Hopefully that headline got your attention. But seriously, check out this bit from the By the Book feature that appeared in the New York Times this weekend:
Are you a rereader? What books do you find yourself returning to again and again?
I don’t do much rereading anymore because I’ve been ill and feel that I’m running out of time. But recently I did reread all of Evelyn Waugh’s novels, and was pleased to find that he was almost as thoughtful as, say, Olivia Manning, although his snobbery sometimes grates. Also, I enjoyed “Lucky Jim,” by Kingsley Amis, all over again: the funniest novel I have ever read. Is there some Bulgarian equivalent, languishing untranslated? Probably not.
Really, Clive James? Really? That’s not just ignorant, it’s kind of insulting. (“In Bulgaria, funny book writes you!”)
And ignorant. Let’s stick with that one for a moment. Over the past two years, we’ve published Milen Ruskov’s Thrown into Nature, which is extremely funny in a picaresque, Quixotesque way, and 18% Gray by Zachary Karabashliev, which is a bit more slapstick and American in its humor, but is also quite funny.
I’m sure James didn’t mean to insult all Bulgarian writers ever, and I realize he’s trying to say that there’s no Bulgarian book that’s as funny as Lucky Jim, but jesus shit does his statement come off as being dismissive in a middlebrow American sort of way.
What’s especially heartening is that Izidora Angel wrote a letter to the editor calling him out:
As someone born in Bulgaria, raised in America and educated in England, I can assure James that Bulgarian is a grammatically rich and unique language. Like the people who speak it, the Bulgarian language survived 500 years of Ottoman rule, and it is colored by Turkish, French and, currently, American and English words and phrases. Its slang is funny, touching and bittersweet.
Although Bulgaria may have given the world the Cyrillic alphabet, few of its notable works have been translated into English, except for a couple of classics from the late 19th century, like Ivan Vazov’s novel “Under the Yoke” (1893) and Aleko Konstantinov’s travelogue “To Chicago and Back” (1894). Gaining support to translate important Bulgarian works and commentary into English is an uphill economic battle. The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation is an important part of the effort.
I hope that rather than mocking a language and people he does not know, James will pick up a translation of Konstantinov’s “Bai Ganyo” and enjoy some Balkan humor.
And just to drive home my point about the arrogance and ignorance of his statement, I’d like to point out that James hails from Australia, a place utterly lacking in refined cultural humor. There’s no Lucky Jim that’s been written by a Australian, that’s for sure. Shit, the only thing they really have going for themselves humor-wise is Fosters and all the potshots the rest of the world can take at them, since we all know that the New Zealanders are a million times funnier. And prettier.
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .
The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
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?),. . .