The folks over at Wakefield Press have produced a lovely new edition of Francis Ponge's The Table (translated by Colombina Zamponi): 

Written over a series of early mornings from 1967 to 1973 in his seclusion at his country home, Mas des Vergers, The Table offers a final chapter in Francis Ponge’s endless interrogation of the unassuming objects in his life: in this case, the table upon which he wrote. In his labored employment of words to destroy words and get at the presence lying beneath his elbow, Ponge charts out a space of silent consolation that lies beyond (and challenges) scientific objectivity and poetic transport.

This is one of Ponge’s most personal, overlooked, and because it was the last project he had been working on when he passed away, his least processed works. It reveals the personal struggle Ponge engaged in throughout all of his writing, a hesitant uncertainty he usually pared away from his published texts that is at touching opposition to the manufactured, “durable mother” of the table on and of which he here writes.

Ponge’s homage to this “soil for the pen” makes for an indefinable text: a poetic phenomenology by a dictionary flaneur that lies somewhere between personal diary, writerly testament, and contemplative effort to discern and define a durability that underlies the ultimate transitoriness of our lives and our efforts, written or otherwise.

Click for more information about the book.

Northern Fiction Alliance face

The Arab British Centre has announced that the winners of The Arab British Centre Award for Culture 2017 are playwright Hannah Khalil and Arts Canteen:

The winners were announced at The Arab British Centre’s 40th anniversary reception at City Hall in front of over 250 guests, including Lord Owen, who inaugurated the Centre in 1977, and H.E. Sulaiman Almazroui, The Ambassador of the UAE.

A distinguished panel of judges selected the winners of the 2017 prize, from a shortlist of ten candidates. The panel included Sir Derek Plumbly KCMG, Chairman of The Arab British Centre, Venetia Porter, British Museum Curator of Islamic and Contemporary Art, Salma Tuqan, V&A Curator Contemporary Arab Art and Design, Carolyn Perry, Director MBI AL Jaber Foundation, British Council Acting Director Arts for the Middle East and North Africa, David Elliott, and previous award winner and playwright Hassan Abdulrazzaq.

The Arab British Centre would like to congratulate Hannah Khalil and Arts Canteen and the fantastic shortlisted candidates; Ahmed Masoud, Elhum Shakerifar, Reem Kelani and Issam Kourbaj in the category for Individuals, and Comma Press, Mosaic Rooms, Marsm and Qisetna: Talking Syria in the category for organisations.

The Arab British Centre Award for Culture 2017 was presented in collaboration with the British Council, who will provide the winners with the opportunity and support to develop international networks. The Award winners will also receive a £2,500 cash prize to support the development of their work.

Click for more information on The Arab British Centre Award for Culture.

"Considered by many to be the 'Icelandic Ulysses' for its wordplay, neologisms, structural upheaval, and reinvention of what’s possible in Icelandic writing, Tómas Jansson's Bestseller was indeed a bestseller, heralding a new age of Icelandic literature..."

A retired, senile bank clerk confined to his basement apartment, Tómas Jónsson decides that, since memoirs are all the rage, he’s going to write his own—a sure bestseller—that will also right the wrongs of contemporary Icelandic society. Egoistic, cranky, and digressive, Tómas blasts away while relating pick-up techniques, meditations on chamber pot use, ways to assign monetary value to noise pollution, and much more. His rants parody and subvert the idea of the memoir—something that’s as relevant today in our memoir-obsessed society as it was when the novel was first published.

Tómas Jansson's Bestseller is out now from Open Letter Books.

And whilst I'm plugging websites, it's also worth me mentioning Five Books. Been going a while, but I only came across it fairly recently. Five Books "ask experts to recommend the five best books in their subject and explain their selection in an interview. [The] site has an archive of over one thousand interviews, or five thousand book recommendations." They publish a new interview every Monday and Thursday.

The wonderful city of Glasgow has been my second home for the past year or more. As that phase of my life comes to an end, it's probably worth me remembering to give a shout out to the excellent Glasgow Review of Books an online "review journal publishing short and long reviews, review essays and interviews, as well as translations, fiction, poetry, and visual art. We are interested in all forms of cultural practice and seek to incorporate more marginal, peripheral or neglected forms into our debates and discussions. We aim to foster discussion of work from small and specialised publishers and practitioners, and to maintain a focus on issues in and about translation. The review has a determinedly international approach, but is also a proud resident of Glasgow."

Congratulations to poet Jenny Lewis (When I Became an Amazon, Iron Press; Fathom and Taking Mesopotamia, Oxford Poets/ Carcanet) for being shortlisted for the Gladstone's Library 2018 Writer in Residence Award!

Winners will be announced next month.

In an act of poetic justice, the other Tchaikowsky, André Tchaikowsky—pianist, composer, and posthumous celebrity—is finally receiving the recognition he craved in his lifetime. His opera, The Merchant of Venice, in a production directed by Keith Warner, comes to the Royal Opera House in July.

It is impossible to consider this setting of a distressing and eternally awkward play without reflecting on the life of its composer, who died leaving it almost complete and regarding it as his magnum opus. Of the many extraordinary tributes paid to him, perhaps the most telling is that of his former manager, Terry Harrison: “If he had been a different character, he could have had a very, very major career.”

Read more in the Jewish Quarterly.

Anthony Rudolf's fine European Hours is out now and not to be missed!

For more than five decades Anthony Rudolf has been active as translator, critic, editor, and publisher: all in all, an enabler of writers and readers. His own poems come to him gradually, under pressure of real themes and subjects, refined by the disciplines of translation and co-translation. Reluctant to let a poem go, Rudolf loves to inhabit the process of writing and re-writing.

European Hours represents a life’s work severely curated. The poems, prose texts, and prose poems which make the cut, from 1964 to 2016, are diverse in form, and run parallel to his highly praised volumes of memoirs.

George Mackay Brown, reviewing Rudolf in the Scotsman, noted his ‘fine exact craftsmanship: no word or syllable wasted, so that each image is stark and true’. Robin Skelton in the Malahat Review spoke of his work as ‘witty, precise, beautifully cadenced, and courageously exploratory’. Reflecting on his own influences, Rudolf mentions James Wright, Robert Creeley and Ian Hamilton early on; and later, Central and East European poets including Paul Celan, Miroslav Holub and Vasko Popa, as well as the American Objectivists.

Sam Bray (translator, alongside of John F. Hobbins, of Genesis 1–11: A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators, which "follows the Hebrew text closely and leaves in what many translations leave out: physicality, ambiguity, repetition, even puns") explains some of his translation theory:

“Double translation” means rendering one term in the original with two terms in the translation. This technique is almost never used in contemporary English Bible translations, but there is precedent for it. Ancient Greek translators of Genesis used double translations (e.g., the Septuagint’s “chest and belly” in Genesis 3:14, and Theodotion’s “in the wind during the cooling off of the day” in Genesis 3:8). Medieval English translators used double translations. And some gifted 20th century writers used them, such as Hannah Arendt, when translating a word from Aristotle into German, and Langston Hughes, when translating an African political slogan into English.

Why double translation? Our translation is meant to be very close, closer than the widely used English translations of Genesis, both Jewish and Christian (e.g., NJPS, NRSV, Alter, NIV, ESV). So we don’t use double translation to gild the lily. Rather, the idea is that languages don’t fully align. An expression may have multiple senses or shades of meaning that can’t be carried over into the receiving language with a single translation. In these cases, a translator can try to capture more of the significance with a double translation, at the cost, however, of giving up the concision of the original.