Happy Friday, Asymptote! This week feels like a doozy, and it was. If you’re Berlin-based (Hi, Florian!), you likely saw Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei’s impressive refugee-commemorating installation at the city’s Konzerthaus, furnished with lifejackets provided by the mayor of Lesbos. In that same city, in this same week (!), Berlinale, the city’s famed film festival, raises the question: why aren’t German films as good as they used to be?
Pardon the blog for its broken-record-ness, but here’s a video interview of Jhumpa Lahiri and Ann Goldstein—on Italian (we think) and anonymous phenomenon Elena Ferrante. If you’ve read the Neapolitan Novels, it’s likely you’ve dreamed of the crazy Naples Lina and Elena inhabit. And you wouldn’t be alone: Ferrante-tourism is an actual thing. And if you’ve been interested in Lahiri’s latest—a memoir, written in Italian, titled In Other Words—here’s a review about the book you aren’t expecting.
This week in passing and change: noted French-language literary critic Michael Sheringham has passed. In an upset, Audrey Azoulay has replaced Fleur Pellerin as France‘s cultural minister—an surprise attendant with President Francois Hollande’s cabinet reshuffling. And Polish director Andrzej Zulawski—considered the Polish “David Cronenberg,” and who, coincidentally, also spent a great deal of time in France—has passed away at age 75.
You think you know—but you don’t: Franz Kafka was a lot more fun than he gets credit for. And in Russia, Vladimir Putin doesn’t need to muddy his hands with censorship—the publishing houses do it already. And friend of the blog (and superstar translator) Natasha Wimmer reflects on translating the Great Male Novelists we all know and love. (Speaking of: here’s a review of the theatrical version of Wimmer’s Big Author, Chilean Roberto Bolaño, whose 2666 has been adapted to the stage in a 5.5-hour-long production).