Literary roundup: Kafka’s trial’s end, new Czech translations and velvet divorcees

The trial over the fate of the Kafka manuscripts left in Max Brod’s possession, that he bequeathed to his secretary Esther Hoffe, has finally reached a settlement. The judge ruled that the manuscripts should go to Israel’s National Library, though of course Hoffe’s surviving daughter will appeal until the end of her own life, after which her appeal will be taken up by one of the many cats Elif Batuman described so well as living in her apartment together with the manuscripts.

The end of the trial is a harsh blow for journalists, who will now be hard-pressed to find uses for the word Kafkaesque or phrases such as “labyrinthine trials which could have come straight out of the pages of Kafka’s fiction.” It will also end speculation about new and missing Kafka novels that journalists have occasionally tossed out. The one new publication it should produce are Max Brod’s diaries, which, considering the number of writers, artists, musicians he knew and championed – in Prague, for example, both German and Czech – could make for excellent reading, especially if they contained information he wasn’t willing to disclose in his autobiography during his and his friends’ lifetimes.

Erben’s Bouquet of Czech Folktales

Twisted Spoon Press is publishing Karel Jaromír Erben’s “A Bouquet” and has made an excerpt available online, including translator Marcela Sulak’s introduction. Sulak writes that the collection (bouquet) of Czech folktales “is one of the three foundational texts of Czech literature, and it remains the only one of the three that has not yet been published in English.” The excerpt also shows a sample of the fantastic art work by Czech painter Alén Diviš that illustrates the book.

Gašek in Bugulma

The Prague Post has an interview with translator Mark Adrian Corner on his bringing Jaroslav Hašek’s Bugulma stories into English.

“One important thing was to bring to life Hašek as a short-story writer, and even the short story as the medium at which Hašek excelled. It could even be argued The Good Soldier Švejk itself works best when Švejk is telling funny stories, as a collection of short stories,” Corner says.

Velvet post-divorce: Slovak fiction in Czech

Following a divorce there’s that thorny matter of custody and keeping up family relations, and according to Czech magazine Host the Czechs in particular have been the deadbeat dads in regard to cultural and literary ties. The result has been ignorance of Slovak writers on the Czech side of the border, an inability to read Slovak paired with a lack of translation. The current issue of Host, with a discussion of this issue and presentation of some young Slovak writers such as Anasoft litera prize winner Balla, does its part to redress the balance.

To read more at Eurozine scroll down to the bottom where it reports on Host’s issue, including some links to the Slovak Literary Review, where you can read English extracts of the writers mentioned.

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