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"Ntozake Shange, Who Wrote "For Colored Girls," Is Dead at 70" by Laura Collins-Hughes on nytimes.com
"Edward Albee, Playwright of a Desperate Generation, Dies at 88" by Bruce Weber on nytimes.com "Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Edward Albee Dead at 88" by Adam Howard on nbcnews.com "Edward Albee, Audacious American Playwright, Dies at 88" by Suzy Evans on hollywoodreporter.com Edward Albee was born in Virginia, possibly in a Washington, DC suburb, and possibly even in Washington, DC itself.
Stefan Zweig would be on my short-short list of "Greatest Writers Ever." The two novellas I have read by him, "The Royal Game" (1941, "Schachnovelle" in German) and "Amok" (1922, Der Amokläufe in German), are as good as any short stories I've ever read, and if someone held a gun to my head, and forced me to pick the single greatest short story I've ever read, it would be "The Royal Game" (and, quite frankly, I don't have any idea what the runner-up would be). It is, in my eyes, an almost-perfect novella, especially its structure in A-B-AB form - it's like reading a Beethoven Sonata. To put the admittedly hyperbolic statements above in perspective, Fyodor Dostoyevsky would also be on that list, which you could count with the fingers of one hand. Structure and architecture are two extremely important things to me, and Zweig's structure cannot be improved upon - it's like reading a Bach Fugue. There's one potentially ruinous thing about "The Royal Game," and that is the translation. Zweig was personal friends with Sigmund Freud, and human psychology is an integral part of his writing - for this reason alone, it is imperative to find a well-translated version of his works. The book that DIShGo read (which I own, "The Royal Game & Other Stories") is translated in the fashion of "stuffy British English," and I cannot even find the name of the translator, though I've only spent about fifteen minutes looking online. The first time I read "The Royal Game" was nearly twenty years ago, and it was the subject being discussed in a book that was called something like, "What Is Art?" I lent it to a friend, and never got it back. , so I remember neither the exact name of the book, nor the name of the translator, but *that* version was what reeled me in like a fish; this four-story anthology is a crime against humanity for what it did to Zweig's masterpiece. Oh, the story is still there, and you'll see how wonderful it is, but that extra 10% of magic is gone due to the formality of the language used - Zweig desperately needs to be translated in an almost conversational style since his works deal with such intense human emotion; the compendium available on Amazon makes you feel like you're reading a news article instead of reading Zweig's own words. I feel helpless, not being able to recommend a good translation to you, because it is absolutely imperative. Anyway, I leafed through this translation (the compendium on Amazon), and was aghast at the writing style. Phrases and words that you'll simply never hear spoken in your entire life are used with regularity, and it actually made me *sad* that people are reading this, thinking they're reading Zweig. Regardless, I decided to bite my lip, and read the second story in the compendium, "Amok," and even with this stiff language, it is abundantly clear that I was reading a masterpiece - a work that could have only been written by an author so profound that even a stuffy translator couldn't ruin it. "Amok" was an unbelievably great novella, the kind of story that you *hate* putting down because you have to be somewhere - it's only forty pages long, so can be easily read - savored - in a couple hours of focused attention. I will not ruin the story for you, at least not in this post, but perhaps if anyone wishes to discuss it, I'll include a prominent *** SPOILERS *** section so as not to ruin it for the uninitiated - but not yet. "Amok' was a story so engaging that I might come out and say it's the second-greatest novella I've ever read; yet, according to DIShGo, it may not even be the second-best novella in this one compendium! There is very little chance at this point of me finding out the name of the original book I had, much less the translator, but I can say with confidence to avoid this edition on Amazon. "The Royal Game" is clearly divided into three sections, and was labeled as such; *this* compendium doesn't even have the decency to label the "sections" 1, 2, and 3 - it just crams everything together. Never have I read a story that is so clearly demarcated - a child could have put in the section numbers without even knowing anything about the novella. "The Royal Game" was published just before Zweig committed suicide. I wonder if he knew, deep down inside, that he had produced a work of such profundity that it could never again be matched. Almost surely not - Zweig had some personal problems, but they came out in full Technicolor in his writing - writing that can only be described with one word in the English language: genius. Never have I raved about an author like this, and once you read Zweig's works, you'll understand why. You'll *hate* it when they end. I must add that I have read precisely two novellas by Zweig, hardly making me an expert, so this essay must be tempered with the appropriate grain of salt. That said, I'm so confident in this man's genius, that I could commit to reading *only him* for the rest of my life, and if the body of work was large enough, it would be a life well-spent. --- This is important, so keep reading! PS - There is hope! My friend answered my desperate text message with a response - the book is called "Understanding the Arts," (*) and it was written by John Hospers. I don't understand how book sellers can sell books on Amazon for one cent, but it seems to be available in some fashion on Amazon.com (can anyone explain this to me? They charge $3.99 for shipping, but that hardly makes them any money). Anyway, my friend couldn't find the translator, but he told me to research "the 1972 Viking Penguin reprint," because that's the one they use in this book. I asked him to type out the first sentence of the translation, and it is this: "The big liner, due to sail from New York to Buenos Aires at midnight, was filled with the activity and bustle incident to the last hour...." - that is the edition that you want. Interestingly, my friend and I are also chatting, and he said the only reason he found the book was because he's insisting that his friend read "Schachnovelle," adding, "It is the greatest short story I know," and this guy is a hyper-genius. Get this edition and read it! (*) OMFG - the entire edition is online! It's not the most enjoyable way to read a book, but you can at least *read the book* if you don't mind scrolling through the pages (I personally *hate* doing this - it's like listening to a great piece of music through a pair of earbuds, and in my opinion, ruins the experience).
I also meant to recommend The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien. I can't conceive of anything better calculated to lift the spirits and divert the imagination. And then you might want to read Flann O'Brien's other astonishing masterpiece, At Swim-Two-Birds. I think I should probably reread these myself.