Literary roundup: Zweig, Kiš, Mandelstam and Nabokov’s right hook

The Guardian reports that plans to memorialize the house exiled Austrian-Jewish writer Stefan Zweig lived in London for five years were nixed by English Heritage (EH), the organization responsible for choosing who gets a blue plaque and who doesn’t. An EH spokesperson said that Zweig’s “current profile – which has never been as high in Britain as elsewhere – and his London connections did not appear strong enough for him to be commemorated at present.”

Zweig’s low profile and lack of London connections have also led to the rejection of his posthumous bid to join London’s highly exclusive Carlton Club. The EH also claimed 20th century writers are already well-represented in blue plaques, though a search of their site gave the impression that blue plaquers probably aren’t fanatical lovers of modernism (which gives them something in common with Zweig, come to think of it.)

Reports of a man in a trench coat and dark glasses leaving English Heritage’s head office being translator and Zweig non-admirer Michael Hofmann were dismissed as hearsay.

At least there were a number of well-known supporters backing Zweig, including England manager Roy Hodgson. According to The Guardian article, Hodgson’s mentioning in June that he liked Zweig’s work led to a doubling in sales. Wow.

Danilo Kiš

Also at The Guardian, the long-running (part 42) survey of the short story takes a look at another unjustly, underappreciated exiled (during WWII and later) Central European Jewish writer in Danilo Kiš. Chris Power does a nice job outlining the fictional and non-fictional threads of Kiš’s extremely unique writing, while connecting him to obvious ancestors such as Kafka and especially Borges, as well as descendants such as Roberto Bolaño, whose Nazi Literature in the Americas, seems so strongly influenced by Kiš.

Now the question is whether there is a plaque in Paris for Kiš, where he lived much of his last decade, or whether his profile and lack of Paris connections weren’t enough.

Osip Mandelstam

Let’s lighten things up with a writer who led a long, happy life unhindered by philistinism or political brutality . .  or, maybe not. B O D Y has a translation of an Osip Mandelstam poem “A Menagerie” done by Alistair Noon.

Vladimir Nabokov and the sweet science (no, not butterflies this time)

At last, a writer, who though exiled and victimized by the harsh realities of the 20th century, actually did go on to live until old age, achieve a degree of financial comfort (good thing he didn’t live in the 21st!) and find a broad, at times even too broad readership.

At The Times Literary Supplement they have published a talk given by the young Vladimir Nabokov on a 1925 Berlin boxing match that he gave in Latvia and was published in a Russian émigré journal there called Slovo.

The lecture’s translators Anastasia Tolstoy and Thomas Karshan have also translated the recently published (for the first time in English) Nabokov full-length play The Tragedy of Mister Morn, which he finished writing here in Prague, as I wrote about not too long ago.

Photos – 1) Osip Mandelstam, Korney Chukovsky, Benedikt Livshiz and Yuri Annenkov, 1914, 2) Stefan Zweig Street in Rio – in blue, no less (he must have connections there), photo by Eduardo P/wikimedia, 3) Adam and Eve by Yury Annenkov, friend of Osip Mandelstam as seen in photo 1. Annenkov ended up in exile like almost all of the above, dying in Paris in 1974.

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  1. Literary roundup: Egon Bondy and still controversial modernism | literalab - 07/08/2012

    […] I’m putting £50 with my local bookie that Will Self is not going to get a blue plaque. […]

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