Reading in Tongues: Peter Stamm’s Seven Years

Note: “Reading in Tongues” is a very occasional feature on the experience of reading in a foreign language.
The longlist for the Best Translated Book Award was announced today, and I was pleased to see Seven Years by Peter Stamm—which I’d just read at a sloth-like crawl in the German—among the contenders.  I’d been curious about [...]

Heinrich Böll, Postwar Penitent

I have a piece on Heinrich Böll up at the Barnes & Noble Review, prompted by Melville House’s re-release of his “essential” works.  If you have to pick one, read The Clown.
The German Nobel Laureate Heinrich Böll, for whatever reason, has never enjoyed wide recognition on American shores. No less political than Grass, no less [...]

Grand Booming Nonsense: Dostoevsky’s Demons

It is often said that one is either a Tolstoy person or a Dostoevsky person, in the same way that one is either a cat person or a dog person.  I used to want to be a Dostoevsky person, just as I wanted to be a dog person.  Tolstoy and cats seemed the blander psychological [...]

Tolstoy vs. Tolstoy

I first discovered the insurmountable problem that is translation as a high school Latin student, trying to muster a serviceable version of the Aeneid without perverting the stately, deliberate structure of Vergil’s sentences.  As it turns out, I’m not much of a translator: I get too wrapped up in the internal architecture of the language [...]

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