Revisiting the “Summer of Spanish-Language Women Writers”
As part of Women in Translation Month—and to shine a spotlight on some of our best Two Month Review seasons—I thought I would repost information about a few relevant TMR seasons that might be of interest.
Today, we’re going to revisit a wild TMR season in which we featured three books originally written in Spanish, all published right around the start of the pandemic . . . Below, you’ll find info and links to all the episodes on Cars on Fire by Mónica Ramón Ríos & Robin Myers, Four by Four by Sara Mesa & Katie Whittemore, and The Book of Anna by Carmen Boullosa & Samantha Schnee.
We started this season off with Cars on Fire by Mónica Ramón Ríos & Robin Myers. Here’s the jacket copy:
“When you live in an adopted country, when you’re an exile in your own body, names are simply lists that dull the reality of death.”
Cars on Fire, Mónica Ramón Ríos’s electric, uncompromising English-language debut, unfolds through a series of characters—the writer, the patient, the immigrant, the professor, the student—whose identities are messy and ever-shifting. A speechwriter is employed writing for would-be dictators, but plays in a rock band as a means of protest. A failed Marxist cuts off her own head as a final poetic act. With incredible formal range, from the linear to the more free-wheeling, the real to the fantastical to the dystopic, Ríos offers striking, jarring glimpses into life as a woman and an immigrant. Set in New York City, New Jersey, and Chile’s La Zona Central, the stories in Cars on Fire offer powerful remembrances to those lost to violence, and ultimately make the case for the power of art, love, and feminine desire to subvert the oppressive forces—xenophobia, neoliberalism, social hierarchies within the academic world—that shape life in Chile and the United States.
And here are links to each Cars on Fire episode:
Then we moved on to Four by Four by Sara Mesa & Katie Whittemore. Here’s the jacket copy:
Set entirely at Wybrany College—a school where the wealthy keep their kids safe from the chaos erupting in the cities—Four by Four is a novel of insinuation and gossip, in which the truth about Wybrany’s “program” is always palpable, but never explicit. The mysteries populating the novel open with the disappearance of one of the “special,” scholarship students. As the first part unfolds, it becomes clear that all is not well in Wybrany, and that something more sordid lurks beneath the surface.
In the second part—a self-indulgent, wry diary written by an imposter who has infiltrated the school as a substitute teacher—the eerie sense of what’s happening in this space removed from society, becomes more acute and potentially sinister.
An exploration of the relationship between the powerful and powerless—and the repetition of these patterns—Mesa’s “sophisticated nightmare” calls to mind great works of gothic literature (think Shirley Jackson) and social thrillers to create a unique, unsettling view of freedom and how a fear of the outside world can create monsters.
And here are links to each Four by Four episode:
And we wrapped things up with The Book of Anna by Carmen Boullosa & Samantha Schnee. Here’s the jacket copy:
IN THIS CONTINUATION OF ANNA KARENINA’S LEGACY, RUSSIA SIMMERS ON THE BRINK OF CHANGE AND THE STORIES THAT HAVE LONG BEEN KEPT SECRET FINALLY COME TO LIGHT.
Saint Petersburg, 1905. Behind the gates of the Karenin Palace, Sergei, son of Anna Karenina, meets Tolstoy in his dreams and finds reminders of his mother everywhere: the vivid portrait that the tsar intends to acquire and the opium-infused manuscripts Anna wrote just before her death, which open a trapdoor to a wild feminist fairy tale. Across the city, Clementine, an anarchist seamstress, and Father Gapon, the charismatic leader of the proletariat, plan protests that embroil the downstairs members of the Karenin household in their plots and tip the country ever closer to revolution. Boullosa tells a polyphonic and subversive tale of the Russian revolution through the lens of Tolstoy’s most beloved work.
And while you’re here, you should get a copy of Mulligan Stew by Gilbert Sorrentino and be ready for Season Twenty of TMR starting on September 6th!