Week Links – Best European Friction
“We were dreaming of freedom: we woke up in capitalism.” Drago Jančar almost got a spontaneous cheer when he said this at the launch of Dalkey Archive’s excellent collection of short stories, Best European Fiction 2014 on Wednesday.
At the panel, after readings by five of the authors and two of their translators, the question was whether an east/west divide still exists amongst European writers so, while it was exciting to see Dalkey’s contents page dominated by authors from outside the EU core – from former soviet countries – Ukraine, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Georgia and more, and particularly from Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Estonia – it was also good to see a enough of a balance of writers from western Europe not to feel that one side of the continent was being presented to the other, like an animal in one of Herkus Kunčius‘ traps (see his story, Belovezh). Such divisions, in any case, are never simple: a number of authors in the collection write comfortably in more than one langauge.
(photo by Stephen Fowler)
Convener, Rosie Goldsmith, wondered whether the ‘American’ English in which translations are published should be accepted as the lingua franca for European culture, “as Latin was in the Middle Ages” (the conclusion: writers from smaller states welcome translation if it means wider dissemination, though we should always acknowledge an element of the ‘untranslatable’). She also asked if the demise of old regimes (Franco in Spain, as well as the Soviets in Eastern Europe) had led to a resurgence of writing in lesser-known languages – Galacian, Catalan, Calabrese, Mirandese, Arpitan…
I liked Susana Medina’s sexy, dreamy ‘Oestrogen’ (Spain), and the very funny live double act from near-identical non-twins, Lithuanian writer Herkus Kunčius, and his translator, Romas Kinka (“In times of political disturbance” – I paraphrase – “sometimes personal peversions…”). After I left, I read Bulgarian, Katya Atanasova’s ‘Fear of Ankles’ for the title alone.
In this literary Eurovision, England was represented by Tom McCarthy (not present on the night), and Wales by Robert Minhinnick, who had written in English using, he said, the linguistic techniques of Welsh poetry.
The collection’s available here, of course, or here, amongst other places, hopefully, continent-wide.