TLS January 8 2016
from Karen Thomson's Stephanie W. Jamison and Joel P. Brereton's The Rig Veda: The earliest religious poetry of India, and Roberto Calasso's Ardor, translated by Richard Dixon:
As Rudolph Roth wrote over a century ago, "A translation must speak for itself. As a rule, it only requires a commentary where it is not directly convincing, and where the translator does not feel secure".
from Norma Clarke's review of Stephen Bernard's The Literary Correspondences of the Tonsons:
It was Tonson who began the pleasant practice of giving dinners to his authors when contracts were signed. He enjoyed the feasting and at the same time created a sense of obligation in his poets. Pope said he used flattery and food strategically: "Jacob creates poets, as kings sometimes do knights, not for their honour but for their money". Was he "genial Jacob" or avaricious? He was known for his gift-giving and also for his money-making. Dryden thanks him for two melons in the first line of his first letter here; others were treated to cider, wine, books.
TLS January 15 2016
Henri Astier's review of Pierre Boncenne's Le Parapluie de Simon Leys and Simon Leys' Quand Vous Viendrez Me Voir Aux Antipodes: Lettres a Pierre Boncenne and The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays:
As Lu Xun, Leys's favourite modern Chinese author, wrote: "If there are still men who really want to live in this world, they should dare to speak out, to laugh, to cry, to be angry, to accuse, to fight - that they may at least cleanse this accursed place of its accursed atmosphere!"
A related theme often stressed by Leys is that of "Belgianness", the idea that coming from a small nation was the best safeguard against pomposity. Those born in a great country tend to think that its tradition encompasses the whole of human experience, and do not feel the need to look elsewhere. It is they, paradoxically, who are most at risk from provincialism. In an article on the "Belgianness of Henri Michaux," he noted that as a young man, the Walloon poet dared to mock both his native land and those countries he visited - an attitude typical of an outsider who does not take anything too seriously. But after moving to Paris, Michaux lost his levity: he was at the centre of the civilized world and could not question the prevailing orthodoxy. Leys, by contrast, continued to live on the periphery, and from Australia was able to hold on to his humble Belgianness. He regarded humour as an essential quality, and one that in no way precluded seriousness of purpose. Leys was fond of quoting G. K. Chesterton on the subject: "My critics think that I am not serious, but only funny, because they think that 'funny' is the opposite of 'serious'. But 'funny' is the opposite of 'not funny' and nothing else".