From Spain/Argentina’s greatest forgotten writer to America’s most overrated, via a rather depressing stopover in South Asia…
‘Spain’s greatest forgotten writer’, remembered: Horacio Vázquez-Rial, an Argentinian writer who emigrated to Spain in the late 1960s, died in Madrid this week. His publisher described him as ‘a great creator, of a very high literary quality’, adding rather bitterly that ‘the best are forgotten.’ Only one of Vázquez-Rial’s novels (Historia del Triste/Triste’s History) is currently available in English —particularly disappointing when you consider that Vázquez-Rial was a fine translator (producing Spanish versions of Steinbeck, Styron and Sontag, amongst others).
A depressingly familiar story: writer dares to express his views, speaking out in support of feminism and against religious extremism. Extremists are enraged. Assassination attempt takes place. Humayun Azad, who attempted to expose fundamentalist Bangladeshi groups in his novel Pak Sar Jamin Sad Bad, died in Germany seven months after being attacked by machete-wielding extremists outside Dhaka’s biggest book fair. At least this story has an ending: eight years on, four of his attackers have, finally, been charged with murder.
Of all the writers to have stirred the hornet’s nest of religious extremism, Salman Rushdie is perhaps the most notorious. Ayatollah Khomeini’s infamous fatwa was lifted in 1998, but Rushdie’s work remains controversial. A new film adaptation of Midnight’s Children has failed to find a distributor in India. Rushdie has described the book as a ‘love letter’ to his home country, but (warning: metaphor-stretching ahead) it seems that India has crumpled it up and hurled it into the nearest bin.
Bret Easton Ellis kept his 300,000+ Twitter followers entertained by describing the late David Foster Wallace as ‘so in need of fans… tedious, overrated, tortured, pretentious.’ Under the pretence of remaining neutral, here are both sides of the literary argument:
DFW on BEE: ‘Neiman-Marcus Nihilism, declaimed via six-ﬁgure Uppies …’
BEE on DFW: ‘OMG… borderline sickening. Anyone who finds DFW a literary genius has got to be included in the Literary Doucebag-Fools(sic) pantheon.’
Perhaps there’s a place reserved beside Bret.