Penguin Classics Newsletter | March/April 2010


Two New Classics by the Writer Haruki Murakami Calls "The Representative Modern Japanese Novelist"

Kokoro, Natsume Soseki's best-loved novel, comes to Penguin Classics in the first new English translation in more than fifty years, and Sanshiro, Soseki's only coming-of-age novel (written at the time of Japan's own coming of age), comes to us in a translation by Jay Rubin, the translator of Haruki Murakami's Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and with an introduction by Haruki Murakami himself, who calls Sanshiro his personal favorite of Soseki's novels.

In these novels, which join Soseki's Kusamakura in the Penguin Classics, you see Japan's early twentieth century transformation enacted in the clash between young, cosmopolitan Japanese adolescents and the old guard of tradition- and honor-bound imperial Japan. If you've never read Soseki, a treat awaits you in the gently humorous, faintly romantic character of these beguiling novels.

See some of our other Japanese titles here.



Borges the Poet

Unprecedented in any language, our two new poetry collections by the Argentine master Jorge Luis Borges are published for National Poetry Month in April and for the 200th anniversary of Argentina's independence from Spain. The Sonnets brings together all of Borges's work in this form, and Poems of the Night is a thematic selection about nighttime and darkness that spans Borges's career and speaks implicitly to his late-life blindness. Each volume features many poems appearing in English for the first time, in translations by Edith Grossman, W. S. Merwin, Stephen Kessler, Alastair Reid, Willis Barnstone, and Mark Strand, among others, and presents Borges's Spanish originals opposite their English translations.

See our other Borges titles here.



"The sun's gone dim, and
         The moon's turned black;
For I loved him, and
         He didn't love back."

Full of sparkling wit and scathing satire, Dorothy Parker's Complete Poems is the perfect companion for anyone who appreciates a poet who can tell it like it is. Whether Parker lets her biting tongue loose on office politics, the New York social scene, actors, bohemians, reformers, or the less fair sex, the results are always the perfect mix of side-splitting humor and utterly beautiful language. Particularly candid in her treatment of men—whom she conveniently categorizes as "The Serious Thinkers," "The Cave Men," "The Sensitive Souls," or the ones "Who Are Simply Steeped in Crime," Parker amuses even the stuffiest of readers with her frank and clever verse. Penguin Classics' newly updated edition includes previously unpublished work, as well as an introduction by Parker biographer Marion Meade.

See our other Dorothy Parker titles here.


Lives of Roman Christian Women

Ever heard of Perpetua, Felicitas, Macrina, Marcella, or Paula? Probably not, though we are all well aware of St. Paul, Augustine, and Jerome. Historically, women have struggled for visibility and recognition, but in Lives of Roman Christian Women, a unique collection of biographies and letters, some of the most impressive but least-known women in Christianity are finally given their due. Translator and editor Carolinne White resurrects a cast of women who were so extraordinary that they bear witness not only to a religion but also to an empire. This unprecedented volume will astound and inspire.



Clothbound, Spring Ahead

Spring is here! At least on your bookshelf, with the new bright and cheery set of hardcover classics designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith. The Tim Burton-directed, Johnny Depp-starring Alice in Wonderland will inspire you to read our pink flamingo-covered hardcover. Book lovers will spot personal favorites in Emma (chairs!), Lady Chatterley's Lover (phoenix!), The Odyssey (ocean waves!), and Treasure Island (parrots!). Add to your growing collection with these clothbound classics in a striking color palette and whimsical motifs.




Campus Classic: Homer's Odyssey as an Introduction to Literature

For each Penguin Classics Newsletter we invite a professor to share an experience of teaching with a Penguin Classic. Inspired by the Ten Essential Penguin Classics video, Christopher Syrnyk chose the Penguin Classics edition of Homer's Odyssey to begin his Introduction to Literature course.

On the first day of my Introduction to Literature course, I brought in all of the Penguin Ten Essential Classics and lined them up chronologically on a desk. I informed the class that we would use the "Ten" to explore how literature takes shape over time, that literature serves to accumulate culture and to create culture. Likewise, our roles as learners and readers perpetuate literature's cultural, historical, and social value. Considering the amount of time represented by these texts-over two thousand years-it was now our turn to read these texts, as part of our own culture, in our own time, in order to learn how literature can inform our own sense of humanity.

I explained that we would put Penguin's editors to the test: this semester we were going to actively question why so many people consider these ten works "essential," as well as what earns a work the reputation of a "classic." I suggested that we could develop these ideas of "essential" and "classic" by examining how our ten "required" texts have also "inspired" others to carry forth the ideas contained within Penguin's Ten Essential Classics.

Given The Odyssey as our first required text, we imagined how the experience of reading this work differed from the experience of listening to a poet declaim it. We "mused" what makes a work of literature "epic," from its scope to how it crosses oceans of time. Further, the class discussed whether Odysseus deserved the title of an "epic hero," the "food-and-gift" nature of hospitality in antiquity, and the toll of war on families in the ancient world. We also pondered the fickle sweep of the gods' influence and interference, and the nature of father and son relationships, even when the absent father is Odysseus—how all of these issues inform our sense of literature.

Given the many inspired texts, we read the Nobel Laureate Joseph Brodsky's poem-as-letter "Odysseus to Telemachus" and we discussed how the Coen brothers sampled the topoi of Homer's world and recast these in O Brother, Where Art Thou? The class sampled a podcast from the BBC's World Book Club of Derek Walcott talking about his Omeros and how it didn't serve as a mere transference of The Iliad and The Odyssey, but stood as a work of associations inspired by Homer, not derivations, and an epic in its own right. Lastly, we made a solid academic nod to Joyce's Ulysses and how an epic can literally be contained within one fateful day. Getting The Odyssey under our collective belt was itself an epic feat: we clearly took in all the "good things that lay at hand" which Homer set forth in his grand human story.

Christopher Syrnyk
Instructor of English—Liberal Arts Transfer Program
Madison Area Technical College
Course: Introduction to Literature



Penguin Classics Book Club! is delighted to welcome the Penguin Classics Book Club hosted by Kathy Gursky, our Penguin Classics Librarian. Kathy's popular book club discussion and blog will be coming to the Penguin Classics homepage soon, and her first selection will be the recently released Penguin Classics edition of Celestina by Fernando de Rojas. Celestina is a racy and irreverent Spanish tragicomedy that is considered the first European novel. Now in a new translation, this Spanish Romeo and Juliet paved the way for the picaresque novel and for Cervantes, and is a delight to read and discuss.



"Penguin Classics Presents" with B&N's "Writers on Writers"

Penguin Classics and Barnes & Noble's "Writers on Writers" series teamed up this February for three successful panel discussions. The series kicked off with authors Keith Gessen and Anya Ulinich talking about "Why Russian Literature Matters" with A Hero of Our Time translator Natasha Randall and Columbia University professor Ronald Meyer.

Then there was the much-needed February 15th "Dorothy Parker Post-Valentine's Day Recovery Night," which would have made the late author very proud. In a discussion about Parker's work was Parker biographer Marion Meade and Kevin Fitzpatrick, president of the Dorothy Parker Society, with a special performance by Brooklyn burlesque star Miss M.

Finally we had an all-star cast of intellectual powerhouses discussing "What Makes an African American Classic." Dayo Olopade, journalist for, moderated a captivating conversation with Columbia professor Farah Jasmine Griffin and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

See the three books selected by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., for his African American Classics series with Penguin Classics: Iola Leroy by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, God's Trombones by James Weldon Johnson, and The Portable Charles W. Chesnutt.





For more than sixty years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world, providing readers with a global bookshelf of the best works from around the world, throughout history, and across genres and disciplines. We focus on bringing together the best of the past and the future, using cutting-edge design and production as well as embracing the digital age to create unforgettable editions of treasured literature. Penguin Classics is timeless and trend-setting. Whether you love our familiar black-spine series, our Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions, or our Penguin Enriched eBook Classics, we bring the writer to the reader in every format available.

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Reading the Classics from A to Z
Marathon 2


With one complete cycle under his belt, Alan Walker, our Senior Director of Academic Marketing and Sales, embarks on yet another Penguin Classics reading marathon of one book by an author per letter of the alphabet. Check out the Penguin Classics website for Alan's latest blog entries (H), as well as his entire first marathon.


Classics Calendar

Peter Bush: "The Shock of the New: Re-translating Celestina"

March 29, UCLA

March 30, UC Santa Barbara

March 31, Center for the Art of Translation, San Francisco

April 1, Monterey Institute of International Studies

April 5, University of Chicago

April 7, The Lilley Library, University of Indiana at Bloomington

April 8, The Center for Translation in the Humanities, University of Texas at Dallas

April 12, Kent State University, Ohio

April 13, Oberlin College

April 14, Montclair State University, New Jersey

April 15, Instituto Cervantes, New York City

April 19, Princeton University

April 20, Boston University


Listen and enjoy Penguin Classics On Air, a new online audio program from The Publisher's Office at Written, produced, and hosted by the Penguin Classics staff, Penguin Classics On Air presents episodes on the first Mexican American novelist, vampires, philosophy with jokes, the Swedish Gone with the Wind, Tolstoy's last days, and many more. Enjoy interviews with specialists and scholars, excerpts from Alan Walker's Reading the Classics from A to Z blog, and First Pages with Editor in Chief Stephen Morrison.

This season features "From Graffiti Art to Gallers, from Hip Hop to 'Hope': Keith Haring, a Radiant Classic" with interviews with Shepard Fairey, Fab 5 Freddy, Jeffrey Deitch, and Julia Gruen on the life and legacy of Keith Haring, twenty years after his death and in time for the publication of the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Haring's Journals.

The Ten Essential Penguin Classics

It's SNL meets PBS! Watch our new homemade video, The Top Ten Essential Penguin Classics, written, directed, and starring Penguin Classics staffers. Visit the minisite to read the roundtable discussion about the top ten selection, enter into the sweepstakes, and read more about each of the titles. Wonder what made the top ten? Watch and enjoy.

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