What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 20, 2011

Susan Bassnett, professor of comparative literature, University of Warwick, is reading David Bellos' Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything (Penguin, 2011). "I am thoroughly enjoying this book, with its insider view of the complexities of translation. Bellos' entertaining and illuminating short essays cover various aspects of translation, and draw on his experience of decades of award-winning literary translating. He asks important questions about language, meaning and cultural difference, including, crucially, 'What is a translation?'. Very worthwhile indeed."

Vernon Bogdanor, research professor, King's College London, has been reading Francis Sejersted's The Age of Social Democracy: Norway and Sweden in the Twentieth Century (Princeton University Press, 2011). "In seeking to discover why the Norwegian and Swedish Social Democrats have been so successful, Sejersted summarises a vast historical and social science literature. He finds the answer in the adaptability of the Scandinavian Social Democrats and their absence of dogma, which enabled them to withstand the neoliberal assault of the 1970s. Their experience shows, Sejersted believes, how 'under happy circumstances, societies can be the master of history'. This book has many lessons for the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition."

Matthew Feldman is senior lecturer in 20th-century history, University of Northampton. He is reading The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 2, 1941-1956 (Cambridge University Press, 2011), edited by George Craig et al. "A sequel much richer than the first, retracing Beckett's core literary output. And what majestic, impassioned letters! The editorial team hits the right notes: useful supporting apparatus; extensive translations from French; but best of all, selections of Beckett often at his best, 'searching for a way of capitulating without giving up utterance - entirely'."

Sarah Hackett, senior lecturer in modern European history, University of Sunderland, is reading Ruben Zaiotti's Cultures of Border Control: Schengen and the Evolution of European Frontiers (University of Chicago Press, 2011). "This is a fascinating and original insight into countries within the Schengen zone, which have largely removed their national borders in favour of free movement. Zaiotti's argument that this development is predominantly the result of the role played by cultural practices offers an alternative perspective on the topic and raises issues that have never been more important."

Nick Hubble, senior lecturer in English, Brunel University, is reading Bill Rees' The Loneliness of the Long Distance Book Runner (Parthian, 2011). "Discovering this elegant memoir of Sisyphean struggles in the book trade is like 'finding B.S. Johnson's Trawl in a box of Mills and Boon', as Rees puts it. Gentle humour gives way to detached irony as successes and failures in the south of France and North Wales take on the intensity of doomed love affairs, and we are left entranced by this tale of addiction."

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