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Weekly Roundup: Letters, cover art and tragedy

Weekly Roundup: Letters, cover art and tragedy

J M Coetzee, a Booker great as one of only two writers to win the prize twice (Peter Carey being the other), has announced cheering news for his admirers: in June next year this writer of often tightly-knotted autobiographical fiction is publishing something that will be unequivocally revealing. Here and Now is a collection of the letters exchanged between Coetzee and the novelist Paul Auster. It is, says the publisher Faber, an epistolary dialogue between two great writers who became great friends and touches on everything from sport and film festivals to marriage and art.


Coetzee is one of several novelists with strong links to the Man Booker Prize to feature in the Doedemee art project in which 100 artists from 28 different countries were asked to design new covers for the novels that featured in the Observer's 2003 feature on the “100 Greatest Books of All Time”. Nestling alongside Austen, Proust et al is a pantheon that includes Kingsley Amis, Beryl Bainbridge, V S Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro, Peter Carey and Ian McEwan. The new designs can be found at Doedemee.


A translation of Jean Racine's Berenice by Alan Hollinghurst, Man Booker winner in 2004 with The Line of Beauty, has just opened at the Donmar Warehouse in London. Racine is notoriously hard to render into English and Hollinghurst pointed out the curious fact that one of the more successful translators of his plays was John Cairncross whose wartime day job was cracking the Ultra code at Bletchley Park and whose post-war night job was spying for the USSR. Cairncross is best known as the Philby, Burgess, Maclean and Blunt “fifth man”. Hollinghurst himself has yet to confess to a career in espionage.