• December 12, 2016

    Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood are among the dozens of writers who’ve signed an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping. The PEN International letter implores the Chinese government “to release the writers, journalists, and activists who are languishing in jail or kept under house arrest for the crime of speaking freely and expressing their opinions.”

    PEN America has announced the longlist for their 2017 Translation Prize. Finalists include Philip Boehm for Herta Muller’s The Fox Was Ever the Hunter, Carlos Rojas for Yan Lianke’s The Explosion Chronicles, and Deborah Smith for Han Kang’s The Vegetarian. The winner will be announced in February.

    Jenny Diski

    Jenny Diski

    At The Guardian, Ian Patterson remembers his late wife, writer Jenny Diski. Reflecting on the seventeen years the couple spent together, Patterson writes that Diski “had a brilliant eye for a good sentence, and not much patience with bad writing. Good writing was truthfulness, and truthfulness (sometimes frighteningly) was her central value.”

    Melville House talks to BookCourt’s Zack Zook, the son of the Brooklyn bookstore’s owners Mary Gannett and Henry Zook. After announcing that they would retire at the end of the year, the couple reportedly made a deal to sell the bookstore’s building for $13.6 million. Their son explains the decision by pointing out that the neighborhood now has one of the most attractive real estate markets in the country. “My family got in early and invested wisely,” Zook says. “They are grateful for having been able to contribute to the neighborhood for so long, though now that part of Brooklyn is barely recognizable.”

    The New York Times posts the transcript of Bob Dylan’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, which was sent as a letter and read by Azita Raji, the American ambassador to Sweden. In his remarks, Dylan notes that in 1941 (the year he was born) and for a couple years afterwards, “there wasn’t anyone in the world who was considered good enough to win this Nobel Prize. So, I recognize that I am in very rare company, to say the least.” Dylan concluded by thanking the prize committee for their choice. “Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, ‘Are my songs literature?’” Dylan writes. “So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.”

    Sarah Lyall reports on the public relations disaster that Bob Dylan’s non-participation has created for the Academy. Noting that Dylan has always been reclusive, Lyall writes that the choice to stay away from the ceremony “has also saddled the highly secretive academy, which is nearly as inscrutable as Mr. Dylan, with the difficult task of explaining to the world why it does not feel insulted.” According to the Times, the Academy is still holding out hope that Dylan will deliver his Nobel lecture sometime next spring. In the meantime, they’re enjoying one bit of good publicity: Patti Smith accepted the prize for Dylan and delivered a memorable performance of “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” The New Yorker’s Amanda Petrusich called the rendition “a fierce and instantaneous corrective to ‘times like these’—a reiteration of the deep, overwhelming, and practical utility of art to combat pain. In that moment, the mission of the Nobel transcended any of its individual recipients.”

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