Today is the 2000th anniversary of the death of Augustus, and all around the world people are commemorating and celebrating the first Emperor of Rome. Here at NYRB Classics we’re marking the day with the publication of our newest book, John Williams’s Augustus, a historical novel that imagines the life of the Emperor in classical Rome (the Lebowski edition of Augustus was released in Holland last week, and has already hit #1 on the bestseller list!). Daniel Mendelsohn wrote the NYRB Classics edition introduction, a version of which can be read in its entirety in the August 14th issue of The New York Review of Books.
If you’re in New York, you can join us at 7 p.m. on Monday, August 25, at McNally Jackson for a discussion of Augustus with Daniel Mendelsohn and Adrian Goldsworthy, author of the new biography Augustus: First Emperor of Rome. For those who want to celebrate Augustus on a global scale, here’s a roundup of some of the worldwide Augustus 2014 events, as compiled by the Commemorating Augustus Project:
There are a lot of exciting things going on all around the world to celebrate the 100th anniversary year of Tove Jansson’s birth. For a full calendar of events, exhibitions, and readings, visit the official Tove 100 website right here. To help you scratch the surface, here are a few current and upcoming events:
There will be a Jansson exhibit at the Malmöfestival in Malmö, Sweden, next week, August 15-22.
From October 9-11, Jansson’s children’s writing gets the academic treatment in Russia at Saint Petersburg State University in a seminar titled: “Philosophical experience of children’s literature: Moomins and the others”
If you’re really in the mood to celebrate Tove Jansson’s 100th birthday, you might check out one or all of the many videos available online about Jansson’s life and work. Above, the entire BBC Documentary, Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson, which goes into great detail about Jansson’s childhood, her family, her life in Helsinki and rural Finland, her loves, the Moomins, and her novels (particularly The Summer Book, starting around the 51:00 mark).
Above, a lovely little film tour (no narration) around the tiny island of Klovharun, where Jansson and her partner Tuulikki Pietilä built a house (no electricity!) to live and work in during the summers.
The office favorite around here, however, has to be this short video of Jansson drawing a couple of Moomins without ever letting go of her cigarette. She was a pro.
“What can I say about people? They amaze me as much by their good qualities as by their bad qualities. They are all so different, even though they must undergo the same fate. But then if there’s a downpour and most people try to hide, that doesn’t mean that they’re all the same. People even have their own particular ways of sheltering from rain.”—Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate (via dushenkaa)
"A little bed, a little chest, / A little chair, to muse and rest"
A recent episode of Slate’s Culture Gabfest paid homage to left-field songs and rhymes in children’s books, which got us thinking about Palmer Brown, who was a master of the art. Above is a tune Hickory sings to himself while setting up his new house (which he’s moved to all alone) in a meadow. And below a song from Brown’s Beyond the Pawpaw Trees, taken presumably from that book within a book, Songs from Nowhere.*
*The book Anna Lavinia liked the very best of all was Mrs. Tetterbrace’s Songs from Nowhere. Anna Lavinia could never be certain whether ‘Nowhere’ meant ‘No where’ or ‘Now here,’ but she learned all the songs by heart. It was a lucky thing that she learned them, because one day the book was missing, and ever afterwards she could not find it.”
Today is the 100th anniversary of Moomin-creator and NYRB Classics author Tove Jansson’s birth. Join us in wishing Jansson a happy birthday (or, “Hyvää syntymäpäivää” in Finnish) with a week-long celebration on the blog.
Then I raced to the bathing station. It was all shut up, and on its wall was a notice which listed call-up dates by year of birth. I was to report for service at Veszprém— Veszprém!— with the Thirty-First Regiment of the Royal Hungarian Army by the fourth of August. I stared at the poster as if I had just suffered a stroke, reading it over and over, until I realized that I was just looking at the words rather than taking in the meaning.
Only one word mattered: war.
—from the beginning of The Burning of the World, a recently-discovered memoir of World War I by artist Béla Zombory-Moldován. The Burning of the World—which was translated from Hungarian by the author’s own grandson, Peter Zombory-Moldovan—is now on sale.
There’s a story behind the photo on the cover of this book. Learn more about that here.
I love Elizabeth Hardwick’s sentences. They’re strange and wayward. They veer. They avoid the point. Sometimes they are specific, but often they grow soft-focused and evasive at the crucial moment. They fuzz out by adopting a tone at once magisterial and muffled. When I was writing a biography of Andy Warhol, I told myself, “Imitate Elizabeth Hardwick.” By that advice, I meant: be authoritative but also odd.
—Wayne Koestenbaum, from his essay “Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sentences” in My 1980s and Other Essays
Krzhizhanovsky’s Autobiography of a Corpse Wins the 2014 PEN Translation Prize
NYRB Classics is pleased to announce that Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull & Nikolai Formozov, has won the 2014 PEN Translation Prize.
Each year, the PEN Translation Prize is awarded for a book-length translation of prose into English. This year’s Translation Prize judges were Ann Goldstein, Becka McKay, and Katherine Silver. Here is an excerpt from the judges’ citation:
Fantastical, hallucinatory, and wildly imaginative, the book is rich in linguistic playfulness—part metafiction, part exploration into the farthest reaches and minutest details of reality…Joanne Turnbull, in collaboration with Nikolai Formozov, has produced a compellingly readable translation that is also inventive, that improvises when necessary and consistently insinuates a strangeness and beauty of other worlds, both literary and real…With her notes and her translation, [Turnbull] effectively offers us Krzhizanovsky’s genius—unrecognized and suppressed during his lifetime—rather than drawing attention to herself and her own considerable resourcefulness and artistry. This is a rare and welcome conjunction of a literary text that allows the art of translation to shine and a translator who has brilliantly met the challenge.
To read the rest of the judges’ citation, visit the PEN website.
Writing is a way of making the writer acceptable to the world—every cheap, dumb, nasty thought, every despicable desire, every noble sentiment, every expensive taste. There isn’t very much satisfaction in getting the world to accept and praise you for things that the world is prepared to praise. The world is prepared to praise only shit. One wants to make sure that the complete self, with all its qualities, is not just accepted but approved … not just approved—whoopeed.
For the first time in years I’m actually taking a substantial vacation, one that involves airplanes and oceans and everything. Which also means that for the first time in years I can read travel books without experiencing crippling jealousy … Continued
“Agostino recommends itself as an ideal literary beach read that can be soaked up in one or two sittings, so adroit is Moravia’s use of a seaside setting as a charm for psychological discovery and sand-encrusted epiphanies.”—At the BN Review, Christopher Byrd takes a look at Alberto Moravia’s Agostino newly translated by Michael F. Moore.
You can be a bit freer—no, why is it more fun to translate? I feel like with poetry you can … I spend longer on each word. I spend a lot more time per word on poetry than in a novel. You can’t pore over a novel in quite the same way you can with a book of poetry. And I do feel that translating poetry, there’s a little bit more room for “freedom” in the translation process. The emphasis is at least as much on sound and rhythm as it is on meaning. It’s not that that isn’t there in novels, but the balance of power is a little bit more on meaning in a novel. Very concrete and specific things are happening and those things need to be conveyed, relatively accurately, so that the reader isn’t confused, or else the novel is no longer effective. It’s more just about that balance of where the energy is going.
—Kareem James Abu-Zeid in an interview with ThreePercent, on translating Najwan Darwish’s Nothing More To Lose
To read the rest of the interview, visit Three Percent's website.
“The author’s charming and useful tendency to lose track of his destination became a serious real-life problem in the case of the books about the walk across Europe—the most beloved of his works, which have achieved the status of cult classics particularly among adventure-bent youth…. However many the detours, Leigh Fermor’s youthful journey did have a destination, which the author finally reached: he got to ‘Constantinople’ on New Year’s Eve, 1935, a little shy of his twenty-first birthday.”—In case you missed it: Daniel Mendelsohn wrote about the concluding volume of Patrick Leigh Fermor's legendary trilogy, as well as PLF's “helpless penchant for digressions literal and figurative” in the June 19, 2014 issue of The New York Review of Books
NYRB is giving away three copies of Simone Schwarz-Bart’s novel The Bridge of Beyond via Goodreads Giveways.* Entries will be accepted until Wednesday, July 23rd. So if you’ve been meaning to read Schwarz-Bart’s book, “part fable, part tragedy, always beautifully written” (Roxane Gay), now is the time.