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The way I read it this is not about the writers, but about the literary culture: They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature... It's not whether the themes or settings are provincial as in the examples you point out.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 3rd, 2008 at 05:26:40 AM EST
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I'm not really talking about the themes or settings, so much, as the conception of what a proper literary novel is supposed to be.

That is, the notion has come about in recent years that good novels should <exaggeration> have no plot and focus primarily on the beauty of individual sentences from a semi-poetic semi-gibberish perspective </exaggeration>.

The result is what many avid readers consider boring and unreadable.  Whether it's aware of what is going on the rest of the world is irrelevant considering this basic problem.

by Zwackus on Fri Oct 3rd, 2008 at 05:54:26 AM EST
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Sorry, got a bit confused as to which thread I was in.
by Zwackus on Fri Oct 3rd, 2008 at 05:56:07 AM EST
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[ET Moderation Technology™] repost under the appropriate thread and I'll toggle/delete this one :-)

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 3rd, 2008 at 06:00:10 AM EST
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Well, there's truth in that. The dialogue being, in the US, concerned more with the American Novel. It's once again the drawback of a great strength, which lies in the sheer size of a single-language one-culture country.

One should point out however that, in Europe, translation is almost overwhelmingly from English => national languages.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Oct 3rd, 2008 at 08:39:40 AM EST
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He's wrong on the one hand and right about translation.

But, let me add one thing here: I go into book stores in Europe. I walk into Feltrinelli. Bertelsmann owns some. What kind of translations do I find? One thousand books by Banana Yoshimoto do nothing for me.

In the USA, we have a very small number of translations. 400 a year in fiction. The vast majority of these are published by small presses such as Dalkey Archive or Open Letter, etc. This enables an American like me to read a writer such as, for instance, Giorgio Manganelli, in translation, and then when I'm in Italy and I want to find his book in the original to enjoy it in Italian, it's not only nowhere to be found in bookstores, but many Italians haven't heard of him.

The US is no doubt suffering from too few translations, but that doesn't mean writers in the USA are insular. Many have read their European contemporaries and have great respect for them. There is a very precise relationship between Euro literature and American literature, and the conversation has been going on over a century. Writers reveal their influences and note the exchange from across the pond. It's easy to track.

This week I'm hosting Bragi Olafsson here in Buffalo who is reading from his novel, The Pets, a new American translation. Culturual exchanges such as this happen frequently. Is it a problem that Engdahl is unaware of thiss imply because Olafsson's book is being published by a small press, Open letter?

What great contemporary European writers have we missed in the USA?

by Upstate NY on Fri Oct 3rd, 2008 at 01:57:38 PM EST
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