will rise again from the strewn Roman salt. Don Juan will confront the anguish of Dona Elvira. Brutus will look again on Caesar’s ghost, and every torturer will have to beg his victims’ pardon in order to complete time’s inevitable circle”. This is a book full of pleasurable memories – full of happiness.
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .