Literary roundup: Book jacketmania and Ukraine’s fragmented reality

Major magazines aren’t usually littered with articles about publishing associate art directors but the past couple days Hollywood stars and other celebrities have had to take a back seat to the man who holds that position at Alfred A. Knopf, designing book jackets for new editions of Kafka, a new translation of Doctor Zhivago, Cortazar’s Hopscotch and many, many more.

In The New Republic, Peter Mendelsund is interviewed about some of his own favorite designs as well as some other designers’ covers he likes and dislikes.

In The New Yorker, Mendelsund discusses his books What We See When We Read, about what people picture, or think they picture when they read, and Cover, about the creation of book jackets. The two books were released yesterday August 5, both on the same day, an unusual thing to do, but as Mendelsund wrote in his blog of the reason behind it, “because it just seemed like a super-duper neat thing to do.”

The best part of the interview is that he would prefer books to simply have text on the cover – no visuals! Actually, the best part is the whole evolution he went through with the upcoming Calvino covers.

I interviewed Mendelsund back in 2011 when he did the Kafka series. You can read it here

And here’s Mendelsund’s blog Jacket Mechanical, which is pretty awesome.

New Ukrainian writing

Words Without Borders has published its latest issue, “A New North: Contemporary Writing from Finland”, though for Literalab purposes it’s the subfeature that is the real draw: “Metamorphoses of Reality: New Writing from Ukraine”. With an introduction by literary scholar Oleksandr Mykhed that attempts to chart a defining feature of contemporary writing in the country:

“A characteristic feature of Ukrainian writing in the past decade has been its depiction and exploration of reality not directly through the realistic narrative, but rather through the surreal and fantastical, the false mirrors of reality. Possibly, it is only such mirrors that are capable of adequately displaying the fragmented reality inhabited by Ukrainian authors and readers.”

The issue contains three pieces of fiction, including a story by Tanya Malyarchuk, who I have consistently heard lauded by writers who have read her work either in Ukrainian or in Czech and other translations (very few of her stories are available in English).

ALTA longlist

The American Literary Translators Association has announced its longlist for the 2014 National Translation Award. Among the 15 titles of regional relevance are:


An Invitation For Me to Think by Alexander Vvedensky, translated from the Russian by Eugene Ostashevsky & Matvei Yankelevich


A Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston



Distant Lands: An Anthology of Poets who Don’t Exist by Agnieszka Kuciak, translated from the Polish by Karen Kovacik

The five title shortlist gets announced in October and the winning translator gets $5,000.


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Categories: Book Jacket Design, Magazines, News


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