Literary roundup: Claudio Magris, more Caucasian tales and Czech book news

The latest edition of Bookslut has Jessa Crispin’s interview with Claudio Magris, conducted in Trieste. He talks about Trieste itself, its literary culture and his relation to it. He also discusses his novel Blindly and, of course, Danube. Always fascinating.

Bookslut also has an excellent review of Gombrowicz’s Diary by Daniel Shvartsman though he mistakenly states that it is a new translation (the new one-volume edition has 10 additional pages that weren’t included in the previously published three-volume set translated by Lillian Vallee).

Legends of the Caucasus

Having just written about Words Without Borders Writing from the Silk Road here is a book that touches on the little-known literary tradition that comes out of one of that road’s more hazardous stretches. Legends of the Caucasus by David Hunt is reviewed at Eurasianet and it sounds amazing.

How about 44 variations of the Prometheus legend, far from the Greek versions we’re all familiar with. So there is “a certain Balkar named Susuruk obtained fire for the Narts—who are a ‘legendary heroic race of warriors.’” Or there’s the story of a shepherd named Sozuk who impregnated a rock.

And this ancient oral history remained unwritten until the early 20th century because until then there was no alphabet. I don’t know if Hunt addresses it in his explanatory text but I imagine that must have been good timing as the next part of the 20th century was probably pretty disruptive with these tribal cultures all becoming part of the Soviet Union.

New Miloš Urban in English and Czech

There is a report that Miloš Urban’s latest novel is called Praga Piccola, comes in at almost 500 pages and is being released in October. Urban’s postmodern gothic murder novel Seven Churches was published in an English translation in 2010. November 2012 will see the publication of the English version of Lord Mord. Both translations are published by Peter Owen Publishers.


Josef Škvorecký Prize finalists

They have announced the five finalists for this year’s Josef Škvorecký Prize:

Michal Ajvaz, Lucemburská zahrada (The Luxembourg Gardens) 2011

Vladimír Mikeš, Škodlivý prostor (Harmful Place) 2012

Petr Šabach, Máslem dolů (Butter Down) 2012

Marek Šindelka, Zůstaňte s námi (Stay With Us) 2011

Kateřina Tučková, Žítkovské bohyně (The Godesses of Žítková) 2012

(Except where obvious (e.g.#1) I have translated the titles myself in full knowledge that, for example, if there’s a Czech expression “butter down” I don’t know it and am not even sure I want to know what it means if there is).

Czech Literature Portal

And just a note that while I will be bringing some Czech literary news from the Czech Literature Portal to Literalab I will no longer be writing for the portal as I have been for the past few months. So if you have followed the English page there recently and notice a sudden change in style and focus, an abrupt diminishment of sarcasm among other things, don’t worry – I haven’t changed. I’ve just changed jobs as it were.

Photo – Caffè San Marco in Trieste by Betta27/wikimedia

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4 Comments on “Literary roundup: Claudio Magris, more Caucasian tales and Czech book news”

  1. juliasherwood
    05/09/2012 at 1:41 am #

    I believe it comes from the saying that buttered bread always falls onto the buttered side, i.e. sod’s law – as in Jarek Nohavica’s song Mikymauz (from the album Mikymauzoleum): “…věci co nechceš ať se stanou ty se stejně stanou
    a chleba s máslem padá na zem vždycky blbou stranou
    máslo bych zrušil.”
    http://www.nohavica.cz/cz/tvorba/texty/mikymauz.htm

    • 05/09/2012 at 2:07 am #

      Thanks, and makes perfect sense, but it makes translating titles like that something between iffy and amusing.

  2. 05/09/2012 at 9:09 am #

    Julia Isherwood is absolutely right: “máslem dolů” really means sth like “bad luck”.
    I will be missing your sarcasm at the CZ Lit. Portal though!

    btw, do you know why the publication of Lord Mord was postponed and who translated it?

    • 05/09/2012 at 12:39 pm #

      Thanks for the confirmation and kind words. I don’t know why Lord Mord was postponed and though I looked there’s oddly and unfortunately no mention anywhere of the translator.

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