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The Creative Clamor of Igiaba Scego’s ‘Beyond Babylon’ | by Jhumpa Lahiri | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
"Beyond Babylon is a variegated tapestry that unfurls over more than 400 pages and weaves together myriad stories, voices, settings, and time periods. But red and gray, and the contradictory realms they symbolize, are the two dominant threads. Red: a primary color on the spectrum, representative of life and death, of anger and love, of communism, of Catholic cardinals, of brides in the East. Gray, on the other hand, is absent from the color wheel. A singular shade that has no opposite, it is the color of in-betweenness, of imprecision, of shadows. A mixture of black and white, gray may be seen as a compromise, as ambiguity, as a meeting point between extremes. Gray is the color of cities, of asphalt and cement. Of sobriety but also impurity, given that it is not an independent tone, but a meeting point of both.

Colors have always been freighted with meaning: political, aesthetic, psychological, emotional. They are linked, in almost every culture, to rites of passage and to ceremonies of all kinds. In the Middle Ages, when each panel of a fresco told a separate story, each color had a value. Color, in this sense, stands for language itself. And, of course, there are the colors that we human beings are born with: the various shades of our skin, distinctive and indelible, that also tell a story, that indicate our genetic heritage and mark us from birth to death.

Beyond Babylon is a novel that interrogates language, race, and identity from beginning to end. Both Zuhra and Mar—the other central protagonist in the novel—are Italian women who are black. Zuhra is of Somali origin. Mar is half Somali and half Argentine. Both deal with color as a marker of race. Both struggle with what it means for them. As black women in a predominantly white country, they stand out and also feel invisible. If the inability to see colors is a source of frustration for Zuhra, her spirited telling of the story—in a series of red notebooks, she makes a point of saying—opens the reader’s eyes to what it means to be a black Italian woman: an element of Italian society that few see clearly, and some don’t recognize at all.

Like most literary quests, the search to regain color involves a journey, in this case, from Rome to Tunisia, where Mar and Zuhra have been sent to learn classical Arabic. This destination is itself described as a sort of “gray” in both the geographic and cultural sense, a nether-zone between Italy and Africa. But nearly everything in this novel is the product of mixture, of convergence, of hybridity, also of doubling. Everything is itself and also its counterpart. Mar and Zuhra are two sisters. They have two mothers. The two pairs of women occupy the center of two stories that themselves intersect in the novel. Interestingly, there is only one principle male figure, and he is connected, albeit in absentia, to all four of these women."



"There is no better time than now to bring this novel into English. Now, when women’s voices are being heard in a new way, when the silence surrounding sexual abuse is being shattered, articulated, exposed. Now, when the question of Italy’s identity in relation to the rest of Europe is increasingly in peril because of growing populism, growing xenophobia, and racially motivated crimes. Now, when those in power in Italy call to keep out foreigners and close its borders—an attitude unfortunately mirrored in other parts of the world—is the moment to read Beyond Babylon, a book that insists on all that is open and flowing, coalescent and coexistent. For the babel of plurilingualism, far from a condemnation, is in fact what enriches and ennobles our natural state. This is a novel not only about the importance of living astride more than one language, but about a woman writing herself, with her own words, and thus her own language, into being. The word babel has come to mean “incoherence” in English, but it is Hebrew for “confusion.” And Scego has written a novel that takes the act of confusion—literally, the melding together of disparate elements—to its highest and most articulate level."
igiabascego  jhumpalahiri  2019  italy  race  migration  feminism  racism  identity  xenophobia  language  color 
may 2019 by robertogreco
The National Book Awards Haul Translators Out of Obscurity - The Atlantic
"In 2018, American literature no longer means literature written by Americans, for Americans, about America."



"Some of the first stories you remember reading or hearing read aloud were probably translations, though chances are you didn’t realize it. “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? That was from the Danish. “Sleeping Beauty”? French. One Thousand and One Nights? Arabic. “Hansel and Gretel”? German. “Pinocchio”? Italian. “Cinderella”? French—or, depending how far you back you want to go, German, Italian, or even Greek. As you grew up, if you read The Swiss Family Robinson or The Count of Monte Cristo, did you notice who translated it?

Not so long ago, it was rare for a translator’s name to appear on a book’s title page, let alone a cover, or for a review of a foreign novel to mention its translator. With a handful of exceptions (Robert Fitzgerald’s Aeneid, anyone’s Proust), if a book originated in a language other than English, that fact was downplayed. Behind this disappearing act lay an assumption that readers would recoil from a book if they realized it was translated, fearing it would be “tricky or complicated or inaccessible,” as Samantha Schnee, the founding editor of the translation journal Words Without Borders, put it.

This is changing. In the span of about 15 years, foreign provenance, once treated almost like a guilty secret, has become a source of allure. As blockbusters from foreign lands invaded American best-seller charts in the first decade of the 21st century—Suite Française, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—independent and nonprofit presses that specialized in translated literature sprang up from coast to coast; among them Archipelago Books (2003), Europa Editions (2005), Open Letter (2008), New Vessel Press (2012), and Restless Books (2013) in New York; Deep Vellum (2013) in Texas; and Transit Books (2015) in California. On November 14, the National Book Foundation, recognizing this shift in relevance, will award a Translated Literature prize—the first category added to the National Book Awards in more than two decades.

Lisa Lucas, the foundation’s executive director, sees the prize as “a lens. It’s a spotlight … It’s not about a distillation of all the works that are meritorious; the point is that you’re celebrating.”

There are a few possible explanations for this metamorphosis from near-invisibility to celebration. One is that in the late-20th century, a craze arose for retranslating the classics. Critics, always fascinated by what’s difficult and eager to spot a trend, took note, raising the profile of translators in the process. Perhaps the most prominent in this cohort are Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, a husband-and-wife team who embarked in the 1980s on the audacious project of retranslating much of the Russian canon—which they are still doing, three decades on. Every time they let fly a new Slavic doorstop, a critical explosion ensues. Today the release of any new translation of a famous work—by Homer, Proust, Kafka, Flaubert—tends to elicit a passionate reaction from the literary elite, even if the translator is relatively unknown.

A complementary trend at the turn of the century heightened interest in the lived experience of people in or from other nations. A generation of American writers born outside of this country were coming of age: Chang-Rae Lee and Edwidge Danticat, Jhumpa Lahiri and Gary Shteyngart, Khaled Hosseini and Junot Díaz. In their books, they reached into other lands—Korea, Haiti, India, England, Russia, Afghanistan, and the Dominican Republic—braiding imported history, attitudes, and priorities into American narratives. Although they wrote in English, they were translating foreign cultures through their fiction. In the process, they created a flourishing literary hybrid that broadened domestic reading tastes.

Even as the identity of American fiction took on an international flavor, technological advances in machine translation demystified foreign languages for monolingual Americans, making the outside world more legible. Cellphones can translate street signs, notice boards, and menus into English (or German, or Chinese, or French) with the click of a button; internet translation engines can convert foreign-language news stories into readable English in seconds. Philipp Koehn, a computer scientist at Johns Hopkins University who wrote the book on machine translation (literally, it’s called Statistical Machine Translation), recalls that when he started out in this field, 20 years ago, “all that these machines produced was gibberish. We were amazed when something came out that you could almost read.” Now, however, “if you find a newspaper article in good languages—by which I mean the ones we have enough data on, like French or English—and run it through Google Translate, you actually have to look for errors.”"



"In 2018, American literature no longer means literature written by Americans, for Americans, about America. It means literature that, wherever it comes from, whatever nation it describes, American readers recognize as relevant to them, as familiar. Foreign is no longer foreign.

That said, the question of how “foreign” a translation should “feel” provokes fierce disagreement. When you open a translated novel from overseas, do you want to sense its author’s French, German, Swedish, Spanish, or Italian sensibility, even if that breaks the spell of your reading experience? Or do you want to feel as if the book has magically converted itself into flawless, easeful English, attuned to your own idiom? (This is called the “foreignization versus domestication” debate.) And should a translation hew closely to the language and structure of the original, or should it re-craft the language to appeal to the target audience? (This is the “faithfulness” question.) Hardly anyone agrees—not editors, not scholars, not translators, and not readers. This makes it difficult even for experts to reach a consensus on which translated new books by unfamiliar authors and translators should be singled out for praise. Another difficulty is that few have read the translated books in the original language, which means that most base their assessments on their opinion of the English, not knowing to what extent it reflects the urtext.

That’s why Lucas prefers to avoid using the word best when she discusses the prize contenders. “There are always going to be people who object to which books are chosen,” she says. “They’ll say, ‘This should have been on the long list, this should have been on the finalists list, this or that book should have won.’” To her mind, all the books win because the act of nominating them “generates energy, conversation, and critique.” The prize is not a competition, but an affirmation.

Collectively, the five titles on the National Book Foundation’s shortlist for the Translated Literature prize demonstrate the transformation and continuity of America’s investment in international voices. Three of the books come from two houses that formed only in the past 15 years—Archipelago, with Love, by Hanne Orstavik, translated from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken; and Europa, with Disoriental, translated from the French by Tina Kover, and Trick, by Domenico Starnone, translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri. A fourth title, The Emissary, by Yoko Tawada, translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani, comes from the venerable independent house New Directions. Only one of the books, Flights, by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft, comes from one of New York’s “big five” houses (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster). It was published by Riverhead, a division of Penguin Random House.

Still, there is room for progress. All five of the shortlisted books feature the translator’s name on the title page, but only two put it on the cover. One of these, Trick, presumably does so because its translator, Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist, is better known in the United States than its author. Imagine that: reading for the translator."
2018  literature  translation  us  language  languages  chang-raelee  edwidgedanticat  jhumpalahiri  garyshteyngart  khaledhosseini  junotdíazphilippkoehn  lieslschillinger  machinetranslation  karloveknausgaard 
november 2018 by robertogreco
21 Of The Most Powerful Things Ever Said About Being An Immigrant
"1. “They have no idea what it is like to lose home at the risk of never finding home again, have your entire life split between two lands and become the bridge between two countries.” —Rupi Kaur, Milk & Honey

2. “Is it my fault if I do not look like an English girl and I do not talk like a Nigerian?” —Chris Cleaves, Little Bee

3. “Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery.” ―Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

4. “First generation kids, I’ve always thought, are the personification of déjà vu.” —Durga Chew-Bose, “How I Learned To Stop Erasing Myself”

5. “In America, you don’t get to decide what race you are. It is decided for you.” —Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

6. “She was nobody here. It was not just that she had no friends and family; it was rather that she was a ghost in this room, in the streets on the way to work, on the shop floor. Nothing meant anything.” ―Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn

7. “You say goodbye to your country, your people, your home, your friends, your family. Everything you knew. You cry the entire flight.” —Arnesa Buljusmic-Kustura

8.
“so, here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here.
never enough for both.”
—Ijeoma Umebinyuo, “diaspora blues“

9. “These days, it feels to me like you make a devil’s pact when you walk into this country… it drags you in and suddenly you are unsuitable to return, your children are unrecognisable, you belong nowhere.” —Zadie Smith, White Teeth

10.
“This is for the ones who pump tangoing mixed blood
Of entities not quite white and not quite black
Not quite indigenous and not quite invasive”
—Adeline Nieto, A Pure Medley

11. “Do you understand the sadness of geography?” —Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

12. “Exiles feed on empty dreams of hope. I know it. I was one.” —Aeschylus, Agamemnon

13. “I go to seek a great perhaps.” —Last words of poet Francois Rabelais

14. “For being a foreigner Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy — a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts.” —Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

15. “Immigrants, we get the job done.” —Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

16. ”All Americans have something lonely about them. I don’t know what the reason might be, except maybe that they’re all descended from immigrants.” —Ryū Murakami, In the Miso Soup

17. “It’s said that you can never go home again, and it’s true enough, of course. But the opposite is also true. You must go back, and you always go back, and you can never stop going back, no matter how hard you try.”
— Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram

18.
“you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land”
—Warsan Shire, “Home”

19. “Time stops at the point of severance, and no subsequent impressions muddy the picture you have in mind. The house, the garden, the country you have lost remain forever as you remember them.” —Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation: Life in a New Language

20. “And then you’ll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past. Someone who’s only yours. And you’ll realize… that this is where your life is.” —Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn

21. “It would be simpler if English and life were logical.” —Tanhha Lai, Inside Out & Back Again"
immigrants  immigration  rupikaur  writing  literature  amychua  chriscleaves  durgachew-bose  chimamandangoziadichie  colmtóibín  arnesabuljusmic-kustura  ijeomaumebinyuo  adelinenieto  michaelondaatje  aeschylus  agamemnon  francoisrabelais  migration  linmanuelmiranda  jhumpalahiri  gregorydavidroberts  ryūmurakami  warsanshire  evahoffman  tanhhalai 
november 2016 by robertogreco
In Translation - The New Yorker
"I write in a terrible, embarrassing Italian, full of mistakes. Without correcting, without a dictionary, by instinct alone. I grope my way, like a child, like a semiliterate. I am ashamed of writing like this. I don’t understand this mysterious impulse, which emerges out of nowhere. I can’t stop.

It’s as if I were writing with my left hand, my weak hand, the one I’m not supposed to write with. It seems a transgression, a rebellion, an act of stupidity.

During the first months in Rome, my clandestine Italian diary is the only thing that consoles me, that gives me stability. Often, awake and restless in the middle of the night, I go to the desk to compose some paragraphs in Italian. It’s an absolutely secret project. No one suspects, no one knows.

I don’t recognize the person who is writing in this diary, in this new, approximate language. But I know that it’s the most genuine, most vulnerable part of me.

Before I moved to Rome, I seldom wrote in Italian. I tried to compose some letters to an Italian friend who lives in Madrid, some e-mails to my teacher. They were like formal, artificial exercises. The voice didn’t seem to be mine. In America it wasn’t.

In Rome, however, writing in Italian is the only way to feel myself present here—maybe to have a connection, especially as a writer, with Italy. The new diary, although imperfect, although riddled with mistakes, mirrors my disorientation clearly. It reflects a radical transition, a state of complete bewilderment.

In the months before coming to Italy, I was looking for another direction for my writing. I wanted a new approach. I didn’t know that the language I had studied slowly for many years in America would, finally, give me the direction.

I use up one notebook, I start another. A second metaphor comes to mind: it’s as if, poorly equipped, I were climbing a mountain. It’s a sort of literary act of survival. I don’t have many words to express myself—rather, the opposite. I’m aware of a state of deprivation. And yet, at the same time, I feel free, light. I rediscover the reason that I write, the joy as well as the need. I find again the pleasure I’ve felt since I was a child: putting words in a notebook that no one will read.

In Italian I write without style, in a primitive way. I’m always uncertain. My sole intention, along with a blind but sincere faith, is to be understood, and to understand myself.

THE METAMORPHOSIS

Shortly before I began to write these reflections, I received an e-mail from a friend in Rome, the writer Domenico Starnone. I had been in Rome for a year. Referring to my desire to appropriate Italian, he wrote, “A new language is almost a new life, grammar and syntax recast you, you slip into another logic and another sensibility.” How much those words reassured me. They contained all my yearning, all my disorientation. Reading this message, I understood better the impulse to express myself in a new language: to subject myself, as a writer, to a metamorphosis.

Around the same time that I received this note, I was asked, during an interview, what my favorite book was. I was in London, on a stage with five other writers. It’s a question that I usually find annoying; no book has been definitive for me, so I never know how to answer. This time, though, I was able to respond without any hesitation that my favorite book was the Metamorphoses of Ovid. It’s a majestic work, a poem that concerns everything, that reflects everything. I read it for the first time twenty-five years ago, in Latin, as a university student. It was an unforgettable encounter, maybe the most satisfying reading of my life. To understand this poem I had to be persistent, translating every word. I had to devote myself to an ancient and demanding foreign language. And yet Ovid’s writing won me over: I was enchanted by it. I discovered a sublime work, a living, enthralling language. I believe that reading in a foreign language is the most intimate way of reading."



"If I mention that I’m writing in a new language these days, many people react negatively. In the United States, some advise me not to do it. They say they don’t want to read me translated from a foreign tongue. They don’t want me to change. In Italy, even though many have encouraged me to take this step, many support me, I’m still asked why I have a desire to write in a language that is much less widely read in the world than English. Some say that my renunciation of English could be disastrous, that my escape could lead me into a trap. They don’t understand why I want to take such a risk.

These reactions don’t surprise me. A transformation, especially one that is deliberately sought, is often perceived as something disloyal, threatening. I am the daughter of a mother who would never change. In the United States, she continued, as far as possible, to dress, behave, eat, think, live as if she had never left India, Calcutta. The refusal to modify her aspect, her habits, her attitudes was her strategy for resisting American culture, for fighting it, for maintaining her identity. Becoming or even resembling an American would have meant total defeat. When my mother returns to Calcutta, she is proud of the fact that, in spite of almost fifty years away from India, she seems like a woman who never left.

I am the opposite. While the refusal to change was my mother’s rebellion, the insistence on transforming myself is mine. “There was a woman, a translator, who wanted to be another person”: it’s no accident that “The Exchange,” the first story I wrote in Italian, begins with that sentence. All my life I’ve tried to get away from the void of my origin. It was the void that distressed me, that I was fleeing. That’s why I was never happy with myself. Change seemed the only solution. Writing, I discovered a way of hiding in my characters, of escaping myself. Of undergoing one mutation after another.

One could say that the mechanism of metamorphosis is the only element of life that never changes. The journey of every individual, every country, every historical epoch—of the entire universe and all it contains—is nothing but a series of changes, at times subtle, at times deep, without which we would stand still. The moments of transition, in which something changes, constitute the backbone of all of us. Whether they are a salvation or a loss, they are moments that we tend to remember. They give a structure to our existence. Almost all the rest is oblivion.

I think that the power of art is the power to wake us up, strike us to our depths, change us. What are we searching for when we read a novel, see a film, listen to a piece of music? We are searching, through a work of art, for something that alters us, that we weren’t aware of before. We want to transform ourselves, just as Ovid’s masterwork transformed me.

In the animal world metamorphosis is expected, natural. It means a biological passage, including various specific phases that lead, ultimately, to complete development. When a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly it’s no longer a caterpillar but a butterfly. The effect of the metamorphosis is radical, permanent. The creature has lost its old form and gained a new, almost unrecognizable one. It has new physical features, a new beauty, new capacities.

A total metamorphosis isn’t possible in my case. I can write in Italian, but I can’t become an Italian writer. Despite the fact that I’m writing this sentence in Italian, the part of me conditioned to write in English endures. I think of Fernando Pessoa, a writer who invented four versions of himself: four separate, distinct writers, thanks to which he was able to go beyond the confines of himself. Maybe what I’m doing, by means of Italian, resembles his tactic. It’s not possible to become another writer, but it might be possible to become two.

Oddly, I feel more protected when I write in Italian, even though I’m also more exposed. It’s true that a new language covers me, but unlike Daphne I have a permeable covering—I’m almost without a skin. And although I don’t have a thick bark, I am, in Italian, a tougher, freer writer, who, taking root again, grows in a different way."
translation  language  italian  2015  jhumpalahiri  languages  ovid 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Teju Cole: By the Book - NYTimes.com
"What books are currently on your night stand?

I just got in the “Selected Poems” of Bill Manhire, who is from New Zealand. He’s a mature poet with his own voice, but his unobtrusive authority and his tenderness remind me of Seamus Heaney. I’m teaching Intermediate Fiction at Bard this semester, and I’ve assigned Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, Petina Gappah, Lydia Davis and Stephanie Vaughn. So I’m rereading them, too.

Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?

Penelope Fitzgerald was the author of several slim, perfect novels. “The Blue Flower” and “The Beginning of Spring” both had me abuzz for days the first time I read them. She was curiously perfect. Among living novelists, my favorites include J. M. Coetzee, Michael Ondaatje and Michel Tournier, none of whom need my praise. I cherish James Salter’s short stories, and his every sentence.

Sell us on your favorite overlooked or underappreciated writer.

Lydia Davis is famous, but not nearly famous enough. Ditto Anne Carson. It’s notable that neither of them is really a novelist; “the novel” is overrated, and the writers I find most interesting find ways to escape it.

Have you read any good contemporary poetry lately?

I’m very pleased to have encountered in the past couple of years the work of two astounding young poets, each of whom has one book out: Ishion Hutchinson (“Far District”) and Rowan Ricardo Phillips (“The Ground”). Both have impressive reserves of insight and the language to bring those insights to life. They are the future of American poetry.

And I’m glad I finally got round to reading “Stag’s Leap,” by Sharon Olds. There is the feeling that one gets when one “discovers” a new song only to realize it has a million views on YouTube already. “Stag’s Leap” was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize last year. But the book is new to me, and I love it.

And which recent books by or about photographers would you recommend?

“Wall,” by Josef Koudelka; “Sergio Larrain” (a monograph on the reclusive Chilean genius, who died in 2012); and “The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus,” by Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen.

I wrote the introductory essay to Richard Renaldi’s “Touching Strangers.” Nevertheless, it is an excellent book. Ivan Vladislavic’s novel “Double Negative” is another great book that wasn’t marred by my introduction.

What are your literary guilty pleasures? Do you have a favorite genre?

No guilt. I read many kinds of things, but my deepest happiness is in reading poetry.

What are your favorite art history books?

I was trained in art history and still get a great deal of joy from reading it. The best art history books, I feel, are as good as the best novels. Among the most illuminating for me are the following: “The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany,” by Michael Baxandall; “The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus,” by Paul Zanker; “The Painting of Modern Life,” by T. J. Clark; “The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art,” by Joseph Leo Koerner; and “Inside Bruegel,” by Edward Snow. The last of these, a startling interpretation of Bruegel’s “Children’s Games,” is great for nonspecialist readers.



What kind of reader were you as a child? And what were your favorite childhood books?

I began early — around 6 — and by the time I was 10 I had read Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart,” Charles and Mary Lamb’s “Tales From Shakespeare” and an abridged edition of “Tom Sawyer.” I wasn’t a prodigy, but I developed a sense that access to any book was limited only by my interest and my willingness to concentrate.

Whom do you consider your literary heroes?

They are many: Michael Ondaatje, most of all. But also Marguerite Yourcenar, John Berger and Seamus Heaney.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

I suppose at least a little faith in literature’s ability to make us better is what lies behind this question. But I have no such faith. The president has already read many wonderful books from many different cultures. Now we need him to act justly in certain matters: to stop killing people extrajudicially, and to stop deporting people with such enthusiasm. I doubt that more reading will quicken his conscience in these matters.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?

Alice Oswald, Laila Lalami and Zadie Smith.

You’ve got an active Twitter account going. Does it influence your thinking or writing process?

I suppose it must. It’s such a combative place at times that it makes me less worried about putting ideas out into the world. You realize that anything you have to say is going to annoy some stranger, so you might as well speak your mind. But being active on Twitter also means that the literary part of my brain — the part that tries to make good sentences — is engaged all the time. My memory is worse than it was a few years ago, but I hope that my ability to write a good sentence has improved.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

I have not read most of the big 19th — century novels that people consider “essential,” nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter. But this does not embarrass me. There are many films to see, many friends to visit, many walks to take, many playlists to assemble and many favorite books to reread. Life’s too short for anxious score-keeping. Also, my grandmother is illiterate, and she’s one of the best people I know. Reading is a deep personal consolation for me, but other things console, too."

[via: http://tumblr.austinkleon.com/post/78770035787 ]

[via: https://twitter.com/tejucole/status/446639178843840512 ]
tejucole  2014  interviews  books  literacy  illiteracy  reading  politics  barackobama  booklists  poetry  novels  literature  writing  howweread  howwewrite  twitter  guiltypleasures  seamusheany  billmanhire  alicemunro  jhumpalahiri  petinagappah  lydiadavis  stephanievaughn  penelopefitzgerald  hmcoetzee  michaelondaatje  miceltournier  jamessalter  annecarson  rowanricardophillips  ishionhutchinson  sharonolds  josefkoudelka  sergiolarrain  robhornstra  arnoldvanbruggen  richardrenaldi  ivanvladislavic  michaelbaxandrall  paulzanker  tjclark  josephleokoerner  edwardsnow  chinuaachebe  charleslamb  marylamb  margueriteyourcenar  johnberger  aliceoswald  lailalalami  zadiesmith  sergiolarraín 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Why American novelists don’t deserve the Nobel Prize - Salon.com
"An American hasn't won in 20 years. The Academy finds our writers insular and self-involved -- and they're right"

"As Bret Anthony Johnson, the director of the creative writing program at Harvard, noted in a recent Atlantic essay, our focus on the self will be our literary downfall, depriving literature of the oxygen on which it thrives: “Fiction brings with it an obligation to rise past the base level, to transcend the limitations of fact and history, and proceed skyward.” This sentiment is a sibling to Wallace’s anger — and both have a predecessor in T.S. Eliot’s 1919 essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” where he called art “a continual extinction of personality.”"
alexandernazaryan  us  literature  novelists  writing  politics  books  nobel  2011  self-involved  insularity  jonathansafranfoer  joycecaroloates  johnupdike  thomaspynchon  philiproth  cormacmccarthy  dondelillo  davidfosterwallace  daveeggers  bretanthonyjohnson  jhumpalahiri  amytan  aleksanderhemon  826  ralphellison  tonimorrison 
october 2011 by robertogreco
Notes from a Literary Apprenticeship : The New Yorker
"My reading was my mirror, & my material; I saw no other part of myself…

For though they had created me, & reared me, & lived w/ me day after day, I knew that I was a stranger to them, an American child…

Even after I received the Pulitzer, my father reminded me that writing stories was not something to count on…I listen to him, & at the same time I have learned not to listen, to wander to the edge of the precipice & to leap. & so, though a writer’s job is to look and listen, in order to become a writer I had to be deaf & blind.

I see now that my father, for all his practicality, gravitated toward a precipice of his own, leaving his country and his family, stripping himself of the reassurance of belonging. In reaction, for much of my life, I wanted to belong to a place, either the one my parents came from or to America, spread out before us. When I became a writer my desk became home; there was no need for another…Born of my inability to belong, it is my refusal to let go."
writing  literature  narrative  identity  thirdculture  jhumpalahiri  risk  glvo  art  craft  residence  place  belonging  2011  libraries  books  home  life  reading  classideas  india  parenting  schools  memory  experience  childhood 
june 2011 by robertogreco

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