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Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

https://www.theguardian.com/books/librariesplay episode download
22 May, by Neil Gaiman[ —]

A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens

It’s important for people to tell you what side they are on and why, and whether they might be biased. A declaration of members’ interests, of a sort. So, I am going to be talking to you about reading. I’m going to tell you that libraries are important. I’m going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. I’m going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.

And I am biased, obviously and enormously: I’m an author, often an author of fiction. I write for children and for adults. For about 30 years I have been earning my living through my words, mostly by making things up and writing them down. It is obviously in my interest for people to read, for them to read fiction, for libraries and librarians to exist and help foster a love of reading and places in which reading can occur.

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Tips, links and suggestions: what are you reading this week?

21 May, by Guardian readers and Sam Jordison[ —]

Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

Welcome to this week’s blog. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.

War was a frequent subject for discussion last week. Ben Macintyre’s Operation Mincemeat kept beerbart intrigued:

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'You're getting on my biscuits': can you translate these world idioms? – quiz

https://www.theguardian.com/books/fiction-in-translationplay episode download
21 May, by Sam Taylor, Frank Wynne, Susan Bernofsky, Deborah Smith, Sarah Moses, Carolina Orloff, Camilo A Ramirez and Simon Pare[ —]

With the 2018 Man Booker International prize winner to be announced on 22 May, nominated translators share their favourite sayings that don’t easily translate to English. Can you decipher the correct meanings?

The South Korean saying "칭찬받은 고래도 춤춘다" translates as “even a whale will dance if you compliment it”. What does it mean?

No one is immune to flattery.

It's hard to resist a good dance session.

Whales are complete narcissists.

A Spanish saying used in Argentina, "Querer la chancha, los veinte y la máquina de hacer chorizos”, translates as “to want the sow, the 20 and the sausage-making machine". Which means?

To be a remarkably indulgent carnivore.

To want to have your cake and eat it too.

Someone who believes in the benefits of economic interventionism.

The French idiom "mettre la clef sous la porte” translates literally as “put the key under the door” – what does the idiom mean?

To quit doing something early because it doesn't seem like it is going well.

To close a business or stop performing an activity.

A sleazy approach by an older man.

In German, “Du gehst mir auf den Keks” means: “You’re getting on my biscuits." What's the English equivalent?

You’re getting on my nerves.

You're clumsy.

You're a brazen snack snatcher and I hate you.

In French, “Avoir le cafard” literally translates as “have the cockroach”. What does it really mean?

To be down in the dumps, or to have the blues.

To be saddled with a burden that is likely to never go away.

To have a desperate need to dance each time one hears La Cucaracha.

In South Korea, "배꼽이 빠져라 웃다" translates literally as “to laugh until your navel falls out”. What does this signify?

To split your sides laughing.

To be punished for laughing at something cruel.

To get fit with hilarious antics.

There is an Austrian saying – “Reden wie einem der Schnabel gewachsen ist” – that translates from German literally as “to speak the way one’s beak grew". What's the idiomatic meaning?

To talk straight, to be someone who doesn't mince words.

To speak in the language of your home country.

To wet one's beak.

The Spanish phrase “entre culo y calzon” translates literally as “between arse and boxer shorts”. What does the idiom mean?

To be trapped in a tricky spot.

To feel a liberating sense of freedom.

To be thick as thieves, or bosom buddies.

“An den Haaren herbeigezogen” translates literally as “dragged in by the hair". What does it mean?

To be dragged kicking and screaming.

Something far-fetched.

Like something the cat dragged in.

In Spanish, “Poner la mano en el fuego” translates literally as “to put one’s hand in the fire”. What does it mean?

To do something very stupid.

To attempt a task that is dangerous, but possibly lucrative.

To risk one's reputation for someone or something.

10 and above.

In Crotian: "Muda Labudova!" (In English it means something that's impossible, but the literal translation is “Balls of a swan.”) Well done!

9 and above.

From the Dutch: "Nu breekt mijn klomp!" It means: "To be totally amazed or not expect something." Well done, clever clogs.

8 and above.

From the Dutch: "Nu breekt mijn klomp!" It means: "To be totally amazed or not expect something." Well done, clever clogs.

7 and above.

Not bad! If it doesn't get on your biscuits, try again?

6 and above.

Not so bad! If it doesn't get on your biscuits, try again?

5 and above.

Not so bad! If it doesn't get on your biscuits, try again?

4 and above.

Z choinki się urwałaś? The literal translation from Polish to English is: “Did you fall from a Christmas tree?” It means: “You are not well informed, and it shows."

3 and above.

Z choinki się urwałaś? The literal translation from Polish to English is: “Did you fall from a Christmas tree?” It means: “You are not well informed, and it shows."

2 and above.

Z choinki się urwałaś? The literal translation from Polish to English is: “Did you fall from a Christmas tree?” It means: “You are not well informed, and it shows."

0 and above.

Z choinki się urwałaś? The literal translation from Polish to English is: “Did you fall from a Christmas tree?” It means: “You are not well informed, and it shows."

1 and above.

Z choinki się urwałaś? The literal translation from Polish to English is: “Did you fall from a Christmas tree?” It means: “You are not well informed, and it shows."

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Alicia Kopf: 'I wanted to turn old-fashioned, masculine epics upside down'

https://www.theguardian.com/books/fiction-in-translationplay episode download
21 May, by Marta Bausells[ —]

Brother in Ice is a form-busting novel that pairs a history of polar exploration with the story of an artist and her autistic sibling. The author reveals the real life behind her imaginative adventures

Brother in Ice is a novel (or is it?) that explores the history of polar expeditions, using them to examine a woman’s personal and artistic life, as well as her brother’s autism. The premise is convoluted – but Alicia Kopf makes it work, seamlessly building a hybrid of fiction, research notes, diary entries and illustration. The result is a lyrical, braided book, that would sit comfortably alongside the auto-fiction of Rachel Cusk and Sheila Heti, or the non-fiction of Leslie Jamison, blending reportage with the personal.

A Catalan writer born in Girona and living in Barcelona, Kopf is not only an author but a visual artist, too, and says the two art forms feel almost identical. “To me, writing is closer to the idea of film editing,” she says. “I create material, and all the while I tidy and edit. I identify more with someone who films scenes and later puts them together, than with someone who walks on a previously created path.” In the case of Brother in Ice, she started investigating and creating images around ice, exhibited them in a gallery, and crafted the story simultaneously.

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Poem of the week: They (may forget (their names (if let out))) by Vahni Capildeo

21 May, by Carol Rumens[ —]

A brilliantly energetic and inventive sonnet bounds into the mind of a not entirely domesticated pet dog

petcitement incitement of a pet to excitement
petcitement incitement into the excitement
of being a pet petcitement incitement to be
a pet a fed pet a fleece pet incitement to be
a floorpet a fleapit a carpet a polkadot
blanket pet blanket pet answer brass doorbell what name
tin waterbowl what name thrilled vomitfall polkadot
padded on patted on turded on welcome mat name
turns to no-one’s reminder walks wilder walks further
downriver from calling calling owner predator
who that who tagalong meaner whose canines further
from food fleece floor flea cloth car poll card dot blank bit door
no no owner owns in nomine domini pet
outruns petfetch petcome will wild default reset.

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Thrillers review: Our Kind of Cruelty; What We Did; Star of the North

21 May, by Alison Flood[ —]
Dirty dancing, memories of sexual abuse and a spy’s search for her missing sister feature in this month’s standouts

Mike and Verity play a dangerous game: the Crave. In a crowded nightclub, Verity begins to flirt with whoever approaches her, while Mike looks on. When she gives him the signal, Mike muscles in and scares her suitor off. It turns them on. But they are no longer together, and Verity is marrying another man. Is this a more advanced version of the Crave? Mike, the narrator of Araminta Hall’s Our Kind of Cruelty (Century, £12.99), thinks it is, and anything Verity tells him to the contrary only convinces him further that he’s right.

“I wondered for a moment if she had been kidnapped and someone else was writing her emails,” he ponders, after he is informed of the forthcoming marriage. “The much more plausible explanations were that V was not herself, or she was using her tone to send me a covert message … It was as if the lines of her email dissolve and behind them were her true words. This was a game, our favourite game. It was obvious that we were beginning a new, more intricate Crave.”

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Breaking the silence: are we getting better at talking about death?

https://www.theguardian.com/books/biographyplay episode download
21 May, by Edmund de Waal[ —]

As the media brings us constant news of strangers’ deaths, grief memoirs fill our shelves and dramatic meditations are performed to big crowds, we have reached a new understanding of mortality, says Edmund de Waal

Bereavement is ragged. The papers are full of a child’s last months, the protests outside hospitals, the press conferences, court cases, international entreaties, the noise of vituperation and outrage at the end of a life. A memorial after a violent death is put up on a suburban fence. It is torn down, then restored. This funeral in south London becomes spectacle: the cortege goes round and round the streets. The mourners throw eggs at the press. On the radio a grieving mother talks of the death of her young son, pleading for an end to violence. This is the death that will make a difference. She is speaking to her son, speaking for her son. Her words slip between the tenses.

Having spent the last nine months reading books submitted for the Wellcome book prize, celebrating writing on medicine, health and “what it is to be human”, it has become clear to me that we are living through an extraordinary moment where we are much possessed by death. Death is the most private and personal of our acts, our own solitariness is total at the moment of departure. But the ways in which we talk about death, the registers of our expressions of grief or our silences about the process of dying are part of a complex public space.

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Problems by Jade Sharma review – strangely uplifting

21 May, by Hannah Jane Parkinson[ —]

A young junkie parades her life of deceit in this frank and sharp debut

I had concerns with the cover of Problems. That title, screamed in fuchsia all-caps on a vaguely urban, desolate background… it comes off a little “awkward YA novel”, with characters probably called Trent, or Lexxxi. You know how it is. A sort of millennial Melvin Burgess, but not nearly as good. The PR blurb says that this is an “edgy” book, clearly unaware that if someone described a party as “edgy” you would immediately choose not to go.

I needn’t have worried. Problems, the debut of Indian-American writer Jade Sharma, is wonderful. Our narrator is Maya, a young New Yorker, who works part-time in a bookshop while ostensibly writing her MA thesis and who is married to a nice (read: boring) guy called Peter. Maya is having two ill-advised affairs: one with her former college professor, Ogden, the other with heroin. (Note: Problems refers to heroin as dope, as it’s known in the US, whereas in the UK dope denotes marijuana.)

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Reporting my sexual assault to the police was horrific but healing. Here’s what I learned | Bri Lee

play episode
20 May, by Bri Lee[ —]

Few women who survive a sexual attack make a formal complaint. For Eggshell Skull author Bri Lee, it’s about justice

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It will take a long time and there’s no rushing it. For me (and for others I’ve spoken to), the decision to finally make an official police complaint about a sex offence wasn’t so much a “lightbulb moment” as the gradual knocking away at a tall wall with a small mallet, brick by brick.

Not just any old wall of insecurities, either. I’m talking about the wall that you started putting up from the moment you realised what had been done to you. The one that’s taken years and been fortified by all the casual sexism you absorb every day. The bricks that people added when they didn’t believe the other women you saw come forward, and the bricks you added yourself when you realised how expensive it would be to start seeing a psychologist.

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You Think It, I’ll Say It By Curtis Sittenfeld review – the good, bad and ugly of female lives

20 May, by Alex Clark[ —]
Curtis Sittenfeld’s first story collection conjures a vivid cast of women – including a presidential hopeful – caught up in knotty social dilemmas

Curtis Sittenfeld revealed in a recent interview in the New Review that she has on multiple occasions resisted offers to translate into fiction the life of Melania Trump. Her most obvious credential is that a decade ago her novel American Wife imagined a 21st-century first lady, but her new collection of stories provides impressive supporting evidence. Sittenfeld is fascinated by our fascination – and our unease – with women: powerful women, powerless women, women we are attracted to and repulsed by, women who push themselves to the centre of the stage and women who erase themselves from the story.

If, perhaps from a sense of scrupulousness or decency, she passed up the chance to portray Mrs Trump, Sittenfeld acquiesced when commissioned to write a story from the perspective of Hillary Clinton. The Nominee opens this collection, as an unnamed but highly familiar Democrat contemplates her forthcoming candidature (“anticlimactic”, she decides). Her mirror is not her opponent, but the female journalist who has repeatedly interviewed her throughout her career; the device allows her to reflect on woman-on-woman sexism – nobody else asks her about her pantsuits, including men – and on the peculiar relationship that exists between the professional interrogator and their subject.

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