Random Literature Thread

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Yasna
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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby Yasna » 2017-04-04, 6:59

Schoenhof's Foreign Books of Cambridge, MA, apparently the oldest foreign-language bookstore in the US, closed for good last week. I will miss it.
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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby księżycowy » 2017-04-04, 9:11

I remember buying a lot of things from them back in the day. They always had a great selection.
I hadn't bought anything from them recently, but I'll miss them as well.

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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-04-05, 7:21

Most of what I've been reading lately seems to be foreign language textbooks bought at bookstores. :P

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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby linguoboy » 2017-04-05, 16:46

Yasna wrote:Schoenhof's Foreign Books of Cambridge, MA, apparently the oldest foreign-language bookstore in the US, closed for good last week. I will miss it.

I won't. I'm pretty sure they're the ones which pioneered the mark-for-dollar pricing that put German-language books out of reach for me when I was young. (The local foreign bookstores all got their stock through Schoenhof's.)
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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-04-06, 8:47

linguoboy wrote:
Yasna wrote:Schoenhof's Foreign Books of Cambridge, MA, apparently the oldest foreign-language bookstore in the US, closed for good last week. I will miss it.

I won't. I'm pretty sure they're the ones which pioneered the mark-for-dollar pricing that put German-language books out of reach for me when I was young. (The local foreign bookstores all got their stock through Schoenhof's.)

Mark as in deutschmark?

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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby Yasna » 2017-04-28, 15:31

I hope the Nobel prize in literature goes to an author writing in Hindi soon. Hindi speakers could use a reminder of what Hindi is capable of and also a reminder that English is not the only road to greatness.
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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby linguoboy » 2017-04-28, 15:42

Yasna wrote:I hope the Nobel prize in literature goes to an author writing in Hindi soon. Hindi speakers could use a reminder of what Hindi is capable of and also a reminder that English is not the only road to greatness.

Who would you nominate?

I haven't read much translated from Hindi or any Indian language. I remember vowing to do something about this a few years back and not finding much at all which spoke to me.
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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-04-28, 15:45

It already went to a Bengali writer over a hundred years ago. That doesn't seem to have helped Bengali much. (To be fair, he did also write in English...).

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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby linguoboy » 2017-04-28, 17:03

vijayjohn wrote:It already went to a Bengali writer over a hundred years ago. That doesn't seem to have helped Bengali much. (To be fair, he did also write in English...).

I dunno, from where I sit Bengali seems to have a more celebrated literary scene than Hindi. I know I've read Bengali writers in translation (e.g. Tagore, Bandyopadhyay).

I finished the Eka last night. Ultimately a satisfying read and easier going once I forced myself to view the characters more allegorically. But I still wasn't satisfied with the amount of attention he gives his female characters and some of his seeming attempts to justify sexual violence against them just squicked me out. I would definitely hesitate before picking up another one of his novels.
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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-04-28, 17:38

linguoboy wrote:I dunno, from where I sit Bengali seems to have a more celebrated literary scene than Hindi.

But that's not what Yasna was talking about from what I understand. I understand his point to be that Hindi, if not (major) South Asian languages in general, should have higher prestige than they currently do on a global scale, not a South Asian one.

It's easy for us South Asians to think our languages are better than some other South Asian languages, but thinking that they stand a chance against any other major languages (and even some that have fewer speakers, at least in Europe) is another matter entirely. Lots of Malayalees think our language, however terrible, is still better than Tamil; lots of Punjabis apparently think their language, however terrible, is still better than Dogri (or virtually anything spoken in the Himalayas, it seems). I think we South Asians need to be a little less chauvinistic about our languages on a local scale and a lot more self-confident about them on a global one.
some of his seeming attempts to justify sexual violence against them just squicked me out. I would definitely hesitate before picking up another one of his novels.

This reminded me of the bizarre comments that Indian men sometimes make about women. "Well gee, if I can't beat my wife up, what else am I supposed to do with her? Worship her like a goddess or something?"

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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby linguoboy » 2017-04-28, 17:48

vijayjohn wrote:This reminded me of the bizarre comments that Indian men sometimes make about women. "Well gee, if I can't beat my wife up, what else am I supposed to do with her? Worship her like a goddess or something?"

For me the worst part is the number of times he praises a woman's sexual attractiveness with "what man wouldn't want to rape her"? There's also surprisingly little in terms of consequences for men who rape, which may just be a reflection of Indonesian society, but still doesn't make for pleasant reading. Also, I have trouble believing that a female author would have been quite so cavalier about the effects of sexual abuse and violence on the female characters.

In any case, I feel a need for a real palate-cleanser now, but I'm not sure what to turn to. I tried picking up The bone people again and was put off by the "poetic" prose. I also feel like I really should be reading something in not-English but I can't decide what.
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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-04-28, 18:33

linguoboy wrote:For me the worst part is the number of times he praises a woman's sexual attractiveness with "what man wouldn't want to rape her"? There's also surprisingly little in terms of consequences for men who rape, which may just be a reflection of Indonesian society

All of this is true of India, too, FWICT.
In any case, I feel a need for a real palate-cleanser now, but I'm not sure what to turn to. I tried picking up The bone people again and was put off by the "poetic" prose. I also feel like I really should be reading something in not-English but I can't decide what.

Well, the last Malayalam novel I read is available in English under the title Two Measures of Rice (I don't think the title really translates tbh). I'm not sure how easily available this is for you, but at least there's this translation on Amazon. Despite being written by a (I believe higher-caste) man, I think its portrayal of low-caste women being raped and harassed by higher-caste men is very sympathetic and not so sexist (or casteist. I believe the overwhelming majority of Thakazhi's works are about low-caste people). The main character of Chemmeen is also a low-caste woman; she isn't raped, though, and IIRC Thakazhi is slightly more critical of her.

Or what about Farid? Or do you mean before the copy you ordered arrives?

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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby linguoboy » 2017-04-28, 19:52

vijayjohn wrote:Or what about Farid? Or do you mean before the copy you ordered arrives?

Yeah, that won't get here until next week at the earliest.

I do have an Ulitskaya novel a coworker wanted me to read, but the other novel I read by her rather annoyed me. He swears this one (Казус Кукоцкого) is different but I'm dubious.
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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-04-29, 1:42

Could I interest you in a PDF of the Tutinama, side by side in Persian and English, courtesy of eskandar in another thread a few years ago?

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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby Yasna » 2017-04-29, 4:46

linguoboy wrote:Who would you nominate?

I haven't read much translated from Hindi or any Indian language. I remember vowing to do something about this a few years back and not finding much at all which spoke to me.

I don't know. I'm waiting until after I learn Hindi to dive into its literature. I don't think it's much of a leap of faith to say that there must be some worthy candidates out there, given the size of the Hindi-speaking population and that there is a functioning publishing industry that serves it.
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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-04-29, 5:33

I don't think the lack of Nobel prizes for Indian literature has much to do with whether Indian literature has worthy candidates for one or not or even how many speakers the language in question has. Nobel prizes in general seem to reflect the political interests of the West at the time rather than actual quality (how else do you explain Barack Obama of all people getting a Nobel prize but not, say, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar?).

Rather, I think it's reflective of a more general problem that on the one hand, there is a toxic inferiority complex within India itself, and on the other, there is honestly just not that much interest from the Western world in Indian languages (especially Indian literature). I don't think that problem is going to be resolved to the point where the Nobel Committee pays serious attention to Indian literature without at least some resolution of the more fundamental issues, like whether people read (or can read!) literature in their own language or are interested in learning a language (other than maybe Chinese) that doesn't come from the same continent as their own.

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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby linguoboy » 2017-04-29, 13:56

vijayjohn wrote:I don't think the lack of Nobel prizes for Indian literature has much to do with whether Indian literature has worthy candidates for one or not or even how many speakers the language in question has. Nobel prizes in general seem to reflect the political interests of the West at the time rather than actual quality (how else do you explain Barack Obama of all people getting a Nobel prize but not, say, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar?).

My friends and I sarcastically referred to that as the "Not-Bush Prize" and speculated on whether every new POTUS who was not Bush would get one.

The Literature prizes are just as political. How else to explain, for instance, prizes to Ōe Kenzaburō and Gao Xingjian but not Tanizaki Jun'ichirō or Shen Congwen? And the early bias towards Scandinavian authors (six out of the first twenty awards!) is just laughable. Even so, none of this prepared me for the total shark-jump that was last year's award.

Honestly, one Girl with the dragon tattoo translated bestseller would do more to raise the profile of literature in Indian languages abroad than even a handful of Nobel prizes.
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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby Johanna » 2017-04-30, 20:46

The Nobel Prize in Literature is also limited to what originally is or has been translated into languages the members of Svenska akademien understand well, and the quality of those translations.

It's not exactly an international committee we're talking about here, all 18 members are Swedish*, and all are either authors or work with languages or literature in an academic sense, several of them both. On top of that, those who are there mainly due to their academic work mostly work with North-Germanic languages in one capacity or the other, the only real exceptions I can find are the sinologist Göran Malmqvist and the current permanent secretary** Sara Danius, whose field seems to stretch a little bit further, sort of. It's still very Western-centric with a focus on French literature in particular as far as I can see.

* At the moment there are only 17 since one member passed away about a month and a half ago. There's also one member who doesn't participate since 1989 due to an internal fight having to do with the Iranian fatwa against Salman Rushdie.
** The person who leads the academy's work, and the one who presents the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-07-15, 17:52

Lately, I've been thinking about some old Tamil stories that I used to read, mostly in translation. There's one in particular about the value of truth, and I wonder whether that might be of particular relevance at a time when people are apparently making important political decisions without taking the truth into account.

I also finally learned, mostly from Lesson 5 of Practical Chinese Reader III, what the Legend of White Snake actually is. There seem to be many versions of this story, including one where Xu Xian does not trust his wife so much.

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Re: Random Literature Thread

Postby Yasna » 2017-07-24, 21:11

When you buy a book in Spanish that was originally written in another Romance language, can you count on it having been directly translated from the original language? Or are some translations done via a third language, probably English?
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