Thursday, September 02, 2004

What the rest of the world is reading

From a poem by Marzanna Kielar:

...The clouds descend amphitheatrically,
into the mountainous sea,
into ashen alleys of shattered columns, into collapsed
arches of arcades
drift fishing vessels

The new issue of World Literature Today is online. Much as its material interests me, I'm too dumb to understand most of it. Though I can appreciate Ngugi wa Thiong'o on recovering and connecting to one's language.

Plenty of excerpts. I recommend "The Last Face," from a recent translation of The Mansion by Álvaro Mutis.

There's a piece on the state of Russian poetry, and I don't care much for either Russian poetry or the state it might be in. However:

Given the opportunity to express themselves freely, unexacting authors have turned to the printed word with the sole aim of attracting attention to themselves, of shocking the reader in some way. It can be difficult for uninformed readers to find their way through the constantly swelling sea of new publications. Literary journals that provide an overview of current fiction and poetry cost so much that few people subscribe to them anymore. Professional critics should be working to identify works that display true artistic merit, but, for a number of reasons, they are not always up to the task. In Russia, a country where, we once believed, people read more than anywhere else in the world, suddenly there seems to be a catastrophic shortage of readers.

...amid all this, Russian poetry is thriving.

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