what makes a modern classic (a translation point of view)

this weeks literary blog hop question is what makes a modern classic tough question from Megan is a teaser ,who knows what makes a classic it is a real mixture of luck and talent ,what may be a modern classic now may not be a classic in twenty or more years ,who is popular sways with taste and sometimes even the economic situation as is the case with the current resurgence in Ayn Rand books ,well to answer the question I ve chosen to talk about my main love works in translation what makes a modern classic in translation well there is books that were published soon after the writers wrote them that have grown into classics ,like Sebald his works we’re very fresh in the style of writing and quite unlike anything that had been seen in english or schlink where one book was a huge success the reader is a perfect modern classic .Now there is a second tier of books these are books that  considered huge in their homeland but haven’t straight away been translated into english or have been then the fallen out of print these include one of my favourite books this year Hugo Claus wonder which was a new translation of a Flemish modern classic a book that had been crying to be translated ,or Peirene press stones in the landslide a touching novella that was a huge hit in europe when it was written in the eighties but had to wait for Meike to translate it ,also the last few nobel winners have seen publishers diving to retranslated  or  republish their books Herta Muller and JMG LE Clezio both had books in new translation or reissued these are huge in their homelands and needed to be more widely available in english and thanks to there Nobel wins have done .Then the last books in translation I think could be considered modern classic are what I call refound treasures these are writers from the 30’s and 40’s that have just been republished or newly translated in to english ,these include Vasily Grossman ,Irene Nemirosvky ,Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth now these books are classics in the Natives but in english are modern classics as they’ve just become available to read for us .What hits the English market is really at the whim of publishers and I know there are writers yet to make an impact in english but are considered modern classics in their own languages ,I eagerly await these .


My all time Favourite modern classic in translation – rings of Saturn by W G Sebald a touching book that still touches me as I flick through it and read bits every week .

nervous conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

nervous conditions

This is considered a modern african classic ,the book follows Tambu a 14 year old  as she grows up in a changing Zimbabwe or Rhodesia as it was when the book was set .she is sent to live with her aunt and uncle Babmakuru a strict ,father figure .her brother has died ,she must get on with it .In what is a change world between african traditions and western (english) values and cultures .she manages this but shows along the away the effect on various members of her family as some want progress and other try to cling to the old ways .The is times of joy and sorrow along the way at times Tambu escapes to her garden .I loved the feel of this story and setting a society on the edge of a new post colonial age .the struggle of african and western influences on every day life in africa .Tsitsi has written a follow-up to this book which i am looking forward to reading to find out what happened to the family .

I was not sorry when my brother died .nor am I apologising for my callousness,as you may define it ,my lack of feeling .For it is not that at all .I feel many things these days when i was young and my brother died ,and there are reasons for this more than the consequence of age .therefore i shall not apologise but begin by recalling the facts …………..

the opening words of nervous conditions.

December 2019
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