In what I hope will become a regular feature, I take a look at this week’s events in the literary world in blocks of exactly 80 words per country (I dare you to check…).
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
At the time of writing, Monique Mbeka is the latest poet to be featured in ‘The Written World’, an enormously ambitious attempt to collect a poem from every country in the run-up to the Olympics. Kim Jong-Un is rumoured to be scribbling away at North Korea’s entry, which 105% of North Korean voters describe as ‘the greatest poem ever’… while you’re waiting, it’s worth having a look at the ‘The Written World Map’, which already runs from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
80-year-old novelist Aharon Appelfeld, who escaped a concentration camp to become a cook in the Soviet Army, won the Independent foreign fiction prize for Blooms of Darkness, which follows the story of a young Jewish boy protected by a prostitute during the War. German is Appelfeld’s first language, but he writes exclusively in Hebrew, describing German as ‘the language of murderers.’ Hephzibah Anderson, who somehow ended up on the judging panel, said that Appelfeld ‘infuses his story with something transcendent.’
Carlos Fuentes, described as ‘Mexico’s most celebrated novelist’, died last week at the age of 83. Unlike his fellow ‘Boom generation’ author Gabriel García Marquez (Fuentes was one of the first people to proofread One Hundred Years of Solitude and arranged its first publication), he was drawn to vast realist novels, adapting the mould of the great nineteenth-century European authors. The Death of Artemio Cruz and The Old Gringo are the novels he is most likely to be remembered for.
Orange has withdrawn its sponsorship of the UK’s most prestigious prize for women’s fiction, prompting some rather limp ‘the future’s no longer Orange’ jokes. The Orange Prize, won last year by The Tiger’s Wife, can be awarded to a female writer of any nationality. Previous winners have included Barbara Kingsolver, Zadie Smith and Lionel Shriver. Co-founder Kate Mosse wheeled out the soundbites, writing that ‘all good things must come to an end’ and looking forward to ‘an exciting new chapter.’