New Books from Dead Writers

7 Jun

You could be forgiven for thinking that that would be that. Once a writer has died, the books will stop coming. One reason that they don’t, of course, is that previously unpublished works by an author are often unearthed after his/her death. In the case of the novels of Franz Kafka, we can thank God (and Max Brod) that they came to light. The same holds true for Roberto Bolaño’s work. For most other authors, though, these posthumous publications add little if anything to their oeuvres, in some cases actually subtracting from them. After all, these books generally remained unpublished for a reason. Late works, written when the writer’s powers were failing or unfinished at the time of his/her death, early works that give an insight into the writer’s development but which are really little more than juvenilia, works abandoned as substandard… There are numerous examples – William Golding’s The Double Tongue, Georges Perec’s 53 Days and, ahem, J R R Tolkien’s The Silmarilion (typing that last clause pained me, I can assure you).

When much of what you read is in translation, however, the scenario is different. Works by your favourite dead writers might not have been available to you as they’ve yet to be translated rather than because they’re not up to scratch. I’ve mentioned that every time I visit the bookshop, I look to see if a second novel by the late Hungarian writer, Ferenc Karinthy has been published. Six years later, I remain disappointed. Sort Of Books has been drip-feeding new translations of Tove Jansson’s adult fiction over recent years. I always keep an eye out for these too, so today was a day of literary fulfilment. There on the shelf was a new short story collection, The Listener, first published by Bonniers in Swedish back in 1971. High excitement! The only negative is that there’s little left now to be translated. On the other hand, there are another nine novels from Karinthy to look forward to, always providing someone commissions their translation. The alternative would be to learn Magyar, a task that I fear might prove beyond me.

Having read the war novel that I’ve thus far failed to persuade any publisher to take up, a friend remarked that perhaps it’d only be published after I was dead. I’m not sure how much comfort I should draw from that…

Are these scribblings destined for posthumous publication only?

Are these scribblings destined for posthumous publication only?

All text and image © PSR 2014


6 Responses to “New Books from Dead Writers”

  1. Mari Biella June 8, 2014 at 7:14 am #

    I’m sure that one day your novel will be published, Paul – and I very much hope that you’ll still be around to see it (and to present me with a signed copy, naturally 🙂 ). Keep trying. I’m sure that sooner or later someone will see what is quite obvious to me, and publish it!

  2. Paul Sutton Reeves June 8, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    Hi Mari and thanks very much for your encouragement!

  3. Water Treatment Plants June 8, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    Reblogged this on Invest Your Time.

  4. June 10, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

    I’m with Mari. I have my heart set on a signed copy so you better be sticking around 🙂 And as always, every time I visit your blog I leave with new titles to put on my Must-Read List. Thank you so much for this!!!

  5. Paul Sutton Reeves June 11, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    Hi Lauren and thanks for your encouragement. I’ll do my best to stay alive, then! Happy reading 🙂

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