Poet and translator from the Hungarian George Szirtes has a wonderful corrective about what he refers to as the “constant and loud debate” regarding the death of the novel. Starting off from the remarks at the Edinburgh Book Festival of poet Jackie Kay that it’s odd that novelists are constantly predicting the end of the novel while poets never seem to fear the end of the poem, Szirtes very sagely recalibrates what might potentially be dying and shows that we can dispense with mourning and likely keep looking out for great stories.
The panel and speech that Szirtes article arose from was a festival keynote speech on the future of the novel by China Miéville. The rambling speech has moments of real brilliance – advocating literature in translation (obscure works of the Russian avant-garde no less), attacking British writers’ anti-Modernist biases and referring to last year’s Booker Prize as Middlebrowmaggedon. But then he goes into piracy issues and the idea that readers will become part of the writing process in the way DJs remix music by remixing and recombining texts.
“In the future, asked if you’ve read the latest Ali Smith or Ghada Karmi, the response might be not yes or no, but “which mix”, and why?”
There was also a panel discussion where these issues where taken up and a glance at a lot of the shocked hypothetical suggestions in the comments section caused me to think about the extent this is already taking place with the Jane Austen and zombies mash-ups and the like. Not sure if this was what Miéville meant, but the future often turns out bleaker than we expected it, doesn’t it?
Online stories and new translations by Danilo Kiš
At Bomb Blog’s Word Choice there are a pair of short texts by Danilo Kiš that are untitled and contained subtitles in English: The magical place and The worst rathole I visited?
At Tablet Jacob Silverman writes about newly translated work by Kiš – The Attic, Psalm 44, and The Lute and the Scars – and some of the weighty subjects they touch on.
Photo – Poet (Futurist) by Ilya Repin, 1916 (in celebration of the increased availability of the obscure works of the Russian avant-garde).