Literary roundup: new award and age-old problems

The newly established Czech Book Award (Cena Česká kniha) has announced its shortlist of 20 titles out of 109 titles submitted by Czech publishers. A list of seven finalists will come out in April and the winner will be announced as part of Book World Prague on May 19.

Shortlisted authors that can be read in English translation to varying degrees include Michal Ajvaz, Radka Denemarková, Miloš Urban, Jiří Kratochvil, Sylva Fischerová and Iva Procházková. The award has been created as an opportunity to present Czech writers to European publishers. I don’t know who is expected to win but I’ll ask my bookie what the odds are before placing my bet.

On noise, racket and how to write

Dalkey Archive’s latest issue of Context was just released and includes the answer to a 1930 survey on writing methods by literary critic Viktor Shklovsky. Shklovsky is a writer who would never win the Czech Book Award, not only because he is Russian and dead, two factors which would presumably disqualify him, but mainly because of his opinion of Prague that I included in an article about Russian émigré writers and thinkers here:

“To live in Prague and think you’re living in Europe is foolish.”

Ouch! Still, he clearly put some thought into his answer (more than I do at least, being a member of the click and get it over with school of survey taking). About Gogol, for example, he says:

“Gogol most likely did not write in the language in which he actually thought, and his Ukrainian prosody affected his style. As distant stars affect the orbits of planets.”

The list of other writers surveyed is pretty impressive and includes Andrei Bely, Mikhail Zoshchenko, Yevgeny Zamiatin, Boris Pasternak, Osip Mandelstam, Yuri Olesha, Boris Pilnyak, Veniamin Kaverin. If anyone knows if and where their answers were published I would love to know.

The issue also includes an interesting introductory list of 10 Slovenian novels put together by Erica Johnson Debeljak. The novels range from 1904 to 1991, with entry #10 devoted to an introduction to contemporary Slovenian writers who haven’t been translated into English yet.

The issue also includes an extract from the writing of Arthur Schopenhauer “On Noise and Racket” and a memorial tribute to Romanian-born writer Aglaja Veteranyi 10 years after her suicide.

Photo – Arthur Schopenhauer

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