15 December 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

December isn’t all about gift getting, crowded shopping malls, uncomfortable family gatherings, and cookies—it’s also about year-end donations to worthy non-profit organizations such as the Center for the Art of Translation.

As an added incentive, if you donate more than $5 to CAT, you’ll be entered in a drawing to win books from translators featured in the Lit&Lunch series. Specifically, here are the prizes:

First prize is a three-book package featuring two of this year’s most exciting translators: Natasha Wimmer and Breon Mitchell. The winner receives translator-signed copies of Roberto Bolano’s 2666 and Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum, plus a copy of the newest Two Lines anthology, Wherever I Lie Is Your Bed.

Two runners-up will each receive a translator-signed copy of The Tin Drum and a copy of Wherever I Lie Is Your Bed.

Every donation really counts, which is why we brought the threshold for this giveaway to just $5. Those who pledge $20 or more will get 3 chances to win, and those who sign up for a recurring donation totaling $50 or more over the course of next year will have 5 chances to win these excellent books.

Click here for all the details, links to donate, etc.

12 March 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

Just announced: Roberto Bolano’s 2666 has won the 2008 National Book Critic Circle Award for Fiction. It’s always great to see a translation win a NBCC. (I might be mistaken, but I think the last book to do it was Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl back a few years ago.)

Last month, Marcela Valdes wrote a profile of 2666 for the NBCC blog:

We will never know what ending Roberto Bolaño would have placed at the finale of his extraordinary novel 2666. Though he worked furiously on the book during the last years of his life, he died in Barcelona in 2003, before he could ever complete it.

Assuming, that is, that the supposed sixth part is bunk. . . .

But seriously, 2666 is a brilliant, demanding, deserving novel, and Marcela does a great job summing it up:

It begins with the passion four literary critics feel for the novels of a mysterious author named Benno von Archimboldi and ends with the tender attachment that Archimboldi himself feels for his younger sister. In between lie perhaps the most harrowing 284 pages in modern literature: a tour of the fictional town of Santa Teresa, Mexico, that includes clinical descriptions of 108 murders, all of them of women and girls. [. . .]

Bolaño’s novel is a carefully researched indictment of the circumstances that led to this war and to the murder of more than 400 women and girls in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. It is also, however, more than a book about Mexico. By casting his narrative net so widely—over Nazi soldiers and sympathizers, over Mexican cops and narcos, over Black Panthers and American sheriffs, over lonely detectives and writers, over Romanians and Argentines and Frenchmen—Bolaño assembles arguments for a sexy, apocalyptic vision of history. One that recognizes the constant presence of brutality and impunity, and love and courage in our world.

Congrats to FSG, Natasha Wimmer, Lorin Stein, and everyone else involved in the publication and promotion of this epic novel.

16 December 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

For the next several weeks we’ll be highlighting a book-a-day from the 25-title Best Translated Book of 2008 fiction longlist, leading up to the announcement of the 10 finalists. Click here for all previous write-ups.



2666 by Roberto Bolano, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer. (Chile, FSG)

What more is there to say about 2666? Earlier this year I claimed it was the “big book at BEA,” I also have told various people that it is one of the greatest books to be published during my reading lifetime. It’s gotten a ton of review attention, and was the only non-Knopf book to make the New York Times Top 10 Books of 2008 list. It’s big, it’s available as a three-volume paperback and in hardcover, it’s ambitious, it’s five novels in one, and it’s on our longlist.

A simple Google search will bring you more reviews and descriptions of the book than you care to read, despite the fact that this isn’t an easy book to talk about or review. (In terms of Best Translated Book panelists, both Michael Orthofer and Scott Esposito have reviewed this.) Each of the five sections is very distinct, although they link together in a sort of mind-blowing fashion. And at the center of the novel are the disturbing Ciudad Juarez murders. From the “Note to the First Edition”:

In one of his many notes for 2666, Bolano indicates the existence in the work of a “hidden center,” concealed beneath what might be considered the novel’s “physical center.” There is reason to think that this physical center is the city of Santa Teresa, faithful reflection of Ciudad Juarez, on the Mexican-U.S. border. There the five parts of the novel ultimately converge; there the crimes are committed that comprise its spectacular backdrop (and that are said by one of the novel’s characters to contain “the secret of the world”). As for the “hidden center” . . . , might it not represent 2666 itself, the date upon which the whole novel rests? [. . .]

A final observation is perhaps in order here. Among Bolano’s notes for 2666 there appears the single line: “The narrator of 2666 is Arturo Bolano.” And elsewhere Bolano adds, with the indication “for the end of _2666_“: “And that’s it, friends. I’ve done it all, I’ve lived it all. If I had the strength, I’d cry. Farewell to you all, Arturo Bolano.”

Earlier this month, Words Without Borders hosted a special event at Idlewild books with Natasha Wimmer (the translator of 2666) and novelist Francisco Goldman (who, I believe, was the first person to turn Barbara Epler of New Directions onto Bolano). Sounds like the event was spectacular, at least according to these two write-ups:

I think I could have listened to Francisco Goldman tell stories all night long, despite the heat raditating from over a hundred of us standing, eager Bolaño fans at Idlewild Bookstore Thursday night. While Goldman and Bolaño had never met – indeed, Goldman had not read Bolaño until shortly after his death – he effused passion for the subject of the night’s talk and channeled their many mutual friends and admirers for a surprisingly intimate look an author who is taking on the near mythical status he’s had for some time now outside of the U.S. [From Bud Parr’s report for Words Without Borders

And, one of the most important details from Scott Bryan Wilson’s write up at Conversational Reading

Goldman pronounced the title “Two-six-six-six,” perhaps emphasizing the Number of the Beast association, while Wimmer opted for the lengthier but seemingly more correct “Twenty-six-sixty-six.

What’s even better is that both Natasha Wimmer and Francisco Goldman wrote essays for this event (click above names for both) that are quite interesting. Here’s a nice section from Francisco’s piece that’s also a good note to end on:

Bolaño drew from reality in his fiction, and from his own life, yet his fiction is not really realist. His fiction pointed away from reality, and certainly away from mundane political or moral interpretations of reality, towards something else—poetry, open-endedness, a kind of philosophical and tragicomic shock; his fiction always opens “new paths,” as Bolaño said of Borges’s writing. And it is partly this mysterious, radical quality, sometimes even a quality of epic parable (someone in 2666, Amalfitano maybe, says something along the lines of “if you could solve the mystery of the murders of women in Santa Teresa, you’d decipher the meaning of evil in our time”) that makes his writing seem more kin to the spirit of Borges and even Kafka than to other Latin American writers he also admired, such as Lezama, Onetti, Cortazar, or Bioy.

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

I usually don’t post things like this, but there are two great events happening tonight that I wish I could be at.

First off, Archipelago Books is having their “third biennial fundraising auction” tonight at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy at 972 Fifth Ave. from 6:30 to 8:30. Lots of great stuff up for auction (you can see it all by clicking here) and the proceeds will go to a very worth cause.

Also happening tonight is the next event in the Words Without Borders reading and conversation series at Idlewild Books this time featuring Natasha Wimmer and Francisco Goldman talking about Bolano’s 2666. I can’t imagine a better event . . . especially since I’ve heard that FSG will be selling special 2666 t-shirts. (I hope this rumor isn’t unfounded, and if anyone will buy me one, I swear I’ll pay you back.) Bud Parr has a column at WWB previewing this event.

11 November 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

A number of 2666 reviews are out now, including one in the L.A. Times and one by Adam Kirsch in Slate. And even in O Magazine, which compares the book to a video game (?!):

Holding a reviewer’s copy of 2666 in public was like brandishing the newest Harry Potter at the playground three months before the on-sale date. Half a dozen eager strangers who’d heard about the book spoke to me while I was reading it. [Ed. Note: I’ll second that, although it’s worth mentioning that this wasn’t the open-top Porsche bookish guys hoped it would be.] Bolaño has particularly captured the imaginations of younger readers because his work is rather like a video game or a set of nested webpages, stories within stories with many apparent authors, and little sense of predetermined purpose.

I’ll second Michael Orthofer’s opinion—this book is going to be “this season’s literary juggernaut.” (In case you’re wondering, Michael gave it a A+.)

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

On the same day as the 2666 Launch Party (which, thanks to the d-bags curators of myopenbar.com was crowded with non-literary folk [seriously, we should all prank them by submitting hundreds of fake events featuring free booze], although Zadie Smith, Natasha Wimmer, Michael Miller, Craig Teicher, Mark Binelli, and many more publishers/reviewers/authors were also in attendance) I received a copy of Sunday’s NY Times Book Review, which included Jonathan Lethem’s front-page review of the novel.

By bringing scents of a Latin American culture more fitful, pop-savvy and suspicious of earthy machismo than that which it succeeds, Bolaño has been taken as a kind of reset button on our deplorably sporadic appetite for international writing, standing in relation to the generation of García Márquez, Vargas Llosa and Fuentes as, say, David Foster Wallace does to Mailer, Updike and Roth. As with Wallace’s Infinite Jest, in The Savage Detectives Bolaño delivered a genuine epic inocu­lated against grandiosity by humane irony, vernacular wit and a hint of punk-rock self-effacement. Any suspicion that literary culture had rushed to sentimentalize an exotic figure of quasi martyrdom was overwhelmed by the intimacy and humor of a voice that earned its breadth line by line, defying traditional fictional form with a torrential insouciance.

Well, hold on to your hats. [. . .]

Bolaño won the race to the finish line in writing what he plainly intended, in his self-interrogating way, as a master statement. Indeed, he produced not only a supreme capstone to his own vaulting ambition, but a landmark in what’s possible for the novel as a form in our increasingly, and terrifyingly, post-national world. The Savage Detectives looks positively hermetic beside it.

After finishing 2666 this past summer, I wondered how anyone would review this. It’s long, complicated, and made up of five standalone (in a way) sections. Lethem does a fantastic job describing the novel, highlighting many of the interesting aspects without sugar-coating the novel’s “difficulty.”

On an interesting sidenote, the Inside the List section features a note on how foreign fiction has fared on the NY Times Best Seller list.

While Bolaño, who died in 2003 at age 50, has been receiving ecstatic critical praise since his work began appearing in English translation, he has yet to make the best-seller list. The world may be going post-national, but the list is still pretty much an English-only place — like the American book market in general, which has seen the publication of only about 320 works of translated literature this year, out of roughly 15,000 literary titles, according to Chad W. Post of Open Letter Press. This week’s fiction best sellers include only two translated books, both on the trade paperback list: Paulo Coelho’s Alchemist (at No. 8 in its 59th week here) and Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses (at No. 18 in its 17th week). Meanwhile, Stieg Larsson’s Swedish thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo drops to No. 17 on the extended hardcover list.

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

I’m off to New York to make the rounds the next two days, and to log in a couple hours of tough “work” at Friday night’s 2666 launch party that’s taking place at Plan B (10th and B) from 8 to 10. I hear there will be some finished copies on sale, and a lot of people involved with the book (like editor Lorin Stein) will be in attendance. And a lot of die-hard Bolano fans . . .

If you’re in the area and/or desperate to see a finished copy, feel free to swing by.

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

2666 is a true masterpiece. I plan on writing something more substantial later, after taking some time to think about the novel, but in the meantime I want to share a couple interesting bits from the “Note to the First Edition” about Bolano’s notes on the novel:

In one of his many notes for 2666, Bolano indicates the existence in the work of a “hidden center,” concealed beneath what might be considered the novel’s “physical center.” There is reason to think that this physical center is the city of Santa Teresa, faithful reflection of Ciudad Juarez, on the Mexican-U.S. border. There the five parts of the novel ultimately converge; there the crimes are committed that comprise its spectacular backdrop (and that are said by one of the novel’s characters to contain “the secret of the world”). As for the “hidden center” . . . , might it not represent 2666 itself, the date upon which the whole novel rests? [. . .]

A final observation is perhaps in order here. Among Bolano’s notes for 2666 there appears the single line: “The narrator of 2666 is Arturo Bolano.” And elsewhere Bolano adds, with the indication “for the end of 2666“: “And that’s it, friends. I’ve done it all, I’ve lived it all. If I had the strength, I’d cry. Farewell to you all, Arturo Bolano.”

27 August 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [2]

In this week’s Fall Books Preview, Sam Anderson has a write-up on 2666, which promises to be one of—if not the—big books of 2008.

For a certain demographic of high-lit dorks, 2666 is like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: We’ve been shivering for it for months. Given the current climate of critical love, it might even have a shot at becoming the Infinite Jest–style Strangely Popular Giant Novel of the Year. It promises all the Bolaño signatures: sex, violence, nightmares, stories within stories, obsessed obsessives, an intercontinental hunt for a literary recluse, radical art (one painter finishes a self-portrait by affixing his mummified severed hand to the canvas), and the occasional five-page-long sentence. The big question will be, can a former poet whose mind seems to work most powerfully in short dashes, and whose long novels tend to feel like rapid successions of short fevers, sustain our attention for almost 900 pages? Either way, its publication is bittersweet: Although it marks the end, finally, of the English-speaking world’s Bolaño lag, it’s also the end, forever, of our new Bolaño.

A subset of those high-lit dorks have been carrying around galleys since the beginning of summer . . . I’m almost done reading this (it really is long, and has big pages to boot), and it’s absolutely astounding. (I actually got an e-mail yesterday in which someone claimed that it might well be the greatest book ever.)

This write-up is nice, if not a bit inaccurate. This fall New Directions is bringing out a collection of Bolano’s poetry, and they have a few more titles coming out over the next few years. ND is publishing everything by Bolano, except for The Savage Detectives and 2666, so thankfully this isn’t the end of new Bolano titles . . .

14 May 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The next few weeks of my life are now totally booked . . .

I mentioned this in passing yesterday, but the titles for the five parts are pretty intriguing: “The Part about the Critics,” “The Part about Amalfitano,” “The Part about Fate,” “The Part about the Crimes,” and “The Part about Archimboldi.”

And the opening is pretty promising:

The first time that Jean-Claude Pelletier read Benno von Archimboldi was Christmas 1980, in Paris, when he was nineteen years old and studying German literature. The book in question was D’Arsonval. The young Pelletier didn’t realize at the time that the novel was part of a trilogy (made up of the English-themed The Garden and the Polish-themed The Leather Mask, together with the clearly French-themed D’Arsonval), but this ignorance or lapse or bibliographic lacuna, attributable only to extreme youth, did nothing to diminsh the wonder and admiration that the novel stirred in him.

From that day on (or from the early morning hours when he concluded his maiden reading) he became an enthusiastic Archimboldian and set out on a quest to find more works by the author. This was no easy task.

And if you’re still not sold on Bolano, here’s a killer blurb:

“Not just the great Spanish-language novel of this decade, but one of the cornerstones that define an entire literature. . . . [Bolano] has revived an idea that the postmoderns seemed to have abandoned: the totalizing novel, which aspires to create a complete narrative universe.” — J. A. Masoliver Rodenas, La Vanguardia (Barcelona)

Both the single-volume hardcover and the three-volume slipcaded paperback edition are coming out in November and retail for $30. You can order in advance from Amazon, though I’m sure your local independent store would happily reserve a copy as well . . .

13 May 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I’ve been checking my mailbox every 5 minutes, hoping that this strange ritual will result in a ARC of Roberto Bolano’s 2666 mysteriously appearing . . .

It’s interesting to see how many posts have popped up about this galley. The most recent is from Michael Orthofer, who recaps some of the others and provides a few tantalizing tidbits about the book itself:

What can we tell you about it ? For a start, we like the promise of the epigraph, from Baudelaire:

“An oasis of horror in a desert of boredom.”

Part one of the five-part novel is: ‘The part about the critics.’

I can’t remember the last time that a galley of a 900-page book from a dead international author was getting so much hype . . . And by the way, the second this appears in my mailbox, I’m taking the next month off to read it non-stop . . . See ya’ll in July!

9 May 08 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

Sancho’s Panza mentions that galleys of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 have begun to surface:

So it looks like the fat advance copies of Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666 in English translation have begun arriving in reviewers’ mailboxes. It will be interesting to see how this book is received, after the gush of critical (and reader) enthusiasm for The Savage Detectives last year. My opinion, which goes against the opinion of many writers and critics (such as pioneering Bolaño booster Francisco Goldman), is that The Savage Detectives is the better work, more satisfying, less self-conscious, more fun, more a book that will outlast whatever hype becomes attached to it. And I think The Savage Detectives is a deeper book in the end though the themes of 2666 would seem perhaps to carry more ballast: death and evil.

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

So, following up on yesterday’s post about the coverage of Bolano in The Nation and at Bookninja, today Michael Orthofer at the Literary Saloon has info about the anxiously awaited 2666, Bolano’s final book, and supposed magnum opus.

How very exciting to find that, at least on the American Amazon.com site, Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, in Natasha Wimmer’s translation, can now be pre-ordered (and judging by the sales ranks, some people already have). Better yet, FSG is apparently making it available both in a three-paperback-volume boxed set as well as a 912-page hardcover — both available on 11 November.

I’m a big fan of the dual three-paperback and hardcover printing—fantastic idea, especially for a “difficult” 900+-page book. Although I’m willing to do/sell/admit to anything to get a galley version . . .

And to follow up on a comment I made at the Columbia Translation conference—basically, that I had heard Natasha Wimmer wrote a really great overview piece on Bolano that was distributed with the galleys and helped reviewers in writing about the book—the article in question is actually available online.

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