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More September Translations

As an update, at this moment I have records for 314 original translations of adult fiction and poetry coming out in 2008, and 28 for 2009. (I’ve barely started entering 2009 info . . .)

As part of our goal to highlight as many of these titles as possible, below are capsules on a few more translations coming out this month.

Similar to what I wrote last week about Slavenka Drakulic, Pelevin is one of a few contemporary Russian authors whose books always make it into English translation. (He can be contrasted with Vladimir Sorokin, who has only had a couple of titles published here—both by NYRB—although he’s published a number of titles that sound pretty interesting.) And similar to a number of well-respected authors, Pelevin was first published by New Directions. Most of Pelevin’s books have fantastical set-ups, and this one is no different. Here’s how the review in The Guardian opens:

In this strange, frenetic and beguiling account of a Russia plagued by werewolves and vampires of various natures, the heroine is a fox whose name (A Hu-Li) unfortunately translates in her adopted homeland as something approximating ‘what the fuck.’ A Hu-Li has the appearance of a luscious 14-year-old girl, the mind of a particularly sly Buddhist monk and an endearing habit of name-dropping all the famous people she’s met over the past 2,000 years. Originally from China, she’s now plying her vulpine trade at Moscow’s National Hotel. But A Hu-Li’s version of turning tricks is not exactly conventional. She hypnotises her willing victim, feeding off his energies with the help of her secret weapon, ‘a fluffy, flexible, fire-red’ tail.

  • The Blue Fox by Sjon, translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb (Telegram, $12.95, 9781846590375)

Nominated for the Icelandic Literature Prize, and winner of the Nordic Prize, The Blue Fox sounds like a subtle, intriguing novel. From the review on ReadySteadyBook by Sarah Hesketh:

Two men dominate the book – local pastor Baldur Skuggason, who is tracking the eponymous fox through glacial fields, and Fridrik B. Fridjonsson, a returning prodigal who has abandoned Iceland for late seventeenth century Copenhagen and the company of a group called the lotus-eaters. Fridrik returns home to settle his deceased parents’ affairs, intending to burn the farm buildings and head back to a life of smoke and pleasure domes, but his discovery of a young girl, Abba, scrabbling for food in the outhouse of an old friend, prompts an act of kindness which forces him to stay, and sets him up in opposition to the reverend hunter.

The fact that Abba has Down’s Syndrome, a fact recognised by the medically well-read Fridrik, is an unsettlingly modern sleight of hand. In a book where everything else is perfectly pitched historically, it rings an odd but important note, forcing the reader to examine things more closely, and thereby realise that what we’re essentially reading is a good old-fashioned fairy tale.

  • Castorp by Pawel Huelle, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Serpent’s Tail, $14.95, 9781852429454)

Built around a digression from The Magic Mountain, this novel tells the story of Hans Castorp’s time in Gdansk. The book received a ton of praise when it came out in England last year, with almost all reviewers remarking on the wealth of colorful characters depicted in the novel. Beyond good reviews, it was also shortlisted for the prestigious Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (eventually won by Paul Verhaeghen for Omega Minor). Hopefully the review coverage here will be as widespread and positive, but in the meantime, here’s a short interview with Heulle, and reviews from The Guardian and ReadySteadyBook.



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