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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

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Blog entries on '26 September 2005'

Monday 26 September 2005

WLT Top 40 List

World Literature Today have published a list of the Top 40 Most Important Works in the World 1927 - present. I was thrilled to see, for 1945, SY Agnon's The Day Before Yesterday (this Princeton University Press edition is called Only Yesterday, but it is the same book.)

SY Agnon (1887-1970) was born Shmuel-Yoysef Tshatshkes in the Jewish town of Butshatsh in eastern Galicia, formerly a Polish region. In 1908 he went with the Second Aliya to Palestine, where he published several early masterpieces in Hebrew. In 1912-1924 he lived in Germany and was regularly supported by the publisher and Zionist Sh.-Z. Schocken. From 1924 Agnon lived mostly in Jerusalem. In 1966 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (along with Nelly Sachs). Among his works translated into English are A Simple Story, The Bridal Canopy, Days of Awe, In the Heart of the Seas, and Shira.

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands (1956) by João Guimarães Rosa is also listed. I keep hearing great things about this novel. I also heard, ages ago, that Verso were thinking of reprinting it.

The Rake has lots of knockabout comments on this (via Scott).

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 26 September 2005

Four-eyed Bitch

Four-eyed Bitch (the blog at Suicide Notes) has had a bit of a facelift. Neater, cleaner look, but just as much fun as ever: take a look.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 26 September 2005


The Fall 2005 issue of eratio postmodern poetry is online (via the ever-wonderful Wood s Lot, which also brings to my attention Christopher Benfey's essay Mark Rothko's floating abstractions of despair).

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 26 September 2005

No fair!

It's not fair! I wanna play!

Sam, Sandra, Steve and Stefanie have been comparing their obsessiveness (posting lists of multiple volumes in their collection by or about single authors). My books are all over the place (in storage in Oxford, at my parents' house, in sealed boxes in the in-laws's loft, in the flat ...) so there is no way I can count, no way I can join the game! My list would look more like Steve's than Sandra's, as you might expect, but until the day when they are all in one place, I'll never know.

Sandra (Mrs BookWorld) has been posting some wonderful blogs of late (especially Shakespeare-related ones) so, if you haven't already, get over there.

And then there is Steve (who is due congratulations on the first anniversary of the peerless This Space) with this on Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being:

What drew me to this novel, of course, was its extraordinary title. I remember reaching for it on the library display in January 1986, the day of my birthday in fact. The book could easily have been like the movie: shallow and pretentious. And it probably got its notoriety anyway for its promiscuous sex and political sexiness rather than its literary daring. What made the book extra special for me - took it beyond the merely fashionable - was the way it began. Yes, there’s the opening section on Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence (which I didn’t understand), but more importantly for me there’s also the passage where Tomas is introduced looking out of a window, introduced, that is, looking out of a window as seen through the writer’s imagination; not as an obvious figment or a postmodern plaything, but a living presence who begins the narrative. This simple moment of honesty felt like a gift; the key to the door.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 26 September 2005

Weird words

Ross brings my attention to some words he hopes will soon enter the English language, including: Nakhur (Persian origin) - a camel that won’t give milk until her nostrils are tickled; Torschlusspanik (German origin) - fear of diminishing opportunities as one gets older.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 26 September 2005

Rilke's politics

In a letter dated in 19th August edition of the TLS, Fred Bridgham writes of Rilke's politics:

Leo Lensing understandably laments the omission of a sentence (explaining how "Rilke lost his head for a few days in August 1914") from an essay of his published in A New History of German Literature, which allowed the poet's "Funf Gesange" to be construed as "an attack on war" (Letters, August 5). These little-known cantos welcome the sudden "authoritative" appearance of "the God of War", the intoxication of a communal mission, even the naturalness of "the human harvest" about to begin, before the celebrant has second thoughts, retreating into some of the most remarkable linguistic contortionism in the language. Yet Rilke's analogical thinking, further buttressed by the quasi-divine "dictation" of the remaining "Duineser Elegien" in 1922, allowed him to welcome Mussolini, too, as an "authoritative" dictator.

I mention this as I've been dipping into Rilke again (Duino Elegies) recently whilst impatiently waiting for Michael Hofmann's The Faber Book of 20th Century German Poems to land.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

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Omens, after Alexander Pushkin

I rode to meet you: dreams
like living beings swarmed around me
and the moon on my right side
followed me, burning.

I rode back: everything changed.
My soul in love was sad
and the moon on my left side
trailed me without hope.

To such endless impressions
we poets give ourselves absolutely,
making, in silence, omen of mere event,
until the world reflects the deepest needs of the soul.

-- Louise Gluck
Averno (Carcanet Press)

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Word of the Day

The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or two

Pre-order Anu Garg's new book: The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words (ISBN 9780452288614), published by Penguin more …

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October's Books of the Month

The New Spirit of Capitalism The New Spirit of Capitalism
Luc Boltanski; Eve Chiapello
Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM
Steve Lake, Paul Griffiths

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