19 April 17 | Kaija Straumanis |

A Greater Music is the first in a line of steady and much-anticipated releases by Bae Suah from key indie presses (this one published by Open Letter). Building off of the interest of 2016 Best Translated Book Award longlist nominee Nowhere to Be Found, Bae Suah is back, this time with Deborah Smith, translator of the Man Booker Prize winner_ The Vegetarian_ and founder of Tilted Axis, a UK-based press dedicated to publishing new works in translation.

In the book’s opening chapters, the narrator—who remains unnamed—falls into an icy river in the suburbs of Berlin. A Korean writer and student living in Germany, she begins to look back over the years, blurring lines between past and present as she examines her relationship with Joachim, her on-and-off, working class boyfriend, and M, her German tutor, a refined and enigmatic young woman she’s in love with. The contrast between these two partners and the tensions around language and class are fascinating, but I had a hard time just getting past how gorgeous the writing was.

The narrator describes M, setting the scene for their many discussions of music and language, “The rain water trickled down M’s pale, almost ghost-like forehead, down over her eyelids, still more sunken after her recent cold, and over her slightly-downward pointed nose. When she tilted her head upward, her lips appeared unbelievably thin and delicate, tapering elegantly even when she wasn’t smiling, flushed red as though suffused by the morning sunlight. The delicate, languidly prominent scaffolding of her cheekbones . . . If books and language were the symbol of M’s absolute world, then music was her inaccessible mind, her religion, her soul.”
The narrative is constantly shifting, pliable, and fluid, in both tense and setting. The construction seems effortless, allowing the narrator to sift through her life, her relationships, and most importantly the end of her relationship with M to find closure in it all. Her memory, one can’t forget, is imperfect—an approximation and perhaps a reinvention.

The style of the writing evokes the very music that seems to drive the story. Smith in an interview with Tobias Carroll for Vol. 1 Brooklyn stated, “When I was translating her, the thing that I was most aware of was trying not to smooth out the weirdness too much. . . . It becomes quite hypnotic when you read it in Korean, and quite lyrical in places as well. She writes a lot about music, and the other thing that her style evokes is that. It’s more about the cadence of the sentence. The core book itself, the structure, is more about variations on a theme, and coming back to certain motifs rather than a straight chronology.”

Thankfully for readers, Bae Suah is prolific and Deborah Smith seems determined to bring these great books to English language readers.

1 October 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

It’s been some months since I posted about GoodReads Giveaways here on Three Percent, but since I recently scheduled ones for all of our forthcoming winter titles, I thought I’d invite everyone to enter into these drawings.

Both of these giveaways—for The Brother and for A Greater Music—run from October 1st until October 15th, and you can throw your name into the virtual hat simply by clicking through the “Enter Giveaway” boxes below.

First up, Rein Raud’s The Brother, translated from the Estonian by Adam Cullen:

Winner of the Eduard Vilde Literary Award

The Brother opens with a mysterious stranger arriving in a small town controlled by a group of men—men who recently cheated the stranger’s supposed sister out of her inheritance and mother’s estate. Resigned to giving up on her dreams and ambitions, Laila took this swindling in stride, something that Brother won’t stand for. Soon after his arrival, fortunes change dramatically, enraging this group of powerful men, motivating them to get their revenge on Brother. Meanwhile, a rat-faced paralegal makes it his mission to discover Brother’s true identity . . .

The first novel of Rein Raud’s to appear in English, The Brother is, in Raud’s own words, a spaghetti western told in poetic prose, simultaneously paying tribute to both Clint Eastwood and Alessandro Baricco. With its well-drawn characters and quick moving plot, it takes on more mythic aspects, lightly touching on philosophical ideas of identity and the ruthless way the world is divided into winners and losers.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Brother by Rein Raud

The Brother

by Rein Raud

Giveaway ends October 15, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway




And then A Greater Music by Bae Suah, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith:

Near the beginning of A Greater Music, the narrator, a young Korean writer, falls into an icy river in the Berlin suburbs, where she’s been house-sitting for her on-off boyfriend Joachim. This sets into motion a series of memories that move between the hazily defined present and the period three years ago when she first lived in Berlin. Throughout, the narrator’s relationship with Joachim, a rough-and-ready metalworker, is contrasted with her friendship with M, an ultra-refined music-loving German teacher who was once her lover.

A novel of memories and wandering, A Greater Music blends riffs on music, language, and literature with a gut-punch of an emotional ending, establishing Bae Suah as one of the most exciting novelists working today.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Greater Music by Bae Suah

A Greater Music

by Bae Suah

Giveaway ends October 15, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway




13 September 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This fall, two Open Letter authors will be on tour: Josefine Klougart (whose tour we announced a few weeks ago) will be going cross-country starting next week to promote One of Us Is Sleeping. And then, just as her tour is wrapping up, Bae Suah will be arriving in San Francisco (along with her translator, Man Booker Prize winning Deborah Smith) to visit a few different cities and talk about A Greater Music.



Both Suah and Deborah will be doing events at this year’s American Literary Translators Conference, but since those aren’t open to the public, I haven’t listed them below. For any and everyone else, you can see Suah and Deborah in action at these events:

Thursday, October 6th, 7:00 pm
Literary Death Match
Shadow Ultra Lounge (341 13th St., Oakland, CA 94612)

Friday, October 7th, 7:30 pm
Green Apple Books on the Park (506 Clement St., San Francisco, CA 94118)

Monday, October 10th, 7:30 pm
Powell’s Books on Hawthorne (3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214)

Tuesday, October 11th, 7:00 pm
Elliott Bay Book Company (1521 10th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122)

Wednesday, October 12th, 7:00 pm
Volumes Bookcafe (1474 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60622)

Thursday, October 13th, 7:00 pm
Brazos Bookstore (2421 Bissonnet Street, Houston, TX 77005)

Friday, October 14th, 7:00 pm
Crow Collection of Asian Art (2010 Flora St., Dallas, TX 75201)

Hopefully you can catch her at one or more of those events!

....
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