Archive | Essays RSS feed for this archive

The lackluster marriage of philosophy and the novel

In the Financial Times novelist Jennie Erdal poses the question of whether it’s still possible to write philosophical novels the way Dostoevsky and Tolstoy once did. While it is quite easy to disagree with her premise and point out any number of philosophical novels being written today, the article is indicative of a much deeper […]

Continue Reading

Literary Broccoli: Why Cliches about Translations Hurt Books

Translations shouldn’t be treated as “literary broccoli” or “armchair travel” and doing so is counterproductive. An article on some of the longstanding myths attached to literature in translation. Read the full article at Publishing Perspectives Photo – Ryūkō eigo zukushi (fashionable melange of English words), woodcut by Tsunajima Kamekichi showing illustrated sampler of foreign everyday […]

Continue Reading

Finishing books

Tim Parks has an interesting and provocative blog post at NYRB on whether or not it’s necessary to finish good books. It’s obvious, of course, that he is going to suggest that leaving books unfinished is okay, otherwise he would never have written the piece in the first place (“And to conclude, I declare it […]

Continue Reading

Writing on the Danube: Part 2 on Readux

The second part of an article in Berlin’s Readux on the Literature in Flux program and the river it took place on. Stories of piracy, swimming feats, drowning and love – some true, some fictional and some a combination of the two. What they all have in common is The Danube. Continue Reading Photo – […]

Continue Reading

Writing on the Danube: Part 1 on Readux

Writers from Germany to Bulgaria take a literary boat trip down the Danube and attempt to explore issues of European identity, the chaotic state of the world and the precarious situation of freelance writers. The Danube runs almost 3,000 kilometers from the Black Forest in Germany all the way to the Black Sea, and has […]

Continue Reading

Eastern disillusionment meets western incomprehension

On Dorota Masłowska’s play – “A Couple of Poor, Polish-Speaking Romanians” It is hard to be subversive in the 21st century. Writers and artists of all kinds have been aiming in that particular direction for so long now that it seems almost old-fashioned. And if you’re from what is commonly referred to as Eastern Europe, […]

Continue Reading

The literary divide pt. 2 – Europe and the isolationism of American literary debate

There must be something other than pollen in the air, because literary disputes have been both more frequent and more heated than usual: the novel isn’t dead, one earnest article claims, it just happens to be the focus of a rearguard attack by the defenders of privilege. The ongoing debate over the value or worthlessness […]

Continue Reading

Raskolnikov of Finland

In The New Republic Ruth Franklin has an interesting and damning survey of American novels dealing with terrorists. And though I was gently chided for being too hard on Franklin for her attempt to deny the differences between European and American writing, I just can’t help myself taking issue with some of the premises of […]

Continue Reading

The literary divide – European vs. American fiction

Part I – On Best European Fiction 2011 and the Euro-American debate over literary adventurousness The publication of the inaugural Best European Fiction collection by Dalkey Archive Press in 2010 resulted in a bit of American literary defensiveness over claims that European fiction was more adventurous and experimental than its new world counterpart. Zadie Smith’s […]

Continue Reading

Prague Writers’ Festival postscript

I like writers’ festivals – not when the writers read their work, which is usually boring, or when the discussions are overly organized, in which case they can be dull too. The most interesting aspects of writers’ festivals are the moments that typically slip through the cracks, that you have to see in person to […]

Continue Reading