Weekly News Roundup, 21st November 2013: Because Internet, Literary Farewells, Punjabi Book Prize

A look at some of the most important literary news this past week

This week reminded us that the Internet coins a gonzo language of its own—and the “real world” should take note. Contrary to Strunk, White, and intuition, “because” seems to be evolving. Grammarians consider the word “because” a subordinating conjunction, but linguists and Internet addicts have noticed another usage: called the “prepositional-because,” this “because-noun” adaptation is 100% flippant Internet wit. In related news, the eponymous spawn of the smartphone, the “selfie,” has won the 2013 Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year. Non-descriptivists, don’t despair (yet): the word has not yet been inserted in Oxford’s dictionaries, though it is being considered for inclusion…

Farewells to literary greats: Pulitzer-Prize winning author Doris Lessing (born in Iran, raised in Rhodesia, schooled in Britain, Lessing’s writing refuses categorization) passed away at age 94. And William Weaver’s passing stung quite a bit, especially for translation fans like us. The noted Italian translator, famous for translating Umberto Eco’s mega-bestseller The Name of the Rose, helped elevate the public status of translation. Be sure to read Susan Bernofsky’s tribute on her Translationista blog, and, in case you missed it, Asymptote Blog’s own appreciation.

Another victory for Google bibliophiles: as an American judge has dismissed an eight-year-long lawsuit contesting the digitization of literary “snippets” to the Google library. In Russia, a similar struggle, but efforts to reduce E-book piracy fight fire with fire. A new app, called Bookmate, is a subscription reading service seeking to stomp out Russia’s notorious black-market readers.

Happy days for literature across the globe! Things are looking brighter for Punjabi literature thanks to the stupendous announcement of the Dhaban International Punjabi Literature Prize, an honor boasting a $25,000 cash award. It’s about time, considering that the Punjabi language is the globe’s ninth most widely spoken, but is often overlooked in literary circles… It looks like this year’s English PEN Translation awards signal more good news, as they highlight neglected literary voices. Congratulations are in order to Elena Poniatowska, Mexican author and recipient of the Spanish-speaking world’s answer to the Nobel, the Premio Cervantes. The New York Times steps away from form and reviews David Tod Roy’s completed translation of the naughty sixteenth century Chinese classic, Chin P’ing Mei. Despite all this good news, literature in Hungary is under siege: translator (and Asymptote contributor) Ottilie Mulzet reports that far-right extremists are burning the poetry of Miklós Radnóti.

It’s chilly in November, but if you’re dreaming of vacation: in Abu Dhabi, the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, product of a 30-year contract between French museums and Abu Dhabi, is slated for 2015. More than beach reads and bikinis, Miami, Florida, hosts an impressive international book fair, opening Sunday (this year, the festival celebrates Spain). In Iran, the country’s nationwide Book Week concludes with awarding the Jalal Ale Ahmad Award, the country’s most prestigious literary honor, and in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the Hay Festival Dhaka (November 14-16) featured voices such as Tariq Ali, Ahdaf Soueif, and Asymptote alum Aamer Hussein. In light of the Slovak international book fair, BIBLIOTEKA (November 14-17), a thorough introduction to the Slovak book and literature market, written by our very own Julia Sherwood (hot tip: many authors seek English translators!).

Finally, legendary musician Tom Waits has recorded an album in Hebrew—which you can sample here. Because music (get it?).