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Women in Translation Month [Throwback No.2]

As many of you may have noticed already, August is widely considered Women in Translation Month (look for the #WITMonth hashtag basically anywhere). Since Open Letter has published its fair share of baller women authors over the past ten years, we thought we’d take a few posts to highlight a handful of our all-time favorite representatives, including Marguerite Duras, Mercè Rodoreda, and Dubravka Ugresic, among others.

Next month, our friends at Politics & Prose Bookstore will feature Can Xue’s Frontier in its International Literature book group. Can Xue has long been one of Open Letter’s favorite authors—not just because of the books she writes, but also because of her incredibly intelligent self-analysis and approach to writing, and her approach to literature, theory, life, and, really, just the world around us (one of my personal favorites was a discussion she and I had during a car ride to Niagara falls, where she went into her theories on how there are two kinds of cats: Light Cats and Dark Cats). She has an incredible mind, and it has been nothing short of a pleasure to publish her and get to know her better over the years.

In this our second #WITmonth throwback, we are, of course, highlighting the great Can Xue. We’ve published two of her books over the years, but it feels like we’ve done more (and word on the grapevine is we’re lining a third one up). Both Vertical Motion and Frontier are books to get lost in and wander through, books to let be books, and texts that demand to be permitted to just happen.

Book One: Vertical Motion

Open Letter and Read This Next get excited for the upcoming release of Vertical Motion. “Plants that grow underground, blind beaked underground creatures, cotton candy that can be summoned from thin air—all of Xue’s stories challenge what you think you know, what you think you should know, and what you think you can know.”

Two of Can Xue’s translators, the wonderful duo of Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping, are interviewed by Read This Next about translating Can Xue.

A Three Percent review of Vertical Motion says of Can Xue’s approach, “Xue destabilizes the very idea of familiarity, upends what the reader believes is knowable, by stripping away the expository that we have come to expect.”

The Quarterly Conversation reviews Vertical Motion.

That time author and The Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle publicly shared his love for Can Xue (and Mercè Rodoreda!). “The Can Xue book is incredible—short stories that I’d call “surrealist,” but it’s a kind of clear-eyed surrealism, as if dreams had invaded the physical world. The stories slip from simple descriptions or accounts of life into strange scenes of unreality that nobody in the stories is really surprised by.”

Open Letter director Chad W. Post and Can Xue talk at the Reykjavik International Literary Festival about, well, Can Xue.

It’s not our title, but we’re still stinkin’ proud! Can Xue’s The Last Lover wins the 2015 BTBA for Fiction!

World Literature Today and Publishers Weekly both run a review on Vertical Motion. From PW: “. . . Xue captures the wonder of the natural world and then, with great assurance, steps beyond into something entirely.”

Book Two: Frontier

Kirkus Reviews kicks off our Frontier times with a starred review! “Odd, atmospheric, and enchanting: a story in which, disbelief duly suspended, one savors improbabilities along with haunting images and is left wanting more.”

Author Porochista Khakpour interviews Can Xue for Words Without Borders.

NPR Books jumps on the Frontier train as well, publishing a review by Amal Eh-Mohtar that praises the book and the translation, saying “Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping’s translation is that species of wonderful that makes you forget you’re reading a translation until they see fit to remind you.”

One of our biggest joys was when Can Xue was profiled by the New Yorker. “Can Xue has likened her writing to the pioneering dance of the choreographer Isadora Duncan—a comparison that captures, in “Frontier,” the fresh, unexpected ways in which one moment flows into the next.”

Music & Literature and Numero Cinq also review Frontier. “As an accomplished and mature work with a truly engaging cast of characters, set in a community perched on the borders of everyday reality and whatever lies beyond, Frontier contains a world well worth exploring. However strangely disconcerting it can feel to surrender to the psychic geography of Can Xue’s fictional landscape, if you remember that your own dream-logic may well your best guide, the journey can be endlessly rewarding and entertaining.”

Stay tuned for more #WITmonth throwbacks!

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