Literary roundup: Libya through Hungarian eyes, Akhmatova weighs in, and the dark marvelous

Insallah,” he said, and took a long drag. “If NATO gives the green light, then we attack.”

Twins,” a story of the Libyan uprising from Hungarian writer and war correspondent Sándor Jászberényi is featured on Pilvax Magazine.

And so yet another Central European writer has devoted his attention to the Arab/Islamic world without a peep of warning from Fox News. Maybe they’re distracted by some upcoming political event. Otherwise I can’t explain it.

On Solzhenitsyn

One follow-up on what I wrote about Zakhar Prilepin’s opinion piece at Russia Beyond the Headlines, which included a dismissal of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago as a significant work of Russian literature. The following is from a Paris Review interview with Joseph Brodsky that took place in 1979:


Were you familiar with Solzhenitsyn at that time?


I don’t think at that time Solzhenitsyn was familiar with himself. No, later on. When One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was put out, I read it instantly. I remember, speaking of Akhmatova, talking about One Day, and a friend of mine said “I don’t like this book.” Akhmatova said: “What kind of comment is that—‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it’? The point is that the book ought to be read by two hundred million of the Russian population.” And that’s it, ya?

– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Dino Buzzati’s time machine

Though a bit outside of literalab’s geographical purview, the work of Italian writer Dino Buzzati definitely has a strong aesthetic connection to Central Europe, as his story “The Time Machine,” featured in Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading series, makes very clear.

In his brief introduction to the story American writer Kevin Brockmeier places Buzzati together with Italo Calvino and Tommaso Landolfi in the “triangle of indispensable 20th century Italian fantasists” and makes me want to rush out and buy Buzzati’s best-known work, The Tartar Steppe, by describing it “as the novel Ernest Hemingway might have written if he had been Franz Kafka, a battlefront epic without the battle …”

Photo – from the poster for the 1976 film version of Buzzati’s The Tartar Steppe, titled The Desert of the Tartars and making it look somewhat less Kafkaesque than the novel is supposed to be (though the film is supposed to be good. I haven’t seen it.)

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