Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

Well Known International Book Prize Announces Its Long List


Long list for fiction prize just announced?  By whom?  Well known?

Pulitzer?  National Book Award for Fiction?  Man Booker?  Orange Prize?  The Governor General of Canada’s Award for Literature?

If you guessed any of these, you were wrong?  At 100,000 Euro ($135,840 at today’s exchange rate) for first prize the award is not to be sneezed at.

You lovers of translated literature know the answer.  The IMPAC Dublin prize, to which libraries from all over the world nominate a work of fiction in English (original language or translated).  The long list was announced today for the 2011 award.

Why are we lovers of translated fiction excited?

Because of 15 previous winners, 7 have been translated works. Of the 162 works in the longlist for the 2011 award, 26% are translations.

It is worth looking at past winners because there are some favourite authors in there.

The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker
(Dutch), translated by David Colmer; Vintage UK, Archipelago Books, US

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
(Norwegian), translated by Anne Born; Vintage, UK, Picador, US

This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun
(Moroccan) translated by Linda Coverdale; Penguin, US and UK

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
(Turkish) translated by Erdag M. Göknar; Everyman, US, Faber and Faber, UK

Atomised by Michel Houellebecq
(French), translated by Frank Wynne; Vintage US and UK

The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller
(Romanian), translated from German by Michael Hofmann; Picador US and UK

A Heart So White by Javier Marías
(Spanish), translated by Margaret Jull Costa; New Directions, US, Vintage, UK

How many of you don’t have at least one favourite work/author is this list?

Final question for now. How many of you don’t already own every title?  OK, the forfeit – remedy immediately by purchasing the missing title(s).

New to all this?  I’ll let you off.  Go off now and purchase at least one title from the list, go home and read.  You won’t regret it.

They are all worth reading. Not all of them are to everybody’s taste, to be sure.  But that could never be. Nor should be.

posted November 15, 2010 on Goodreads > Lost In Translation

«Écoutez, vous coquins du monde anglophone, ce mal avez-vous été jusqu’à aujourd’hui?»

«Aucun, vraiment!»

«Nous ne vous crois pas. Avouez.»

«Oh, très bien. Nous avons lu quelques nouvelles aujourd’hui que tout nous a plu.»

«Et qu’est-ce que c’était?»

«Eh bien, nous lisons que de 2011 IMPAC Dublin longue liste pour l’attribution de fiction a été annoncé.» (Langue n’est pas une barrière que longlist Impac Dublin prix prend sur le monde)

«Bah, l’attribution de la fiction en langue anglaise. Pourquoi devrait être nous être intéressés à ce sujet?» feignant un bâillement.

«C’est très intéressant. De 162 écrivains dans la longue liste, il ya un peu plus d’un quart qui sont traduits en anglais.»

«Mmnnn.»

«Et de ce nombre, 11 sont des écrivains français. Deux fois plus que toute autre langue. Espagnol était à côté de 6.»

«Ils seraient, n’est-ce pas. Quelqu’un que nous connaissons?»

«Hélène Cixous, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Ben Tahar.Jelloun.»

«Ben Jelloun ne va pas gagner. Il a gagné auparavant. Nous entendons de Dan Brown sur la liste. Qui lui a proposé?»

«Les Maldives, en Grèce. Bien sûr, nous savons pourquoi vous avez fait si bien. Les bibliothèques participantes français désigné qu’un seul titre non-français.»

«Nous voyons. Et où était-il du?»

«L’Angleterre».

«Donc, Brouillons vous, ce que vous êtes à aujourd’hui?»

Posted November 15, 2010 in Belgium at où à ?

Filed under: Arts, , ,

A Free Press, A Multiparty Government, A Healthy Country


One of advantages of blogging is that no “letter to the editor” can ever be refused. Editors of online and print media are busy people. Or should be. A letter to the editor might not see light of publication for a variety of reason. At the simplest level, the volume of correspondence on the day your precious missive arrived might have been such that it was consigned, along with 90% of everything else that arrived that day, to the trash, electronic or physical. After all, who wants to arrive at the office with mail in the in-box from the day before and well as today’s?

It might seem an imposition to write, as an outsider (I did live in South Africa for a number of years), on the affairs of another country. And that would be a valid point of view. Americans, for example, very much dislike outsiders commenting on what they should or should not do, be that at an official level or from an individual. This, despite Americans feeling that they have the right to pronounce on how anyone and everyone else should think or act. And they expect to be listened to. But, then, I am not American. I merely live there (here).

The following was recently offered to a highly respected South African news publication (Mail and Guardian Online). Since nothing came of that, I am taking the opportunity of placing it here.

First posted November 14, 2010 at  Where Two? hosted in South Africa

“A Free Press, A Multiparty Government, A Healthy Country, 28 October, 2010″South Africa enjoys a vibrant, thoughtful, diverse press that should be, and no doubt is, the envy of many another country. The current fight to safeguard press freedoms is a vital one and one that South Africans, in and out of the media, appear willing to fight vigorously. Many people throughout the rest of the world are looking on anxiously. We wish you all power and strength in this fight.

“In following the debate and calls for action to counter government legislation intended to gag dissent and criticism in the media, requisites of a healthy democracy, one glaring omission stands out.

“That omission is the absence of discussion on opposition inside the legislature to the ruling party. It is one thing to fight the proposed press legislation on the steps of parliament. It is quite another to fight that legislation from the opposition benches. What the African National Congress lacks is sufficiently strong opposition sitting in those benches.

“No one would term South Africa a one party state. However, with a monolithic grip on power for the foreseeable future, and a terribly splintered opposition, South Africa’s political situation cannot be described as robust. The slide to a one party state can be precipitous. If the fight for press freedom is lost to any extent at all, does that not take the country that bit closer to the edge of that precipice?

“So, where in the discussions on the need to defend press freedoms is there the recognition that those freedoms, and indeed all the freedoms that rightfully belong to a democratic country, are best fought in parliament?

“Where is the call to build the opposition? Where is the grass roots campaigning? Why is not some of the energy, which is so abundant in this country, being placed in that direction? Why is there not recognition that the proposed press legislation is but one of a whole series of repressive legislation that naturally follow untrammeled power?

“Is it too fine a point make? All South Africans deserve a place at the legislative table. Each South African, of whichever race, is as capable as any other of working for the betterment of all South Africans. No group, for whatever reasons, should be sitting on the sidelines.

“The problems South Africa faces are soluble. All South Africans, I am certain, are willing to play a part in their solution. However, those problems are made more soluble by a government which has a strong opposition. The present government deserves nothing less. What this observer discerns is a lack of will on the part of South Africans to climb in and form that opposition. Why is this so?

“South Africa, at present, is a strong, vibrant country more than capable of facing, coping with, and solving its problems. It has the resources and skills.

“South Africa will remain strong and capable only if a strong powerful opposition is built now. If that opposition is not built, the problems become political, which, by their nature, become less and less soluble. Political problems arising from overarching power and insufficient opposition become, in time, insoluble. Continued insufficient opposition in government to government will seriously damage the political health of South Africa from which she will take a very long time to recover.

“The present problems South Africa faces pale by comparison.”

First posted November 14, 2010 at  Where Two? hosted in South Africa

Filed under: Culture, , ,

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