27 March 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments [3]

Since today is such a lovely, warm, sunny day, I thought I’d spend most of the morning finally updating the translation database and seeing how 2009 is shaping up compared to 2008.

First off, click here for the 2008 translation spreadsheet, and click here for the 2009 one. As in the past, I’ve only been keeping track of original translations of fiction and poetry that are available for sale in the United States. Re-translations and reprints are both excluded from this database.

These spreadsheets contain a lot of information broken down ina number of ways, including by publisher, by country, by language, by month, etc.

The 2009 data is still coming in, so comparing totals isn’t all that telling. But just as a frame of reference, in 2008 there were 361 works of fiction and poetry published in translation, and so far I’ve identified 196 coming out in 2009.

Looking at this month-by-month is a bit more telling. The 2009 database numbers drop off dramatically after May, so I’m going to assume that there are a number of books coming out in June-Dec that I haven’t come across yet.

Through May, in 2008 159 works in translation were published; in 2009 that number is down to 143. (Again, disclaimer, I could be missing some titles—if you know of any, e-mail me at chad.post at rochester dot edu.) That’s a pretty significant 10% drop. Hopefully things will even out over the year, but in a recession, I suspect a lot of publishers looking to cut costs aren’t all that thrilled with paying a translator on top of the regular book costs. (Not that Random House didn’t just make $185.5 million before taxes and interest in 2008. But that is a “down year.”)

Looking at the breakdown by language, in 2008 the top five languages translated into English were: French, Spanish, German, Arabic, and Japanese, in that order. This year’s breakdown is slightly different, with Spanish coming in on top and French, German, Arabic, and Japanese right behind.

So far in 2009, I’ve found translations coming out from 81 different publishers, which gives me hope that these numbers could suddenly jump—last year 139 different publishers did at least one work of fiction or poetry in translation.

It’s still too early to draw any grand conclusions, but it is interesting to see what’s coming out from where and by whom, and to discover titles that haven’t gotten much attention.

19 December 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [5]

It was just about a year ago that I started thinking about creating a “translation database” to keep track of all original translations of fiction and poetry published in the U.S. After all the speculation, guesstimation, and incomplete or inaccurate studies, I thought it would be useful to produce an actual list of translations instead of just a figure or percentage, a list that was available to everyone, and contained info about the books, translators, publishers, languages, etc.

While my dream of making this into an editable, online database/wiki has yet to materialize, I’ve been posting updates to this on a regular basis and receiving nice feedback about missing titles, misspelled names, etc. Additions to the database have been slowing down considerably, and hopefully the updated version is 97-98% complete.

You can download the spreadsheet by clicking here and see the complete list of titles along with breakdowns by country, language, month, fiction vs. poetry, and publisher. Please, if you have any corrections (like filling in the “??” entries for some translators), please e-mail me at chad.post at rochester dot edu.

I identified 356 titles published over the course of 2008, from 137 different publishers, and more than 46 languages. That’s a pretty miniscule number, especially considering the fact that 50,000 works of fiction were published in the U.S. last year . . . But it’s a starting point, and it will be interesting to see what happens in future years.

And speaking of the future, although this is grossly incomplete, here’s the first version of the 2009 Translation Database. There are tons of catalogs yet to enter, and websites to visit, and reviews to dig through, but I’ve already found 104 titles coming out during the first eight months of 2009. Not a bad start . . . And if you’re a publisher or translator or person in the know, and have books to add to this list, please let me know.

I’ll write a longer commentary and analysis of the 2008 list after the first of the year, and will start looking at comparisons between 2008 and 2009 around the same time. In the meantime, you can start planning your “one-translation-a-day” schedule in order to read all books published in translation over the course of 2009 . . . . We’ll start highlighting these books (and reviewing them) next month . . .

13 November 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

The panel of international lit fans behind the Best Translated Book of 2008 award is starting its discussions about which titles should make the longlist, but there’s still time for you to get your vote in. Please feel free to enter your recommendations into the comments section, or e-mail them to me at chad.post at rochester dot edu. The sooner the better—we will be finalizing the 25 longlist titles in the not too distant future.

In case you need a refresher of which translated books came out this year, here’s an updated spreadsheet listing all 339 titles identified so far. (I hesitate to call this a final list, since ever couple days a new title trickles in . . . But if not final, it’s very, very close.)

4 November 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [2]

Thanks to the help of several of you, I made a few corrections to the 2008 Translation Database and now have a total of 328 titles. (I updated the numbers and file on the earlier post as well, in case you’re wondering.)

31 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [5]

It’s been a few months since I last posted an update to our ongoing “translation database” project. Over the past 10 months, I’ve been going through every catalog I can get my hands on, all reviews in Publishers Weekly, every new book announcement from Small Press Distribution, and e-mails from cultural centers and publishers from around the world in hopes of building an accurate list of all new works of fiction and poetry published in translation this year.

(Disclaimer: I only tracked new titles that had never been translated before, so no new translation of Kafka, no reprints, no paperback versions of previously published hardcovers, and no kids books or graphic novels.)

It’s gotten to the point where I’m not finding any new titles, and with our “Best Translated Book of the Year” award on the horizon, it seems like the perfect time to post the most up-to-date (and possibly final) spreadsheet of 2008 Translations.

As in the past, this file contains info on all 328 books I identified (261 fiction, 67 poetry), breaking the list down by country of origin, language of original, publishers, month published, etc.

At the start of this project, I naively predicted that there would be “420-450” titles by the end of the year. . . . Well, being off by more than 100 (or 25%) isn’t too bad . . . right?

So the number is even smaller than imagined. And assuming that Bowker’s numbers for 2008 are similar to 2007, these 328 titles represent 0.6% of all the new fiction titles being published in the U.S., and 3.3% of all literature titles. (I assume I know the difference in these categories, but Bowker’s info isn’t all that clear.)

Michael Orthofer wrote a great piece on this a while back, but the growth of works of fiction and literature published in 2007 is astounding:

According to Gallagher, among the major publishing categories, the big winners last year were once again Fiction and Literature. There were 50,071 new fiction titles introduced in the U.S. last year, up 17% from 2006, and the number of new titles in the category in 2007 was almost twice what it was as recently as 2002. Similarly, there was an 19% rise in new literature books last year, to 9,796, which followed a 31% increase in new literature titles in 2006. Bowker

As I mentioned above, we’re gearing up for our “Best Translated Book of 2008” award. This year we’re going to do things a bit differently. We will be announcing a longlist of 25 works of fiction in December, announce a shortlist in January, and a winner in February. (For poetry, we’ll announce a separate shortlist, since there’s a disproportionate amount of fiction titles, and merging the two into one list would do a disservice to the great works of poetry published this year.)

In addition to our panelists, we really want to enlist your help. So, if you have any titles you’d like to recommend, please post them in the comments below, or e-mail me at chad.post at rochester dot edu. We’ll include all reader votes in deciding on the longlist. And as we did last year, we’ll allow everyone to vote on the shortlist and will announce your choice along with the panel’s as the best translation of the year.

Point of clarification: what we mean by “best translated book,” is the best overall book published in 2008 in terms of literary quality and translation. In other words, we’re not looking for just the most skillful translation from last year, but the best book that was published in translation. A translated book is only as good as its translation, so we’re not ignoring the skill of the translator, but a quality translation of a flawed novel isn’t what we’re interested in.

Enough said for now . . .

5 September 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

This isn’t a reflection on the start of the new school year, or the end of summer, or anything like that, but today’s capsules of forthcoming translations features three fairly bleak books . . .

Along with 2666, this was the other galley that I was thrilled to receive this past summer. Since reading The Natural Order of Things a number of years ago, I’ve read all of Antunes’s translated titles, with Act of the Damned being one of my all-time favorite titles.

Bookforum is the first place I’ve seen this new book reviewed, and although Craig Seligman has his reservations, it still sounds like a book definitely worth reading:

The style is poetic stream-of-consciousness, with voices melting and melding into one another. The principal narrator is Paulo Antunes Lima, son of the transvestite showgirl and prostitute Soraia (or Carlos, when he isn’t in his blond wig) and the alcoholic teacher-turned-whore Judite—in other words, a young man screwed from the start. At the novel’s opening, he has been hospitalized in a condition of near catatonia, circumstances suggesting a debt to Benjy Compson, though Paulo is no idiot. And while Benjy’s interior monologue at the beginning of The Sound and the Fury recalls the facts of his world as he remembers them, Paulo and the other narrators are constantly drifting into might-have-beens, making it hard to distinguish memory from fantasy. Dashes set off bits of dialogue (as in Joyce), and occasional italics signal a change of time or scene (as in Faulkner), but What Can I Do When Everything’s on Fire?, unlike Ulysses and The Sound and the Fury, doesn’t hotdog through a variety of styles. It’s way too somber for that.

  • Voice Over by Celine Curiol, translated from the French by Sam Richard, introduction by Paul Auster (Seven Stories Press, $24.95, 9781583228487)

Also reviewed in the new issue of Bookforum, and also involving a transvestite, this seems like a good pairing with the Antunes. From the opening of the Bookforum review:

Céline Curiol’s English-language debut, Voice Over, is a thoroughly French affair. Like much of Samuel Beckett’s work (the epigraph to this book is, quite appropriately, taken from Molloy), it chronicles, in relentless detail, an individual’s battle with a host of ontological neuroses that threaten to overwhelm her. And like Beckett’s worldview, Curiol’s is unremittingly bleak.

  • Bad Blood by Borisav Stankovic, translated from the Serbian by Milo Yelesiyevich (Serbian Classics Press, $19.95, 9780967889344)

After finding out about Serbian Classics Press thanks to a piece in Literary Saloon about Danilo Kis’s Mansarda (which SCP also published recently, and which we will be reviewing in the near future), I corresponded a few times with Milo Yelesiyevich, the publisher of SCP and the translator of this book. Milo was kind enough to send us a review copy, which was much appreciated—I had never heard of Stankovic, but the translator’s introduction is really intriguing. Despite the success of Stankovic’s musical play Kostana, Stankovic had a tough time getting Bad Blood published:

So why did publishers unanimously reject Bad Blood?

Stankovic broke a number of taboos. His ambition was to reveal the full spectrum of a woman’s life, ranging from childhood adoration of her father through immature fantasies, marriage, childbirth, disappointment, infidelity, to the final devolution of marriage into a sado-masochistic partnership where only death can bring relief.

Stankovic’s own view of civilization is pessimistic and inclined to tragedy.

Considered the “first true modern psychological novel written in Serbian,” Bad Blood looks very interesting, and hopefully we’ll have a full review of this in the not-too-distant future.

3 September 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

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.

28 August 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

If I didn’t spend every morning writing about things that bug me, I’d have more time to write about new books . . . Which, in the end, is probably more interesting and useful. So here are three more September titles:

  • The Tsar’s Dwarf by Peter Fogtdal, translated from the Danish by Tiina Nunnally (Hawthorne Books, $15.95, 9780979018800)

We’re going to be running a review of this title in the near future, but instead of describing the book, I want to point out Danish Accent Fogtdal’s excellent blog that includes some info about The Tsar’s Dwarf.

The Tsar’s Dwarf is the story of a Danish dwarf who is given to the Russian Tsar Peter The Great as a gift. She is brought to the Russian court where she falls in love, is humiliated, and treated like a toy. It’s a funny but gruesome story about human dignity. At least, that’s what it says on the cover, so it must be true.

Also on his blog is an excerpt from the book, and a sweet rant about the Olympics that includes making fun of Americans for not getting badminton (one of the sports I wish NBC had covered better, along with table tennis and team handball) and this bit about Michael Phelps:

What’s wrong with Michael Phelps? I worry about him. Sure, he has won eight gold medals, but what’s up with the greed? Can’t you get enough, Michael? Aren’t you aware that you’ve won eight times as many medals as fucking India? India is a continent, Michael. It’s not a dump in Michigan. Have a little respect.

I wouldn’t say Ann Arbor is a dump, and I don’t think India is its own continent, but still, this gave me a chuckle.

  • Of Kids and Parents by Emil Hakl, translated from the Czech by Marek Tomin (Twisted Spoon Press, $15, 9788086264301)

Although their book production has changed a bit (compare one of the new titles to Unger’s The Maimed and you’ll know what I mean), Twisted Spoon Press still produces some fine looking books from some very interesting European authors. We have a couple TSP reviews coming in the near future, and this sounds like a book we should take a closer look at as well:

Taking its cue both from Joyce’s Ulysses and Hrabal’s freely associating stream of anecdote, Of Kids & Parents is about a father and son taking a walk through Prague, over the course of which, and in the pubs and bars they stop into, their personal lives are revealed as entwined with the past sixty years of upheaval in their corner of Europe.

And this Boyd Tonkin quote doesn’t hurt: “Anyone who has ever crawled from pub to pub in Prague — or anyone who wants to — should read this utterly beguiling novel of uproarious surfaces and melancholy depths.”

  • Frida’s Bed by Slavenka Drakulic, translated from the Croatian by Christina Pribichevich-Zoric (Penguin, $13, 9780143114154)

Along with Dubravka Ugresic, Drakulic is one of the few female writers from the former Yugoslavia whose books are routinely published in English translation. And along with Ugresic and three other female Croatian authors, she was labeled a “witch” in the infamous 1992 Globus article that lead to at least Ugresic and Drakulic leaving Croatia to live in exile. Drakulic made a name for herself first as a journalist, but has since become a respected novelist.

The Frida in the title is Frida Kahlo, and this is a fictional book that blends Frida’s paintings and imagined interior life. The San Francisco Chronicle recently gave it a decent review, though admitting that the book doesn’t always succeed.

20 August 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Earlier this year, I was trying to write up short overviews of all forthcoming translations. Unfortunately, things got in the way, and this project was sort of pushed to the side.

Which is unfortunate. One of the main reasons we started this website was to promote international literature and uncover great books and underpromoted authors. Besides, going through all the books coming out is really fun and helps give me personally a good sense of what’s going on in the international lit scene . . .

So anyway, I’m going to try this again starting with September books. According to the latest translation database there are 35 translations coming out in September—31 works of fiction and 4 collections of poetry. Here are short write-ups on the three titles:

I heard of Moers a few years ago during an editorial trip to Germany when the representative from Hanser started telling us about “The Little Asshole” comic books that no Americans will publish due to the title . . . It sounds like a lot of Moers cartoon works are pretty irreverent and funny. It may just be the Overlook copy, but this book (with 21 woodcuts by Gustave Doré) sounds a bit more subdued and more young adulty (if there is such a term). Overlook describes this as “the tumultuous tale of a little boy who needs to defeat Death through a series of six impossible tasks.”

  • Only Son, Stephane Audeguy, translated from the French by John Cullen (Harcourt, $25, 9780151013296)

Although historical fiction isn’t really my thing, this interview with Audeguy makes this book about Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s older brother sound pretty interesting:

How did the ideas for this unusual novel and its central character come to you?
Did you simply want to write about the 18th century or were you formulating a response to Rousseau, or playing with literary conventions by creating an imaginary autobiography?

To paraphrase Alfred Jarry, I may say I think the need for an autobiography of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s brother was increasingly widely felt. Moreover, the fact that one of the most brilliant contributors to the invention of the modern individual should, in his own Confessions, show himself so blind to the existence of his own brother – this sparked off my imagination. My novel, Fils unique, was conceived in these imaginings. Incidentally, I have the greatest admiration for Rousseau (for his acute sense of comedy, for one thing) but also several reservations with regard to a particular kind of rousseauist attitude. I freely admit that my book plays something of a ‘game’ with literary conventions and with plenty of other things too; this is not, however, purely gratuitous.

  • Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery, translated from the French by Alison Anderson (Europa Editions, $15, 9781933372600)

This book—Barbery’s second novel—won the 2007 French Booksellers Prize. And the Brive-la-Gaillarde Reader’s Prize. And the Rotary International Prize (France). And the French Librarians’ Prize for Culture. And to top it off, this is a French Voices selection. The novel is set in a fancy French hotel and told in two voices—that of Renee, the “short, ugly, and plump” concierge who is also well versed in the arts and literature, and Paloma, a “super-smart twelve-year-old,” who lives in the hotel. There are a lot of positive reviews for this book, and I have the feeling this is going to catch on with a lot of people, even if it is “annoyingly simplistic,” like Michael Orthofer claims in his review. There is a sample chapter available online.

12 August 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [3]

It’s been a couple months since I last posted an update to the 2008 Translation Database, and since we have added a number of titles (thanks as always to Michael Orthofer, PW, and all the publishers who send us copies of their catalogs) it seemed like a good time to post an updated Excel file.

The Excel file linked to above is a bit different from the ones I posted in the past. It still contains all the information about every original translation of adult fiction and poetry coming out this year (excluding all reprints and retranslations) and breaks this info down by publisher, language, and country.

This time I added a few spreadsheets though, sorting the data by month and genre (fiction vs. poetry), and breaking down the publishers into top publishers of fiction and top publishers of poetry.

Looking at the breakdown by month, it’s interesting to note that almost every month falls into the 25-30 title range, the major exceptions being April (38, due in part to National Poetry Month and the rush to bring out all books of poetry then), and July and August (15 and 14 respectively, hopefully because summer publishing schedules are slow and not because I missed a bunch of books). Using that 25-30 range as a basis, I’m guessing that I’m missing approximately 20 December titles and that I wouldn’t be surprised if the final count of translations published in 2008 is closer to 325 that the 400 I predicted early on.

At the moment, almost 20% of all the translations published are works of poetry (most of which are published by Green Integer, Copper Canyon, FSG, Ugly Duckling Presse, and Zephyr).

Looking at this breakdown between fiction and poetry, and the overall low number of translations being published, it seems almost possible that one could read all original translations as they come out . . . I personally couldn’t do this, but I can envision someone reading basically a book a day for a year and reading all the new translations.

As always if you see anything missing from the master list, please let me know and I’ll add it right away.

18 June 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [2]

Now that I’ve finally had a chance to enter all the info from the hundreds of catalogs I collected at Book Expo, I thought it would be worthwhile to post a new, updated version of the 2008 translation database.

The above spreadsheet has all the relevant information about all the works of adult fiction and poetry in translation coming out in the U.S. this year that I’ve been able to identify so far. As always, if you know of anything that’s missing, please e-mail me at chad.post at rochester dot edu.

Initially I felt like post-BEA this list would be nearly complete, but at only 285 titles, I think there are still a bunch of books to be uncovered . . . I haven’t received the fall catalog from American University at Cairo Press yet, which changes a lot of things, and I’m always finding books via Small Press Distribution and PW, so this will probably increase slowly but surely over the next few months.

Nevertheless, this paints a pretty interesting picture of the publishing scene for international literature. It’s not terribly surprising to see French, Spanish, German, Japanese, and Arabic as the top five languages translated into English. But the fact that 103 different publishers are doing works in translation is a bit shocking (to me at least).

15 May 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

It’s been a while since I last posted an update of the 2008 Translation Database (full spreadsheet available via that click, complete with sheets breaking this down into country, language, and publisher).

Not a lot different from last time I put this online, although it’s now up to 215 titles for 2008 from 54 different countries and published by 86 different publishing houses.

Post-BEA I suspect all these numbers will jump . . . Most fall catalogs will be available and we’ll have a much clearer view of where this will end up for 2008. I’m still going with my guess of 412 total titles . . . (Just to reiterate, we’re only tracking original translations of adult fiction and poetry—no reprints, no new translations of classics.)

And sometime—once all our sales calls are over?—I’ll go back to posting summaries of all these titles. . . .

18 April 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Thanks to the Knopf/Pantheon/Schocken catalogs that arrived today, we just crossed the 200 translation mark in the official 2008 count!

Some good stuff coming out in the fall, including the next Sandor Marai book, Me and Kaminski by Daniel Kehlmann, a new novel by Ingo Schulze, and a retranslation of Kafka’s Amerika: The Missing Person by Mark Harman. (Didn’t New Directions just bring out a new translation like three-four years ago?)

More details in the near future, along with an updated database . . . And hopefully over the weekend I’ll post more capsule reviews. Along with daily reports from Buenos Aires where I’ll be for the Editors’ Week and Buenos Aires Book Fair . . .

10 April 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

It’s not available online, but there’s an article by Rachel Deahl in this week’s Publishers Weekly about Three Percent and the translation database.

The Excel file behind the above link is the most up-to-date version of the database, listing 187 works of adult fiction and poetry coming out this year. Some fall catalogs have started trickling in, so expect more updates in the near future . . . And soon, I swear, we’ll get back to writing brief overviews of all the books. (If you’re interested in seeing some of the earlier ones, all 2008 translation posts are available here.)

25 March 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Following up on last week’s post about the Translation Database (downloadable version available via that same link), here’s the next set of capsule reviews of recently released and forthcoming literature in translation. (All previous posts and reviews available here.)

  • Oliver VII, Antal Szerb, translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix (Pushkin Press, $12.00, 9781901285796)

E.J. will be posting a full review of this shortly, so I’ll keep this really brief. I do want to point out that this is a great price point for a UK title, and that the quality of Pushkin Press books is outstanding. Nice grainy cover stock, French flaps, etc. And all for $12! This book would be $22 minimum from Peter Owen . . . Anyway, about the book itself, it sounds like a lot of fun: “The restless ruler of an obscure Central European state plots a coup against himself and escapes to Venice in search of ‘real’ experience. There he falls in with a team of con-men and ends up, to his own surprise, impersonating himself.” I love books featuring con-men, and a team of con-men is even better . . . This also has a fantastic opening line: “Sandoval the painter had tactfully left the young couple to themselves—the word ‘young’ being used here in a rather specialised sense.” More to come in E.J.‘s review.

  • Knowledge of Hell, Antonio Lobo Antunes, translated from the Portuguese by Clifford Landers (Dalkey Archive Press, $13.95, 9781564784360)

From one write-up about a title under review to another . . . Since Antunes is one of my all-time favorite writers, I’ll be reviewing this sometime over the next few weeks. (To be honest, the NCAA tournament has thrown a bit of a delay into our schedules.) This is Antunes’s first book, and one that I helped acquire during my time at Dalkey. I’ve been looking forward to this for years (literally), in part because it’s a new Antunes, and because it’s about a “psychiatrist who loathes psychiatry.” My first impression is that this is vintage Antunes—hallucinatory, claustrophobic, and angry. The one this that seems to be missing—at least so far—is the humor. Act of the Damned is a brilliant, amazing book—reminiscent of Faulkner, although a Faulkner who realizes that the lives of his characters are both tragic and very funny, in a disturbed sort of way. More on this in my forthcoming review. This is the first of two Antunes books coming out this year—the other is What Can I Do When Everything’s on Fire? forthcoming from Norton. It’s also worth noting that I have a half-dozen readers reports on books from Antunes’s “middle period,” all of which sound absolutely amazing. In my opinion—and the opinion of a lot of Portuguese critics, scholars, and readers—Antunes deserved the Nobel Prize over Saramago, and all of his titles that are available from Grove are worth checking out.

This is a Japanese Literature Publishing Project title that was recently reviewed by Three Percent favorite Ben Lytal for the New York Sun. This volume consists of two novellas, the second of which Ben considers to be the best. it’s about a master bamboo craftsman named Kisuke who, well, I’ll let Lytal take it from here, “Kisuke, who, like Jinen, is uncannily boyish, eventually finds a wife in Tamae, a former prostitute who once loved his father. Kisuke never sleeps with Tamae, to her disappointment, and instead insists that she act as his mother. Despite the explicitness of Kisuke’s psychology, there remains much that lies below the surface — exactly how does this surrogate mother inspire Kisuke’s magnificent bamboo dolls, and just how does Tamae resolve her sexual love of the father with the son’s unusual request? The thrilling success of his bamboo dolls carries the story — and makes a queasy Oedipal nightmare into an enthralling fairy tale.” The JLPP has been extremely successful in getting more Japanese works translated into English, many of which are very compelling and worth checking out. Their unique form of support—pay for the complete translation and purchase 2,000 copies upon publication—is one of the reasons these books have found English publishers. More on JLPP next week in relation to the panel they’re sponsoring on publishing resources at the Association of Asian Studies Conference in Atlanta.

  • Wolf Totem, Jiang Rong, translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt (Penguin, $26.95, 9781594201561)

The hype for this title has been building for months (see Literary Saloon), and it’s one of the books that we plan on reviewing. In fact, as I was typing that sentence, PW Daily arrived, with Penguin Readies First Chinese Acquisition for Publication as the lead story. What’s weird about this story—and especially headline—is the “first Chinese acquisition” part of it. I mean, there are a number of other presses that have done a lot of Chinese literature, but receive no where near this amount of hype for their first acquisitions. The unevenness of the marketplace is a subject for a different post . . . By itself, this book does sound really interesting—it was written by a Chinese dissident, sold millions of copies (legit and black market) in China when it was published in 2004, and won the inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize in 2007. According to PW, it’s “part ecological warning, part political indictment, and is set in 1960s Cultural Revolution-era Inner Mongolia.” Because of the good job Penguin has already done in positioning and marketing this title, it’s pretty much destined to do well here—at least in terms of attention, number of reviews, etc.—and in fact, the L.A. Times reviewed it this past weekend, almost a full week in advance of the official pub date. (Of course, the review wasn’t exactly positive—a particularly damning line: “Popularity, however, does not ensure quality”—but regardless, the book is sure to get heaps of attention and will probably become one of the most talked about Chinese books of 2008. In case you’re interested, I have six Chinese books in the current version of the translation database coming out from six different publishers—three of which are translated by Howard Goldblatt.)

17 March 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [4]

In each of the past few posts about our 2008 Translation Database I’ve promised a complete copy of the current list . . . well finally, here’s an Excel version that you can download, manipulate, sort, etc., etc.

This current list is very incomplete. I haven’t received many summer/fall catalogs yet, and even so, there always seems to be a few titles that slip through the cracks and that I find out about via a reader, Publisher’s Weekly, Small Press Distribution, and a few other sources. I am absolutely sure that by the end of the year this will include another couple hundred titles . . .

In that vein, if any of you notice any titles missing, please post them in the comments, or e-mail me at chad.post at rochester dot edu.

And just to review the criteria: this list is only of original translations of adult fiction and poetry published in 2008. No children’s books, comic books, nonfiction, retranslations, or reprints. Not that these other categories aren’t worth paying attention to, it’s more of a time management issue. So only new, never-before translated titles.

I think it will be more interesting to analyze this at the end of the year (or in future years when one can look at trends), but two quick and dirty queries came up with some quasi-surprising results.

First of all, in terms of the most translated languages, here’s the top 10 (actually 11):

French: 26 titles (14.7% of total)
Spanish: 19 (10.7%)
Arabic: 17 (9.6%)
German: 16 (9.0%)
Russian: 12 (6.8%)
Italian: 8 (4.5%)
Hebrew: 7 (4.0%)
Chinese: 6 (3.4%)
Japanese: 6 (3.4%)
Portuguese: 6 (3.4%)
Swedish: 6 (3.4%)

I didn’t expect Arabic to be in front of German, but American University of Cairo Press is primarily responsible for this. One thing that’s clear—the major European languages (French, Spanish, German, Italian) dominate in terms of what’s published in English. These three languages account for 69 of the 177 titles identified, or approx. 39%.

In terms of who’s responsible for these translations, here’s the Top 8:

American University at Cairo: 9 titles
Europa Editions: 8
Dalkey Archive: 7
Melville House: 5
FSG: 5
Harcourt: 5
Penguin: 5
Archipelago: 5

There are 9 presses tied at 4 titles for the year, and 76 total presses identified so far. Which kind of surprised me. Granted, the majority are only doing a couple translations a year, but still, it’s good to know that such a wide range of publishers are bringing out works of international literature.

There are more breakdowns that could be done, but I’d really like to make sure the full list of titles is there first . . . otherwise the reports will be incredibly flawed. So please let me know if you know of anything that’s been published in the past few months or is on the horizon. And for those who are interested, we’ve written up capsule “reviews” of 54 of 177 titles on the list so far, all of which can be found here.

11 March 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [2]

In part because of this news about Dedalus being sponsored for the next two years by Routledge Book, and in part because I just received a nice batch of their titles, I’d like to mix things up a bit today and focus on forthcoming translations from two UK presses distributed over here rather than looking at titles from a particular month.

For anyone who’s interested, all previous previews of 2008 translations can be found here. And in terms of the running total, I’ve now identified 140 original translations of fiction coming out this year and 36 poetry collections. So 176 books total . . . Maybe my prediction of 400-425 total original translations for 2008 is a bit high . . .

  • Magnus, Sylvie Germain, translated from the French by Christine Donougher (Dedalus Books, $15.99, 9781903517628)

This is the tenth book of Germain’s to come out from Dedalus, all of which sound quite interesting. Magnus consists of a series of “fragments” and interspersed “notes,” “resonances,” “sequences,” and at least one “timeline,” all working together to create a portrait of Magnus. This won the Goncourt Lyceen Prize in 2005, and a sample chapter is available online.

  • Mr Dick or The Tenth Book, Jean-Pierre Ohl, translated from the French by Christine Donougher (Dedalus Books, $15.99, 9781903517680)

Not unsurprisingly, Charles Dickens has become the go-to author for intertextual play (see Peter Carey, see Lloyd Jones). This debut novel is an allusion to The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dickens final, incomplete novel, and is centered around a Dickens addict of sorts who is involved wiht a “deadly rivalry” with another ambitious Dickens scholar.

  • The Staff Room, Markus Orths, translated from the German by Mike Mitchell (Dedalus Books, $12.99, 9781903517550)

I’m a sucker for these sorts of Kafka-esque, individual against the absurd totalitarian state sort of novels: “Kranich is a newly qualified teacher about to take up his first post. As soon as he arrives at the school he is plunged into a nightmare kafkaesque world which has all the worst features of a totalitarian state. Very soon he finds himself caught between the Education Authority Police, Secret Security Officers and the CG, the Conspiracy Group, that aims to undermine the school system but only ‘verbally, since no one would want to put their own job at risk’.” Sample chapter is available online.

A 100-page novella about “summer, childhood, and first love,” this book has received decent praise from Spanish critics. Gregorio Moran from La Vanguardia even called it “one of the most beautiful books written in post-war Spain.” As evidenced in the sample this is a lyrical, rhythmic book, and although it doesn’t immediately appeal to me, I would check this out simply because it’s translated by Margaret Jull Costa and published by Dedalus. In my opinion, Dedalus is one of those publishers—like an Archipelago, Dalkey Archive, New Directions, and others—that has earned a level of brand loyalty—readers know that if they buy a Dedalus book, it will be high-quality. It’s unfortunate that these books don’t get more play here in the States . . .

In many ways, Peter Owen Publishers are very similar to Dedalus: high quality fiction, modest U.S. distribution, lots of translations. But Peter Owen books cost a hell of a lot more here in the States. When I reviewed this book I was shocked by the $29.95 price tag on a 222-page paperback, and still am. This is just too much—I can’t imagine bookstores stocking this for very long, or casual customers deciding to buy it. Which really is a tragedy—this is a fantastic book that subverts itself time and again. For those unwilling to shell out $30 for a book, you could visit your local library, or wait for the Monzo titles Open Letter will be publishing in the near future. I promise our price point will be much lower.

I really can’t get past this pricing thing . . . Although this book, which comes is at just under 350-pages, seems like a much better deal. OK, enough of that. Druzhnikov has intrigued me ever since I read a review of Angels on the Head of a Pin, which was voted “one of the ten best Russian novels of the twentieth century by the Warsaw Conference.” This collection of ten “micronovels” (more on that in a second), sounds funny and quirky, and generally entertaining. Employing the typical “X meets Y” construction, Peter Owen refers to Druzhnikov as “a cross between Bulgakov and Solzhenitsyn,” which is also intriguing. And I really like the explanation of the micronovel given in the author’s postscript: “Analysis has shown that the micronovel differs from the three traditional and highly flexible genres of prose—the short story, the novella and the novel—and has a right to exist in both literatures. In content the micronovel is wider and socially deeper than the novella, although it has some of its features. The micronovel is distinct from the povest’ as well. [. . .] With the micronovel, a novelistic plot is packed into a novella-shped shell. Macrocontents in microform.” This is a book we’ll definitely review on the site in the coming months.

27 February 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Following on yesterday’s fiction installment, listed below are five forthcoming or recently released poetry collections in translation. All of our 2008 translation overviews can be found by clicking here. I still have 10 works of fiction in translation from February to cover, so expect another update later this week.

  • Ideals Clearance, Henry Parland, translated from the Swedish by Johannes Goransson (Ugly Duckling Presse, $14.00, 9781933254227)

Eliot Weinberger’s quote says it all: “Just when you thought there were no more discoveries to be made in modernist poetry, along comes a Finno-Swedish Russian German Lithuanian teen prodigy from the 1920’s, Henry Parland, in Johannes Göransson’s zippy translation. Did anyone ever pack so much delightful weirdness into so few lines?” The poetry (seven poems are available here) is really interesting, augmented by Parland’s strange biography. Although he lived in Russia, Finland, and Lithuania, his first language was German and he wrote this book in Swedish. All before dying at the age of 22. Yeah, I know. Ron Silliman wrote a great overview of this truly cosmopolitan poet.

  • Essential Poems and Writings, Robert Desnos, translated from the French by Mary Ann Caws and many others (Black Widow Press, $24.00, 9780976844990)

From Swedish-Dada to the more traditional French vein. . . . Desnos already has a reputation among fans of Surrealism (although Desnos and Breton had a falling out), but at 430 pages, this must be one of (if not the) most complete volumes of his poetry published to date. The list of translators involved with this project is really impressive: Mary Ann Caws, Terry Hale, Bill Zavatsky, Martin Sorrell, Jonathan Eburne, Katherine Connelly, Patricia Terry, and Paul Auster. To be honest, I wasn’t aware of Black Sparrow Press until someone referenced this collection in the comments section of one of the early 2008 translation posts, which is my own ignorant fault—their list includes a great mix of established and up-and-coming poets. Discoveries like this are one of the benefits to putting together this list of translations . . .

  • You Are the Business, Caroline Dubois, translated from the French by Cole Swensen (Burning Deck Press, $14.00, 9781886224865)

This doesn’t appear to be on the Burning Deck website yet, but it is available through Small Press Distribution (linked to above). This is part of Burning Deck’s Serie d’Ecriture, an annual publication of new French poetry. All the projects Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop (publishers of Burning Deck) are involved in are worth checking out (as are all of Cole Swensen’s translations), and this line is pretty intriguing: “Dubois’ poems playfully refer to themselves and to one another as would a map or a puzzle.” And that’s a great cover/title combo.

  • State of Exile, Cristina Peri Rossi, translated from the Spanish by Marilyn Buck (City Lights, $14.95, 9780872864634)

Cristina Peri Rossi is mostly known in English for her fiction—Ship of Fools, Solitaire of Love, The Museum of Useless Efforts—and for being part of the “Latin American Boom.” She was born in Uruguay and was sent into exile in 1972 at the age of 31. She moved to Spain (where she still resides) and wrote this collection of poems about her experience. The inclusion of two essays on exile—one by Peri Rossi, the other by “translator Marilyn Buck, an American political prisoner, exiled in her own country”—is a nice addition.

  • Reason Enough, Ida Vitale, translated from the Spanish by Sarah Pollack (Host Publications, $12.00, 9780924947428)

And from one Uruguayan writer to another . . . This is a post of nice segueways. Anyway, this is the first book of Vitale’s to be translated into English. In parallel to Peri Rossi, she was born in Montevideo and at the age of 50 was forced into exile. She moved to Mexico City before relocating to Austin, TX, home of Host Publications. Not much available online, although there is this YouTube video of her reading.

26 February 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I’ve fallen a bit behind on these preview capsules of forthcoming translations, but hopefully will be able to catch up in the next week or so. For anyone interested, all the past write ups of 2008 translations can be found here. And I’ll be posting the current version of the complete database later this week. For now, here’s a quick look at five forthcoming works of fiction in translation.

  • Serve the People! Yan Lianke, translated from the Chinese by Julia Lovell (Black Cat/Grove, $14.00, 9780802170446)

This is a Reading the World 2008 title and has a great blurb on the back from the Chinese Central Propaganda Bureau: “This novel slanders Mao Zedong, the army, and is overflowing with sex. . . . Do not distribute, pass around, comment on, excerpt from it, or report on it.” It’s the story of an affair between the wife of a powerful communist party member and a her servant, and has received a number of good reviews (including a starred one in Booklist and a B+ from Complete Review), with many critics praising the way it subverts the language of the communist party. This bit of info from the Brooklyn Rail review, “A year before China’s Yan Lianke wrote Serve the People!, he was dismissed from his position in the People’s Liberation Army. Employed to write stories that improved soldiers’ morale, it is not surprising that he was shown the door after penning Enjoyment, the 2004 novel mocking the money-making schemes of local government.” E.J. is in the process of reviewing this in full for the site.

  • The Mule, Juan Eslava Galan, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman (Bantam, $12.00, 9780553385083)

Although Juan Eslava Galan is very well respected in Spain—and the author of some 50 works!—this appears to be the only book of his available in English translation. Set in the Spanish Civil War, this is a book about a man, his mule Valentina, and “low-brow drinking escapades, long shots at love, and an otherwise droning existence shared by his compatriots.” An excerpt is available from Bantam, but aside from that, there’s not a lot of info online. At least not yet. There are other things I want to say about this book, but I have to save them for the “odd things that publishers do” series. . .

  • The Lemoine Affair, Marcel Proust, translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell (Melville House, $9.00, 9781933633411)

I don’t think this is listed on Melville House’s website yet, but The Lemoine Affair is part of MHP’s fantastic “Art of the Novella” series, which includes books by Henry James, James Joyce, Robert Louis Stevenson, and soon will include some more contemporary authors, such as Imre Kertesz. As if it’s not enough just to have access to a “new” book from Proust, this description guarantees that I’m going to buy and read this: “In this overlooked comedic gem based on a true story, the author considered one of the most important writers of the twentieth century tells the tale of a con artist who claimed he could manufacture diamonds, with each chapter of the tale written in the style of a different French writer. This delicious spoof of Balzac, Flaubert, Chateaubriand and others is presented in a sparkling, nuanced translation by the award-winning Charlotte Mandell.” (Yes, the same Charlotte Mandell who is translating the Jonathan Littell book for HarperCollins.)

  • The Dancer and the Thief, Antonio Skarmeta, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (W.W. Norton, $24.95, 9780393064940)

Skarmeta is most well known for his novel The Postman (Il Postino), although a quick search reveals that a number of his books have been published here in translation. Unfortunately, most seem to be out of print . . . This title won the Planeta Prize in 2003, which may help with the reception here. It’s already gotten a few reviews, including a generally positive one by Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post that contains an odd, backhanded sort of compliment: “. . . The Dancer and the Thief is much more than an agreeable caper. Though Skarmeta scarcely ranks at the very top of Latin America’s remarkably distinguished and varied literary elite, he is a serious writer to whom the death and rebirth of democracy in his native Chile is an endlessly compelling subject.” Hmm.

  • The Sinner, Petra Hammmesfahr, translated from the German by John Brownjohn (Bitter Lemon, $14.95, 9781904738251)

Bitter Lemon recently sent us a few of the crime titles they’re publishing in translation, and out of all of them, this one seems the most promising. Hailed as “Germany’s Patricia Highsmith” (it’s sad that most international authors are some country’s equivalent of a famous English writer—Spain’s Richard Ford!, Croatia’s Dan Brown!, Japan’s Philip K. Dick!—although it may be lack of imagination on the part of the publisher, or a kowtowing to the LCD trends of mainstream marketing that cause this to happen), this is the sotry of a “quiet, lovable young mother” who kills a stranger one day. Very sparse, direct writing. As I said before, I’m not into crime novels, but for those who are, this looks intriguing. (A better write-up about this is available via International Noir.)

11 February 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

I’ve got a lot of January and February books to catch up on in these roundups, so I’m going to try and post two or three summaries this week, including an overview of the poetry books coming out this month and next (there are quite few). As always, the current list of all translated fiction and poetry can be found here.

  • Close to Jedenew, Kevin Vennemann, translated from the German by Ross Benjamin (Melville House, $22.95, 9781933633398)

Not a lot of info online (actually, I couldn’t find this on Melville House’s site, which is unfortunate), but it is a book we were starting to look into for Open Letter before MHP bought the rights. Here’s the paragraph from an article by literary critic Helmut Böttiger for New Books in German that caught my eye.

Published in November in the paperback list, edition suhrkamp, and a novel which could all too easily be overlooked, Nähe Jedenew (‘Near Yedenev’) by Kevin Vennemann, born in 1977, immediately draws the reader into a mysterious web of language and shifting times, entangled tangents and subordinate clauses. The central focus of the text is a vaguely pinpointed geographical place – the moors of southern Lithuania. The story appears to be set around the end of the 1930s, since there are allusions to the beginning of the Second World War. But all is shaded. It is not even directly stated that its principal characters are Jews. Scenes from the past and present flow into one another, summer and winter scenes merge, happy childhood images and aggressive persecution blur into one. Key scenes alternate, are returned to and fleshed out. The language is of an absolutely contemporary musicality, a rhythm which captivates through repetition and a reshuffling of basic patterns. Every moment is at once palpable yet also possesses an abrupt and fragmentary quality. The experience of simultaneousness, as presented here, springs from a consciousness dealing above all with the years after 2000. These aren’t scenes from a point in time when National Socialism is over and done with. The unsettling, the archaic, the destructive irrational violence can reappear at any moment and Venneman’s language shifts it into the present.

This is a book we definitely plan on reviewing as soon as it’s available.

  • Paris Weekend, Sergei Kostin, translated from the Russian by Todd Bludeau (Enigma Books, $15.00, 9781929631704)

I’m not a big reader of thrillers or mysteries, so I don’t have a lot to say about this book except that Kostin is supposedly the “Russian version of John LeCarré.” And it’s about a KGB mole who runs a travel agency in Manhattan. . . . Enigma Books is curious though. It was started in 1999 “by a group of publishing professionals to fill a vacuum in quality book publishing:
to publish in the United States major titles in contemporary history.” Most of their titles are about WWII and the USSR, although there are a few spy novels in translation. What I appreciate is that they acknowledge the book is a translation, unlike what happens with the following.

  • Special Assignments, Boris Akunin, translated from the Russian by ?? (Random House, $14.00, 9780812978605)

I think that Andrew Bromfield translated this, but good luck finding out for sure online. The Random House website is not surprisingly short on translator info, and even Amazon and B&N make it look as if this book were written in English. Which, to me, begs the question—how many additional copies does RH expect to sell by hiding the fact that this was originally written in Russian? It’s not like we’re talking about an obscure high-modernist book here, this is an incredibly popular mystery series, and this title is currently #2,296 on Amazon, and it technically isn’t available until later this week. What’s the incentive in hiding the fact that a relatively famous Russian translator did this book for you? If the Amazon byline read “Boris Akunin (author), Andrew Bromfield (translator)” would a mystery fan really stop and be like, “well fuck it then. None of that pinko commie crap is getting into my shopping cart.” Really? I think it’s just the opposite. If I liked mysteries—and those by Akunin in particular—I’d assume RH got some crap-ass two-cent on the dollar translation and was embarrassed to release the info about who did this. And who knows, maybe that’s the case. (It’s not—if you search UK sites and papers, every listing includes a reference to Bromfield.)

  • Quick Fix, Ana Maria Shua, translated from the Spanish by Rhona Dahl Buchanan (White Pine, $17.00, 9781893996915)

The White Pine website is doing this book no favors. There’s no book pages for any White Pine books, which makes it really challenging to find them. (This is under the “Secret Weavers Series”—a series that is not actually defined on the SWS page, although there is an anthology of Secret Weaver Writings, but the cover image is so small I can’t figure out what this is all about either.) Anyway, this is a bilingual collection of sudden fictions from four of her collections. “Shua’s microfictions may be consumed at random, or according to the order in which her original books were published”—which I think covers all the options—“in fact, it is the perfect book to carry with you for those moments when you must wait for an appointment, a flight, your turn at the check-out line, or if you find yourself stuck in traffic.” Ana Maria Shua also has a story in the new issue of Habitus centered around Buenos Aires.

8 February 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Listed below is the latest addition to the ongoing project of documenting all works of translated fiction and poetry published in the U.S. in 2008. Earlier posts can be found here, and in a couple weeks I’ll post the current spreadsheet of all titles (currently around 150 going through Apr/May for a host of presses) and some more careful (or not so careful) analysis. And next week I’ll do a number of these updates—we’ve fallen a bit behind and have a backlog of 20+ books to feature.

Kruger is one of the most influential literary men of Germany—not just for his writing and translating, but for the fact that he’s the head of Hanser Verlag—and this is his second novel to come out in English. In short, it’s about a literary executor who has to go through the papers of the recently deceased Rudolf, a scam of an academic who, nevertheless, leaves behind a unpublished masterpiece that will change the future of literature. This book received a nice review in the L.A. Times over the weekend that includes this bit of praise: “This is a book that not only lives up to its subtitle but also reminds us that between the dramatic poles of slapstick and black comedy is a broad, gray area where the absurd holds unsettling sway.”

  • Unforgiving Years, Victor Serge, translated from the French by Richard Greeman (New York Review Books, $15.95, 9781590172476)

NYRB editor Edwin Frank wrote this up in his monthly newsletter release. The whole release can be found here and rather than try and describe this book myself, I’m just going to quote Edwin: “The book has an epic scope—it is a picture of a planet in convulsion—without foregoing the detail of everyday life or a sense of the moment. It is a spy story and a war story and (several) love stories, gripping and terrifying, passionate and thoughtful, while the men and women in it—they include secret agents, true believers, philosophers, artists, and assassins—are at once larger than life and powerfully alive.”

Jason from the now defunct Lenox Hill Bookshop introduced me to Twisted Spoon books via Hermann Ungar’s The Maimed (a fine, disturbing book) years ago, and I’ve admired their list ever since. Not only are the books themselves really good, but the quality is superb. I am a bit confused by the $18.88 price, but whatever. Looks like a straight Euro to weak dollar conversion, or an Amazon screw-up. My only complaint about TSP is that the books aren’t widely available here. Maybe in a few high-minded indies on the West Coast, but aside from that . . . Really too bad. Anyway, continuing in the TSP tradition of introducing unique Czech authors to English readers, this is Klima’s first title to be published here in translation and sounds very interested. From their website: “In a series of journal entries, the novel chronicles the descent into madness of Prince Sternenhoch, the German Empire’s foremost aristocrat and favorite of the Kaiser. Having become the “lowliest worm” at the hands of his deceased wife Helga, the Queen of Hells, Sternenhoch eventually attains an ultimate state of bliss and salvation through the most grotesque form of perversion. Klíma explores here the paradoxical nature of pure spirituality with a humor that is as darkly comical as it is obscene.”

  • Jamilia, Chingiz Antmatov1, translated from the Russian by James Riordan (Telegram, $11.95, 9781846590320)

Telegram is an interesting publisher founded a few years ago by André Gaspard, who is also the co-founder and publisher of Saqi. They do lots of world literature, including this title, which is the first (and possibly final) Kyrgyzstan writer on the 2008 translation list. This hasn’t gotten much coverage here yet, but there is an excerpt online, and Louis Aragon called it “The most beautiful love story in the world.”

Although I’m not sure how much play they get nationally, White Pine has a really nice program, doing a ton of translations, especially from Korea (see the complete Korean Voices Series) and poetry. This story collection explores the devastating effects of war, including one story that sounds quite good: “Although the war happened many years ago, old animosities remain, and elderly nursing home residents are traumatized by their belief that the new resident was a collaborator.”

1 Or Chingiz Aitmatov, who has had several novels published in English, most recently The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years.

29 January 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Here’s the next installment in the ongoing project to chronicle all works of fiction and poetry coming out in translation this year. More fiction tomorrow . . .

All that really needs to be said is that Complete Review gave this an A. (By comparison, The Savage Detectives only earned an A-.) One of the most anticipated translations of the year, Bolano’s latest is a encyclopedia of sorts of imaginary writers from throughout the Americas. The buzz around this book is pretty incredible, thanks in part to the great job New Directions and FSG did in building Bolano’s reputation as one of the world’s greatest contemporary writers whose life was tragically cut short. An excerpt is available at the ND site, and in the new issue of Bookforum.

  • The Waitress Was New, Dominique Fabre, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (Archipelago, $15.00, 9780977857692)

Fabre is the author of nine works of fiction—including Fantomes, which received the Marcel Pagnol prize in 2001—but this is the first to appear in English. Fabre seems to fit in with the group of contemporary French writers that includes Echenoz, Oster, and the like, although that’s a pretty broad generalization. This just arrived in the mail yesterday, and based on the first few pages, I’m sure we will be reviewing this in the next few weeks. (I’m motivated by the writing itself and the line from the jacket copy about “the fellow who from time to time strips down and plunges into the nearby Seine,” which is exactly the sort of character most books need.) Fabre is going to be on tour here in the States, starting in New York with a reading at the Old Can Factory on Feb. 25th, then to Chicago on the 28th to be part of the Bookslut Reading Series, before going to Lincoln and Denver. For more info on this tour, please contact info at archipelagobooks dot org.

  • The Have-Nots, Katharina Hacker, translated from the German by Helen Atkins (Europa Editions, $14.95, 9781933372419)

This novel won the 2006 German Book Prize for best novel, and is yet another book we’re planning on reviewing later this month. An explicitly post-9/11 book, this novel is about two young people meet at a party and plan to get together again on the evening of 9/11/01 . . . Here’s what the German Book Award jury had to say: “Her protagonists are in their thirties,” wrote the jurors. “They know it all and yet of one thing they know nothing: themselves. They drift and yet are driven . . . Their questions are our questions.”

  • The Whistler, Ondjaki, translated from the Portuguese (Angola) by Richard Bartlett (Aflame Books, $14.00, 9780955233975)

Aflame is a relatively new press based in the UK and distributed via IPG. Their mission is very admirable—“to publish in English translation, works from Africa, Latin America and the Middle East; works whose brilliance has been hidden from the English-speaking world by the barriers of culture and language”—and their list is very interesting. (Thanks to Michael Orthofer for bringing Aflame to my attention.) The Whistler was praised in the African Review of Books for its humor and hope. It’s the story of the effect a mysterious young whistler has over the course of a week in an Angolan village. Sounds pretty interesting, especially since it “culminates in a Sunday Mass celebrated with orgasmic fervour—literally.”

Another title from Aflame that sounds kind of wacky: “A suave urban swindler invites himself to the sleepy hinterland of Nyanyadu where he dupes a well-meaning but naive local notable into a deceitful partnership. Pretending to be a modern-day Moses on a mission to save the people, CC Ndebenkulu is nothing more than a con man whose artifice exposes one man’s obsession with instant riches.” This was selected as one of Africa’s 100 Best Books from the Twentieth Century and is his first book to be translated into English.

  • Tworki, Marek Bienczyk, translated from the Polish by Benjamin Paloff (Northwestern University Press, $15.95, 9780810124769)

Over the years Northwestern’s “Writers from an Unbound Europe” series has been instrumental in introducing a lot of East European authors to English-readers. Bienczyk is yet another example of this. The translator of Kundera and Cioran into Polish, Bienczyk seems to incorporate a lot of literary games into his writing. This novel—set in a psychiatric hospital during WWII—sounds pretty fun and melancholy, and his earlier novel, Terminal—a “post-modern” love story—sounds good as well. It’s unfortunate—Northwestern does a lot of great books, but because of the staid jacket design and the lack of attention received by the media, a lot of these gems languish on bookstore shelves . . .

18 January 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [3]

Continuing our ongoing project to list all works of fiction and poetry in translation coming out this year, here are a list of four new poetry collections coming out over the next month.

Andrei Codrescu’s intro to this volume is really interesting, placing Jebeleanu in the context of being Romania’s “epic poet” in the Ginsberg sense of a “socially engaged bard.” Jebeleanu’s life and career is pretty unique—he was a true believer in the socialist dream and became a favorite of Ceausescu’s. Although he had a falling out (for obvious reasons) he was still allowed to be published, since, as the translator explains in his preface, Ceausescu’s strategy was “cleverly to allow them just enough freedom to publish censored versions of their work, or to force them into exile.” This was Jebeleanu’s final collection before his death.

  • In Praise of the Unfinished, Julia Hartwig, translated from the Polish by John Carpenter and Bogdana Carpenter (Knopf, $25.00, 9780307267207)

From the Knopf website: “Hailed by Czeslaw Milosz as “the grande dame of Polish poetry” and named “one of the foremost Polish poets of the twentieth century” by Ryszard Kapuscinski, Julia Hartwig has long been considered the gold standard of poetry in her native Poland. With this career-spanning collection, we finally have a book of her work in English.”

  • Port Trakl, Jaime Luis Huenun, translated from the Spanish by Daniel Borzutzky (Action Books, $14.00, 9780979975509)

Forrest Gander’s blurb for this collection says it all: “First introduced to a U.S. audience by Cecilia Vicuna in 4 Mapuche Poets, Jaime Luis Huenun has become best-known through Daniel Borzutzky’s vivid, memorable translations. In these recent poems—published in 2001 in Chile—Huenun invents a setting influenced by Melville’s vivid scenarios, Coleridge’s languid morbidity, and George Trakl’s silences and darkening seas. Borzutzky’s English version is as haunted, brooding, and terrific as the original”

This is the first collection of Kim Hyesoon’s to appear in English. She’s the author of eight collections of poetry and recipient of the Kim Suyong Contemporary Poetry Award. The only thing I could find online about this book (aside from the listing at Small Press Distribution) is this quote from the blog Exoskeleton: “I mean what could be better than a Korean woman poet who writes poems about rats that eat their own children and a Mapuche-Chilean poet who writes an homage to everybody’s favorite opium-addicted German Expressionist poet. I should also say that Kim Hyesoon absolutely wrecks up the notions of “hard” vs “soft” Surrealism—with these deeply political fables about cute and very soft animals.”

17 January 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Following up on my previous posts, here’s another addition to the list of translated fiction coming out this month.

Over the past few weeks—thanks in part to the help of Michael Orthofer—I’ve been creating a fairly detailed spreadsheet of all works of fiction and poetry in translation published this year.

(I’ve given up on the idea of identifying all literary nonfiction for a few reasons—there’s only so much time I have to spend on this, and listing a $65 scholarly book isn’t in keeping with my goal for this. If someone else gathered the info and passed it along, I could definitely add it to the spreadsheet/blog though.)

I still have a number of publishers’ catalogs to review, and most of my information only runs through April, but even at this early stage, the results are pretty interesting. At the moment, I’ve identified 106 original translations of fiction and poetry (no retranslations or reprints) coming out in 2008. Based on my non-scientific projection method, I think by the end of this year that number will be around 420-450—which, in my opinion, is remarkably small. I hope though, that by keeping track of this now and well into the future, we can see how this number changes over time, which countries/languages are most often translated, who’s publishing these books, etc.

In the near future, I’ll post the spreadsheet here (and updates every so often), and as always, if you have any suggestions, comments, etc., please contact me at chad.post at rochester dot edu.

Now onto the next group of January releases:

Acquired by two of my favorite editors—Amber Quereshi (now at Free Press) and James Gurbutt (who is at Harvill)—translated by one of my favorite translators from the Japanese, and agented by Anna Stein (another favorite), I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on this. This blurb from Picador also helps: “Hauntingly spare, beautiful, and twisted, The Diving Pool is a disquieting and at times darkly humorous collection of novellas about normal people who suddenly discover their own dark possibilities.” This book was also selected as a Reading the World 2008 title. And hopefully we’ll have a full review of this in the near future.

  • The Cliffs, Olivier Adam, translated from the French by Sue Rose (Pushkin Press, $14.95, 9781901285758)

Adam’s most recent book—A l’abri de rien (In the Shelter of Nothing)—was on the longlist for this year’s Prix Goncourt, Prix Médicis, and Prix Renaudot, and was mentioned as an example of France’s “lively” culture in Don Morrison’s infamous Time piece. This book takes place over a single night, while the narrator “reflects on his life, searching for traces of his mother, his childhood, his lost youth, his brutal father, his runaway brother and his years in Paris.” Not a lot of info online, but Pushkin does great, beautiful books, and based on the general praise for Adam, this is probably worth looking at.

  • Selected Writings, Leopold Lugones, edited by Gwen Kirkpatrick, and translated by Sergio Waisman (Oxford University Press, $15.95, 9780195174045)

This is part of the under-appreciated Oxford “Library of Latin America” series, that has included such writers as Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis. Like with many of the other titles in this series, Lugones was a precursor to Borges, and a writer that was extremely well-known at the time, although relatively obscure to today’s English readers. Aside from his writing, Lugones was also known for his controversial political views, which ranged from radical anarchism to fascism.

Actually two books in one. The first is a translation of an Urdu classic, the second a biography of Nazir Ahmad.

This two-volume collection is a pretty impressive project. The first volume contained mostly poetry, whereas this one is fiction—both short stories and excerpts from novels. From the OUP materials: “Beginning with Muhammad Hadi Ruswa (1857-1931), it moves on to Premchand, Ghulam Abbas, Krishan Chander, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Intizar Husain, Qurratulain Hyder, Abdullah Hussein, Naiyer Masud, among others, and finally, Syed Muhammad Ashraf (b. 1957). [. . .] Moreover, the continuation between pre- and post-Partition Urdu includes authors from both India and Pakistan, thus providing a holistic picture of modern Urdu literature.”

  • The Diary of a Maidservant Krishna Baldev Vaid, translated from the Hindi by Sagaree Sengupta (Oxford University Press, $20.00, 9780195691993)

From OUP: “The Diary of a Maidservant delineates the life and thoughts of Shanti, a young woman who earns a living as a casual household help. Through the ‘diary,’ given as a gift to Shanti, the teenage maidservant slowly discovers her impulses, dreams, and contradictions, and the reader is gradually drawn into the complications of everyday relationships between masters and servants and men and women.”

11 January 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

In the ongoing list of translations coming out in 2008, I have to admit that this category is a bit fuzzy. Not that I came across any, but I wasn’t planning on including translations of technical manuals, cookbooks, etc. By “literary nonfiction,” I’m referring to books for a general trade audience ($60 hardcover translations of obscure philosophical works wouldn’t be included—yet again, I have yet to come across any) that have some potential literary merit.

I couldn’t find much, but here are two titles coming out this month, both of which are worth checking out:

  • One Soldier’s War, Arkady Babchenko, translated from the Russian by Nick Allen (Grove, $25.00, 9780802118608)

This is a title we’re very interested in reviewing, and one that E.J. was pursuing when he was at Ecco. The Grove site does a great job describing this: “One Soldier’s War is a visceral and unflinching memoir of a young Russian soldier’s experience in the Chechen wars that brilliantly captures the fear, drudgery, chaos, and brutality of modern combat. An excerpt of the book was hailed by Tibor Fisher in the Guardian as “right up there with Catch-22 and Michael Herr’s Dispatches,” and the book won Russia’s inaugural Debut Prize, which recognizes authors who write “despite, not because of, their life circumstances.”

This book is a collection of eight autobiographies written by gay men in France between 1845 to 1905 in a variety of styles, about a variety of experiences. From the UNP website: “A few of them dramatized their lives following contemporary theatrical and fictional models, while others wrote for medical doctors, who used the men’s writings as case studies to illustrate their theories on sexual deviance. In some instances the doctors’ extensive interpretations cannot be separated from the men’s own stories, but in others the authors speak for themselves.” UNP also has an excerpt available for download on their website.

9 January 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Finding poetry in translation is probably more difficult than finding works of fiction, so again, this is probably missing a few things, but here goes:

This book came out of the NEA International Literary Exchanges program and is a wide-ranging collection of contemporary Russian poetry translated by a variety of people, both established and up-and-coming. I actually wrote the grant for this, and if all goes according to plan, this collection should be getting a lot of attention over the next few months.

From the Host website: “Looking for the Horse Latitudes is a stunning poetry collection from esteemed poet and translator Miguel Gonzalez-Gerth. Describing this bilingual volume as “a laboratory in which a very interesting experiment has been carried out,” Gonzalez-Gerth writes in both Spanish and English and moves deftly between the two languages, creating a voice both cosmopolitan and intensely Latin American.”

  • Nettles, Venus Khoury-Ghata, translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker (Graywolf, $14.00, 9781555974879)

The last collection from Lebanese poet Venus Khoury-Ghata was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, and I’m sure this will receive a ton of praise as well. The Graywolf website describes it as such: “In Nettles, Vénus Khoury-Ghata brings her impulses for lyric poetry and for stark narrative together into four enchanting sequences. Each confronts the realities of womanhood, immigration, and cultural conflict with an imagination and history born from both the Arabic and French languages.” And an excerpt is available here.

9 January 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

After posting the initial list of January translations yesterday, I got info about three titles I missed (see below). I’m sure there are a few more, so if you know of anything, please feel free to post it here or contact me.

Also, I’ll put up the poetry translations later today, and literary nonfiction tomorrow, but just so everyone knows, if you click on the “2008 translations” tag at the bottom, you can access all of the posts listing these titles. And later this year we’ll post an Excel file with all the relevant info.

For now:

The Booklist review makes this sound very dark and funny: “A medieval bishop travels to the most desolate, forgotten regions of Iceland to investigate reports of paganism among the wretched settlers, whose major choice in life is to die of starvation, freezing, or, once the bishop arrives, torture (for the salvation of their souls, naturally). The story comprises mostly a report from the bishop, whose matter-of-fact tone is so ridiculously incongruous to the atrocities that he encounters (“the crew had partaken of human flesh, even on fish days”) and that he perpetrates (burning a fallen priest at the stake slowly in seal-oil, wood being too scarce for the task) that it is laugh-out-loud funny and revolting at once.”

  • The Jewish Messiah, Arnon Grunberg, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett (Penguin, $27.95, 9781594201493)

Arnon Grunberg is the most prolific Words Without Borders blogger in history. And it seems like he has a new novel out in Dutch and in English every year . . . Other Press did a number of his early books, and this title about a “confused young man from a family with a Nazi past who decides he will devote his life to redeeming the suffering of the Jews in his own unorthodox way” sounds promising as well. One of the funniest Grunberg stories is that he is the only author to win the Anton Wachter Prize for a Debut Novel twice—once as Grunberg, and once under the pseudonym Marek van der Jagt.

  • Homecoming, Bernard Schlink, translated from the German by Michael Henry Heim (Pantheon, $24.00, 9780375420917)

Arguably the “biggest” translation of the month (from one of the biggest translators), Homecoming is the latest book from the author of the Oprah bookclub pick The Reader. Michael Dirda does a great job summarizing this book: “These elements — The Odyssey, a temporary return home, restless change, even the nature of the law — are all fundamental to Schlink’s fine new novel, Homecoming. In a quiet, conversational style similar to that of The Reader (and to so many classic European r¿cits), Peter Debauer recalls the major events of his life: his visits to his grandparents in Switzerland, childhood with his hard-edged but beautiful single mother, the books he read, the women he loved.”

8 January 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As I mentioned earlier, one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2008 is to create a fairly comprehensive list of new translations published here in the States. (I’ll do my best to exclude reprints and retranslations, instead mentioning those separately.) So, here’s the first post highlighting all the works of fiction I could find that are coming out this month.

I’m 100% sure this list is incomplete (seriously, there are only so many hours in the day available for trolling publisher websites), so if you know of any other titles that should be added, please post them in the comments or e-mail me at chad.post at rochester.edu. Aside from the fun of seeing what’s coming out, I think it will be extremely useful and interesting to have some fairly reliable stats on U.S. translations . . .

I’ll post the poetry and literary nonfiction in a bit, and next week, I’ll put up the titles I for February.

  • Between Two Seas, Carmine Abate, translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar (Europa, $14.95, 9781933372402)

Dark story of a photographer in post-WWII Italy who gets involved with a man obsessed with rebuilding the south’s most famous inn. Winner of the Fenice-Europa prize for fiction.

  • The Five Seasons of Love, Joao Almino, translated from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Jackson (Host Publications, $15.00, 9780924047510)

Praised by Alberto Ruy-Sanchez, here’s how Host describes this novel: In The Five Seasons of Love, acclaimed Brazilian writer João Almino presents a compelling and sympathetic portrait of a woman whose life has not turned out as she anticipated, and whose once audacious dreams have been replaced by half-truths, failures, and frustration.

  • Detective Story, Imre Kertesz, translated from the Hungarian by Tim Wilkinson (Knopf, $21.00, 97803087266446)

The first of three Kertesz titles to come out this year (really—the other two are coming from Melville House), Detective Story is one of the books I’m most excited about for this month. Knopf’s website is a bit lacking in descriptive details (re: the pages is blank), but there is an excerpt and a great review at Complete Review.

  • Yalo, Elias Khoury, translated from the Arabic by Peter Theroux (Archipelago, $25.00, 9780979333040)

The other title I’m most excited about, and one that we plan on reviewing. From the starred review in Publishers Weekly: “After the acclaimed Gate of the Sun, Khoury returns with the spellbinding ‘confession’ of Beirut criminal Daniel Jal’u, aka Yalo, who is picked up by the cops for rape, robbery and suspicion of arms smuggling. [. . .] a dense and stunning work of art.” (I know that last line is one of those bullshit “not for everyone” sales killers, but I like books that are stunning, dense, and works of art, and based on the Best Translation recommendations, I suspect a lot of readers of Three Percent do as well.)

David Golder appeared in English back in 1930, but Sandra Smith retranslated it for this collection. Doesn’t sound as important to Nemirovksy’s oeuvre as Suite Francaise, but according to Complete Review this is a solid overview of her writing.

  • Shinjuku Shark, Arimasa Osawa, translated from the Japanese by Andrew Clare (Vertical, $14.95, 9781932234374)

This is the first volume in English of the popular Japanese police series featuring Tokyo detective Samejima.

  • The Parson’s Widow, Marja-Liisa Vartio, translated from the Finnish by Aili and Austin Flint (Dalkey Archive, $13.95, 9781564784834)

From Kirkus: “The central characters are the eponymous Adele; her maid, Alma; and the parson who remains a vital presence even in death. Adele and Alma spend most of their time reliving the past and arguing about whose recollection is the perfect one. Their stories reveal much about their own fears and preoccupations and the pitiful secrets that seethe just beneath the surface of respectable rural life.”

....
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