This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog, and drew a comment . . .
At the urging of the Frankfurt Book Fair and the German Book Office in Moscow, Russian representatives put on a special “Look at Russia” seminar earlier today. Vladimir Grigoriev, the deputy head of the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communication, gave a short presentation filled with statistics about the Russian publishing scene, including:
Always interesting to get these facts, and to compare them with other countries, but I wish he (or another presenter) would’ve talked about some contemporary writers, particular publishing houses, etc. Unlike a number of other countries (Netherlands, Estonia, France, Germany, and many more), Russia does not have a “book office” or any other organization designed to promote Russia literature abroad, which is one reason that only a few contemporary writers are being translated.
Surprisingly (to me at least), the question and answer session got a bit tense when someone questioned the motive of the Russian booth, claiming that instead of sending Russia authors to represent the culture, they only sent the government . . . Grigoriev dodged the question gracefully, claiming that the private publishing scene has only existed for seventeen years, so publishers were still learning how to promote authors abroad. He did follow this up by pointing out that the only state-run publishers are the ones that produce medical books, the official encylopedia, and textbooks . . . You know, fact-based publications. Hmm.
Note: One of things I didn’t mention in this piece was how the event ended. After the initial round of speeches, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s old (literally) friend and biographer gave a brief talk. Honestly, I’m not sure if this woman had ever used a microphone in her life. Instead of speaking into it, she kept dropping it, hitting various objects, causing eardrum-exploding feedback loops.
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. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .