9 May 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

From Contemporary Russian writer Aleksandr Skorobogatov comes some sad news about Northwestern University Press’s “Writings from an Unbound Europe” Series:

The end of a publishing era

RIP – Writings from an Unbound Europe

The editors of Northwestern University Press have decided to end the run of Writings from an Unbound Europe, the only more or less comprehensive book series devoted to translated contemporary literature from the former communist countries of Eastern/Central Europe. The final title in the series, the novel Sailing Against the Wind (Vastutuulelaev) by the Estonian Jaan Kross (1920-2007) will appear in a translation by Eric Dickens some time in 2012. With that title Unbound Europe will have published 61 books since its inception in 1993. Among the highlights of what has been published over this twenty-year period are the first English-language editions of David Albahari, Ferenc Barnas, Petra Hůlová, Drago Jančar, Anzhelina Polonskaya, and Goce Smilevski. By far the best selling title in the series is Death and the Dervish (Drviš i smrt) by the Bosnian writer Meša Selimović (1910-1982), which has sold close to 6000 copies since it appeared in 1996. In recent years, however, changes in book-buying habits and diminished interest in Eastern/Central Europe in the English speaking world have led to significantly lower sales, even for masterpieces by such major writers as Borislav Pekić and Bohumil Hrabal. I would like to thank the series co-editors Clare Cavanagh, Michael Henry Heim, Roman Koropeckyj, and Ilya Kutik as well as several generations of Northwestern University Press editors and directors for their work on this project. Most of the books published in the series remain in print and will continue to be available on the Northwestern University Press backlist.

Andrew Wachtel
General Editor

So many favorites were included in this series: Dubravka Ugresic, David Albahari, Georgi Gospodinov, Bohumil Hrabal, on and on and on. Sad day for Eastern/Central European literature in translation. Hopefully some press will pick up the slack . . . hopefully. But if a series like this can’t exist in a university setting, well . . . Ugh. And no offense to the great people working at NUP, but without this series, you drop (in my opinion, at least) from the first-tier of university presses (Columbia, Harvard, Yale, etc.) to something lower. I don’t want to name any titles, or make my point at the expense of any hard working authors, but your new catalog seems very vanilla when you remove the translations. Just another set of books to get lost in just another set of bookshelves . . .

....
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?),. . .

Read More >

Stealth
Stealth by Sonallah Ibrahim
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

From the late 1940s to the early 1950s, Egypt was going through a period of transition. The country’s people were growing unhappy with the corruption of power in the government, which had been under British rule for decades. The Egyptians’. . .

Read More >

Miruna, a Tale
Miruna, a Tale by Bogdan Suceavă
Reviewed by Alta Ifland

Miruna is a novella written in the voice of an adult who remembers the summer he (then, seven) and his sister, Miruna (then, six) spent in the Evil Vale with their grandfather (sometimes referred to as “Grandfather,” other times as. . .

Read More >

Kamal Jann
Kamal Jann by Dominique Eddé
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Kamal Jann by the Lebanese born author Dominique Eddé is a tale of familial and political intrigue, a murky stew of byzantine alliances, betrayals, and hostilities. It is a well-told story of revenge and, what’s more, a serious novel that. . .

Read More >

I Called Him Necktie
I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flašar
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

While looking back at an episode in his life, twenty-year-old Taguchi Hiro remembers what his friend Kumamoto Akira said about poetry.

Its perfection arises precisely from its imperfection . . . . I have an image in my head. I see. . .

Read More >

Return to Killybegs
Return to Killybegs by Sorj Chalandon
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

The central concern of Sorj Chalandon’s novel Return to Killybegs appears to be explaining how a person of staunch political activism can be lead to betray his cause, his country, his people. Truth be told, the real theme of the. . .

Read More >

The Last Days
The Last Days by Laurent Seksik
Reviewed by Peter Biellp

Spoiler alert: acclaimed writer Stefan Zweig and his wife Lotte kill themselves at the end of Lauren Seksik’s 2010 novel, The Last Days.

It’s hard to avoid spoiling this mystery. Zweig’s suicide actually happened, in Brazil in 1942, and since then. . .

Read More >