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June 16, 2011

Stanislaw Lem's SOLARIS finally gets a proper English translation

For forty years we've had to make do with a poor translation based on a French translation of the original Polish. Lem is one of the greatest science fiction writers ever. Honestly. His CYBERIAD or MEMOIRS FOUND IN A BATHTUB or any of his Ijon Tichy stories are fun and mindblowing, while his volumes of imaginary literary criticism are profound works of metafiction. First ever direct English translation of Solaris published | Books | guardian.co.uk
The first ever direct translation into English of the Polish science fiction author Stanislaw Lem's most famous novel, Solaris, has just been published, removing a raft of unnecessary changes and restoring the text much closer to its original state. Telling of humanity's encounter with an alien intelligence on the planet Solaris, the 1961 novel is a cult classic, exploring the ultimate futility of attempting to communicate with extra-terrestrial life. The only English edition to date is Joanna Kilmartin and Steve Cox's 1970 version, which was translated from a French version which Lem himself described as poor. Now Bill Johnston, a professor at Indiana University, has produced the first Polish-English translation of the novel. It has just been published as an audiobook download by Audible, narrated by Battlestar Galactica's Alessandro Juliani, with an ebook to follow in six months' time. Lem's heirs are hoping to overcome legal issues to release it as a print edition as well. "Much is lost when a book is re-translated from an intermediary translation into English, but I'm shocked at the number of places where text was omitted, added, or changed in the 1970 version," said Johnston. "Lem's characteristic semi-philosophical, semi-technical language is also capable of flights of poetic fancy and brilliant linguistic creativity, for example in the names of the structures that arise on the surface of Solaris. I believe this new translation restores Lem's original meaning to his seminal work."

June 06, 2011

Ursula LeGuin--The distinction between literary and genre fiction is useless

Especially if one writes as well as LeGuin. BOOK VIEW CAFE BLOG -- Petty Expectations
I’ve been pondering, tracing connections, wondering about expectations. The first object of my brooding is a pair of sentences from a book review by Terence Rafferty: “In a horror story or a mystery novel, the flow is all toward narrative resolution, and is — or should be — swift and fierce. Literary fiction, by its nature, allows itself to dawdle, to linger on stray beauties even at the risk of losing its way. [“Reluctant Seer,” Terence Rafferty, NYT Sunday Book Review, 4 Feb 2011] This little paragraph contains several assumptions, or expectations, that I find no less questionable for being very familiar. The distinction Mr Rafferty draws between literary and genre fiction, though cherished by many critics and teachers, was never very useful and is by now worse than useless. The opposition — genre rushing hell-for-leather and plotbound to resolution, literature meandering sweetly like a brainless tot in a folktale forest — is absurd. I seldom read horror, outside Edgar Allen Poe, but I do read mysteries. Mr Rafferty says their flow must be “swift and fierce.” “Fierce” appears to be decorative, “swift” is the operative word. But is it accurate? Some mysteries move swiftly. Many mysteries don’t. Some of my favorites move almost glacially, plodding along from detail to detail gathering irresistible impetus. Like glaciers, they’re in no hurry, but you don’t want to try to stop them. At some point in every slow-paced mystery the pace will quicken suddenly. That is a great part of the art of pacing: variety. Some people crave the relentlessly “swift, fierce” pace of the pop thriller, but it’s by no means the only way to tell an exciting story; and to many of us it becomes, within a very few pages, merely tiresome. . . .

June 05, 2011

Michigan superintendent suggests turning schools into prisons to solve budget problems

Instead of addressing his concerns Michigan's governor is whining that the schools are resorting to "cheap publicity stunts" to get attention for their problems. Superintendent, governor trade barbs over prison request | Michigan Messenger
A letter to the editor of the Gratiot County News by Ithaca Schools’ Superintendent Nathan Bootz has been making the rounds on the internet for his big ask — he wants his school turned into a prison so it can be adequately funded. Bootz points out that Michigan spends $30,000 to $40,000 per year per prisoner, but can’t manage to find more than $7,000 per student in K-12 education funding. This is why I’m proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?!