28 February 2012

2012 Sebald Lecture

"Making the Crossing: The Poet as Translator", the Sebald Lecture delivered by British poet Sean O'Brien in London on February 6, can now be downloaded/listened to at the site of British Centre for Literary Translation. Link.

21 February 2012

Juan Rulfo in zombieland

Juan Rulfo (1918-1986) was a Mexican writer and photographer who was famous for his so-called "literary silence." In his lifetime he produced only some 300 pages of literary fiction, contained in two books published within two years of each other. The first, El Llano en llamas (1953, translated in English as The Burning Plain and Other Stories by George D. Schade), is a collection of stories.

The Burning Plain's fifteen stories deal with human vices and human-landscape nexus. The setting is the Plain of Mexico, a barren wasteland where the drama of human conflicts plays out. Rulfo's themes are dark, but his expressive language is altogether beautiful and untamed. Here's a link to one of the 15 stories in The Burning Plain: "No Dogs Bark".

A new translation of El Llano en llamas, to be called The Plain in Flames, will be released by Texas University Press, which published the earlier Schade translation in the 70s. This comes out in October of this year. The translators are Latin American scholars Ilan Stavans and Harold Augenbraum.

Rulfo's second book was Pedro Páramo (1955, translated twice: by Lysander Kemp in 1959 and by Margaret Sayers Peden in 1994), a seminal novel and considered to be one of the earliest and most notable manifestations of "magical realism." The book, a haunting ballet of spooks and the spooked, is a brilliant "comedy of manners". A reported fourth film adaptation of Pedro Páramo will star Gael García Bernal and will be directed by Mateo Gil.

Despite this very slim body of work, Rulfo's influence on Spanish-language writing is said to equal that of Borges. In a survey of the greatest Latin American novels of the 20th century among critics and writers, conducted by the newspaper El País in 2000, the highest number of votes was obtained by Pedro Páramo (39 votes), well ahead of Cien años de soledad by Gabriel García Márquez (28), Gran sertón: veredas by João Guimarães Rosa (21), Rayuela by Julio Cortázar (17), Conversación en la catedral by Mario Vargas Llosa (11), and El astillero by Juan Carlos Onetti (11). See the complete list here.


12 February 2012

I first met Roberto Bolaño

"I first met Roberto Bolaño through Andersen Tepper in The Village Voice. It was back in 2006, I was in Tehran, and Bolaño, who was by then already dead and a ghost, was standing on the page with two other authors from Latin America, Martinez and Galeano. The meeting so excited me that I had a friend who was traveling to Tehran buy me their books and bring them to me, because as you might or might not know, in Iran there are no bookstores selling books of literature in foreign languages (except one or two that sometimes get orders), and you can’t go online on Amazon or any other site and order the books, because either you don’t have a credit card, or if you have one, sanctions and regulations might prevent you from using it in the country of Axis of Evil, or even if you can pass through all these obstacles, there are still others: the books cannot be sent to an address in Iran, and even if they could, there would be no guarantee that they would survive the Iranian postal service inspections or irregularities and reach you."

– from "Reading Bolaño in Tehran" by Raha Namy, in The Quarterly Conversation

05 February 2012

A wild poet chase: The Savage Detectives Group Read

Last week participants began posting reviews for The Savage Detectives group read hosted by Richard and me. It's been a great week of reading the variety of ideas and thoughts on a text rich with ideas and references. Though not everyone finished the novel, the posts offered different ways of looking at a pillow book. Here then are the links to reviews.

Jeremy read the book in advance and shared his thoughts and linked with us at READIN.

Image by Jenny Volvovski.

04 February 2012

Aira contra Marías

It's one of the breathtaking literary fights of recent memory. In the Insatiable Booksluts' Death Match series, the métier of Argentine boxer César Aira was pitted against Spanish slugger Javier Marías. The prose in contention? Aira's Varamo and Marías's Bad Nature, complete with a vintage rating system and a well-served prize trophy.

Watch the electrifying rounds and find out the (very close) results here.