Literary Tupac-ism, or the case of the posthumous authors
Brandon Stosuy wrote in the VLS a few years back:
In 2001, W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz had barely hatched when its expat German author died in an auto accident near Norwich, England. The book came of age in its creator's absence. As a steady stream of miscellany, new translations, and critical exegesis in books about World War II has emerged, Sebald's posthumous trajectory resembles, of all things, that of slain West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur. An Inside a Thug's Heart/Campo Santo mash-up is a pipe dream, but both artists' beyond-the-grave success is a lesson in memory's resonance and Sebald's refrain that the dead are still around us (cf. Shakur's "How Long Will They Mourn Me?").
[An aside: Can someone please tell news websites to stop adding automated-seeming hyperlinks to every other word? Like, I really want to jump to all instances of "Long Will"???]
I thought of literary Tupac-ism twice recently—upon seeing the ARC of yet another Roberto Bolaño book, and again on reading Charles McGrath's piece on the afterlife of Stieg Larsson. I seem to remember (and seem to remember noting somewhere, perhaps on this blog) someone saying that even the unfinished stuff on Bolaño's hard drive could be considered for publication—their very incompleteness a commentary on his fate/career. (And I remember noting, as I note again now: Did I just this make this up? Can anyone find this? I think it was a tiny thing in a TLS...maybe in that "J.C." column.)
The most tantalizing part of McGrath's piece is the existence of a fourth, unfinished novel on Larsson's hard drive, which is in the possession of his longtime partner Eva Gabrielsson (who is at loggerheads with his father and brother over his literary estate)...
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I'm also reminded of this recent NYT piece about the late Yiddish writer Chaim Grade; his widow Inna Hecker Grade's recent passing means that more scholars and translators might have the opportunity to work on his writings. (She was notoriously difficult with those interested in translating her husband's work, resulting in less exposure and ironically causing his star to dim.)
The story rang a bell, not because I'd ever heard of Grade, but because last year I read Joseph Epstein's short story "Beyond the Pale" (which is in the 2010 edition of The Best American Short Stories) about a young Time reporter whose interest in Yiddish leads him to pursue a great but obscure writer named Zalman Belzner. Belzner's wife, Gerda (= anagram for Grade!) is so loyal to the idea of her husband's greatness that she defeats every attempt at translation and proselytizing. (Like Irma, she's staunchly anti–Isaac Bashevis Singer.)
To be continued...