Norah Lange: finally, ‘Borges’s muse’ gets her time in the spotlight

A groundbreaking poet and novelist, Lange has been reduced to a decorative footnote in male authors’ careers. Might the first English translation of her fiction change that?

Outside Greek mythology, muses are passive; artists are active. One inspires, the other creates. The two roles are not mutually exclusive, though it is rare to be remembered as both. Norah Lange was renowned for her beauty and flamboyance. A young Jorge Luis Borges, arguably Argentina’s most famous literary export, once gushed about “the double brilliance of [Lange’s] hair and her haughty youth”. These days, Lange is largely remembered as a muse for Borges and for the Martin Fierro group of writers and the Ultraist literary movement.

There’s just one problem with this narrative: Lange was an author herself. She wrote groundbreaking, avant-garde fiction that was well received during her lifetime.

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Stoya: ‘I thought female sexuality was an OK thing?’

The porn star says her book, Philosophy, Pussycats and Porn, is an attempt to find a ‘serious language’ for sex

Dubbed “the pop star of porn” by Village Voice, Stoya is an award-winning performer in adult films, a director, a podcast host and, among other credits I don’t have space to list, an all-round entrepreneur. She’s both a vocal defender of the porn industry and one of its most nuanced commentators. “When I first considered performing in a hardcore pornographic video, I also thought about what sort of career doors would close once I’d had sex in front of a camera,” she mused recently in the New York Times. “Being a schoolteacher came to mind, but that was fine, since I didn’t want the responsibility of shaping young minds. And yet thanks to this country’s non-functional sex education system and the ubiquitous access to porn by anyone with an ...

Özgür Mumcu: ‘The old world is dying – perfect background for storytelling’

He is a Turkish journalist who has risked jail to write about President Erdoğan, and the son of an assassinated writer – yet Mumcu’s debut novel is a rollicking steampunk adventure

For Samuel Johnson, the goal of writing was “to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it”. Özgür Mumcu’s The Peace Machine does both: it is as much a rollicking Ottoman steampunk adventure – full of wit, tongue-twisters and roguish escapism – as it is a carnivalesque take on contemporary politics.

Mumcu – a Turkish journalist, academic, free-speech activist, now novelist and generally dashing polymath – carries a lightness in his prose that runs counter to the weight of his life. Its burdens began when he was a teenager with the assassination of his journalist father. Turkey currently ranks 157th (out of 180 countries) on the World Press Freedom index and Mumcu has followed his ...

Brief encounters: what are the best short novels?

It won’t take much longer to read You Were Never Really Here than watch the new film – so it’s a good moment to celebrate the lasting joys of brevity

As Nabokov said, “a good reader is a re-reader”. But how many times have you read In Search of Lost Time? Exactly. Sure, those big novels have a certain literary allure. Making it to that final page is like an Odyssey in itself, never mind the plot. But wouldn’t it be nice if they could just get to the point? Or, maybe, be enjoyable enough that you’d like to dip back into them sometime? Here, we celebrate those novels that can squeeze eternity into an hour (or four). Those wonderful books that do a lot with a little and, graciously, never outstay their welcome.

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Gil Jordan: the great Belgian detective you’ve never heard of

Long eclipsed in English by Tintin, Maurice Tillieux’s cool, sharp investigator has a good claim to being the world’s best private eye In Belgium and France, Maurice Tillieux is as lauded as Asterix creator René Goscinny. You’ve likely never heard of him. But Gil Jordan – Tillieux’s signature creation – may be the comic world’s greatest detective (sorry Batman). While Asterix made his English debut in the late 1960s – a mere decade after the diminutive Gaul was created – it wasn’t until 2011 that English-language readers got two Gil Jordan mysteries, both of which, by then, were more than half a century old. This month, Anglophones are getting two more; that’s (slow) progress. Born in 1921, Tillieux grew up in Belgium loving cinema, slapstick comedy and crime fiction. Despite having his illustrations published in Le Moustique magazine in his mid-teens, he wanted to join the merchant navy. His naval ...

The Icelandic publisher that only prints books during a full moon – then burns them

Tunglið is a tiny imprint that defies conventional business models, incinerating work that doesn’t sell immediately. Its creators explain their ‘poetic act’ For Tunglið, how you publish is as important as what you publish. Named after the Icelandic word for the moon, the tiny publisher prints its books in batches of 69 on the night of a full moon. So far, so weird. But keen readers must also buy their books that same night, as the publisher burns all unsold copies. Weirder still. Why? While most books can survive centuries or even millennia, Tunglið – as its two employees tell me – “uses all the energy of publishing to fully charge a few hours instead of spreading it out over centuries … For one glorious evening, the book and its author are fully alive. And then, the morning after, everyone can get on with their lives.” Continue reading...

The Icelandic publisher that only prints books during a full moon – then burns them

Tunglið is a tiny imprint that defies conventional business models, incinerating work that doesn’t sell immediately. Its creators explain their ‘poetic act’ For Tunglið, how you publish is as important as what you publish. Named after the Icelandic word for the moon, the tiny publisher prints its books in batches of 69 on the night of a full moon. So far, so weird. But keen readers must also buy their books that same night, as the publisher burns all unsold copies. Weirder still. Why? While most books can survive centuries or even millennia, Tunglið – as its two employees tell me – “uses all the energy of publishing to fully charge a few hours instead of spreading it out over centuries … For one glorious evening, the book and its author are fully alive. And then, the morning after, everyone can get on with their lives.” Continue reading...

Pride and Prejudice and progress: the best second novels of all time

Debuts hog the publishing limelight, but a glance back at some great books, from Jane Austen to James Joyce, shows that we shouldn’t neglect sophomores A lifetime goes into your first novel. A deadline fuels your second. Much as the “difficult second album” is a product of the modern music industry, the “difficult second novel” results from the pressures in modern publishing. If you have a hit, they’ll want another. Pronto. Ian McGuire may have missed out on last year’s Man Booker with his novel The North Water, but on Wednesday it scooped the Royal Society of Literature’s Encore award, given out to recognise the challenges of writing second novels. While McGuire’s debut Incredible Bodies was a satire, The North Water is a harsh, realistic book about whaling in 1850. Continue reading...

Pride and Prejudice and progress: the best second novels of all time

Debuts hog the publishing limelight, but a glance back at some great books, from Jane Austen to James Joyce, shows that we shouldn’t neglect sophomores A lifetime goes into your first novel. A deadline fuels your second. Much as the “difficult second album” is a product of the modern music industry, the “difficult second novel” results from the pressures in modern publishing. If you have a hit, they’ll want another. Pronto. Ian McGuire may have missed out on last year’s Man Booker with his novel The North Water, but on Wednesday it scooped the Royal Society of Literature’s Encore award, given out to recognise the challenges of writing second novels. While McGuire’s debut Incredible Bodies was a satire, The North Water is a harsh, realistic book about whaling in 1850. Continue reading...

Pride and Prejudice and progress: the best second novels of all time

Debuts hog the publishing limelight, but a glance back at some great books, from Jane Austen to James Joyce, shows that we shouldn’t neglect sophomores A lifetime goes into your first novel. A deadline fuels your second. Much as the “difficult second album” is a product of the modern music industry, the “difficult second novel” results from the pressures in modern publishing. If you have a hit, they’ll want another. Pronto. Ian McGuire may have missed out on last year’s Man Booker with his novel The North Water, but on Wednesday it scooped the Royal Society of Literature’s Encore award, given out to recognise the challenges of writing second novels. While McGuire’s debut Incredible Bodies was a satire, The North Water is a harsh, realistic book about whaling in 1850. Continue reading...

Pride and Prejudice and progress: the best second novels of all time

Debuts hog the publishing limelight, but a glance back at some great books, from Jane Austen to James Joyce, shows that we shouldn’t neglect sophomores A lifetime goes into your first novel. A deadline fuels your second. Much as the “difficult second album” is a product of the modern music industry, the “difficult second novel” results from the pressures in modern publishing. If you have a hit, they’ll want another. Pronto. Ian McGuire may have missed out on last year’s Man Booker with his novel The North Water, but on Wednesday it scooped the Royal Society of Literature’s Encore award, given out to recognise the challenges of writing second novels. While McGuire’s debut Incredible Bodies was a satire, The North Water is a harsh, realistic book about whaling in 1850. Continue reading...

Turkish Delight: can the sexually explicit Dutch classic still shock?

On the school syllabus in the Netherlands, Jan Wolkers’ novel – that will offend some – reads wonderfully, but leaves uneasy questions about its treatment of women It begins with an epigraph from Tintin, in which two villains argue over who is “wickeder”, then opens proper with an unnamed narrator masturbating over nude photos of his departed lover, Olga, and rereading her old letters: “While I’m writing this to you my cunt is making sucking motions, like a baby’s mouth,” reads one. This mixture of sexual candour, uncomfortable analogies and theatrical villainy sets the tone for Jan Wolkers’ Turkish Delight, a Dutch classic about a bohemian sculptor’s obsessive relationship – a new translation of which is about to be published by Tin House Books. In the age of the internet, lines like “dry cunts with warts inside. Nasty to the touch but nice on the dick,” or “I LOVE ...

Simon Hanselmann: ‘I hate twee art. Life is not nice’

His cult comic Megg, Mogg and Owl riffs on depression and addiction. Now the TV networks want a part of it. Hanselmann speaks about his love-hate relationship with 4chan, breaking into building sites and life as ‘sentient meat’

When I emailed Simon Hanselmann about doing this interview, he responded: “Let’s hit this shit. Just got home from breaking into a construction site.” The email was sent at 6am.

What was he doing at a construction site? Following a heavy drinking session in Melbourne with his friend and fellow artist HTMLflowers, the two of them had climbed a 12-storey crane. “Beautiful views of the city,” he muses. “Very, very easily could have died. They really need better security at that site.”

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