1. Shakespeare’s Montaigne in the UK


    "Near-contemporary translations of great texts often seem to capture them best, whatever their small errancies… The rhythm in Florio’s Montaigne is pleasingly Shakespearean in its play between the forthright and the fancy, a play easily lost by mere homogenized lucidity…"
    —Adam Gopnik in his recent piece for The New Yorker, "Word Magic"

    "Even if you already own a translation of Montaigne…you should read this, so you know what he sounded like to his contemporaries."
    —Nicholas Lezard, in his review of Shakespeare’s Montaigne in The Guardian

    Shakespeare’s Montaigne, edited by Stephen Greenblatt and Peter Platt, went on sale in the UK today. 

    To mark its publication, The Telegraph published an excerpt from Greenblatt’s introduction to the book, which you can read here.

  2. "A timeless masterpiece"


    Tyrant Banderas was first published in 1926 and remains a masterpiece – now given a new lease of life in Peter Bush’s excellent translation. The novel spans three tumultuous days, and its deliberately bewildering structure (divided into seven parts with each subdivided into separate books) is reminiscent of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano. Santos Banderas is an unforgettable character, as is the effeminate Barón de Benicarlés, head of the colonial legation and ‘His Catholic Majesty’s plenipotentiary minister’, who fritters away his stipend from the Spanish crown shooting up morphine, delousing his lapdog, powdering his face and lusting after bullfighters.

    “This banana republic whose resources are exploited by foreign investors at the expense of the serf-like ‘coppery populace’ of native Indians is only too familiar, but the fact that Valle-Inclán never specifies the locale of the tyrant’s dominion only adds to the book’s universality and timelessness. ”

    —From J. S. Tennant’s review of Rámon del Valle-Inclán’s Tyrant Banderas in The Guardian

  3. Cassandra at the Wedding—“Good writing like this doesn’t age.”

    First published in 1962 (her first novel was Young Man With a Horn, about Bix Beiderbecke, but I never got on with that because of my deaf ear for jazz), modern readers will relish the breezily accepted materialism, the pin-sharp portrait of a tiny part of society, as if picked out in Californian sunlight. It is also knowing and wise: a lesson in how wisdom is worth more than intelligence – not that intelligence is to be denigrated. [Deborah] Eisenberg says this book ‘should never be out of print’, and I couldn’t agree more. This novel, despite its specific setting, hasn’t aged in the slightest: really good writing like this doesn’t age. It’s always up to date.

    —from Nicholas Lezard’s review of Cassandra at the Wedding in The Guardian. Though we wished he had “got on” with Young Man with a Horn—you don’t need an ear for jazz to enjoy it, though reading it might make you want one.

  4. Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall in The Guardian

    Browne was a kind of writer dear to many readers’ – and writers’ – hearts: sceptical, whimsical, keen to stray from the point, capable of baffling and exasperating but then coming up with a great phrase, or a neologism which sticks. Here is a list of some of his coinages, one or two of which I bet you have used from time to time: literary, medical, ambidextrous, hallucination, indigenous, electricity, anomalous, ascetic, carnivorous and fritinancy. (The last means the noise insects make. OK, not all of them stuck – but that one is still in the OED.)

    —from Nicholas Lezard’s review of Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall, in The Guardian. He also writes that, “reading Browne is like going for a walk in a country mist and every so often coming up against something looming out of it with astonishing clarity.” We love lyrical book reviews.

  5. Ride a Cockhorse reviewed in The Guardian

    In Ride a Cockhorse, whose title appears less arbitrary the further one goes into the book, Mrs Fitzgibbons actually attempts to rape a man, and the scene is both horrific and comic – as one may indeed compare it with the sex scene with the drum major. For a while I thought that this book, obviously good though it is, had a major problem, in that it suggested that there is something nightmarish, or Against Nature, about a femme d’un certain age on the make, both sexually and professionally. But I think that if Kennedy is going to populate his novels with women who don’t act like they oughter, then this means he finds the phenomenon not only almost obsessively fascinating but imaginatively rich. He’s not being misogynistic.

    —from a Nicholas Lezard review of Ride a Cockhorse in The Guardian. Lezard is picking up on theme that others have brought up, whether this book, with its sexual predator protagonist and her middle aged transformation into small town Sarah Palinesque banking tyrant, is or isn’t misogynistic. We tend to agree with Lezard that it isn’t (surprised?), but whatever your opinion Frankie Fitzgibbons is a character that will stay with you well after finishing this hilarious and still pertinent book.

  6. Memoirs of a Revolutionary in The Guardian

    Enthusiasm took Serge to revolutionary Soviet Russia, and it was there that he began to notice that Bolshevik tyranny, rather than general incompetence, was going to be the problem (like Orwell, he despaired of the attraction of radical politics to people who refused to eat meat, or salt, or anything but fruit). Memoirs is a document that is essential, above all, as a denouncement of oppression, an eye-witness account, written in heat and at speed, but with the talent of the true writer, of what it was like to be at the heart of the machine – and to stand up to it.

    —from Nicholas Lezard’s review of Memoirs of a Revolutionary in The Guardian. He ends the review by asking, “How it has taken so long to appear is one of those unfathomable mysteries. (Is it because some people can’t comprehend a humane revolutionary?) Anyway, here it is at last, and anyone who cares about justice and freedom of speech should have a copy.” We like that.

  7. Are we finally getting the hang of foreign fiction? →

    And in the same Sam Jordison article he praises the recently released The Adventures of Sindbad by Gyúla Krudy and translated by George Szirtes: “The first thing to notice (and Szirtes’ translation must partly be to thank here) is how beautifully it is written. The prose drips autumnal richness: colourful, sensual descriptions; a sense of warmth and languor, of plenty and fruitfulness. True to autumn, there is also an awareness of imminent loss; a foreknowledge of a long, cold winter to come. Everywhere there is nostalgia, rarely directly stated, but evocatively suggested…”


    Sam Jordison over at the Guardian Books Blog echoes our sentiments about the importance and power of translated works:

    One thing I am wondering, however, is if we in the English-speaking world are becoming better at understanding the value of good translated literature. In that earlier article, I noted that “although around 60% of all translations are taken from the English language, English readers take only around 2-3% of their books from other languages”. I haven’t been able to find contradictory figures, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the imbalance is becoming less marked. Stieg Larsson continues to sell by the bucketload; Roberto Bolaño is ever more revered; new imprints such as Gallic Books, focusing exclusively on translation, are thriving. In the meantime, the exemplary New York Review Books has brought out so many translations of such high quality that a serious reader could take in nothing else for years and still feel entirely satisfied.

  8. Walser’s ‘Berlin Stories’ in The Guardian

    How artless or artful he is is a judgment that each reader can make for him- or herself, and I suspect that much depends on the serenity of one’s own disposition. Sontag called him an ‘anti-gravity’ writer, both in that he is against seriousness as well as being unbound to the ground. And in this unbelievably delightful and timeless collection of short pieces, we can recover the delight of ordinary, uncondescending appreciation, places where the vacant-minded stroller can take ‘peculiar pleasure’. The tram, the theatre, the train station, the park … (‘Beautiful park, I think, beautiful park,’ is how he ends “The Park”.) One thing and then another. Isn’t that nice?

        -  so says Nicholas Lezard in his review of Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories for The Guardian. And we completely agree with his last sentence; if you read on the train, or any form of public transport, this is a book for you.

  9. The Guardian hosted a webchat with Justine Picardie about Du Maurier's creepy classic, "Don't Look Now." →