Hey, happy Friday, Asymptote! This week marks two extra-special, European four-hundred-year anniversaries: it’s the week of Spanish literary icon Miguel de Cervantes’ death, and there’s all sorts of commemoration: Spain celebrated the Don Quixote author with national celebrations and literary awards, but if you’re unable to make it in person, take a virtual trip to La Mancha. And English poet/thespian/legend William Shakespeare, too, died four hundred years ago (1616 was a killer year, huh?), so the commemorations are similarly virtual and literal (in case you’re curious, here’s a Proust Questionnaire with the Bard). And lest you forget (as much of Shakespeare and Cervantes can be found in the open domain) April 23 was also the UNESCO’s world book copyright day.
Literary parties. They exist, and not only in books: conferences are the blood that courses through the literati’s (often anemic) veins. In Hungary, Budapest’s 23rd annual International Book Festival features Romania and Romanian writers. At the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair in the United Arab Emirates, booksellers, publishers, writers, and industry insiders hope to sell and read good books (especially from this year’s featured country, Italy). The Virgin Islands Liteary Festival featured writer Earl Lovelace. And the Istanbul Tanpinar Literature Festival starts in Turkey this week, with similar hopes of engaging writers, translators, publishers, and readers.
Translators. They’re the best, aren’t they? (Yes). Chinese poet Du Fu has been translated into English by Harvard sinologist Stephen Owen, and this incredible task comprises over 3,000 pages and six entire volumes. Phew. A panel at the London Book Fair discussed how to make Russian literature more popular, and translation obviously plays a hand. Scottish author/poet/translator John Glenday tries his hand at Gilgamesh in Gilgamesh’s Snake and Other Poems, a riff on the 4000-year-old original Epic.
Czech translator Lucie Mikolajková considers translation an enterprise much like that of building restoration. At the Poetry Foundation Harriet blog, John Keene argues for “more translation of literary works by non-Anglophone black diasporic authors into English.”