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There will be no Nobel Prize for literature this year

And the rest of the week’s best writing on books and related topics.

Nobel Prize

Welcome to the weekly Vox book link roundup, a curated collection of the internet’s best writing on books and related subjects. Here’s the best the web has to offer for the week of April 29, 2018.

These stories also speak to me about how, when you are sharing a life with another person, there is always something new to learn about them, as well as things you will never know. In some cases, the brides are told the backstory of their husbands’ enchantment; in some cases, they aren’t. What matters is not the answer to the question, but that the women make the choice to do whatever it takes to find their loves, proving themselves not only worthy of a full and faithful love, but worth their husbands’ serious consideration as well. These tales could be said to be the most character-driven fairy tales in existence, which to me means that their observations about love and romance are perhaps the truest to life.

Cole jokes about the same “25 dukes running around London” who many readers have no problem accepting, as they do the anachronistic (and white) liberated women who fill the pages of the genre. “Spinsters and wallflowers are doing all kinds of crazy stuff that they could have been punished for in that time period and instead they ‘win’ a duke and have all these babies and don’t die in childbirth. None of the rakes have syphilis.” She laughs. “But when the people happen to not be white, or straight, suddenly it’s ‘Oh, I don’t know about all of this. Would someone really do that? Would she really know these words?’”

But Melville wasn’t done after Moby-Dick. He had become close friends with Nathanial Hawthorne—so close, in fact, that he dedicated Moby-Dick to his fellow writer and early reader. During the winter of 1852, he wrote to his friend that he was beginning a new novel based on “the story of Agatha.”

It was a story he had heard while vacationing on Nantucket. There was a woman, he was told, who had married a sailor only to be deserted by him. It was perhaps the perfect tale of romance and desperation for the writer to tackle at that time.

There is something uncanny, something dreamily familiar about this layout, and it strikes me that the books are set out to look like icons on the Amazon website. The display evokes the experience of interacting with a book online, looking at and then touching images for more information. (Think of Look inside -> and the little white Mickey Mouse glove that serves as proxy for our hand, when we flip the sample pages.) The effect of the displayed covers—and the requirement that the customer “do” something interactive, point and click, in order to “unlock” the price is to transform books into physical web links, words into hypertext. It is as if an airport bookstore has been turned into a video game.

To write a good translation, at a certain point I have to forget the text I’m translating exists. Only then can I read my translation without “seeing through it” the foreign-language text “underneath” – that is, the way virtually everyone else who reads my translation is going to read (and assess) it. Beyond that, I don’t agree that fluidity is necessarily always a goal. A good translation respects and, therefore, reflects the author’s style and vocabulary: Where the author’s writing is choppy, mine should also be. Where it’s harsh or stilted or opaque, or lyrical and flowing, or unambiguous, my writing should be too. When the author conforms to convention, so should I; when they bend or break it, I need to do the same. This assumes the author intended these effects. On the other hand, it can happen that an author’s writing comes across as awkward when in fact it was a result of poor (or non-existent) editing, rather than a deliberate style. This is where it can get tricky.

Happy reading!