In this week’s TLS – a note from the Deputy Editor
How can one restore justice to Danilo Kiš? – is the question that preoccupies Kiš’s fellow novelist Adam Thirlwell this week, though the “comprehensive, erudite and stylish biography” he reviews might be a start. Kiš, born in 1935 in what was then Yugoslavia, dying in exile in Paris at the age of fifty-four, of lung cancer (“a man writes so that he can smoke”, he said), was one of a “great global generation” of writers that includes Thomas Bernhard, Milan Kundera, Thomas Pynchon and Mario Vargas Llosa – but unlike them he has “no global existence”. Yet he is, we hear, “necessary for a future literature ”. This week’s issue, coinciding with the Frankfurt Book Fair where so many writers’ global existence has begun, pays special attention to literature in foreign languages, some already translated into English and some yet to be: the letters of Julio Cortázar, that show his progression from respected author to intellectual hot property; a new and “different kind of” biography of Georg Büchner; Albert Camus’s Algerian Chronicles, “both timeless and timely”; The Arrière-Pays by Yves Bonnefoy (“the French expression has been retained, with the author’s approval, for want of an adequate English equivalent”); essays by W. G. Sebald and Alexander Herzen (for the first time, anglophone readers can hear “all Herzen’s voices speak for themselves”).
Thomas Pynchon’s new novel is full of “period detail”, the period being the recent past – the spring of 2001, “the moment just after the bursting of the dotcom bubble” – and the place New York, whose immediate future is foreknown. Lidija Haas enjoys the book’s “vast, paranoiac set of systems, the everything-is-connected, nothing-is-what-it-seems quality”. Lydia Wilson, meanwhile, salutes The Library of Arabic Literature, a remarkable project of editing, translating and publishing that will do for pre-modern Arabic texts what the famous Loeb Library has done for the Classics, and promises to “revolutionize” the study of medieval Arabic thought and literary creativity.