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Last Build Date: Wed, 07 Dec 2016 01:18:20 +0000


30 Medieval Texts Translated in 2016.

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 01:18:20 +0000

This list from makes me want to spend a week or two ensconced in a really good research library (ideally, Sterling Memorial, where I spent so much of the 1970s), pulling down one book after another and reading to my heart’s content. I can’t even pretend I want to own them — they’re almost […]

Gorky and Tolstoy.

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 01:50:45 +0000

Aaron Lake Smith has a good piece for Lapham’s Quarterly about Maxim Gorky, focusing on his “troubled friendship” with Leo Tolstoy; it makes me want to read his 1919 reminiscence about the older writer: His essay on Tolstoy is one of the most complex depictions of the love and hate that intertwine within a friendship […]

Butcher Bird.

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 01:13:23 +0000

I’m reading the early stories of Wallace Stegner; so far they’ve mostly taken place in the hardscrabble farmland of southwest Saskatchewan, where he spent part of his youth, and they’re as grim as life there must have been (though lightened by the irrepressible spirits of his young viewpoint characters). The latest, the 1940 “Butcher Bird,” […]

Saving Language.

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 00:57:41 +0000

I may have mentioned before that one of my favorite radio programs is To the Best of Our Knowledge, which consistently features the most interesting and thought-provoking interviews around; almost every time I listen (it’s on Saturday mornings from 6 to 8 on our local PBS station) I learn new things or new ways of […]

The Licentious Thrush.

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 16:57:33 +0000

I’ve been reading Saltykov-Shchedrin’s Губернские очерки [Provincial sketches] (1856-57), a now-forgotten work consisting of delightful descriptions of the endemically corrupt town of Krutogorsk (a lightly fictionalized version of Vyatka, where he had spent seven years in exile), and at one point a character mentions a woman who sang “гривуазные песни” like “Un soir a la […]

A Year in Reading 2016.

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 21:23:09 +0000

Once again it’s time for the Year in Reading feature at The Millions, in which people write about books they’ve read and enjoyed during the previous year; my contribution is up, featuring my review of Aileen M. Kelly’s great biography of Herzen, The Discovery of Chance, as well as my other favorites of the year, […]

Roa Lynn and Patrick Morgan.

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 01:27:02 +0000

Forrest Gander has a wonderful account at Literary Hub of translating Neruda, starting by describing his reluctance to take on the task: “It’s not that I don’t love Neruda, but given the attention he’s justly received […] I’ve wanted to champion terrific lesser-known and more contemporary Latin American writers in translation.” I’ll leave you to […]


Wed, 30 Nov 2016 01:11:34 +0000

I have little interest in demonology, but when I happened on Esther Inglis-Arkell’s webpage The Five Best and Five Worst Demons to Get Possessed By, I knew I had to post about #3 on the Worst Demons list: Agares can be a woman or a man. If the demon is a man, the man is […]

Italy’s Last Bastion of Catalan.

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 01:19:37 +0000

Raphael Minder has a nice NY Times piece on Catalan in Alghero: The first Catalans reached Sardinia in the 14th century, when troops sailed from the eastern coast of what is now Spain as part of an expansion into the Mediterranean. After an uprising slaughtered the forces garrisoned in this northern port on the island, […]

Translating Sade’s Obscenities.

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 00:55:47 +0000

Will McMorran’s piece on translating the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom for Penguin might have been written with LH in mind. He calls it “a uniquely disturbing work”: And therefore uniquely challenging to translate. Perhaps this was the reason no one had attempted a new translation since the one first published by […]

Voicing Surprise.

Sat, 26 Nov 2016 19:00:21 +0000

I was listening to NPR news this morning, as is my wont (a word, incidentally, that I pronounce identically to the contraction won’t, one of three or four versions current in the US), when a newscaster made me exclaim in astonishment: she pronounced the plural deaths with a voiced -th-, as /dɛðz/. Wikipedia explains the […]

The Perils of Machine Translation.

Sat, 26 Nov 2016 01:15:36 +0000

Arthur Goldhammer, “a writer, translator, scholar and blogger on French politics” who “has translated more than 120 books from the French,” writes about translation for Aeon. He begins with an anecdote about “a voluble young Dutchman” who asks a couple of nuns where they’re from; “Alas, Framingham, Massachusetts was not on his itinerary, but, he […]

The Evolution of Spanish.

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 22:55:11 +0000

Tom Winterbottom reports that “Using digital tools and literature to explore the evolution of the Spanish language, Stanford researcher Cuauhtémoc García-García reveals a new historical perspective on linguistic changes in Latin America and Spain”: “I wanted to study language evolution through data found in written work to add historical depth to how, where and when […]

Louis Wolfson’s Languages.

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 01:17:33 +0000

Dr Tony Shaw provides a fascinating psycho-linguistic tidbit in this post from 2012: Louis Wolfson’s second book, the highly alliterative Ma mère, musicienne, est morte de maladie maligne à minuit, mardi à mercredi, au milieu du mois de mai mille977 au mouroir Memorial à Manhattan, which concerns his mother’s death from ovarian cancer, has just […]

Interview with Michael Emmerich.

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 15:44:58 +0000

This comment by Bathrobe (on the recent Hexabook post) linked to an interview so interesting I had to give it its own post: Hope Leman’s Interview with Michael Emmerich, Author of “The Tale of Genji.” I won’t quote the lengthy description of A Fraudulent Murasaki’s Bumpkin Genji (Nise Murasaki inaka Genji), because Bathrobe did so […]

Language Learning via Robot.

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 22:23:25 +0000

Brett Henebery reports for The Educator (Australia) about a remarkable innovation: NAO robots, developed by Aldebaran Robotics, a French robotics company, have been used for research and education purposes in schools and universities worldwide. […] One of these robots, called ‘Pink’, is part of a collaborative research project between the University of Queensland, the Queensland […]


Sun, 20 Nov 2016 23:17:29 +0000

I’m still recovering from a fabulous roast-beef-and-Yorkshire-pudding dinner with a good pinot noir and two pies for dessert, so I’m just going to toss this out there and hope others think it’s as much fun as I do: 16th Century Book Can Be Read Six Different Ways.


Sat, 19 Nov 2016 22:22:37 +0000

Kaveh Waddell at The Atlantic writes about the development of an indigenous alphabet for the Fulani language by Abdoulaye Barry and his brother Ibrahima. The title, “The Alphabet That Will Save a People From Disappearing,” is idiotic — there are at least 20 million Fula, and they’re not going anywhere — but the story is […]


Fri, 18 Nov 2016 18:40:03 +0000

As a distant and occasional fan of the UConn Huskies‎ women’s basketball team since the ’80s (I am otherwise not a basketball fan, and I don’t actually watch their games, but I take pleasure in their successes), I noticed the name of a freshman on their current team, Crystal Dangerfield, who scored 19 points last […]

The First Great Arabic Novel.

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 01:49:08 +0000

Unfortunately, Robyn Creswell’s NYRB review (from October of last year) of Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s Leg Over Leg is available in full only to subscribers, but I’ll quote a few salient bits here: Published in Paris in 1855, Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s Leg Over Leg is often called the first novel written in Arabic. […] Born to […]