And Speaking of Great Writers…

Theme:  Eastern Europe


Still carousing our way through Eastern Europe, I wanted to mention a few odds and ends that merit some attention.  First off, I have covered the work of Czech author Bohumil Hrabal in the past(review of Closely Watched Trains), and I will be covering I Served the King of England in the future, but check out Adam Thirwell on Bohumil Hrabal in The Guardian.  In England, there is a reissue coming out and this piece gives you a great look at Hrabal’s life.  Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a proper salute to Czech writer, Milan Kundera.  Although I feel that he is fairly well-known in the United States and internationally, I don’t mean to discount his work.  Normally, I tend to shy away from authors that have worldwide acclaim already, but I also feel that is necessary to acknowledge major contributions regardless of how many books he’s sold.  There is, of course, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but my favorite and lesser known work is The Joke.  Look for a more in depth look at this novel in the future, but in the meantime, there is a wonderful essay-by-way-of-a-letter-to-the-editor from 1970(!) in the The New York Review of Books.  It is a response to the review of Kundera’s debut novel and it provides a rich backdrop to the novel as well as putting into focus its historical perspective.  I would provide a link to the review as well, but I do not have a subscription(hint, hint–I am a non-profit in every sense of the word).  And if 1970 isn’t far enough back for you, you must watch this interview (in French) with Kundera about The Joke(how long do you think it took to blow up those chairs?):

A talented and beautiful friend of Salonica, LaVonne Natasha Caesar, sent along a link of Visions and Icons, the brainchild of photographer Geoffrey Hiller and writer Lev Liberman.  Hiller captured his travels through the former Eastern Bloc after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  These photographs are touching in their humanity and sobering in their reality.  Accompanied by Liberman’s words, these photographs convey many stories of life in countries that struggled and flourished under new governments. 

And lastly, a big congratulations to Tina Kover, who won $12,500 bones from the NEA “tosupport the translation from French of the novel Manette Salomon byEdmond and Jules de Goncourt. First published in 1867, Manette Salomon— thestory of an artist, Coriolis, and his model and mistress, ManetteSalomon — is considered by many scholars the first realistic Westernnovel about a visual artist. Set between 1840 and 1860 in France, the460-page novel portrays the artistic and literary circles of19th-century Paris. The Goncourt brothers, Edmond (1822-96) and Jules(1830-70), collaboratively wrote more than a dozen works of fiction and nonfiction. In addition to Manette Salomon, their work includes thenovels Rene√© Mauperin, Germinie Lacerteux, and Madame Gervaisais,as well as essays on art history, criticism of French 18th-centurypainters, Japanese art, the Paris salons, and their widely publishedprivate journals.”

I am excited about this because in a roundabout way, I am involved in this great project with Hol Art Books and I can’t wait to see Tina’s finished translation.  Till next time…

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