E se o Man Booker Prize fosse alargado aos escritores norte-americanos?

A hipótese está a ser equacionada, com a previsível resistência dos autores britânicos.

“Esqueçam a educação sexual, leiam os clássicos”

Eis o que defende Pavel Astakhov, provedor russo para as crianças, muito em sintonia com o obscurantismo de Putin, cujo governo aprovou recentemente leis duríssimas para discriminar e punir os homossexuais, mais próprias de um estado medieval do que de uma sociedade do século XXI. Refira-se que a intenção de abrir aos jovens o acesso aos universos de Tolstoi, Tchéckov ou Turgueniev é mais do que louvável. Pensar que isso os habilita a viver no mundo moderno, sem o mínimo de informação sobre métodos contraceptivos ou doenças sexualmente transmissíveis, é que revela um grau de estupidez que talvez só um clássico dos bons, como Gogol, seria capaz de satirizar com o merecido requinte.

Franzen vs. ‘mundo moderno’

Num artigo publicado pelo The Guardian, o autor de Liberdade continua a sua cruzada contra uma contemporaneidade hipertecnológica, na qual vê a antecâmara de um desastre civilizacional. Eis um excerto:

«In my own little corner of the world, which is to say American fiction, Jeff Bezos of Amazon may not be the antichrist, but he surely looks like one of the four horsemen. Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of people with the money to pay somebody to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world. But what happens to the people who became writers because yakking and tweeting and bragging felt to them like intolerably shallow forms of social engagement? What happens to the people who want to communicate in depth, individual to individual, in the quiet and permanence of the printed word, and who were shaped by their love of writers who wrote when publication still assured some kind of quality control and literary reputations were more than a matter of self-promotional decibel levels? As fewer and fewer readers are able to find their way, amid all the noise and disappointing books and phony reviews, to the work produced by the new generation of this kind of writer, Amazon is well on its way to making writers into the kind of prospectless workers whom its contractors employ in its warehouses, labouring harder for less and less, with no job security, because the warehouses are situated in places where they’re the only business hiring. And the more of the population that lives like those workers, the greater the downward pressure on book prices and the greater the squeeze on conventional booksellers, because when you’re not making much money you want your entertainment for free, and when your life is hard you want instant gratification (“Overnight free shipping!”).
But so the physical book goes on the endangered-species list, so responsible book reviewers go extinct, so independent bookstores disappear, so literary novelists are conscripted into Jennifer-Weinerish self-promotion, so the Big Six publishers get killed and devoured by Amazon: this looks like an apocalypse only if most of your friends are writers, editors or booksellers. Plus it’s possible that the story isn’t over. Maybe the internet experiment in consumer reviewing will result in such flagrant corruption (already one-third of all online product reviews are said to be bogus) that people will clamour for the return of professional reviewers. Maybe an economically significant number of readers will come to recognise the human and cultural costs of Amazonian hegemony and go back to local bookstores or at least to barnesandnoble.com, which offers the same books and a superior e-reader, and whose owners have progressive politics. Maybe people will get as sick of Twitter as they once got sick of cigarettes. Twitter’s and Facebook’s latest models for making money still seem to me like one part pyramid scheme, one part wishful thinking, and one part repugnant panoptical surveillance.
I could, it’s true, make a larger apocalyptic argument about the logic of the machine, which has now gone global and is accelerating the denaturisation of the planet and sterilisation of its oceans. I could point to the transformation of Canada’s boreal forest into a toxic lake of tar-sands byproducts, the levelling of Asia’s remaining forests for Chinese-made ultra-low-cost porch furniture at Home Depot, the damming of the Amazon and the endgame clear-cutting of its forests for beef and mineral production, the whole mindset of “Screw the consequences, we want to buy a lot of crap and we want to buy it cheap, with overnight free shipping.” And meanwhile the overheating of the atmosphere, meanwhile the calamitous overuse of antibiotics by agribusiness, meanwhile the widespread tinkering with cell nucleii, which may well prove to be as disastrous as tinkering with atomic nucleii. And, yes, the thermonuclear warheads are still in their silos and subs.
But apocalypse isn’t necessarily the physical end of the world. Indeed, the word more directly implies an element of final cosmic judgment. In Kraus’s chronicling of crimes against truth and language in The Last Days of Mankind, he’s referring not merely to physical destruction. In fact, the title of his play would be better rendered in English as The Last Days of Humanity: “dehumanised” doesn’t mean “depopulated”, and if the first world war spelled the end of humanity in Austria, it wasn’t because there were no longer any people there. Kraus was appalled by the carnage, but he saw it as the result, not the cause, of a loss of humanity by people who were still living. Living but damned, cosmically damned.»

Apelo para salvar os manuscritos de Timbuctu

«Initially reported to have been destroyed by Islamist rebels in a fire, the 300,000 manuscripts were evacuated from Timbuktu by librarians and archivists. Stored in the metal boxes used for their evacuation, the texts are already showing signs of damage and exposure to moisture, and experts have launched an appeal to raise $100,000 to help preserve them.» A campanha de donativos está a ser organizada pela associação Timbuktu Libraries in Exile.

Prémio Nobel de 2012 responde aos seus críticos

Quando foi anunciada a atribuição do Nobel de Literatura a Mo Yan, não faltou quem o acusasse de alinhamento com o governo chinês e falta de solidariedade para com os artistas perseguidos, presos ou forçados ao exílio pelo regime de Pequim. Agora, o autor de Mudança, numa rara entrevista, defende-se desses ataques.

Atenção, pynchonianos

Eis uma daquelas notícias que nos deixam de água na boca. Thomas Pynchon tem novo romance anunciado para Setembro: Bleeding Edge, uma narrativa passada em 2001, entre o rebentar da bolha especulativa das dotcom e os «terríveis acontecimentos» do 11 de Setembro.

A Europa em risco

«L’Europe n’est pas en crise, elle est en train de mourir. Pas l’Europe comme territoire, naturellement. Mais l’Europe comme Idée. L’Europe comme rêve et comme projet.» Um manifesto em defesa da Europa, assinado por escritores europeus: Salman Rushdie, Claudio Magris, Antonio Lobo Antunes, Fernando Savater, Julia Kristeva, Juan-Luis Cebrian, Vassilis Alexakis, Umberto Eco e Bernard-Henri Lévy, entre outros.

As mulheres que dominaram a edição britânica em 2012

Para o The Guardian, são seis: Hilary Mantel, J.K. Rowling, Kate Mosse (não confundir com a supermodelo), Julia Donaldson, Amanda Hocking e E.L. “50 Shades” James.

Bad Sex Awards 2012

É cada um pior do que o outro. E as Cinquenta Sombras de Grey nem sequer conseguiram chegar à shortlist.

Junot Díaz, um perfil

Na revista New York, a poucas semanas de ser lançado o seu novo livro de contos: This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead Hardcover).

Piada do ano

Encontrei-a neste artigo do Guardian. É uma frase do inenarrável Paulo Coelho: «One of the books that caused great harm was James Joyce’s Ulysses, which is pure style. There is nothing there.» É como se o Quim Barreiros atacasse o vazio atonal do Pierrot Lunaire de Schoenberg. Ou Tomás Taveira considerasse as casas demasiado sóbrias de Frank Lloyd Wright um atentado à arquitectura. Ou Yannick Djaló sugerisse que as fintas de Diego Maradona deram cabo do futebol, por serem «puro estilo» e no fundo não servirem para nada.

O efeito Amazon

«(…) In 1995, the year Bezos, then 31, started Amazon, just 16 million people used the Internet. A year later, the number was 36 million, a figure that would multiply at a furious rate. Today, more than 1.7 billion people, or almost one out of every four humans on the planet, are online. Bezos understood two things. One was the way the Internet made it possible to banish geography, enabling anyone with an Internet connection and a computer to browse a seemingly limitless universe of goods with a precision never previously known and then buy them directly from the comfort of their homes. The second was how the Internet allowed merchants to gather vast amounts of personal information on individual customers. (…)»

Eis um excelente artigo de Steve Wasserman sobre o cada vez maior poder da Amazon e a forma como este gigante está a moldar o futuro da produção e comercialização do livro.

Era uma vez uma Arca de Noé com livros em vez de animais

Brewster Kahle começou por criar um projecto de armazenamento de todas as páginas existentes na World Wide Web (Internet Archive). Agora, quer fazer o mesmo com os livros físicos, juntando um exemplar de cada livro publicado numa série de armazéns gigantes, em Richmond, California. «We want to collect one copy of every book», diz ele. «If the Library of Alexandria had made a copy of every book and sent it to India or China, we’d have the other works of Aristotle, the other plays of Euripides. One copy in one institution is not good enough.» Reportagem completa no The New York Times.

Rancière pré-eleitoral

Agora que já se conhecem os resultados da primeira volta das eleições presidenciais francesas, vale a pena ler esta entrevista do filósofo Jacques Rancière (dada ao Nouvel Observateur, a meio da semana passada) sobre os limites da democracia representativa.

Junot Díaz na New Yorker

O autor de A Breve e Assombrosa Vida de Oscar Wao é o ficcionista da semana na revista onde escrevem os melhores ficcionistas norte-americanos. O conto, Miss Lora, começa assim:

«Years later, you would wonder if it hadn’t been for your brother would you have done it? You’d remember how all the other guys had hated on her — how skinny she was, no culo, no titties, como un palito, but your brother didn’t care. I’d fuck her.
You’d fuck anything, someone jeered.»

Do prazer da releitura

Quinze autores anglo-saxónicos (entre os quais John Banville, John Gray, Hilary Mantel, Geoff Dyer, Philip Hensher) falam dos livros que mais releram, ou relêem, e porquê.

ONG italiana considera a ‘Divina Comédia’ de Dante “ofensiva e discriminatória”

Pois é, pois é. E os Lusíadas, hem? Também não me parece que sejam lá muito politicamente (e historicamente) correctos. Vamos banir Camões do ensino público?

As histórias de Macondo, agora em e-book

Na próxima terça-feira, dia em que Gabriel García Márquez completa 85 anos, será publicada a primeira versão electrónica de Cem Anos de Solidão, cuja edição original faz 45 anos. Mas há mais efemérides em torno de Gabo: 60 anos sobre o conto de estreia e 30 sobre a atribuição do Nobel. A propósito destas múltiplas celebrações, o El País organizou um interessante dossier.

Por amor aos livros

«During the Bosnian war, a group of men and women risked their lives to rescue thousands of irreplaceable Islamic manuscripts – and preserve a nation’s history. Amid bullets and bombs, this handful of passionate book-lovers safeguarded more than 10,000 unique, hand-written antique books and documents – the most important texts held by Sarajevo’s Gazi Husrav Beg Library, founded in 1537.»

“Alguns fantasmas nunca desaparecem”

No site da BBC, Alan Moore escreve sobre o uso que os indignados do mundo inteiro têm feito da máscara de Guy Fawkes, um símbolo da rebelião contra o poder que ele elevou a ícone da cultura popular na novela gráfica V for Vendetta (publicada em 1982, no auge do consulado de Margaret Thatcher). Eis um excerto:

«Our present financial ethos no longer even resembles conventional capitalism, which at least implies a brutal Darwinian free-for-all, however one-sided and unfair. Instead, we have a situation where the banks seem to be an untouchable monarchy beyond the reach of governmental restraint, much like the profligate court of Charles I.
Then, a depraved neglect of the poor and the “squeezed middle” led inexorably to an unanticipated reaction in the horrific form of Oliver Cromwell and the English Civil War (…).
Today’s response to similar oppressions seems to be one that is intelligent, constantly evolving and considerably more humane, and yet our character’s borrowed Catholic revolutionary visage and his incongruously Puritan apparel are perhaps a reminder that unjust institutions may always be haunted by volatile 17th century spectres, even if today’s uprisings are fuelled more by social networks than by gunpowder.
Some ghosts never go away.
As for the ideas tentatively proposed in that dystopian fantasy thirty years ago, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that whatever usefulness they afford modern radicalism is very satisfying.»

A grande machadada

E o vencedor do Hatchet Job of the Year é… Adam Mars-Jones, pela crítica demolidora que fez ao romance By Nightfall, de Michael Cunningham (editado em Portugal pela Gradiva, com o título Ao Cair da Noite).

Era uma vez um Grufalão

Radiografia de um dos livros infantis mais lidos e relidos lá por casa.

E se a euforia à volta da auto-publicação digital não passar de uma bolha especulativa?

Eis uma dúvida a que Ewan Morrison procura dar resposta, no The Guardian. Um excerto:

«All of this ebook talk is becoming a business in itself. Money is being made out of thin air in this strange new speculative meta-practice: there are seminars, conferences and courses springing up everywhere, even at the Society of Authors (a writers’ union which, until recently, was largely against epublication). Television and radio programmes are being made about self-epublishing (I’ve personally been asked to speak about it on 12 occasions since August). Everyone can be a writer now: it only takes 10 minutes to upload your own ebook, and according to the New York Times “81% of people feel they have a book in them … And should write it”.
But all of this gives me an alarming sense of deja vu. There’s another name for what happens when people start to make money out of speculation and hype: it’s called a bubble. Like the dotcom bubble, the commercial real estate bubble, the subprime mortgage bubble, the credit bubble and the derivative trading bubble before it, the DIY epublishing bubble is inflating around us. Each of those other bubbles also saw, in their earliest stages, a great deal of fuss made over a “new” phenomenon, which was then over-hyped and over-leveraged. But speculation, as we’ve learned at our peril, is a very dangerous foundation for any business. And when the epub bubble bursts, as all previous bubbles have done, the fall-out for publishing and writing may be even harder to repair than it is proving to be in the fields of mortgages, derivatives and personal debt. Because this bubble is based on cultural, not purely economic, grounds.»

O texto completo pode ser lido aqui.

Sinal dos tempos

O La Tribune deixa hoje de se publicar em papel, passando a existir exclusivamente em formato digital. Prenúncio de uma mudança que afectará o resto da imprensa? Creio que sim. E temo bem que aconteça mais depressa do que imaginamos.

Every poet needs a Virgil

The mystery of poetry editing.

Diz Alain de Botton:

«The nirvana would be if the questions raised by Oprah Winfrey would be answered by the faculty at Harvard»

Regresso a Buenos Aires

Um breve diário de Ricardo Piglia, no suplemento Babelia do El País.

Uma vida de escrita

Edmund White ao The Guardian: «From an early age I had the idea that writing was truth-telling. It’s on the record. Everybody can see it. Maybe it goes back to the sacred origins of literature – the holy book. There’s nothing holy about it for me, but it should be serious and it should be totally transparent.»

‘Creative Writing’

Um conto de Etgar Keret (escritor israelita, autor de O Motorista de Autocarro Que Queria Ser Deus, AMBAR, 2004), publicado na edição desta semana da revista The New Yorker.

Trocas de livros nas estações de metro e comboio londrinas

«Boris Johnson, the London mayor, agreed to look into the possibility of establishing a network of book swaps in the capital’s 700 tube and train stations, in response to an idea put forward by Chris Gilson, a political researcher at the London School of Economics, who has already set up a pilot scheme for communal book sharing in his local station, West Ealing.»

Que fazer quando se descobre que um amigo é escritor?

Rebecca Rosenblum explica.

Conrad ao palco

O Coração das Trevas, agora em versão operática.

E o vencedor do Man Booker Prize 2011 é…

Julian Barnes. Só podia ser. Prémio justíssimo. À quarta foi de vez.

Escolher o Nobel da Literatura é difícil

Já imaginávamos, claro. Mas Peter Englund, o secretário permanente da Academia Sueca, confirma num dos podcasts do The Guardian.

Estirpe de romancistas

No Babelia desta semana, o escritor mexicano Carlos Fuentes escreve «sobre a história e a evolução da narrativa latino-americana» e partilha o que considera ser o respectivo cânone de escritores e obras fundamentais do século XX e do século XXI.
Ainda no suplemento cultural do El País, vale a pena ler a recensão elogiosa de Santiago Gamboa ao mais recente romance de Michel Houellebecq (O Mapa e o Território, prestes a ser lançado por cá pela Objectiva) e a resposta de Alberto Manguel, que não compreende o entusiasmo de tantos «leitores inteligentes» com a «burocracia vitalícia» da obra do francês.

História de um rebelde

Na edição desta semana da New Yorker, Daniel Mendelsohn, autor de Os Desaparecidos, escreve sobre a «breve carreira» de Rimbaud e assume que o facto de ter descoberto tardiamente o poeta (quase sempre avassalador para quem o começa a ler na adolescência) o impediu de ser arrebatado («swept away») pelos versos das Illuminations. O magnífico texto é acompanhado por uma não menos magnífica ilustração de André Carrilho:

Dez livros sobre futebol (britânico)

Uma escolha de Anthony Clavane, no The Guardian. Destes todos, começaria sempre por The Unfortunates, o experimentalista «book-in-a-box», de B.S. Johnson.

E que tal um livrinho à prova de água?

Pelos vistos, já faltou mais.

Nova Iorque, poetas e martinis

Santiago Gamboa faz hoje, no suplemento Babelia, uma aproximação alcoólica e literária à Big Apple, envolvendo um poema de Dorothy Parker, os braços tatuados com frases de Kurt Vonnegut de uma empregada de mesa e a descoberta de uma elegia de Marya Zaturenska, batida à máquina numa Remington e escondida numa edição de Catulo à venda por um dólar num alfarrabista.

A Semana dos Livros Banidos chega ao YouTube

«For Banned Books Week (Sept. 24-Oct. 1) this year, booksellers and their customers can proclaim their support for free speech on the Internet by joining a worldwide read-out of banned and challenged books. For many years, Banned Books Week has featured readings from challenged titles in bookstores and libraries. This year people can participate no matter where they are–in bookstores, libraries and their own homes–by posting a video of themselves reading their favorite banned book on a special YouTube channel.»

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«Tenho a suspeita de que a espécie humana - a única - está prestes a extinguir-se e que a Biblioteca perdurará: iluminada, solitária, infinita, perfeitamente imóvel, armada de volumes preciosos, inútil, incorruptível, secreta» Jorge Luis Borges