On the Books: Juan Gabriel Vasquez becomes first South American writer to win IMPAC award

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Image Credit: Niall Carson/AP

Juan Gabriel Vásquez won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for The Sound of Things Falling, making him the first South American writer to do so. The prize is one of the most prestigious and highest-paying ($135,000) in the world, and honors a novel written or translated into English. Judges culled The Sound of Things Falling from a longlist of 152 titles in 17 original languages. “I love that fact about this prize, that translated novels are considered on the same level as novels originally published in English, and secondly its international nature,” Vásquez said. “The prize this year has been awarded to a Colombian novelist and a Canadian translator who met in Spain while the translator was living in England, and the prize is awarded in Dublin, so it’s that great kind of cosmopolitan thing.” [The Guardian]

The New York Times interviewed Hillary Clinton for its “by the book” series to find out what she reads. Unsurprisingly, the former Secretary of State has really good taste — but it is surprising that she reads so much considering how busy she is. To begin, Clinton loves Alice Munro, Barbara Kingsolver, John le Carré, John Grisham, Hilary Mantel, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Alexander McCall Smith. Who has time to read Hillary Mantel books while being Secretary of State and running for president? Her answers are appropriately diplomatic – she seems to have read at least one thing that anyone can tassociate with. Right now, she’s in the middle of The Goldfinch, a Maya Angelou book, and a Harlan Coben novel. And, like every political candidate, the Bible “was and remains the biggest influence on [her] thinking.” Weirdly, Clinton also suggests that she doesn’t quite believe Shakespeare wrote everything attributed to him, an opinion shared by fellow liberal political icon John Paul Stevens. [The New York Times]

In a major fair use decision, the Second Circuit court ruled that a digital preservation system of books, similar to Google Books, is legal. The system is run by a company called Hathitrust, and provides an indexed and searchable database of book scans contributed by libraries. The Authors Guild sued Hathitrust, arguing that the book scans were unauthorized and prevented authors from creating and profiting their own system of digital preservation. The court rejected that reasoning and ruled that the database is permissible under fair use laws. “ALA is pleased that the court recognizes the tremendous value of libraries in securing the massive record of human knowledge on behalf of the general public and in providing lawful access to works for research, educational, and learning purposes, including access for people with disabilities,” commented American Library Association president Barbara Stripling. The ruling can potentially influence the still-in-progress legal turmoil surrounding Google Books, which is under scrutiny by the same fair use laws. [Publishers Weekly]

Charles Wright has been named the new Poet Laureate of the United States. He’s written over 20 published poetry collections, mostly inspired by settings in the south — he’s a retired professor at the University of Virginia. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, who awards the honor, described Wright’s poetry as “an infinite array of beautiful words reflected with constant freshness.” Wright has previously won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. [The New York Times]

Karl Ove Knausgaard wrote about the shamefulness of being famous. The author become a celebrity in Norway for his six-volume series about his life, an honest, if painstaking, marathon that uses real names and became a popular phenomonon in the country. Volumes 1-3 have been translated into English, and it’s been widely celebrated in the English-language critical community as well. For Knausgaard, writing and reading literature is a matter of selflessness. “The paradox is that fame, which emphasizes the individual, is so closely linked to selflessness, which is the obliteration of the individual,” he writes. Meanwhile, over at The New Yorker, Evan Hughes wonders why Knausgaard might have named his book ofter Hitler’s. [New York Times]

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