Germanophilic readers! I’m really happy to share with you the cover designs for the German (Swiss) and Swedish editions of The Possessed.
Die Besessenen comes out this fall with the super-cool Kein & Aber. I love the image of some chick prostrated, clearly by the power of literature, on a green grass-like background:
I believe this is a visual allusion to the story of my first-ever magazine photo shoot:
I had to lie on my back on a piece of fluorescent green imitation fur, clutching to my bosom a Russian-language volume of Dostoevsky. The photographer stood over me on a ladder, snapping pictures. His assistant… opined that the pictures were coming out “too sultry”. She said I was showing “too much neck”. Overcoming a sense of injustice – if I hadn’t been lying on my back on some kind of pornographic fur carpet, maybe my neck wouldn’t have looked so sultry – I changed into a higher collar. Because the cover of the Dostoevsky was so brown, we switched to a green leatherette Pushkin. “Look like you’re reading,” the photographer suggested. Opening the book at random, I found myself staring at the epilogue to “The Gypsies”: “There is no defence against fate.”
(You can see the resulting photo on this page – scroll down, or just do a text search for “CAN’T SAY NYET.”)
There is no defense against fate, but against sultriness of the neck, that girl is protected by her upraised arm – just another example of the inimitable Swiss touch of class.
Speaking of decorum, I also greatly enjoyed the fact-checking process, which included a query of Grisha Freidin’s suggestion that the Isaac Babel exhibit include “the withered genitalia of an aging Semite” (p44 in the FSG edition):
K&A: We had a bit of a discussion about this, as our German translations of “The Rabbi’s Son” mention the youth who was dying in a corner…and “die hinfällige zarte Männlichkeit“. Freidin’s error? Would you like me to change something here?
BATUMAN: No, Babel really does mention the withered genitalia of an aging Semite.1
I’m also very excited about Besatta (or, as I like to think of it, THE BESOTTED), forthcoming from Stockholm powerhouse Natur & Kultur in early 2012. The cover is a “Swedish paraphrase” (by Henrik Lange) of the original Roz Chast design:
In addition to drawing “the one-box-comic-strips for Svensk Bokhandel (the Swedish equivalent of Publishers Weekly),” Henrik Lange is the author of the frenetic and widely translated compendium 90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry.
I like this one very much:
But I somehow suspect I would like this one even better:
- “…его половые части, эту чахлую, курчавую мужественность исчахшего семита.” ↩
Tags: 5-star reviews of books by living authors, author photos, beards, book reviews, fact-checking, German literary culture, publications, Pushkin, Russian literature, THE POSSESSED, translation, writers