Worlds of Literature

Every Wednesday, we’ll post a round-up of links which may be of interest to the larger Berkeley English community. Let us know if you see anything you think we should pass along!

The great Sudanese writer, Tayeb Salih, passed away late last Tuesday. He’s best known for his 1966 novel Season of Migration to the North, which Edward Said called “among the six finest novels to be written in modern Arabic literature.” I want to know what the other five on that list were; it’s a remarkable novel, and one that only gets better and more interesting with re-readings. Obituaries in the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Sudan Tribune. And Mustapha Marrouchi writes a more personal remembrance in Arab Comment and in a lovely memorial, the editors of AllAfrica hope that Tayeb Salih went “with a heart full of song and a face awash with a huge smile.”

Was Dorothy Wordsworth “one of the casualties of 19th-century femininity” or “the most distinguished of English prose writers who never wrote a line for the general public”? In the New York Times, “A Brother’s Keeper: The Other Wordsworth,” Dwight Garner reviews Frances Wilson’s The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth: A Life.

Janet Maslin, “What Was With the Peacocks and the Gothic Fiction?” reviews Brad Gooch’s Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, noting that “this mystical, ornery, ardently admired Southern writer” has been long overdue for a major new biography like this one.

In “The myths of Gabriel García Márquez,” Philip Swanson reviews Gerald Martin’s Gabriel García Márquez: A Life, the culmination of seventeen years of research which he predicts will be the authoritative work on what he calls the Nobel Prize winning novelist. Swanson is the author of Latin American Fiction: A short introduction, so presumably he knows what he’s talking about, but I’d love to know on what basis he judges Garcia-Marquez to be “Latin America’s perhaps only truly global writer.”

In the Sunday Times, “Salman’s Perfect Safe House,” Geoffrey Robertson remembers hiding Salman Rushdie in his home, and how it “brought many of his left-wing friends into a closer and warmer contact with officers of Special Branch than they would have ever thought likely or even healthy.”

Claudia Roth Pierpont’s “Another Country,” in The New Yorker, explores how James Baldwin made Istanbul what she calls his “second or third not-quite-home,” during a period she also notes to have been “inescapably Baldwin’s American decade.” The essay is essentially a very long review of Magdalena J. Zaborowska’s new book, James Baldwin’s Turkish Decade.

In the Times Literary Supplement, “Amos Oz and Reverie” Anthony Cummins reviews Amos Oz’s new novel, Rhyming Life and Death, which Oz has called a challenge to the reader who would rather be “handed a prepared dish” than be “invited into the kitchen.” Cummins notes that such “solemn metafictional musing rarely feels like anything more than ballast for the breezy draughtsmanship of the character sketches,” and wonders in the end whether “the novel may in the end be too slight to survive its own scrutiny.”