The Emperor of Portugallia

Once upon a time, a hundred years and more ago, there was an ordinary man in an ordinary village, who led a really rather ordinary life. He worked hard, but nothing really excited him; he wasn’t very happy, but he

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They know not what they do

When Jussi Valtonen’s book won the Finlandia Prize for the best novel of 2014, my friend recommended it to me. Her husband had loved it, I would find it really interesting. But it looked so weighty, and back then, my

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Thomas Bernhard’s poems

Once he’d written them, he didn’t look back. He moved on to plays and novels, for which he’s much better known. He didn’t write any more poems for decades. Once he’d written them, he kept looking back. He returned and

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Ghachar Ghochar

One of the best things about reading books in translation is that they take you to places you might never go, through languages that you might never learn, and make you feel right at home, as if you’ve grown up

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VE Day #73: All that still matters at all

You might have heard of writing for the desk drawer, but what about writing for your jacket pocket when you expect to die, be buried in a mass grave if at all, and the odds of anyone finding what you’ve

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Posted in books, history, poetry, translation

Secret passages under my hometown

When someone writes about the streets where you live, you feel immediately predisposed towards them. You want to like everything they say, and even if you don’t like it, you will certainly have an opinion. The woman who translates many

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Brother in Ice

On the ice, time and space are almost impossible to measure. Yes, there might be the sun, but in winter it might not rise for long, if at all, and in summer it might not set for long, if at

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