Friday, February 01, 2008

Ktonk! Adgno!

The New York Times Review of Books has had its first incarnation in another language! Any guesses which one? Romanian. No matter that its spoken by only about 25 million people. Don't be fooled by the scanty numbers or stereotypes of Eastern European exoticism. Critic A.O. Scott writes: "Romania is one of those countries where it seems that every literate person has written a novel, a book of essays, or at least a play." The NYT's Paper Cuts blog has more.

Also, Dan at The Wooden Spoon found a nice little piece on contemporary Russian poetry by Stephen Burt at The Poetry Foundation. Burt starts the piece by professing bemusement:

"The classroom next to my office has been booming all morning in Russian, a language I don't speak at all: I recognize it when the students respond to the teacher, in unison, by shouting "Spasibo!" though the other frequent shoutouts wouldn't be phonologically possible in any of the (too few) languages I read: one of them sounds like "Ktonk!" and the other like "Adgno!""

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bolaño, Berlin, and Bits from Herodotus

Following up on the last Bolaño post, another excerpt from Nazi Literature in the Americas appears in this month's Bookforum. This time, we get a portrait of the Schiaffino brothers--aficionados of literature and Argentinian football. The characters in Bolaño's faux reference book come off as credible, if just barely: Argentino Schiaffino is a criminal mastermind who, between stints running from the law, shows up at various World Cup games. Bookforum also has a little piece on the Spanish translator Edith Grossman.

Ian Buruma at the New York Review of Books talks about Alfred Döblin's 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz and Fassbinder's fifteen hour long movie based on the book. Buruma is suitably impressed with the film, but thinks that the book still needs an inventive, new translation in English. Nice in theory, but the (almost) insurmountable problem is that the book, written in heavy, Berlin workers' slang, is "pretty much untranslatable," according to Buruma.

Over at More Intelligent Life I came across a series of articles on reading Herodotus. In the first, A.P. David introduces Herodotus--the "only travel writer in print for 2,500 years"--in its English translation by the late big-name classicist David Grene. The second talks about women in Herodotus and observes that they "all too often as a sideshow to the perceived motives of powerful men," in reductionist readings, at least.