The Birdcage Archives

Friday, 31 March 2017

Bob Dylan [Finally] Collects His Nobel Prize

Hello Gentle Reader

It were to appear the shadow of Bob Dylan, is all but through in haunting me in the news. Since the announcement on October 13th, which stated Bob Dylan would be the Nobel Laureate in Literature for two-thousand and sixteen; Bob Dylan has been near to my thoughts— but not in a pleasing manner. First and foremost, I took to the blog, drafting a statement of viewpoints, in which I outlaid my complete disgust that (and I quote myself) a: “Singer,” a “Musician,” a “pop icon,”— would be chosen as the honored individual to receive the most prestigious literary prize in the world. Admittedly, I hissed and pissed at the announcement, and staked out my position on the matter, where in found Bob Dylan’s Nobel to be deplorable, abhorrent, unacceptable, disgraceful, and destructive to all future Nobel Laureates, and insulting to all prior laureates who had received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Time does, however, calm one down. After seeing Patti Smith perform, one of Bob Dylan’s songs and falter slightly, I was struck with some empathy (more for Patti Smith), and have slowly learned to allow Dylan to slip from my mind; and his mistaken award has retreated along with him. I’ve learned to tolerate Bob Dylan, much like one tolerates a elusive pebble in their shoe. Now though, the Dylan Saga continues: from Nobel Nod, to Silence, to Snub, to Performance—it will now finally reach its final conclusion.

During the entire Bob Dylan saga criticism and controversy flew like a murder of crows. It first started with Bob Dylan receiving the Nobel nod; then came the criticism from a member of the Swedish Academy, who called Bob Dylan’s cold shoulder with regards to the announcement arrogant and rude; after which Bob Dylan broke his silence, but informed the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy: Sara Danius, that he would not be able to attend the Nobel ceremony, due to prior engagements. Now though Gentle Reader, the Bob Dylan catastrophe is coming to its final and overdue conclusion.

Bob Dylan will be meeting with the Swedish Academy this weekend, in a intimate and small setting—with no media presence; where he will receive his Nobel Diploma and Nobel medal, as well as receive warm congratulations from the members of the Swedish Academy (in attendance) on receiving the prize.

In a blog post outlying this weekend’s events; Sara Danius also notes, there will be no Nobel Lecture to be delivered this weekend. It should be noted, it is a fine print aspect of the prize, in order to maintain the status, diploma and medal; Bob Dylan must present his Nobel lecture six months after the December 10th, or else the award is revoked. Danius did allude that a pre-recorded lecture will be submitted at a later date (and made it clear, this is not uncommon as both Elfiede Jelinek and Alice Munro had also sent pre-recorded lectures—though these lectures did take place on December 10th.)

Finally though Gentle Reader, it will end. The Bob Dylan catastrophe will end at long last, and the pebble will slide away in the shoe; out of sight and out of mind.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

P.S. Gentle Reader, on her blog Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Sara Danius, has uploaded two photos of herself wearing shirts designed to declare and support Bob Dylan and his Nobel nod. The shirts were designed by artist, Mu Wiesel. To see the photos, please see the following links provided:

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Best Translated Book Award 2017, Longlist

Hello Gentle Reader

One of my favourite passages from Mu Xin’s collection of short stories, is a description of spring:

“Spring doesn’t arrive so easily. Spring is like a melancholic yet dignified man. It is no wonder then that a person with deep addictions is sometimes is likened to spring,” – from “Weimar in Early Spring.”

In autumn we are ageless; come spring though, time it’s a more hurried and its pace is quickened. Fall back; spring forward. This spring has the real air of melancholy unlike the two years past; the sky is overcast with a thin sheet of cloud. The sun lurks somewhere overhead, but does not shine. The trees are bald, barren and brown. Yet this morning, a robin trilled and trumpeted the arrival of spring. Despite these signs of waning snow, and tweeting robins—we are not necessarily out of the woods just yet for winters last triumphant and vitriolic blast to still strike.

Spring is not a season which attracts my favour. It’s muddy, dirty, and barren—spring here is like looking at the edge of the world, and seeing the end. Thankfully spring is an adolescent season; it’s awkward in growth, inconsistent in appearance, and as sullen as they come. Yet thankfully it buds and blossoms into summer—who, only lasts as long as a one night love affair.

All said though, spring does herald the literary seasons beginning, with the Man Booker International Prize longlist, and now the Best Translated Book Award’s longlist for both fiction and poetry. The Best Translated Book Award is one of the more interesting literary awards for translated fiction currently at work. Its lists are often eclectic, exciting and invigorating. The awards longlist and shortlist for both fiction and poetry, is diverse and often includes the well-known with the up and coming, as there is always a chance to become better acquainted with a new writer. This year’s longlist(s) are as diverse as so those in past. This year’s longlist contains thirty-five works of prose and poetry. According to the data this year’s judges received more then six hundred nominations for this year’s award, of which there were writers from eighty seven different countries, fifty-four different languages, and published by one-hundred and seventy-nine different presses. The statistics are both staggering and welcoming; perhaps the English language or the publishing industry is more open to translated books from different languages, perspectives and people.

Without further ado though my Dear Gentle Reader, list below is this year’s longlist for the fiction and poetry prizes. First off is fiction, with the authors listed with country and book nominated, in no particular order; following suit is the poetry longlist with the author, country and nominated book, again in no particular order.

The Best Translated Book Award Fiction Longlist –

Maja Haderlap – Austria/Slovenia – “Angel of Oblivion,”
Basma Abdel – Egypt – “The Queue,”
Rafael Chirbe – Spain – “On The Edge,”
Lidija Dimkovska – Macedonia – “A Spare Life,”
Boubacar Boris Diop – Senegal – “Doomi Golo,”
László Krasznahorkai – Hungary – “The Last Wolf and Herman,”
Marie NDiaye – France – “Ladivine,”
Sjon – Iceland – “Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was,”
Yoko Tawada – Japan/German – “Memories of a Polar Bear,”
Laia Jufresa – Mexico – “Umami,”
Sergei Lebedev – Russia – “Oblivion,”
Javier Marias – Spain – “Thus Bad Begins,”
Patrick Modiano – France – “In The Café of Lost Youth,”
Antonio di Benedetto – Argentina – “Zama,”
Banana Yoshimoto – Japan – “Moshi Moshi,”
Enrique Vila-Mattas – Spain – “Vampire in Love,”
Stefan Hertmans – Belgium – “War and Turpentine,”
Santiago Gamboa – Columbia – “Night Prayers,”
Jakob Wassermann – Germany – “My Marriage,”
Yoss – Cuba – “Super Extra Grande,”
Ananda Devi – Mauritius – “Eve Out of Her Ruins,”
Daniel Saldaña París – Mexico – “Among Strange Victims,”
Lúcio Cardoso – Brazil – “Chronicle of the Murdered House,”
Alessandro Baricco – Italy – “The Young Bride,”
Pedro Cabiya – Dominican Republic – “Wicked Weeds,”

There it is Gentle Reader, the fiction longlist for this year’s Best Translated Book Award. Twenty five books, by twenty five different writers. The list holds host to numerous new authors as well as established writers. I was delighted to see Maja Haderlap on the list with her beautiful and lyrical novel “Angel of Oblivion,” which tackles guilt and grief as both pandemic and personal affliction, as well as history and its tragic ability to be thwarted and interpreted. Nobel Laurate in Literature, Patrick Modiano also sits on the list with his novel “In The Café of Lost Youth,” which currently resides in my hands as I begin to read, yet another one of his wistful and melancholic novels, which most certainly will add another chapter to his mansion of half remembered memories. The Spanish language is well represented on the list with nine novels written in the language; yet only two writers herald from Spain itself: Javier Marias and Enrique Vila-Mattas. I always imagine Marias and Vila-Mattas, two of the best writers in Spain currently at work; in my mind they are always envisioned as great friends, but fiercely competitive with each other, in the friendliest manner possible. South and Central America are represented strongly with writers from Columbia, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina as well as Cuba; an exciting year for the southern hemisphere.

Ananda Devi strikes me as unique voice amongst the listed writers. She heralds form Mauritius and writes in French. She is one of those literary prodigies, whose talents came through early on, when she won a short story competition at the age of fifteen. Her nominated novel “Eve Out of Her Ruins,” tracks the lives of four lust driven teenagers, in a poor suburb of the capital of Mauritius; they each tackle and fight with the concepts of identity and sexuality, beneath the unforgiving son of the southern island nation.

Marie NDiaye, is one of Frances literary prodigies as well. She began writing at the age of twelve, and was discovered early on by the late Jerome Lindon (editor of the famous Éditions de Minuit); who published such famous writers as Samuel Beckett, Marguirte Duras, and Claude Simon. Since her debut, at the age of seventeen Marie NDiaye, has been a literary star in France; though she currently resides in Berlin in self-exile, escaping the monstrous political atmosphere of France. Her longlisted novel “Ladivine,” was also longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize last year. Boubacar Boris Diop and Marie NDiaye have something in common. Boubacar Boris Diop is a Senegalese writer and Marie NDiaye, though French is half Senegal, from her father; though he had returned to Senegal when she was just an infant. Boubacar Boris Diop’s novel “Doomi Golo,” is a remarkable and extrodinary piece of translation, as it is the first literary work to be translated from Wolof, into the English language. “Dommi Golo,” is about the one sided conversation of a grandfather attempting to communicate to his grandson before he dies. The grandfather’s life and his observations are accounted into six notebooks. The novel has been defined as moving like a piece of musical composition, paradoxically, it is both meandering and loose, while also maintain a cohesive and interwoven to give a completed picture. “Dommi Golo,” is one of the most exciting novels currently on the list.

László Krasznahorkai is a giant on the international literary scene. He has won the Best Translated Book Award twice; in two consecutive years. First Krasznahorkai won the award with his debut novel translated into English “Satantango,” in two-thousand and thirteen; in two-thousand and fourteen he would receive the award again with: “Seiobo There Below.” This is a testament to László Krasznahorkai talent and reputation as a major writer on the world stage. Personally though, I often myself at odds with the Hungarian master of the apocalypse; his work is incredible in style, breadth and scope; yet I often find myself finishing his worth with a great sigh of exhaustion. His winding and seemingly endless sentences are a labyrinth, and much like the purpose of the Minotaur’s labyrinth, one gets the impression that they are insignificant, small and most certainly get lost within it. Despite my own hesitations with the writer, I cannot deny him his glory or praise, which I often agree he justly deserves. He is just not necessarily my cup of tea in all circumstances. Krasznahorkai is back as a veteran and seasoned writer with his short novel: “The Last Wolf and Herman.” It’ll be curious to see if precedence follows, and whether or not Krasznahorkai ends up on the shortlist, and the potential as a winner. The Icelandic writer, Sjon, also finds himself on the longlist once again, after making it there in two-thousand and fourteen with his novel “The Whispering Muse.” There can be no denying Sjon is a great writer. His short and beautifully crafted novel “The Blue Fox,” was much fairy story and folktale, as it was a heartbreaking piece of work of family and human cruelty. Reaching the longlist a second time, only solidifies Sjon’s growing reputation and respect. Another curious veteran writer makes on to this year’s longlist: Lidija Dimkovska, from Macedonia. In two-thousand and thirteen Lidija Dimkovska was on the poetry shortlist with her collection of poems: “pH Neutral History,” now four years later, she is back with her novel “A Spare Life.” Though Dimkovska did not win poetry section of the Best Translated Book Award, four years ago, her novel recently translated as “A Spare Life,” did receive the European Union Prize for Literature alongside eleven other writers.

Two Japanese writers also make their way on to this year’s longlist in fiction; and they could not be any more different. Yoko Tawada is one of the most unique voices currently at work in both Japanese and German. She is a writer of a dual identity and language. Her work is often noted for its distinct Japanese surrealism (with its slight focus on bodily functions as is the case of “The Bridegroom and the Dog,”) she is noted as a writer completely distinct from the influence of Haruki Murakami. Her longlisted novel “Memories of a Polar Bear,” is a unconventional family sage, recounting the lives of three generations of polar bears. The novel has been remarked to showcase the hallmark strangeness of Yoko Tawada’s previous work, as it recounts the unique polar bears living amongst the human society, from Soviet Russia, to Canada, to the former East German, to the tragic real story of Knut born in the Leipzig zoo. Yoko Tawada traverses the world. By comparison, Banana Yoshimoto is the more strikingly Japanese writer, of the two. Alongside Haruki Murakami, Banana Yoshimoto is considered one of Japans most popular writers. Much like Haruki Murakami, Banana Yoshimoto uses casual surrealism to discuss the existential dread facing the urban bound Japanese youth, as they do their best to carve their name out in a post-consumerist world. Yoshimoto has stated her goal in writing is to help people, and in her novel “Moshi Moshi,” Yoshimoto tackles the death of a parent, and the all-consuming grief. With light prose and her casual yet detached surrealism Banana Yoshimoto creates a coming of age ghost story.

Basma Abdel is the only writer represented on the list hailing from the Middle East and the Arabic language. Basma Abdel is a writer, psychiatrist and visual artist, as well as being a columnist with a leading newspaper in Egypt. She earned her nickname or badge: “The Rebel,” because she continually fights against corruption, torture, and injustice in her home country. Her longlisted novel “The Queue,” is a scathing and yet all too realistic perspective of life after the failed Arab Spring. It’s a potent novel which expresses through subtle and intelligence writing Basma Abdel explore the nature of authoritarianism, and how it manipulates the everyday populace in an information saturated age; and its complete disregard for all those under its thumb, including those faithful and supportive of it.

The Best Translated Book Award, Poetry Longlist:

Ashraf Fayadh – Palestine/Saudi Arabia – “Instructions Within,”
Sara Uribe – Mexico – “Antígona González,”
Anna Świrszczyńska – Poland – “Building the Barricade,”
Abdellatif Laâbi – Morocco – “In Praise of Defeat,”
Yideum Kim – (South) Korea – “Cheer Up, Femme Fatale,”
Michael Donhauser – Austria – “Of Things,”
Alejandra Pizarnik – Argentina – “Extracting the Stone of Madness,”
Szilárd Borbély – Hungary – “Berlin-Hamlet,”
Pierre Reverdy – France – “Thief of Talent,”
Víctor Rodríguez Núñez – Cuba – “Tasks,”

There is the ten longlisted poetry collections nominated for this year’s Best Translated Book Award in the poetry section. I am a casual poetry reader (at best) so my thoughts are limited and non-existence. Though it is interesting to note, on the poetry short list lies on writer from one of the most politically charged areas in the world: Ashraf Fayadh, a Palestinian born poet currently residing in Saudi Arabia. Also noted on the longlist is a lack of European domination with only four poets of the nine heralding from the continent, the rest come from Asia, South and Central America.

This year’s longlist is as expected: is it eclectic, eccentric and exciting. On the longlist there are numerous writers and novels which I am currently interested in pursuing further, while I begin compiling a new books I would like to read and buy in the coming months. The best part about all literary awards is the exciting venture of discovering a new writer, new talent, and a new book to enjoy.

Best of luck to all the writers and it will be exciting to see how the difficult decision is made to dwindle down the list to a shortlist; a job I do not envy.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary 

Monday, 20 March 2017

Derek Walcott, Nobel Laureates, Dies Aged 87

Hello Gentle Reader

Derek Walcott, the poet and playwright and Nobel Laureate (1992) died at his home in St. Lucia, at the age of 87, on Friday March 27. Walcott is highly regarded for his poetry which tackles both the microcosmic universe of his Caribbean homeland with its sparkling beaches, shimmering waters and oppressive sun; but he also framed his poems in historical context which often laced and exposed the brutal bondage of colonialism. Derek Walcott’s utilized different poetry forms to best showcase his themes and poetic language, from the short lyric to the epic. Poetry has been a part of Walcott’s life since he was young; his father (who died when Derek Walcott was an infant0 was a teacher, watercolour painter and poet, and his mother a school teacher, recited Shakespeare to him while he was just a child. At the age of 19 he had self-published his first collection of poems and sold them on street corners, before he went to study at the West Indies University on a scholarship. After studying Walcott would continue to publish poetry and plays, while he taught and lectured at universities. His poems are noted for discussing the almost paradise world of the Caribbean life, with its exotic blooming flowers and the livelihood of the sea, but the narrative is also quickly framed in historical context, where the discussion of the economies of such island life, was built on sugar plantations, forced labour and slavery. Paradise was also prison. In doing so however, Walcott was capable of pushing the Caribbean onto the literary map, and open the grander world into its beauty and colonial history, but also framing human experience as universal, not just limited to any geographical space. Derek Walcott is most famous for his epic poetic odyssey: “Omeros,” which re-envisions the classical Greek myth, to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. It is often cited, this major epic of postmodernist epic poetry, would secure Derek Walcott’s Nobel in 1992, when he was awarded the prize with the following citation:

“For a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment.”

Derek Walcott is certainly a multicultural poet through and through. His allegiances reside with three distinct cultures: the Caribbean of his home, the English language as his tongue and pen, and Africa as his ancestor. Often Walcott struggles with which one he should belong to solely, before concluding he is the product of a multicultural spectrum.

Derek Walcott belongs to the great poetry renascence the Nobel experienced from 1980 – 1996, when great poets had achieved the great success the Nobel offers: those fellow poets are: Czesław Miłosz (1980), Joseph Brodsky (1987), Octavio Paz (1990), Derek Walcott (1992), Seamus Heaney (1995) and Wisława Szymborska (1996). Of the six laureates, Walcott is the last to pass.

Rest in Peace, Derek Walcott. Your poetry is admired, loved, and recited. It tackles the historical, the epic, the multicultural, and the ambiguities of the inedited, ancestry, history and the human experience; but no matter the sea shimmers as the sun rises.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Torgny Lindgren, Member of Swedish Academy, Dies Aged 78

Hello Gentle Reader

Torgny Lindgren was one of Sweden’s most renowned contemporary authors. Lindgren began his literary career in 1965, writing poetry, and was a teacher until the mid-1970’s. Success however, would not come for Lindgren until the 1982 with his breakthrough novel “The Way of the Serpent,” (“Ormens väg på hälleberget,”) the novel recounts the story of a poor farmer and his family as they struggle through the poverty and the cruelties of debt and credit, with their landlord(s), in the northern regions of Sweden during the nineteenth century. “The Way of the Serpent,” was noted by some as a scathing and unfiltered portrait of the struggles of poverty, debt, the earthly cruelty of man, and the fading hope of absolution and scripture. Moving past the poignant perspective the novel possess, the Swedish Academy recounts on Torgny Lindgren’s biography, the main character of the novel, is the language, in which Lindgren found his unique writing voice, which would help make him a renowned Swedish literary star, both at home and abroad. In 1986 the novel would be adapted into a film, directed by Bo Widerberg. In 1991, Torgny Lindgren was elected to Chair No. 9 of the Swedish Academy, filling the seat of his predecessor linguist, Ture Johannisson. Despite being 78 years old at the time of his passing, Lindgren was still publishing. His last novel came out three years ago in 2014: “Klingsor,” followed by a radio play in 2016: “Ring Game.” When he was asked after his last novel was published if he was frightened by death, he responded:

“I am not afraid of death, either, but it is more present to me now than twenty years ago. I know about it.”  

Many in Sweden remember Torgny Lindgren as a kind and witty, and a phenomenal writer, whose pages are graced with wisdom, and biblical musings, reflecting his decision to become catholic in the 1980s.

I leave off with one last extract from Torgny Lindgren’s novel “Norrlands Akvavit,” retrieved from Torgny Lindgren’s biography on the Swedish Academy website:

‘“A preacher cannot permit his teeth to decay’, said Olaf Halverson. ‘When you’re preaching you cannot have false teeth that clatter.”’

Rest in Peace Torgny Lindgren.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

For further reading about Torgny Lindgren’s passing please see the following newspapers (please note, they are in Swedish):

For a detail biography of Trogny Lindgren, please the Swedish Academy’s page dedicted to Chair No. 9:

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Man Booker International Prize 2017 Longlist

Hello Gentle Reader,

Now in its second year format as an annual award for an international writer and their translated novel into English, the Man Booker International Prize has released this year’s shortlist, showcasing a variety of translated fiction, from the well-known to the up and coming. This year’s longlist has strong contenders from Europe, China, Israel and South America. Commentator noticed a unique paradox with this year’s award. Of the thirteen nominated authors, translators and novels, seven of the translators on the list are women, while only three of the nominated writers are women. This once again asks questions about gender bias when it comes to publishing and literary awards by some. Though I do not have any experience in the literary world, besides being a casual reader of no particular standing, I don’t think there is any gender bias for awards or publishing. Literature is not (nor should be) patriarchal, though some would say it is harder to get published if you are a woman, and note statistical data, such as 26% of books translated are by women, and among other noticeable trends such as the Nobel Prize for Literature, throughout its long history has only fourteen women receiving the accolade, in compassion to the ninety-nine men who have won the prize. Yet, with all prizes with literature in general, it’s the work that gets the attention, it’s the merit which deserves the prize, not gender; and even though only fourteen women have won the Nobel Prize for Literature (for example) all fourteen have produced wonderful books with unique perspective of the human condition in an ever changing world. Though last year’s Man Booker International Prize, had received attention with a slight sparsity of women nominated for the award with four women on the longlist, and eight translators being women; Han Kang still won with her novel “The Vegetarian.”

This year’s longlist is again a uniquely complied list of writers, which includes Ismail Kadare, who won the Man Booker International Prize, in its first conceived format back in two-thousand and five. This year’s longlist also includes last year’s shortlisted author Yan Lianke, and two well-known Israeli authors, David Grossman and Amos Oz. Yet the award also celebrates the other writers not as well known or up and coming.

The following Gentle Reader is this year’s Man Booker International Prize, in no particular order:

Wioletta Greg – Poland – “Swallowing Mercury,”
Jon Kalman Stefansson – Iceland – “Fish Have No Feet,”
Alain Mabanckou – France – “Black Moses,”
Clemens Meyer – Germany – “Bricks and Mortar,”
Dorthe Nors – Denmark – “Mirror, Shoulder, Signal,”
Yan Lianke – China – “The Explosion Chronicles,”
Roy Jacobsen – Norway – “The Unseen,”
David Grossman – Israel – “A Horse Walks Into a Bar,”
Samanta Schweblin – Argentina – “Fever Dream,”
Ismail Kadare – Albania – “The Traitor's Niche,”
Stefan Hertmans – Belgium – “War and Turpentine,”
Mathias Enard – France – “Compass,”
Amos Oz – Israel – “Judas,”

There it is Gentle Reader, this year’s Man Booker International Prize for 2017. The list contains a variety of novels and themes, from a Robin Hood figure in the Congo, to the tragic and moral seriousness of David Gossman as he discusses a comedian, to family drama in Norway, to the short bildungsroman about a girl growing up in Poland. This year’s longlist celebrates the international renowned alongside the young and upcoming, with their talented and ambitious works.

Yet another exciting list of writers and novels from around the world; all that is left to be said, is good luck to each of them, and anxiously await the shortlist.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Thank-you: Jill Schoolman & Archipelago Books

Hello Gentle Reader

Jill Schoolman is a slightly unsung hero. Schoolman is the founder, editor and publisher of Archipelago Books, one of the most wonderful independent publishers whose sole focus is on translated and international literature. All of my Archipelago Books have a cherished spot on my bookshelves, and are often noticed by visitor’s who ask about ‘the small rainbow books,’ which I gleefully inform them, are books from one of my favourite publishers. An Archipelago Book—be it: “Dreams of Stone,” by Magdalena Tulli, to “To Mervas,” by Elisabeth Rynell, to “Mister Blue,” by Jacques Poulin, to “Time Ages in a Hurry,” by Antonio Tabucchi, to the massive “Blinding,” by Mircea Cărtărescu—is always a prized jewel in my forest of stories.

Archipelago books have done a phenomenal job at producing the underappreciated, the overlooked, or the unknown into English language markets. For this the publishing company has received praise by newspapers for its uniquely stylized books, for the quality of the translations, and for the diversity of the works translated and published—from the metafictional worlds of Magdalena Tulli, to the banks of Quebec with Jacques Poulin, to the existential ponderings of the Japanese short story master Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, to the scandalous as well as exaggerated life of the declining Catalan aristocrats of Catalonia, depicted in Josep Maria de Sagarra scathing and satirical grand novel.

Now Jill Schoolman and Archipelago Books have received further recognition, by being awarded the Words Without Borders Ottaway Award, for the Promotion of International Literature.  In choosing to award Schoolman with the Ottaway award, the Board Chair of Words Without Borders, Samantha Schnee stated the following:

“As physical and political borders close in around us, Jill Schoolman’s Archipelago Books offers a safe harbor to literary talent from around the world, infusing our bookshelves with vital and original work in translation. We are thrilled to celebrate her heroic efforts with this year’s Ottaway Award.”

At one point in time, it may have been odd to call translating literature a heroic endeavor; but the political climate in the world has become increasingly xenophobic and distrustful of others. Every day the news reports a story about borders closing, missiles ready to launch, people seeking refuge and soon turned away. Though literature cannot change these realities, it cannot solve these problems or even change the perspective of the masses or the politically governing, but it does offer an exchange of language and culture between languages on a literary level, which has the ability to bring to light the human universalities or love and suffering, but the unique cultural trials of different individuals in different cultures.

I’ve always looked at reading international literature as a form of traveling—at least at a more affordable price. It is with great thanks to Jill Schoolman, Archipelago Books, and the talented translators that I have been able to experience such unique worlds, read great writers and books, and seen the world though I can’t quite afford to travel. But now translation has become necessary, to showcase via literature human is not atomized into different countries or religions or races. Human is human, however weak or fragile, however corrupt and immoral; human is human, through its compassion and ability to grow and move forward. There’s a lot of work to be done, but becoming isolationistic is not conducive to a greater or grander world. There is work to be done, and at least Jill Schoolman is working on it and allowing access to the world through books, as it becomes increasingly barred from us and others.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

Friday, 10 March 2017

Good News Required

Hello Gentle Reader

There can be no greater sense of preserving forward then the call of some good news. Sometimes it’s because the person in front of you bought you a coffee, or a co-worker brings you a coffee unexpectedly, or you get invited out for a date, or you catch up with an old friend. Its these small wonders, of no great miracle, and filled with the most mundane elements of life which push us to push just a little more forward in going through life; despite the fact that we swing blindly for the most part, and are completely lost in trying to figure out: where we belong in the larger scheme of these chaotic machinations. Ali Cobby Eckermann, was a unemployed Ingenious Australian poet living in a van with her mother in Adelaide, Australia. This is, until a serendipitous e-mail would change her fortunes. Eckermann received an e-mail stating she was one of two poets to receive the Windham-Campbell Literary Prize in poetry, an award that is worth $165,000 (American).

Ali Cobby Eckermann was awarded specifically for her writings in which she confronts the violent history of the Stolen Generation of Australia. Through language, poetry, and story she is able to give voice to the unspoken traumas and loss which was conveyed during this time; and in a sense begins the process of reconciliation. In reading about her work, Eckermann immediately struck me as an advocate of Australia’s hidden pain, just as Canada attempts to reconcile and make peace with its own dark ghosts with ingenious Canadians, who suffered at the hands of the residential school system.

The Windham-Campbell Literary Prize is a relatively new award. It was inaugurated in two-thousand and thirteen. Since then the award has garnered recognition for its secrecy and the often humorous ways in which the lucky writers have been informed they’ve won; such as one of last year’s fiction winners: Helen Garner (also Australian) thought the award was a hoax, when she found it in her spam folder of her e-mail.

The award has four categories: Poetry, Drama, Fiction and Non-Fiction. This year’s winners are as follows, split into their respective categories and country of origin:

Poetry –

Ali Cobby Eckermann – Australia
Carolyn Forché – United States of America

Drama –

Marina Carr – Ireland
Ike Holter – United States of America

Fiction –

André Alexis – Canada & Trinidad and Tobago
Erna Brodber – Jamaica

Non-Fiction –

Maya Jasanoff – United States of America
Ashleigh Young – New Zealand

Congratulations to all writers and their grand pay day of $165, 000 dollars each!

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Reader

M. Mary  

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Paula Fox, Dies Aged 93

Hello Gentle Reader

Paula Fox was a distinguished writer for children and adults. Her work dealt with themes of dislocation, dysfunction, alienation and abandonment; which were attributed to come from her early life experiences as a child, in which she was rejected by her mother, and would be left in the care of others. It is reported in her memoir “Borrowed Finery,” when Paula was reunited with her mother at the age of five, the young Paula was treated like a prisoner of war. The experience was of course traumatic for the five year old, and she would later theorize that if her mother could hide the deed and get away with it, she would most certainly have killed Paula. It is at this point, Paula would have little contact with her paternal mother, and life would go on as usual, with a few missteps of her own. Paula became pregnant at the age of twenty, and give birth to a daughter, whom she would give up for adoption. This daughter would become Linda Carroll; who would become an author and couples therapist. Linda Carroll’s daughter is none other than the grunge queen and singer and musician Courtney Love, who is also the wife and widow of tragic musician Kurt Cobain, and mother of visual artist of Francis Bean Cobain. Looking at this family tree, complicated family relationships exist between mothers and daughters, as is the case of Paula Fox with her mother Elise Fox; to her daughter Linda Carroll’s relationship with her daughter, Courtney Love, and Love’s relationship with her daughter Francis Bean Cobain.

Paula Fox did not immediately turn to writing; as Fox did not start to write and publish until well into her forties. Yet, when she began to publish and gain recognition for her work, Paula Fox’s work was noted for complex characters, a pared-down economic prose along with minute observations, and she gain special praise for her ability to control the pace of her prose. She won the Newberry Medal (often considered the Pulitzer Prize for children’s fiction) for her novel “The Slave Dancer,” which became a controversial novel, about the slave trade in Atlanta during the mid-nineteenth century. Fox is most well-known to adults for her novel “Desperate Character,” in which she dissects the dissolution of a marriage. Despite her foray into adult literature, and the bit of success she found, her work for children often took greater precedence then her work for the more mature audience, and would soon fall out of print. Yet with the praise of Jonathan Franzen, Paula Fox’s work found a new renaissance during the nineties, as many new readers were reintroduced to her work.

Paula Fox is best regarded as the dark horse of American children’s literature. She won numerous awards for her outstanding books in this field, including the Hans Christian Andersen Award for her output in that genre. Her children’s literature, often dealt with themes and issues, some would claim were best left alone for children; yet Paula Fox appears to understand the child like capacity to understand, to show compassion, and to have empathy for the human condition, in which many would wish to shelter children from. Despite her mature treatment and understanding of children, Paula Fox and her writing has not been accepted without protest—as is the case of her winning the Newberry Medal.

Despite being a dark horse of children’s literature, and slightly underappreciated for her prose for adults, Paula Fox, is cherished by those who have read her, and swear by her unique understanding of the human condition. She has been called a unsung genius; and a master at work in which she depicts the modern plight of the ordinary and their tragic mundane lives, better than most.

Rest in Peace, Paula Fox.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
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And As Always

Stay Well Read

M. Mary