paper trail

Jonathan Coe on Brexit

Lydia Davis

Jonathan Coe—author of What a Carve Up!, The Rain Before It Falls, and The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim—has been named “France’s favourite British author" and an officer in France’s Order of Arts and Letters. Coe is calling the honor “bittersweet,” following the Britain’s vote to leave the EU last week: “Yes, it’s a bittersweet feeling to have had this recognition from France in the week that Britain has turned its back on the rest of Europe,” says the novelist. “But it’s more important than ever, now, that British writers build a close relationship with their European readers, and try to remind them, among other things, that the views of those who voted to leave the EU . . . don’t tell the whole story about the UK and its people.” Meanwhile, other authors have shared their feelings about Brexit on Twitter. Neil Gaiman: “Dear UK, good luck. I’m afraid you’re going to need it.”

Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti—the ninety-seven-year-old founder of City Lights Publishing who championed many Beat writers—has finished the first draft of To the Light House. It’s not a straightforward memoir, but according to the poet, it’s “the closest thing to a memoir" he’ll ever write.

Bill Cunningham, the New York Times photographer and the subject of the documentary Bill Cunningham New York, has died. At the New Yorker, Hilton Als remembers Cunningham, writing, "His camera made black beauty and female beauty democratic. Through his lens, we were not anthropological artifacts so much as part of the life of the city he made his home, a place where he could be privately open about his interest in most things, but I think especially men of color, who still rarely get to be memorialized without it becoming a big deal, a statement."

Editor and author Blake Eskin (A Life in Pieces: The Making and Unmaking of Binjamin Wilkomirski) has penned a response to a photo of Amy Schumer’s photo shoot in the May issue of Vanity Fair. In one of the shots, the comedian is wearing a t-shirt that says “No Coffee No Workee,” which, as Eskin points out, is “an old caricature of Chinese immigrant speech.” She also appears in a Vogue magazine video that features “sound effects from a kung-fu movie” and ends with a gong. Eskin notes: “I would like to see Amy Schumer acknowledge her participation in reinforcing these stereotypes, even if it wasn’t her idea. Beyond that, I wish the folks over at Condé Nast could create an editorial environment that can save them from making jokes that they don’t fully understand.”

At Words without Borders, Lydia Davis considers some of the thornier questions faced by translators. For instance, does she think it’s a good idea to correct mistakes that exist in the original. “There are errors in Proust,” she responds. “I forget the specifics now, but he refers in one spot to four friends on a trip to Italy together and in another spot specifies three. But I believe it is very important not to tamper with the content of the original in that way, much as one might be tempted. One of the obligations of a translator is to try to reproduce something like the way the text is experienced by a native reader. Mistakes and all . . . I would, though, want to say something about the mistake in an endnote.”