Laila Lalami has two new posts up at Words Without Borders for the December discussion of Camara Laye’s The Radiance of the King.
In the first, she discussing the literary influences in the book, in which she points to Kafka as a huge force on the novel. The most interesting part to me—but I’m a sucker for literary lore and debate—is the bit questioning the authorship of the novel:
As I mentioned in my introduction, the publication of The Radiance of the King barely a year after The Dark Child, the differences in genres between the two books, and the slightly more existential quality of the second novel, have given rise to some questions as to whether Camara really wrote that second book. These rumors appear to be based on allegations by a Belgian critic named Lilyan Kesteloot in a work that was published after Camara’s death, and against which he could no longer defend himself. These allegations were later investigated by an American academic, Adele King, who also had to rely on second-hand accounts and hearsay, and who also cast strong doubts on the authorship of the novel.
The final post focuses on Toni Morrison’s intro to the novel, and the claim that Laye turned the typical “white man venturing into Africa” idea on its head.
It might be a bit late to join this discussion, but the January edition of the Words Without Borders/Reading the World book club should be pretty interesting. Throughout the month James Marcus and Cynthia Haven will be discussing Collected Poems by Zbigniew Herbert (translated from the Polish by Alissa Valles). As soon as the first post goes up, I’ll be sure to mention it here.
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
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. . .