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Archive for March, 2010:

French Pop Song of the Week: “Mon amie la rose”

posted March 31, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music poetry world literature


As another hint of the upcoming books under our own imprint, we are starting today the French Pop Song of the Week. Writers live in the bubble of their own language, landscape, and culture. While waiting in a grocery store line or taking an escalator in a department store, French writers hear songs that Americans or Brits, for example, would not recognize. French music influences French writers, whether they wish it or not, just as growing up by a sea washes a permanent tint over a person’s sensibility.

There are a fair number of French singers who imitate Anglo styles, which is not surprising, as American and British music dominates the market in much of the world. But the French have tenaciously clung to music in their own language. Since 1994 at least 40 percent of songs on French radio stations have by law been required to be in French, and sales of French music in France, though varying from year to year, usually do not stray far from the percentage heard on the radio.

Is there anything distinctive about French pop music? Listening to the radio, I usually know before someone begins singing if the song is Anglo or French. The range of French pop is too broad to generalize, but there is often a romantic, epic, though ambivalent quality that settles in your spirit in some notable French way.

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The Queen of Translators

posted March 26, 2010

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in books publishing translation trends world literature

Why Translation Matters

In the world of literary translators, Edith Grossman is a rock star. She is known for her mastery of translation, which includes the seemingly insurmountable ability to merge translated language with cultural nuance and style. Grossman is responsible for the English translations of a number of titles by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, including Love in the Time of Cholera, as well as the 2003 translation of Miguel de Cervantes’ classic Don Quixote.

Though many acknowledge that translation is an art form, there are plenty of others who hold translation in lesser regard, not giving it the credit it is due. It’s possible they consider translation a technical task, something a translator can plow through, dictionary in hand. Grossman takes offense to this, and she details the importance of translation in her forthcoming book, Why Translation Matters (release date March 30, 2010).

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Orange Prize is No Joking Matter

posted March 24, 2010

Posted by Erin Brown in authors books literary awards


orange prize

The long list for the Orange Prize for Fiction was announced last week. One of the top literary awards in the U.K., along with the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book Award, the £30,000 prize is given to a woman author of any nationality for the best original novel written in English.

Culled from a pile of 129 contenders, this year’s long list is comprised mostly of British authors, but there are also three from the U.S. (including Lorrie Moore and Barbara Kingsolver), as well as lone representatives from New Zealand and Morocco. In addition to the works of established authors, the list features seven debut novels, including Rosie Alison’s The Very Thought of You, which has, until now apparently, not received a single review from a British national newspaper.

See the full list here.

The Orange Prize is making news this year because of some provocative comments made by the chair of the judge’s panel, author and TV producer Daisy Goodwin, who complained that she’d been inundated by “misery literature”—a surfeit of rape, child abuse, and bereavement—that made her feel like a “social worker” on the verge of slitting her wrists.

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Visions of Jello: DK and the Impermanence of Youth Rage

posted March 22, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music


A long time ago, when I first heard the hardcore punk group the Dead Kennedys, my initial reaction was a plural word that begins with an a and has eight letters. What was the point, I thought, of being disrespectful toward a family that had two of its members assassinated?

Later I learned it was more than a cheap publicity stunt. The lead singer was Jello Biafra (Eric Reed Boucher), whose stage name derived from mixing a sweetened gelatin brand with a place known for starvation. The band’s name, while taking advantage of the shock effect, had little to do with the Kennedy family itself and more to do with highlighting the deification of the Kennedys that emerged after the assassinations. The band saw that moment as a time when Americans began to turn inward and become more self-centered, transforming them, in Jello’s words, into “corporate-serving rodents.”

Here’s a clip of a famous Dead Kennedys song, “Let’s Lynch the Landlord,” played live in San Francisco in 1980, as well as the first few lines of the lyrics.

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2010 Best Translated Book Awards

posted March 15, 2010

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in books publishing translation

confessions of noa weberrussian version

We have a deep interest in translated works here at Thomas Riggs & Company. Not only are we planning to publish translated books but we also have personal interests in various languages (one coworker even uses French software). The other day we were discussing the power and difficulty of translation; when translating works of fiction or poetry, how literal should the translator be? How much liberty is the translator allowed? Language is infused with cultural nuances, so how are those translated? So, yes, it’s very complex, which is why good translators should be applauded.

The 2010 Best Translated Book Awards just announced its winners, and the fiction and poetry winners both came from independent presses. The fiction winner was The Confessions of Noa Weber, a book in Hebrew by Gail Hareven, translated by Dalya Bilu and published by Melville House Press. Bilu has been translating Hebrew literature for some time and is highly respected in her field. The poetry winner was The Russian Version by Elena Fanailova, translated from Russian by Genya Turovskaya and Stephanie Sandler and published by Ugly Duckling Presse. Turovskaya, a poet herself, immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine, and Sandler is a professor at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

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