Weekly News Roundup, 4th April 2014: Wiki-Dictionaries, Muhammed: the Opera, Translating Kafka and Joyce

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Happy April! It’s too late for April Fool’s trickery at the roundup, but the announcement of German publisher PediaPress’ proposal to print out all of Wikipedia—yes, all four million articles, amounting to one thousand volumes and a bookcase eight feet long and 32 feet high—certainly seems like a prank of Rushdie-selfie proportions.

Paper-printing a stridently digital format seems counterintuitive—and it most certainly is, especially as digital reading and sharing platforms like Biblionasium, a new GoodReads-style lit site for children, grow… I wonder if kid critics will shy away from translated lit, or these very adult, kid-ified novels? In any case, if you’d like to surf the net at lightning pace, hightail over to Svalbard, Norway, home of polar bears and some of the world’s fastest Internet speeds. Finally, the Internet is (slightly) freer: Turkey has lifted its two-week ban on Twitter.

Springtime means more extravagant bouquets in literary prize ceremonies. American writer Karen Joy Fowler has won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for penning We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (pun intended), and Egyptian writer Abdel Rasheed Mahmoudi has snagged the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for his novel After Coffee. The shortlist for the 2014 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean literature has been announced and it features authors from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. The Guardian wonders why writer Christos Tsiolkas was snubbed in the nominations for Australia’s eminent prize, the Miles Franklin Prize. Following a similar vein of prize-existentialism, The Standard posits that the (supposedly) pan-African Caine Prize may be stifling the continent’s contemporary literary tradition.

The literary career path is not a particularly lucrative one (a bitter truth, especially when compared to our close-second vocational options of hedge fund management and bioengineering), but this week reminded us of all sorts of bestselling all-stars hailing from across the globe. In China, Mai Jia brands his commercial success with subtle subversity.  Still a teenager, Danish-Palestinian poet Yahya Hassan lashes out against the establishment and sells over 100,000 copies in the process. In the New Yorker, author of The Unwinding George Packer writes on storytelling from Iraq and the new war literature. In Afghanistan, a secret feminism emerges in verse.  

Drama typically takes the form of political unrest and publisher politics, but this week’s news reminded us of theatrics in the literal sense of the term. In Sharjah, the small emirate adjoining Dubai, an opera debuts about the life of prophet Muhammed (Muhammed: Superstar, if you will, deftly sidestepping Islam’s dictum that the prophet must never be portrayed in human form).  The Guardian astutely ponders if Hamlet is staged too often, while the theaters in Portland, Oregon, unite to stage Shakespeare’s entire dramatic oeuvre within two years. Lastly, NPR hosts a conversation with South African playwright Athol Fugard on Apartheid and acting.

Language is never taken lightly, especially in the cases of notorious syntactic stylists James Joyce and Franz Kafka. A new book highlights how Kafka’s English-language translations shaped his legacy, while at the London Review of Books Sheng Yun examines Dai Congrong translating Finnegan’s Wake in China.

One war you never hear of, because you can’t understand it: we’re losing the fight against jargon.


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