In Next Week:
Next Wednesday the winner of the Rossica Prize, awarded every other year for excellence in literary translation from Russian into English, is announced after readings from the short-listed translations. This year’s submissions include texts ranging from the 19th to the 21st century, from Tolstoy's War and Peace to Ismailov's The Railway - our Russian is a bit rusty but хорошее везение к каждому... 23 May at 7pm, £6, The London Review Bookshop, 14 Bury Place, London, WC1A 2JL - 020 7269 9030.
Just out the Van:
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., is the largest museum and research complex in the world and was created by the fortune of James Smithson who never actually visited America. Little is known of his life, his papers having been lost in a fire in the Smithsonian's first years, however, tonight Heather Ewing discusses her new book, the first full biography, and her search for Smithson in archives across Europe and the United States. Wednesday 23 May, £6, 6.30pm, Conference Centre, British Library. Buy tickets here.
Try a Bit of This:
One morning, as a throng of Shia pilgrims jostled their way inside the Imam Kadhim shrine in northern Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives belt. A second bomber waited round the corner and set off his belt when survivors ran away from the first blast. Then a third bomber blew himself up.
And a fourth. The courtyard of the shrine filled with smoke and the screams of the dying. Blood pooled on the concrete floor. Dazed young men staggered about seeking help. Other survivors stacked the maimed on to wooden carts and pushed them toward wailing ambulances.
When I arrived at the scene an hour later, I saw corpses covered with white sheets. Arms and fingers had been blown onto third-story balconies. Piles of shoes belonging to the dead dotted the floor. Later, I saw dozens of bodies piled outside the morgue, covered with blue sheets, rotting under the sun.
That evening, I met a group of CPA staffers for dinner in the palace. Nobody mentioned the bombings. The shrine was just a few miles north of the Green Zone, no more than a 10-minute drive away. Had they heard about what had happened? Did they know dozens had died?
Extract from Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, shortlisted in this years Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.
Two for a Pound:
1. The Winners of the 2007 Lulu Blooker Prize.
2. Andrew Marr curls up with a good ebook.
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