Readersforum's Blog

January 24, 2014

The last hieroglyphic language on earth and an ancient culture fighting to survive

DongbaBy April Holloway

The Dongba symbols are an ancient system of pictographic glyphs created by the founder of the Bön religious tradition of Tibet and used by the Naxi people in southern China.  Historical records show that this unique script was used as early as the 7th century, during the early Tang Dynasty, however, research conducted last year showed that its origins may date back as far as 7,000 years ago.   Incredibly, the Dongba symbols continue to be used by the elders of the Naxi people, making it the only hieroglyphic language still used in the world today.

The Naxi people lived in the beautiful mountain province of Yunnan (“south of the clouds”) for thousands of years, where they developed their own rich and enduring culture.

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December 28, 2013

This Woman Read One Book From Every Country in the World: Here Are Her Favorites

Ann Morgan

Ann Morgan

A holiday reading guide

By Uri Friedman

In the fall of 2012, Ann Morgan was wrestling with a problem few of us can identify with. No matter how hard she tried, she simply could not find a book to read in English from the tiny African nation of Sao Tome and Principe. At a loss, she appealed for help on Facebook and Twitter, only to be deluged with offers from around the world to translate whatever work she chose from the Portuguese-speaking island. A small army of volunteers in Europe and the United States ultimately came to her rescue, translating chunks of Olinda Beja’s 140-page The Shepherd’s House into English.

The crowdsourcing experiment was just one memorable moment in Morgan’s quest to read one book from every country in the world in one year—a goal she accomplished just around this time last year, as New Year’s Day approached.

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November 19, 2013

William Weaver obituary

RoseRenowned translator best known for rendering the robust Italian prose of Eco’s The Name of the Rose into nuanced English
By Ian Thomson
William Weaver, who has died aged 90, was the greatest of all Italian translators. Before him, the professional translator was considered little better than a superior sort of typist. Weaver helped to bring the art of translation out of obscurity and give it a literary credence and recognition. His versions of Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco are models of exactitude and seamless craft. Half jokingly, Eco said that Weaver’s translation of his metaphysical whodunnit The Name of the Rose (1980) was “much better than the original”. The novel sold more than 10m copies worldwide. Not since Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude had there been such a consensual success on the book market. Weaver made a fortune from the translation and was able to build an extension to his Tuscan villa from the proceeds (the “Eco chamber” he called it).

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May 20, 2013

Drenka Willen Wins First Ottaway Award for Promotion of International Literature

Words without Borders, a nonprofit and online magazine, has announced that Drenka Willen is the first recipient of the James H. Ottaway Jr. Award for the Promotion of International Literature (aka the Ottaway). Willen joined Harcourt as a translator and freelance editor in the 1960s and has been an advocate for literature in translation for close to 50 years. Among the authors and translators she has worked with are Nobel laureates Günter Grass, Octavio Paz, José Saramago, and Wisława Szymborska, as well as Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, and Stanisław Lem.

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April 29, 2013

Oil, Chavez And Telenovelas: The Rise Of The Venezuelan Novel

Barbaraby Marcela Valdes

Marcela Valdes is the books editor of The Washington Examiner and a specialist in Latin American literature and culture.

For more than 40 years, the most important book prize in South America has been bankrolled by the region’s most famous petro-nation: Venezuela. Yet Venezuelan novelists themselves rank among the least read and translated writers in the entire continent. Over and over again as I worked on this article, I stumped editors and translators with a simple question: Who are Venezuela’s best novelists?

“If you were to ask me about Mexico or Nicaragua …” one translator hedged. A second tried guessing that “there can’t be a lot happening in a country that basically represses.” A third editor was more frank. “I know zip about the country’s literature,” she confessed. “How embarrassing.”

Yet since 1967, a Venezuelan award, the International Novel Prize Rómulo Gallegos, has been the kingmaker of Spanish-language book prizes. Among the crowned: Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, Elena Poniatowska, Roberto Bolaño, Javier Marías, Enrique Vila-Matas and Ricardo Piglia. Gerald Martin, whose biography of García Márquez covers more than 70 years of literary history, judges it “the only Latin American prize which does the same for Latin America as the Nobel does for the world.”

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Two for Harvill on Indy shortlist

iffp_logo | By Joshua Farrington

Two titles from Harvill Secker have been shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker, translated from the Dutch by David Colmer is in the running alongside Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas, translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey and Anne McLean.

Indies make up the rest of the shortlist, with Trieste by Daša Drndic, translated from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac (Maclehose Press); Bundu by Chris Barnard, translated from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns (Alma Books); The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare, translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson (Canongate); and Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia (Pushkin Press).

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March 26, 2013

This Is the Worst Book Cover Ever

o-iluminado-el-resplandor-the-shining-stephen-king_MLA-F-124496690_5137By Gabe Habash
About a month ago, I was searching for something Stephen King-related to put on this fantastic blog. Scrolling down through rows and rows of Google images for The Shining, most of them screengrabs of Nicholson and the pre-chopped-up girls in the hallway, I saw, in thumbnail size, the above cover for O Iluminado. It looked strikingly similar to an 80s Pantene ad.

I saved the cover on my desktop, knowing I wanted to share it with you all in some way, but not sure how. For weeks, I’d open the file and stare into O Iluminado‘s eyes, and then into her smaller set of eyes. I would look at it for so long it would change; I named the mysterious woman Flavia; she became strange to me and then familiar in her strangeness. I had so many questions.

Who is Flavia? In what public place is she on the cover? Why is she also in a little window?

But let us parse why this book cover is either the worst book cover ever or, perhaps, the most brilliant book cover ever.

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July 2, 2012

Stories from elsewhere

AT A recent literary event aboard a barge on the River Thames in London, Pia Juul, one of Denmark’s leading poets and writers, conversed with Ali Smith, a British novelist. Ms Juul’s voice was nearly drowned out by nearby diners and music playing upstairs. The symbolism was apt. The event’s sponsor, Peirene Press, has just published Ms Juul’s prize-winning “The Murder of Halland” in English translation. But as with Ms Juul’s performance on the barge, it seems nearly all of the best foreign voices go unheard in Britain and America.

When it comes to international literature, English readers are the worst-served in the Western world. Only 3% of the books published annually in America and Britain are translated from another language; fiction’s slice is less than 1%. This contrasts sharply with continental Europe: in France, 14% of books sold in 2008 were translations; in Germany, the figure was 8%, according to Literature Across Frontiers, a translation advocacy network. Yet the bias for English literature appears to be universal: two in three European translations are from English, and about 40% of all novels published in France.

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December 29, 2010

When Done Right, Little Gets Lost In Translation

Edith Grossman has translated Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. When translating an author's work, "you feel as if you are looking at the world through the eyes of someone else," Grossman says.

When Edith Grossman translates a book, she begins to feel a closeness to the author who wrote it. “The more talented the writer, the more open the door is into his or her mind,” she explains.

And Grossman should know. She is perhaps best known for her translation of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Not only did Cervantes invent the modern novel, says Grossman, he was a cutting-edge writer 400 years ago. When Grossman talks about the author, it’s almost as if he is still alive.

“I dearly love him,” she says. “I would love to have a meal with him, I’d love to have a couple of drinks with him, to sit and chat and talk about literature and all the other things you talk about with someone you are really very fond of.”

But such affection and admiration can also be daunting. Grossman says she had a lot of fear when she began translating Don Quixote. She spent two weeks on the first sentence alone, because she felt everything else would fall into place if she could only do justice to Cervantes’ opening line.

The key to unlocking what the author intended, says Grossman, can always be found in the text itself….read more

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