From cabaret to the Nuremberg trials

The shortlist for this year’s Diagram Prize for the oddest book title of the year was announced last week, with the winner to be declared on 28 July. Last year’s winner of the prize was Too naked for the Nazis by Alan Stafford (C212.c.7711), a biography of the music hall dance act Wilson, Keppel and Betty. As a Germanophile, this title caught my eye but I was then pleased to find further German connections as Betty Knox, the original Betty, got to know Erika Mann, the daughter of Thomas Mann.

The explanation of the book’s title is that in the mid-1930s the trio had performed in Berlin and Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister, had been in the audience. He found the bare legs of Wilson and Keppel (skinny and with bony knees, part of the humour of the act) to be indecent and bad for the morals of the Nazi youth. Continue reading

Serbia’s Great War in photographs : the May 2017 Slavonic item of the month

The Kingdom of Serbia’s involvement in the First World War saw a proportional loss of life which far outstripped that of the other Allies.  Ratni album (War album), published in Belgrade in 1926, commemorates the war with both reverence and realism.  From photographic portraits of victorious generals to pictures of the combatant and civilian dead, this extraordinary volume captures it all.

The front cover, with a standard ruler along the left to provide scale.  Close-ups of some details of the cover are provided at the end of this post.

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Juan Rulfo

16 May 2017 marks the centenary of Juan Rulfo, one of Spanish literature’s most revered and mysterious writers. Few other authors in any language have attained such mythic status on the basis of such a slim body of work. Rulfo is generally considered, along with Carlos Fuentes and Octavio Paz, to be one of the three most important figures of 20th Century Mexican literature. However, unlike the vast reams of prose and poetry written by his two compatriots, and their international standing as literary lions and esteemed intellectuals, Rulfo published very little and remained an ambiguous and elusive public figure.

Juan Rulfo by Ricardo Salazar

Portrait of Juan Rulfo by Ricardo Salazar, early 1950s

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French prizewinners 2016

Literary prizes are a good indicator of the quality of a work of fiction, and a criterion that the Library uses when collecting novels in foreign languages. Books that have won major French prizes are bought every year – see previous lists for 2009-2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

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2016 French prizewinners

Titles and classmarks of the main French prizewinners from 2016 are now available in our catalogue:

Prix Goncourt: Chanson douce : roman by Leïla Slimani, C204.d.9342

Prix Renaudot: Babylone by Yasmina Reza, C204.d.9327

Prix Renaudot essai: Le monde libre by Aude Lancelin, C212.c.3101 Continue reading

Gete = Goethe in Russian : the April 2017 Slavonic item(s) of the month

In the last couple of weeks, we have taken delivery of a wonderful new addition to our collections: the earliest published Russian translation of Goethe’s Faust (1838).  This joins two similar relative newcomers – the first full(ish) Russian Faust (1844) and the first Russian translation of another Goethe work, Götz von Berlichingen (1828).

The title page of the 1844 translation of Faust.

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