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The Politics of Translation

Marina Warner: Translate this!, 11 October 2018

This Little Art 
by Kate Briggs.
Fitzcarraldo, 365 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 910695 45 6
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Translation as Transhumance 
by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz.
Les Fugitives, 150 pp., £10, November 2017, 978 0 9930093 3 4
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Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto 
by Mark Polizzotti.
MIT, 168 pp., £17.99, May 2018, 978 0 262 03799 0
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The 100 Best Novels in Translation 
by Boyd Tonkin.
Galileo, 304 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 903385 67 8
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The Work of Literary Translation 
by Clive Scott.
Cambridge, 285 pp., £75, June 2018, 978 1 108 42682 4
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... low life – and is tough to render into English. The various versions around are very different (Robert Chandler reprints William Edgerton’s). Translators have to give the same attention to minutiae as those metallurgists of Tula, while also communing with the writer and the work. Polizzotti is also part-cryptographer, Oulipian in tendency if not a ...

Scentless Murder

Michael Wood: Billy Wilder, 2 March 2000

Conversations with Wilder 
by Cameron Crowe.
Faber, 373 pp., £20, December 1999, 0 571 20162 8
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... could I have known that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle.’ This sounds like Raymond Chandler, and it is, since Chandler worked on this script. But it is several other things as well. First of all it comes from a movie rather than a novel, from the soundtrack of Double Indemnity; and it comes to us in the ...


Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett, 7 November 1985

... Wales’ Work by a mysterious process of osmosis. My Marlow, if I dare call him that, is named Robert Racine and has no connection with Raymond Chandler, who never lived in the Rue Jacob. It is now clear that ‘Racine’ evolved out of my brush with la Champmeslé and her successors; where the rest came from is open to ...

Long Goodbye

Derek Mahon, 20 November 1980

Why Brownlee left 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 48 pp., £3, September 1980, 0 571 11592 6
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Poems 1956-1973 
by Thomas Kinsella.
Dolmen, 192 pp., £7.50, September 1980, 0 85105 365 3
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Constantly Singing 
by James Simmons.
Blackstaff, 90 pp., £3.95, June 1980, 0 85640 217 6
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A Part of Speech 
by Joseph Brodsky.
Oxford, 151 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 19 211939 7
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Collected poems 1931-1974 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 350 pp., £9, September 1980, 0 571 18009 4
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... and now we accompany him, not to Brazil, but to Los Angeles, where he is reincarnated as Raymond Chandler’s fast-talking private eye, philip Marlowe, apparently in search of his father. ‘Immram’ is not easy to follow, but then neither is Chandler, who once admitted that he, the author, could not himself make out ...

Bang-Bang, Kiss-Kiss

Christian Lorentzen: Bond, 3 December 2015

directed by Sam Mendes.
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The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters 
edited by Fergus Fleming.
Bloomsbury, 391 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6547 7
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Ian Fleming: A Personal Memoir 
by Robert Harling.
Robson, 372 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 84 95493 65 1
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... have been thinking of?’ The truth might have been that Fleming was bored. As he wrote to Raymond Chandler: ‘If one has a grain of intelligence it is difficult to go on being serious about a character like James Bond. You after all write “novels of suspense” – if not sociological studies – whereas my books are straight pillow fantasies of the ...

Wear flames in your hair

William Skidelsky: Jonathan Lethem and back-street superheroes, 24 June 2004

The Fortress of Solitude 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Faber, 511 pp., £12.99, January 2004, 0 571 21933 0
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... detectives and everyone (including the babyheads) speaks in a lingo descended directly from Chandler. These early books, with their mix of the familiar and the alien, mean to be disconcerting. In Motherless Brooklyn (1999), four Brooklyn orphans are taken up by a low-level crook called Frank Minna, who runs a detective agency. Frank is then ...


Slavoj Žižek: Henning Mankell, 20 November 2003

The Return of the Dancing Master 
by Henning Mankell, translated by Laurie Thompson.
Harvill, 406 pp., £14.99, October 2003, 1 84343 058 4
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... There is, of course, a long tradition of eccentric locales in the history of detective fiction. Robert van Gulik wrote a series set in ancient imperial China; Agatha Christie’s Death Comes as the End is set in the Egypt of the pharaohs. However, these settings were clearly exceptions; and part of their appeal was their distance from paradigmatic locations ...

Michael Gove recommends …

Robert Hanks: Dennis Wheatley, 20 January 2011

The Devil Is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley 
by Phil Baker.
Dedalus, 699 pp., £25, October 2009, 978 1 903517 75 8
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... Alli’s organisation, which puts Wheatley in the company of Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Georges Simenon and the Mr Men. When I asked about their plans for him they would say only that they hope to license publication soon and that several publishers have expressed interest: the corporate equivalent, I believe, of a shrug of the ...

The Power of Sunshine

Alexander Cockburn, 10 January 1991

City of Quartz: Excavating the Future of Los Angeles 
by Mike Davis.
Verso, 462 pp., £18.95, November 1990, 0 86091 303 1
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... Angeles which began in 1934 with James M. Cain’s The postman always rings twice, surging through Chandler, Faulkner, film noir, the extraordinary novels of Chester Himes and on towards Rechy, Didion and Bret Easton Ellis. Davis acutely points out that noir – dystopian revulsion at the boosterism that manured the city’s growth – took hold as a style in ...

Knives, Wounds, Bows

John Bayley, 2 April 1987

Randall Jarrell’s Letters 
edited by Mary Jarrell.
Faber, 540 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 571 13829 2
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The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore 
edited by Patricia Willis.
Faber, 723 pp., £30, January 1987, 0 571 14788 7
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... Barzun, R.P. Blackmur, Alfred Kazin, Lionel Trilling, Delmore Schwartz, Allen Tate, Kenneth Burke, Robert Fitzgerald, Leslie Fiedler and John Crowe Ransom – this last its founder as a school of literary criticism ‘to teach those who teach it’. Marianne Moore, in Brooklyn, had a quieter time, but was just as much in touch with them all through friends and ...

Moll’s Footwear

Terry Eagleton: Defoe, 3 November 2011

Crusoe: Daniel Defoe, Robert Knox and the Creation of a Myth 
by Katherine Frank.
Bodley Head, 338 pp., £20, June 2011, 978 0 224 07309 7
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Moll: The Life and Times of Moll Flanders 
by Siân Rees.
Chatto, 224 pp., £18.99, July 2011, 978 0 7011 8507 7
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... even though he may never have left his native country. The son of a prosperous London tallow chandler, he set himself up as a haberdasher, ran a profitable brick and tile factory, dabbled in marine insurance, imported and exported a range of goods and, as a convinced Dissenter, took part in the Duke of Monmouth’s abortive rebellion against James II. In ...

Fetch the Chopping Knife

Charles Nicholl: Murder on Bankside, 4 November 2021

... other play is a fictional murder story set in Italy). The title page attributes this quarto to one Robert Yarington, otherwise unknown as an author. He was probably only the copyist – a Robert Yarington is recorded as a member of the Scriveners’ Company in 1603, and had a brother, John, who was also a scrivener ...

Mr Trendy Sicko

James Wolcott, 23 May 2019

by Brett Easton Ellis.
Picador, 261 pp., £16.99, May 2019, 978 1 5290 1239 2
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... exalted calling, and his reunion episode with Jay McInerney was nostalgic and sweet, like Ross and Chandler of Friends getting together after so many years. Ellis has found his midlife métier. Even when he can’t resist turning the interview back to himself, the self-conscious self-involvement doesn’t grate. Narcissism comes in many flavours, and Ellis’s ...

No 1 Writer

John Sutherland, 5 September 1985

by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 251 pp., £8.95, July 1985, 0 670 80571 8
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by Elmore Leonard.
Penguin, 283 pp., £2.50, July 1985, 0 14 007238 1
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by Elmore Leonard.
Penguin, 304 pp., £2.50, August 1985, 0 14 007083 4
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The Hunting Season 
by J.K. Mayo.
Collins, 253 pp., £9.95, June 1985, 0 00 222783 5
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... an America weltering in its crime. There is no battle, because the bad guys have won. In Raymond Chandler’s novels, the mean streets were patrolled if not policed by crusaders upholding impeccable private moralities (‘shop-soiled Galahad’ is how the ironic Marlowe describes himself). Alfred Harbage once calculated that seven out of ten people in ...

Sour Plums

John Lanchester, 26 October 1989

The Letters of John Cheever 
edited by Benjamin Cheever.
Cape, 397 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 224 02689 5
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Mary McCarthy 
by Carol Gelderman.
Sidgwick, 430 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 283 99797 4
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The company she keeps 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 246 pp., £4.50, October 1989, 0 297 79649 6
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... by causing readers to think less of his character (as readers may have been led to think less of Robert Frost), but simply by deflecting the focus of people’s attention. Rereading Cheever, it’s hard now not to be on the qui vive for signs of how his complicated, compulsively deceiving sexuality enters the texture of his work: at the time of the ...

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