10 best debut novelists of 2022

January 16, 2022

This is the ninth year in which the Observer’s writers and editors spent the busy weeks before Christmas with our heads down in dozens of forthcoming debut novels, written by authors who live in the UK and Ireland, in order to give you a heads-up on 2022’s 10 best.

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Ten notable Latino books of 2021

December 31, 2021

Latino authors gave us fantastic novels, memoirs, short stories and poetry. Here’s a list of must-read books, including suggestions by Latino authors and bookstore owners.

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Sally Rooney: In search of the Marxist novel

December 20, 2021

For the past weeks, successful 30-year-old Irish author Sally Rooney has been in the headlines. Following her refusal to grant the translation rights of her new novel Beautiful World, Where Are You (2021) to the Israeli Modan publishing house, 70 prominent authors have now backed her decision in a statement.

In May of this year, Rooney was among over 1,600 artists who condemned Israel’s “crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution” in a “Letter Against Apartheid.” Israeli apartheid, they said, is “perpetuated by international complicity; it is our collective responsibility to repair this harm.”

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James Baldwin Interview

December 20, 2021

Richard Wright Novel Brought Back to Life

December 12, 2021

When​ Richard Wright sailed to France in 1946, he was 38 years old and already a legend. He was America’s most famous black writer, the author of two books hailed as classics the moment they were published: the 1940 novel Native Son and the 1945 memoir Black Boy. By ‘choosing exile’, as he put it, he hoped both to free himself from American racism and to put an ocean between himself and the Communist Party of the United States, in which he’d first come to prominence as a writer of proletarian fiction only to find himself accused of subversive, Trotskyist tendencies. In Paris he was a celebrity. French writers and American expatriates flocked to the Café Monaco, where he held court a short walk from his Left Bank flat. ‘Dick greeted everyone with boisterous condescension,’ Chester Himes remembered. ‘It was obvious he was the king thereabouts.’

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Sonia Sanchez – Collected Poems

December 12, 2021

A wonderful reading and conversation with the great poet Sonia Sanchez.

Collected Poems was published this year and is essential reading.

Unseen Kafka works may soon be revealed

April 18, 2019

The latest chapter in a literary drama that has played out through two centuries.

Kafka would surely be revolted by all of it.

However, its been well proven that artists are not always the best judges of their own work.

Max Brod performed a great service to the world by ignoring his friend’s request and instead exercised great literary judgement.     

Whatever Kafka writings remain unreleased need to be published.

A long-hidden trove of unpublished works by Franz Kafka could soon be revealed after a decade-long battle over his literary estate that has drawn comparisons to some of his surreal tales.

A district court in Zurich upheld Israeli verdicts in the case last week, ruling that several safe-deposit boxes in the Swiss city could be opened and their contents shipped to Israel’s national library.

The papers could shed new light on one of literature’s darkest figures, a German-speaking Jew from Prague whose cultural legacy has been hotly contested between Israel  and Germany.

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Translating Emily Dickinson

April 13, 2019

Translating poetry requires both a deep knowledge of the original language and of the poem’s historical, cultural, and literary context; more than anything, though, it requires a still deeper knowledge of the language into which it’s being translated, the translator’s own language. Added to this must be a love of that language, the language of the person receiving and then transforming the poem into a new poem—creating a new path.

Attempting to “transport” Emily Dickinson’s poems into Portuguese is a still harder task, because Dickinson’s poetry is notable for its peculiar agrammaticality: unexpected plurals, inverted syntax, and an often complete disregard for gender, person, or agreement between nouns and verbs……..

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Why did Borges hate soccer?

June 20, 2014

Some of Borges’ critiques are valid and relevant today. The nationalism generated by football does result in the fanaticism, hatred, racism, and xenophobia displayed by fans all over the world. Also, how the game is used by politicians and dictators for their own self-interest and to support their political objectives.

These are all undeniable realities that are still an ugly part of football.

But even a genius like Borges can be wrong.

The flow and artistry of the game is beautiful and timeless. It is not mind boggling that Borges was not able to understand and recognize the aesthetic wonder that is football.

His own prejudices brought out the blinders.

Soccer is popular,” Jorge Luis Borges observed, “because stupidity is popular.”

At first glance, the Argentine writer’s animus toward “the beautiful game” seems to reflect the attitude of today’s typical soccer hater, whose lazy gibes have almost become a refrain by now: Soccer is boring. There are too many tie scores. I can’t stand the fake injuries.

And it’s true: Borges did call soccer “aesthetically ugly.”

He did say, “Soccer is one of England’s biggest crimes.”

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Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia

May 29, 2014