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TOPIC: literature

Society

Kafka And Dostoevsky: Was 'The Trial' A Hidden Rewriting Of 'Crime And Punishment'?

A Colombian student of Franz Kafka insists works by the 20th century Czech author, like The Trial, are so close to Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment as to be versions of it — creating potential trouble for European publishing houses.

BOGOTÁ After years of scrutiny and research, a Colombian mathematician armed with with tables and calculations has made what he says is a shocking literary discovery: The Trial, Franz Kafka's celebrated 1915 depiction of a nonsensical trial for an unspecified crime, is a rewritten version of Fyodor Dostoevsky's classic Crime and Punishment.

A Medellín-born teacher and fan of detective stories, Guillermo Sánchez Trujillo believes he has solved one of the great literary mysteries of modern times, both in identifying the source of The Trial and the order of its chapters, which seemed to have evaded Kafka students for a century.

The Trial, he says, is a palimpsest, or a "hidden rewriting," of Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky's 1866 story of a murder investigation set in late imperial Russia.

This astounding conclusion has earned Sánchez a not small amount of disapproval, and even obstruction, from the literary and publishing realms. In 2005, he published "a critical edition" of The Trial (in Spanish), in the order he believed was intended by its author.

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Cancel Culture And Censorship, A Necessary Enemy Of Art

Readers can be unduly critical of authors for a range of reasons, from old-fashioned spite to the modern phenomenon of wokeness. But writers should not consider these people enemies, but rather guides to help dig deeper.

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — There are many types of readers. There is the grammatical one, for example (who chases the ghost of the comma, gerund or misuses of the relative clause), the hedonistic reader (who seeks nothing but pleasure), the studious or critical ones (who will make reading an academic profession).

There is the paranoid reader (who feels alluded to, persecuted and discriminated), the apprentice (for whom a book is a teaching instrument), the insomniac (who uses words to fall asleep or, indeed, stay awake) and the censorious or inquisitorial reader (seeing sins in every passage or an offense to their ideology).

The reader types abound and I have no intention of providing an exhaustive list.

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Ernaux And Despentes: How Two French Writers Reveal Women's Liberation So Differently

French writer Annie Ernaux's Nobel prize in literature took many by surprise, after a career spent largely in the shadows. A different kind of surprise comes in comparing her to another French writer, iconoclast media star Virginie Despentes.

MONTREAL — When Annie Ernaux won the Nobel Prize in Literature on Oct. 6, becoming the 17th woman to do so, I was completely taken aback, as this French writer had led a discreet career, never causing much commotion. But I am absolutely delighted to see her clean, clinical, intimate and fascinating work, consecrated in high places.

As early as the 1970s, her minimalistic, bare prose had allowed many women to get a better grasp of the fragility of their own condition.

For she, as a true auto-entomologist who observed the woman within herself, and saw a mirror of all others, is well-deserving of this crown. This now octogenarian author has always despised deception. Did she write novels? Yes and no: Rather, she laid her life bare — her childhood, her fears, her loves, the oppression and shame, all recorded in her perpetually updated diary.

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García Márquez And Truth: How Journalism Fed The Novelist's Fantasy

In his early journalistic writings, the Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez showed he had an eye for factual details, in which he found the absurdity and 'magic' that would in time be the stuff and style of his fiction.

BOGOTÁ — In short stories written in the 1940s and early 50s and later compiled in Eyes of a Blue Dog, the late Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia's Nobel Prize-winning novelist, shows he is as yet a young writer, with a style and subjects that can be atypical.

Stylistically, García Márquez came into his own in the celebrated One Hundred Years of Solitude. Until then both his style and substance took an erratic course: touching the brevity of film scripts in Nobody Writes to the Colonel, technical experimentation in Leaf Storm, the anecdotal short novel in In Evil Hour or exploring politics in Big Mama's Funeral. Throughout, the skills he displayed were rather of a precocious juggler.

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Society
Manuel Ligero

Orhan Pamuk On Pandemics, Press Freedom And An Eye On Erdogan's Defeat

Nights of Plague is the latest book by the Turkish Nobel Prize winner, a fictional rendering based on historical reality that draws parallels (political and health-wise) between the past and the present.

MADRID — Orhan Pamuk is a kind of Bosphorus Bridge of literature: He unites two continents, two cultures, two philosophical and religious visions that have, over the centuries, tenaciously turned their backs on each other.

In his country, as the authoritarian drift of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has deepened, the author and public intellectual has progressively become a thorn in the side of the government. However, his run-ins with the Islamo-nationalist regime have not made a dent in his cheerful and optimistic personality.

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Coronavirus
Wolfgang Schmidbauer*

​​Lord Of The Rings, A Guide​​ For Mending Relationships Damaged By COVID

The pandemic has changed our lives permanently and paranoid fantasies have taken root. But a remedy for the crisis of trust we're facing might be found in an unlikely place — in J.R.R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings.

First, there was 2020, the year of the virus. Then 2021, the year of vaccinations. But what will 2022 be? My first thought was “the year of exhaustion.” The second idea — which I like better — was “the year of repairing.”

In our efforts to save lives and keep everyone safe, much has been broken. That was inevitable.

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Society
Manon Laplace

An Epic Mission, Preserving The Ancient Books Of Timbuktu

Mali's "mysterious city" welcomes a new class of students trained in looking after ancient books. From conservation to digitization of these works, a colossal task awaits them to preserve this endangered heritage and the secrets they contain.

TIMBUKTU — In the workroom of the Ahmed-Baba Institute of Higher Studies and Islamic Research, time seems to have slowed down. As the dust and the sound of brushes on paper float by, six students hold in their hands one of the most precious heritages of the region.

Ceremoniously, they repeat the same gestures: lifting the pages, one by one, with the tip of a thin wooden spatula, then, with the flat of the brush, ridding the inks and the centuries-old papers of dust.

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Geopolitics
Mauricio Rubio

New Revelations Of García Marquez's Ties To Cuba And Nicaragua

Like other intellectuals of his time, the celebrated Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez admired Cuba's Fidel Castro. What's just been revealed, however, is also, as one text reveals, the Sandinista rebels who have stifled Nicaraguan democracy in past years.

BOGOTÁ — Entirely isolated and criticized by the international community, Daniel Ortega was again sworn in earlier this month as president of Nicaragua.

Ortega has now outdone Anastasio Somoza, the despot he helped topple in his youth, with a record 26 years in power and starting a fifth mandate, including a fourth consecutive one and the second with his wife Rosario Murillo as vice-president.

After Cuba's Fidel Castro, he is the regional tyrant most frequently cheered by Colombia's leftist intellectuals, and praised as his people's emancipator from "yankee oppression."

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Society
Umar Timol

Big Prizes For African Writers Don't Change Balance Of Power In Literary World

Novelists from Africa have been receiving some of the most prestigious literary prizes. But there are still questions around who are the world’s literary gatekeepers and what role writers from the Global South can play, writes Mauritian poet and photographer Umar Timol.

-Analysis-

PORT LOUIS, MAURITIUS — In the arena of prestigious literary awards, 2021 was the year for Africa: Senegal's Mohamed Mbougar Sarr won France’s Goncourt Prize, the Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah won the Nobel Prize in Literature and the South African Damon Galgut won the Booker Prize (for English-language novels). All are well-deserved recognitions for the continent, but is the success limited by the expectations of Western critics?

Mohamed Mbougar Sarr won France’s top literary prize for his novel La plus secrète mémoire des hommes (“The Most Secret Memory of Men”) and even he recognized how it expanded who could receive the Goncourt: “It is a strong signal [...], a way, also, to show that France is sometimes much larger and much nobler — in any case much more open — than what we can, what we want to reduce it to."

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food / travel
Héctor Abad Faciolince

The Madrid Neighborhood Where The Spanish Literary Giants Live On

There is a charming little sector of central Madrid where towering figures of Spanish literature lived, loved, wrote ... and mocked each other.

-Essay-

MADRID — Many people think that in contrast with politics (where it's all daggers drawn, spite and calumny), the denizens of the Republic of Letters — novelists, intellectuals and poets — get on very well. If they were ever to quarrel, they would do it with elegance and arguments devoid of envy or calculations.

In fact, the opposite has long been the case, at least since the Greek playwright Aristophanes mocked Socrates, possibly contributing to his execution by the city of Athens. Envy, hate, backbiting and rivalries are commonplace in the Republic of Letters. It is, literally, a republic of missives, as its luminaries exchanged letters wherein they condemned certain peers and praised others. Alliances were made in those letters, and groups and currents founded in opposition to other schools or literary cliques.

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Society
Ricardo Bada

The Hispanic World: United By Spanish, Divided By Spanish

Latin Americans are proud to be part of a "brotherly" region united by its Hispanic heritage, until they suffer hearing each other's "Spanish."

BOGOTÁ — In February this year, my friend and fellow columnist Juan David Zuloaga expounded on the reality of a historic, cultural and linguistic community known as Spanish or Hispanic America. It includes Spain and the nations that were once a part of its American empire. I won't dismiss the idea, but I do question it.

Days ago, I read the most interesting article by Itziar Hernández Rodilla, in Vasos Comunicantes, a translators' journal, which began, "I read these words in Claudia Piñeiro's Catedrales: "The way we name plants, flowers, fruits, while still using the same language reveals our origins as much as any tune, if not more. That is where we are from, the place where every word blooms or gives fruit."

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Ideas
Mihir Chitre

Reading Rumi In Kabul: A Persian Poet's Lesson For Radical Islam

Born some eight centuries ago, the famed poet and philosopher Rumi offered ideas on religion that bear little resemblance to the brand of Islam being imposed right now in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime.

Among the various Afghan cities that the Taliban has invaded and apparently "reclaimed" in recent weeks is Balkh, a town near the country's north-western border. Interestingly, it was there, about 800 years ago, that a man called Jalal ad-Din Mohammad Balkhi, better known as Rumi, was born.

Some see the grotesque exhibitionism of the Taliban advance as a celebration of Islam or a "going back to the roots" campaign. As if followers of Islam were always like this, as if every willing Muslim always propagated austerity and oppressiveness. As if it was always meant to be this way and any shred of liberalism was a digression from the quest of the religion.

In fact, a look at the history of the religion — and of the region — tells a different story, which is why there's no better time than now to rediscover the wisdom of the poet Rumi, but without doing away with its religious context.

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