Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Nobel Prize in Literature

So, yes, the winner of this year's Nobel Prize in literature is Doris Lessing. I heard the news one minute after it was announced, but unfortunately couldn't post until now.

I have read some work by her, but it was some time back and I can't say it was my favorite. However, I stopped by the university library today and picked up one of her novels, so I will try again.

As usual, I am sure this announcement will spark a flurry of translations!

What do you think?


j.b.s. said...

Hiya Brett,

I also remember reading her a long time ago, and not being so hooked. BTW, found a video of Pamuk's English translator discussing the process of translating and working with him, I've posted it here:

My favorite translators these days are also Anthea Bell, who translated Sebald, and Terezia Mora, who translated Esterhazy.

j.b.s. said...

BTW, Marianne Moore translated one of Stifter's pieces, Bergkristall, excellently, it's one to check out. best, Jenny.

B.J. Epstein said...

Thanks for your comments, Jenny! I look forward to watching that video later today (as a treat after I finish working for the day!). I wasn't even aware that Marianne Moore (who, of course, went to my alma mater, Bryn Mawr College) had done translation work. Thank you for letting me know!

Best wishes,

Andrew Shields said...

Which Lessing novel did you get? The one that overwhelmed me (and I have read almost all of them, given that I wrote part of my Ph.D. on her) was "The Fifth Child."

B.J. Epstein said...

The book I got from the library today is "The Summer Before the Dark." What do you think of that one?
My university library doesn't have "The Fifth Child," unfortunately. What aspects of the book did you analyze in your dissertation?

Best wishes,

j.b.s. said...

Hi Brett, yes, she did, an where it also gets really interesting is that Paul Celan translated Marianne Moore's poetry into German, respectively. Once I wrote a paper about this, it was fun to work on and of course I was so proud it was Marianne Moore he translated.

B.J. Epstein said...

Hi Jenny,

I didn't know that either! But that does make me wonder about other such relationships among writers, and who translates whose work.
Unfortunately, I couldn't watch the video you linked to, but I suspect the problem is here, since sometimes videos that people can see in the US or even elsewhere are blocked here.

Best wishes,

Andrew Shields said...

"Summer before the Dark" is an odd, but memorable novel.

I analyzed "The Fifth Child" from two perspectives:

1. How it undermines the premises of a family idyll (even before that ominous 5th kid appears).

2. How an allegorical reading of it (as a commentary on "liberal" society's exclusions of those who do not fit) does and does not work.

At least that's what I think I did. It was 12 years ago that I handed it in! :-)

Lapa said...



wrote about Portuguese colonial war



He has, also, translated into Portuguese the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

He has been awarded several prizes.

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Thanks for visiting this new literary blog

This sculpture in the picture was made, in cement, by a great artist friend of mine, named Eugénio Macedo.

Eric Dickens said...

I'm glad that a "normal writer" has won the Nobel. No gimmicks. And equally interesting is that she has evolved over the decades - Communist, anti-apartheid activist, then feminist. Now she takes even feminism with a pinch of salt. And she's quite anti-political-correctness. See:

A quote therefrom:

I want to ask you about "The Golden Notebook." It's a book that made you, in some respects, a feminist icon. It's often said to be your best book, yet you're critical of it.

It's a bit of an albatross around my neck, because I do think I've written some interesting books apart from that. And partly because I don't like it being seen so narrowly as a feminist book. I don't think it is a narrow feminist book. Everyone likes that book. It keeps popping up all over the place in different countries. When I think the thing is dead, it doesn't lie down, it gets up again.

Eric Dickens said...

P.S. about Doris Lessing:

As I said somewhere else on this blogsite, my translation of the Estonian novel "Treading Air" by Jaan Kross was reviewed by Doris Lessing in "The Spectator" on 28th June 2003.

Unfortunately, she didn't mention the name of the translator! But it shows that there are people who don't only read the run-of-the-mill, much-hyped bestsellers-in-translation, which then get endlessly reviewed, usually in the Guardian and the Independent.

Especially interesting is that Lessing was once an ardent Communist, while this Estonian novel is about the reality of the Communist Soviet Union subjugating and occupying independent Estonia (1940), sending all the government to Siberia and shooting many of them. The irony is that the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact had just been signed between Communist Russia and Nazi Germany. Estonia was piggy in the middle.

Doris Lessing took all this on board and wrote a sympathetic review. See:

When I do get round to reading Lessing, I think I'll read some of her later work, including even the so-called sci-fi works.

B.J. Epstein said...

Thank you, Andrew and Eric, for your thoughts on Lessing and for the interesting links. In my opinion, more information on an author and his or her works can add to the reading experience, though I know others like to consider the author "dead" and to just take the text on its own terms.
I'm currently reading a Sarah Waters novel ("Affinity" -- I really like her writing, but this particular book is not exactly good bedtime reading!), so Lessing's "The Summer Before The Dark" will be next.

Best wishes,