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Northwestern University Press’s Writings from an Unbound Europe

By Audrey Golden. Jul 24, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Book History, Book News

Where do you go to find literature in translation from Central and Eastern Europe? For much of the 1990s and early 2000s, readers could rely on Northwestern University Press for contemporary fiction translated from various languages within the former communist countries. While the series came to an end in 2012, Northwestern University Press’s Writings from an Unbound Europe remains one of the most significant series for a wide range of works from Central and Eastern Europe. We want to highlight its remaining significance several years after the series’ end, and we also want to highlight some of our favorite texts that wouldn’t have been possible for English-language readers to devour without the help of the series.

     
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Collecting Franz Kafka's The Trial

By Audrey Golden. May 30, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Literature, Book History

If you haven’t read Franz Kafka’s 1914 masterpiece The Trial, we recommend picking up a copy today. But if you have read the work and have considered its significance not only as a piece of modernist fiction but also as a literary work that comments upon the bureaucratic idiocy of government and the perceived rule of law, then you might want to do more than just read this book. Indeed, you might want to start a collection of various editions and translations of the novel. Collecting copies of the book, as well as ephemera related to it, won’t be an inexpensive task. But if you’re willing to invest in a new collection, bringing together materials connected to The Trial could turn out to be an extremely interesting and rewarding experience.

     
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“Bulgakov Diplomacy” and Redesigning the Contemporary Russian Literature Canon

By Audrey Golden. May 2, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Book History

Generally speaking, 19th-century Russian novels have been read in literature classes across the globe for many decades. From Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Anna Karenina to Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, lists of classic literature would not be complete without numerous additions from the Russian “canon.” But what do most of us know about contemporary Russian literature? That’s the question that was posed in an article that appeared in Foreign Policy Magazine. In short, literature from the Cold War era and the fiction from the years following the disintegration of the Soviet Union has not been circulated globally in the same manner as works of Russian literature from the previous decade. To be sure, “Doctor Zhivago, published nearly 60 years ago, was the last Russian novel to become a genuine American sensation.” So if you do in fact want to read more contemporary Russian fiction, where should you start?

     
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A May Day Round-Up

By Leah Dobrinska. May 1, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book History, History

May 1, commonly known as "May Day", is upon us. For many, this is an unofficial start to the warm weather season, a chance to get outdoors and celebrate, maybe even dance around a traditional maypole. For many others, this day symbolizes much more and is spent remembering or participating in labor protests and worker's rights movements. After all, May 1 is not only May Day but also International Worker's Day in many locations. We've written in the past about literature that deals with this particular day in history, and we thought we'd share some noteworthy articles and titles with you today.

     
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Five Works of Poetry You'll Never Get to Read 

By Brian Hoey. Mar 21, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Rare Books, Book History

In Jorge Luis Borges’ 1941 story "The Library of Babel", he describes an infinite library containing volumes that feature every possible combination of symbols. At one point, some of the inhabitants of this library go on a rampage, wantonly destroying many of the unique, unread books. While many of their fellow denizens are outraged that works with no copies have been expunged forever, they eventually reason that if the books really are infinite, then any particular destroyed volume will have an accompanying volume that is almost completely identical, and that, really, no harm can be done. I’m not sure whether that should make us feel better or worse when we think about all of the lost and destroyed works of art throughout the literary millennia, but in honor of World Poetry Day, let’s take a look at some works of poetry that we’ll never be able to read.   

     
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The History of Children's Literature: 19th Century to Today

In part 1 of this series, we discussed how the history of children's literature can be traced back to the late 16th century. As time passed and more and more writers began to see the merit in writing books specifically for children, children's literature came into its own. The 19th century brought a whole new generation of writers to the field, and soon the golden age of children's literature was in full swing.

     
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Teju Cole and the Art of the Twitter Novel

By Audrey Golden. Feb 28, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literature, Book History

What defines a novel or a short story? In the age of e-books, novels and short stories clearly don’t need to be physical objects with pages that you hold in your hands. But must these works take certain forms? Certainly, many writers from the early twentieth century and onward have pushed the boundaries of the literary form, from Jean Toomer’s Cane (1923), which was initially published as short-story pieces and poems in various journals, to a work like Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler (1979) or Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000). Of course, if we’re being honest, books like Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759) pushed similar formal boundaries decades earlier. Yet those texts share at least one thing in common: if you want to buy a hard copy, you can still do so. What about novels that require social media platforms in order to exist? We’re thinking specifically about Teju Cole’s “Hafiz” (2014), a work published in its entirety on Twitter, one tweet at a time.

     
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Five Great Writers Who Burned Their Own Writing

By Brian Hoey. Feb 24, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Book History

Maybe it’s confirmation bias, but it seems from a literary perspective that a writer’s request that her work be burned upon her death is ill-advised at best and disingenuous at worst. The prospect of a literary canon that fails to include Franz Kafka, for instance, is almost too sad to contemplate, but he instructed his literary executor to destroy his unpublished writings upon his death. Luckily, as we know, Max Brod flagrantly violated Kafka’s wishes, thereby earning the gratitude of a century of readers and writers. Vladimir Nabokov, too, wanted his unfinished works burned, but his wife and son found themselves unable to comply. For book-lovers, this is a fortuitous trend, but for authors there is a clear message: if you want your works burned, you have to do it yourself.

     
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A Brief History of Robots in Literature

By Matt Reimann. Jan 25, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book History, Science Fiction

The Czech writer Karel Čapek introduced the world to the word robot, by way of his play, RUR, (Rossum’s Universal Robots) in 1920. The name, deriving from robotnik, Czech for “forced worker,” has been used since by countless high-minded writers and storytellers to answer two principal questions: What would civilization look like if androids liberated humans from the work they perform today? And would these androids ever be exploited by their creators, or develop competing interests of their own? Though some authors, of course, have been less ambitious, answering the more simple question: What if a character happened to be made out of nuts, bolts, and software, or perhaps synthetic flesh?

     
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Collecting Miniatures of The Master and Margarita

By Audrey Golden. Oct 12, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Literature, Book History

We love the idea of miniature books, especially when they’re clandestine printings of banned books or re-printings of censored novels. After all, what better way to hide a book than placing it deep inside a pocket or a bag such that it can’t be discovered? One of our favorite novels of the twentieth century, The Master and Margarita [Мастер и Mаргарита], couldn’t be published in the lifetime of its author, Mikhail Bulgakov. Bulgakov wrote the novel in the decade before his death in 1940, but he could share it only with close friends due to its thinly veiled criticism of Stalinism. The novel wasn’t published as a book until 1967, and the first English-language translation included many omissions. It has since undergone new English-language translations, and the book often is considered among the greatest works of modern and contemporary fiction.


But let’s get back to the question of the miniatures. Toward the end of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century, interest in Bulgakov resurged enormously in Russia. In response, in part, to his exclusion from the Russian literary canon during the era of the Soviet Union, a number of Russian presses have begun re-printing the novel in its original language. As if alluding to the once-clandestine nature of the book, many of these presses have created miniatures, often in multi-volume sets, of the novel. We’ll give you some information that will help you to track down some miniatures for your collection.

     
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How can I identify a first edition? Where do I learn about caring for books? How should I start collecting? Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.

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