This match was judged by Meredith Miller, a Foreign Rights Agent at Trident Media Group. You can follow her on Twitter at @merofthemillers.
Assault on Paradise vs. Crow Blue pits two very different books from the Americas against one another in a David vs. Goliath match-up. Geographically speaking, Costa Rica is a mere .6% of the total landmass of Brazil, and its population 2.2% of its much larger cousin. Harder, if not impossible to measure is the significance of each country’s respective cultural histories replete with bloody colonization, uprisings, and political upheaval.
At their root, Assault on Paradise and Crow Blue are both stories of exodus—one propelled by the historical events that directly shape and forever alter one man’s life and the other a portrait of a young woman’s life indirectly shaped by the reverberations of a time and place she never knew. Through disparate means, both books achieve what I seek to gain reading literature in translation. Both stories place you directly in a time, with a people, either previously unknown or little-known, shrinking the world just a little bit more to better comprehend our shared collective experience.
In Adriana Lisboa’s Crow Blue (trans. Alison Entrekin), thirteen-year-old Vanja leaves her home in Rio de Janeiro for the suburbs of Denver in search of her biological father and her identity after the untimely death of her mother. Guiding Vanja on her search and assuming the role of de facto father is Fernando, an early ex-husband of Vanja’s mother with a violent past as a guerilla fighter. Multilayered, Crow Blue is also an exploration of Brazil’s sordid political history. The narrative deftly leaps from Vanja’s present day search in the Southwest, which brings together an unlikely family of three displaced souls; to Vanja’s carefree childhood on the idyllic Copacabana Beach with her mother; to the occupied portions of the Amazon in the 1970s with Fernando witness to the atrocities carried out by the Brazilian government. This is a novel that very much belongs to its characters, with prose lush and metaphorical, about the compelling need that we humans have to know who we are and from where we came.
Lisboa secures the first point for Brazil through Vanja’s keen and astute observations—well beyond her years—of migration, assimilation, family, and whether it is “possible for the people and culture of a place not to be enmeshed in the fabric of time and history.” Like many immigrants, Vanja feels the burden of being without a sense of place, observing that “after you have been away from home too long, you become an intersection between the two groups.” Like a Venn Diagram, you come to occupy the space in between. The adults in Vanja’s life have a penchant for entrusting her with their own personal histories. She, by turn, is adept at ferreting out the missing pieces of the story and filling in what is not readily offered.
In the second half, Tatiana Lobo scores successive points for Costa Rica with Assault on Paradise (trans. Asa Zatz) for its tragicomic wit, punchy, modern language in spite of its eighteenth century setting, and its unapologetic indictment of the Spanish colonization of Central America. This ambitious, sweeping historical novel follows the misadventures of Pedro Albarán, an escaped prisoner of the Inquisition who has made it to the new world in search of his own personal freedom. Unsure of the crime for which he was arrested, Pedro adopts the philosophy of “play dead dog; be all ears” and “undercover efficiency” to keep a low profile in this strange new world.
Despite his best efforts to lay low, Pedro cannot help himself from pontificating about the hypocrisies of the Church and government and from his obsessive admiration of the opposite sex, escalating his status at one point to living legend. On an expedition to atone for the governor’s transgressions, Pedro falls madly in love with a mute native woman without ever understanding her or the culture his countrymen aim to destroy. Lobo breathes a touch of Mayan mystique and mythology into the mounting tension and ensuing conflict. Though tedious at times to keep track of the many settlers’ names and back stories, Lobo has crafted an engrossing, swashbuckling tale of the tumultuous makings of Central America.
Lobo succeeds in giving a wag of the finger to the bloodthirsty Conquistadors while maintaining a smart sense of humor securing one goal for Brazil, slipping in phrases such as “crotch-transgressions” when the narrative moment calls for it. She scores a second goal for the win with the pace at which she is able to maintain throughout the story, spanning nine years and two continents.
Costa Rica: 2
Next up, Costa Rica’s Assault on Paradise will face off against either South Korea’s Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah or Spain’s The Happy City by Elvira Navarro on Friday, June 26th.
Tomorrow’s match will be judged by Sal Robinson, and features America’s Toni Morrison going up against Nigeria’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie when Home faces off against Americanah.
Last summer, to coincide with the Real Life World Cup, we hosted the World Cup of Literature, an incredible competition featuring 32 books from 32 countries, and ending with Roberto Bolaño’s By Night in Chile (Chile) triumphing over Valeria Luiselli’s Faces in the Crowd (Mexico). It was glorious.
Since the Women’s World Cup is kicking off in Canada next week, it’s time to do this all over again. Except that this time, only living female authors are allowed to participate. (And, as much as possible, the books included were published within the last ten years.)
Before announcing the participating titles, I have to announce that we’re still looking for judges. And, unlike last year, we want at least two-thirds of the eighteen judges to be females. So, if you’re interested—as a judge you read two books, write up the result of that “match” complete with soccer-esque score, then chime in on the final—just email me at chad.post[at]rochester.edu. You’ll have to do this fast though. The competition launches next week . . .
Tomorrow (or later today) we’ll post the new graphics and bracket so that you can see the first round competitions and debate which book has the easiest path to the final four, but for now, here’s a listing of all the titles that we’re including. (These are alphabetical in order of the country each is representing.)
Australia: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Brazil: Crow Blue by Adriana Lisboa, translated from the Portuguese by Alison Entrekin
Cameroon: Dark Heart of the Night by Léonora Miano, translated from the French by Tamsin Black
Canada: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
China: The Last Lover by Can Xue, translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen
Colombia: Delirium by Laura Restrepo, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer
Costa Rica: Assault on Paradise by Tatiana Lobo, translated from the Spanish by Asa Zatz
Cote d’Ivoire: Queen Pokou by Veronique Tadjo, translated from the French by Amy Baram Reid
Ecuador: Beyond the Islands by Alicia Yánez Cossío, translated from the Spanish by Amalia Gladhart
England: Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
France: Apocalypse Baby by Virginie Despentes, translated from the French by Sîan Reynolds
Germany: The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky, translated from the German by Tim Mohr
Japan: Revenge by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder
Mexico: Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa, translated from the Spanish by Samantha Schnee
Netherlands: The Ministry of Pain by Dubravka Ugresic, translated from the Croatian by Michael Henry Heim
New Zealand: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Nigeria: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Norway: The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann, translated from the Norwegian by Barbara Haveland
South Korea: Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell
Spain: The Happy City by Elvira Navarro, translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey
Sweden: The Stranger by Camilla Läckberg, translated from the Swedish by Steven Murray
Switzerland: With the Animals by Noëlle Revas, translated from the French by W. Donald Wilson
Thailand: The Happiness of Kati by Ngarmpun (Jane) Vejjajiva, translated from the Thai by Prudence Borthwick
USA: Home by Toni Morrison
Now that the World Cup of Literature is officially over, with Roberto Bolaño’s By Night in Chile taking home the prize, it’s time to get back to writing normal blog posts, starting with this much overdue “preview” of forthcoming July translations.
My initial plan with this post was to write it “live blog” style from Las Vegas where I was last month for the American Library Association conference. Unfortunately, many things got in the way of that, starting with the $14.95/day wifi costs in my hotel (Open Letter saves its money to spend on translators, not to allow me to make dumb jokes!), not to mention the 9am kickoff for the World Cup games, and the alcohol that I drank (see insane Eiffel Tower drink below).
So, instead, I’m going to try and work some of my observations into the write-ups below. But, unlike the music industry, which hasn’t brought out much of anything good this month, publishers are dropping some awesome stuff this summer. Bitov, Robbe-Grillet, Volodine, Haas, Can Xue . . . There are some legit overviews below to go with the usual assortment of random crap.
But to set the scene a bit: Way back when, before BEA locked itself into being in Jacob Javits’s glass house for a decade (or whatever), the show was supposed to take place in Las Vegas. Given the nonsensical nature of BEA and its parties, I couldn’t wait for this show. Booksellers AND strippers??! Lowly publicity assistants blowing their per diem at the craps table?? More drunken beardos than the streets of Brooklyn after a Pavement concert! SIGN ME UP.
Unfortunately, that BEA got moved to the Western West Side and was like every other BEA: A bit unfocused, a bit depressing, and a bit self-congratulatory.
Fast-forward a bunch of years, and now, when I’m too old to fully rock out anymore of course, I finally get to attend a convention in Vegas. One with fellow nerdy book people! Heading into it, I figured this was going to be great, and that I was going to lead at least a dozen librarians into nights of bad decision making.
Just to pause for a moment though, these are the people who attend ALA:
And those are the librarians from Austin. So, yeah. Vegas. Librarians. Books, booze, and gambling. Free flowing liquor. Temps above 110. My never-ending depression. What could possibly go wrong?
The Last Lover by Can Xue, translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen (Yale University Press)
Can Xue has to be the female Chinese author with the most books translated into English. She’s been published by Henry Holt, Northwestern, Open Letter, Yale, and has appeared in a number of issues of Conjunctions. Part of this is because she’s a fucking brilliant and strange writer, part of this is due to her natural charm. I finally had a chance to meet her in person last fall at the Reykjavik International Literary Festival (see our interview) and immediately signed on another of her novels, Frontier. This isn’t much of a secret, really, but publishers like to work with people they like. I’ll happily sign on a book that’s an 8 out of 10 instead of a book that’s a 10 out of 10 if the author/translator is someone that I really respect and like working with.
Which is why certain people won’t ever translate anything for Open Letter. Ever.
And I’ll bet you were expecting the “last lover” to lead to some sort of joke about escorts and Vegas and librarians . . .
Rachel by Andrei Gelasimov, translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz (Amazon Crossing)
This is the fourth of Gelasimov’s books that Amazon Crossing has published, three of which (including this one) are on sale for $1.99 right now. Say what you will about pricing, Hachette, and the decline of modern civilization, this is worth taking advantage of if for no other reason than the fact that Marian translated the books. She’s one of the most amazing translators we’ve got, and if she loves an author—like she does with Gelasimov—everyone should pay attention.
A Sentimental Novel by Alain Robbe-Grillet, translated from the French by D.E. Brooke (Dalkey Archive Press)
In Vegas, I stayed in Bally’s hotel, which is attached to the Paris hotel. Or rather, Le Paris hotel. For those of you who haven’t been to Vegas, consider yourselves lucky. The Paris hotel includes a huge replica of the Eiffel Tower, which you can go up in on the “Le Eiffel Tower Adventure,” the tickets for which can be purchased next to “Le Bar,” which is across the way from “Le Toilettes” by “Le Sports Book.” I’m not even fucking with you—all the signs in this hotel have “Le” appended to them. Ninety percent of the time, these make no sense—shouldn’t it be “Les Toilettes”?—and the other one-hundred and ten percent of the time this is stupid as shit. It’s like the worst simulacrum ever.
On the upside, they do sell the “Le Eiffel Daiquiri,” a two-foot tall Eiffel Tower “glass” filled with 10-12 shots of rum. All for $16.95! Well, $16.95 and most of your better judgement.
Come, Sweet Death! by Wolf Haas, translated from the German by Annie Janusch (Melville House)
The U.S. vs. Germany World Cup match took place the first morning that I was in Vegas. I had talked a lot of shit to Nick from NYRB about getting up super early, finding a crazy bar to watch it in, etc., etc., but at 8am when my alarm went off, I thought I’d rather just stay in bed and avoid all the American Outlaws. One problem: no matter where I looked, I couldn’t find the remote for my TV. Not on the TV stand, not in any of the drawers, not on top of the armoire, not under the bed, nowhere. So I rushed out, basically ran across to the one sports bar I already had scoped out, and ordered a coffee. Surprisingly, they did have coffee, but no coffee mugs . . . Instead, they served me a pint of coffee with a little sleeve so that I wouldn’t burn the shit out of my hand. A pint of coffee.
This was one of my favorite Vegas experiences though, since I was seated between two dudes who chain smoked the entire game while playing video poker and downing screwdrivers. They had clearly been there all night, and were holding on to shreds of dignity and hope. Neither of them won jack, and one guy’s friends never came to collect him from wherever they had been partying all night.
I did end up partaking in the $2 beer specials, which was probably the reason I fell asleep at the hotel pool a few hours later and woke up as red as I’ve ever been in my life . . . I’m still peeling . . . Once you turn 40, a 9am beer is the equivalent of twelve evening drinks. This is a life lesson for all you youngsters: Enjoy your wake’n‘drink days before your body starts to hate you.
Symmetry Teacher by Andrei Bitov, translated from the Russian by Polly Gannon (FSG)
Of all the books on this list, this is the one that I’m most excited to read. I loved Bitov’s Pushkin House (which Dalkey reissued a number of years back), and Michael Orthofer gave this one an A-. Based on the description—that this is an “echo book” of a book that Bitov once read and foggily remembers, but that leads him to create a series of self-reflexive, nested stories—it sounds like a fun, complicated game of a novel. And Orthofer really sells it with this:
The different stories that make up the novel are not so much unfinished or incomplete, but rather part of an overlapping continuity that probably can best be compared to an Escher loop (or loops of Escher loops . . .): not neatly nested, à la Calvino, or adhering to some similar determined Oulipian schemes, but rather capriciously folding back on themselves across time and space, the author’s guiding hand in the frame but handing off responsibility in his layers of authorial invention, attributing a great deal to A. Tired-Boffin, who in turn credits Urbino Vanoski. etc. [. . .]
The Symmetry Teacher is about books and reading and writing that transcend the actual set text — literary echoes that arise and exist separately from what is in a fixed, written state. This is a novel where, typically, a character enthuses about his vivid memory of a particular scene — but admits he no longer can find it.
Poetics of Wonder: Passage to Mogador by Alberto Ruy Sanchez, translated from the Spanish by Rhonda Buchanan (White Pine)
Alberto Ruy Sanchez is included in our new anthology, A Thousand Forests in One Acorn, which may well be the most beautiful book we’ve ever published. Edelweiss does the design no favors, but you should click that link to see how amazing this is, and to request a digital reading copy. (Although you really should just buy the real thing.)
I’m sure most people already knew this, but Vegas has a monorail, which, every single time I saw it referenced, reminded me of this Simpson’s epidode:
Why this song isn’t playing continuously on every monorail platform is a failure on Vegas’s part.
Writers by Antoine Volodine, translated from the French by Katina Rogers (Dalkey Archive)
To prepare for our upcoming pre-sales call, I just started reading all the Open Letter titles scheduled to come out in 2015 between April-August. Antoine Volodine’s Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven (which, according to at least a few reviewers, is far superior to Writers), Georgi Gospodinov’s The Physics of Sorrow, Naja Marie Aidt’s Rock, Paper, Scissors, Juan José Saer’s The One Before . . . Obviously, I love the books we publish, but this is that period of time when the dyssynchrony of being in the book world are the most apparent. We got the rights to Physics of Sorrow back in September of 2012, and no one else will be able to read this before the end of the year. But I read (or rather, reread) the first 50 pages last night, and I want everyone I know to have access to this right fricking now. It’s one of the best things I’ve read all year. But by the time I can mail it out to people, I’ll be reading the book coming out in January 2016 and my desire to talk Physics with other book people will be somewhat dulled. And by the time ordinary readers (compared to booksellers and reviewers who will receive advanced reading copies) get their hands on this, we’ll be reading excerpts and signing on books for 2017.
I’m not sure I have a real point here, just that books and music are most of my life, and it’s a weird experience when you remember that huge portions of your “life” are spent reading in a social void of sorts. That and: you all must read Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven and The Physics of Sorrow. As soon as they come out. And then email/tweet/text me.
Crow Blue by Adriana Lisboa, translated from the Portuguese by Alison Entrekin (Bloomsbury)
I just want to point out that this book is listed on the Bloomsbury website as part of Bloomsbury Circus. What the fuck is that, you ask?
Bloomsbury Circus is a place of fine writing from all over the world. There are exciting debuts and brilliant new work from such established writers as Patrick McGrath, Lucy Ellmann, Alice McDermott and Tobias Hill. Like any good circus, it is a list that is not frightened to take risks, while always being entertaining.
So, by “all over the world,” they mean Britain, Scotland, and America? Maybe those are the “three rings” of this “circus”? Bloomsbury, your metaphor sucks. “Bloomsbury Circus” sounds like the publisher of kids books about acrobats and fucking clowns.
Matiushin Case by Oleg Pavlov, translated from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield (And Other Stories)
I think it’s pretty ironic that & Other Stories which has the URL “stories.com” is a bag/accessories/shoes/lingerie shop. Why “stories”?
Mr. Gwyn by Alessandro Baricco, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (McSweeney’s Books)
I haven’t made fun of Flavorwire’s list in a while, but this one on the 35 Writers Who Run the Literary Internet deserves to be laughed at. When I clicked on this, I was hoping for some conspiracy theory shit linking an unknown writer to media leaks about how Amazon burns 13 Hachette books a day as part of some corporate ritual, or something interesting like that. Instead, it’s a list of writers with the most Twitter followers. Because Twitter equals the Internet and having the most followers is equivalent to “running it.”
(Except for Zadie Smith! “She’s one of the few big-name writers who has managed to develop a huge Internet presence without even seeming to spend much time online.” In other words, she’s a writer that people really like. How does she even fit in under the “Runs the Literary Internet” rubric? According to the description, what she “runs” is her own writing. Whatever.)
I know—and respect—some of the people on this list, others make me want to scratch my eyes out when I hear them speak on panels, most I don’t “follow” and, to be honest, don’t feel like I’m missing anything . . . Also, I know Flavorwire exists to create log-rolling lists as clickbait and to get the “listed” people to retweet the lists, generating more clicks and ensuring that these people (the listed) can end up on be on more lists and everyone can all end up at the same over-priced Brooklyn speakeasy drinking PBRs and old fashioneds. So this isn’t anything personal against anyone involved—everyone is awesome.
That said, I love this comment: “Dear Flavorwire, America is not the world, for Chrissakes.” Having fallen for way too many Flavorwire headline teases, I can assure you that, in the eyes of Flavorwire, America and Karl Ove Knausgaard ARE the world.
Secondly, the pictures of the women screaming with their mouths open? Is this a new meme? It’s very unsettling.
Also, the only good thing about the World Cup being over is that Teju Cole will no longer be tweeting about it. I know he’s got a million and one fans who will “rise as one” to annihilate me, but to be honest, I think his World Cup tweets were the worst. So self-absorbed and pedantic and boring. Kaija’s #WorldCupTaunting bits were edgier, funnier, and much more entertaining than things like “Guillermo ‘CTRL S’ Ochoa.”
Nothing was as bad as the #thetimeofthegame “idea.” Just check this out:
What’s funniest to me is that he took a screen cap of his own Twitter feed as his #thetimeofthegame entry. Twitter is like a Bloomsbury Circus of crap.
(Also, I know that these rants are why Open Letter books never make Flavorwire’s lists, for which I apologize to all our authors and translators. My jokes about things that suck shouldn’t represent Open Letter, but I’m afraid that some people take it that way.)
Guantanamo by Frank Smith, translated from the French by Vanessa Place (Les Figues)
I feel like explaining what I specifically didn’t like about Las Vegas will come off as a string of clichés . . . but that might be due to the fact that there’s no real separation from the depiction of Vegas in movies and TV shows—its excesses and bright lights and frenetic nature—and what it’s really like. The whole strip area is set up as one huge experiment in behavioral economics designed to get people to spend too much money and make terrible decisions. Every hotel is connected to every other hotel by way of thirteen areas stuffed with gamble machines. It’s all flashing and no straight path is actually straight. In between, the Paris and Bally hotels, you walk down a “hallway” that veers this way and that, coming out into a room of slots and tables and no idea which way to turn. This disorientation—a key behind shopping malls—facilitates the spending of money. The fact that there is no sense of time—it could be noon or five am—adds to this, and quickly turns a few drinks into an all-night bender involving $17 drinks with 12 shots of rum. That’s why hotel staff keeps asking “are you OK?” in that tone that implies that you might well need medical attention but just don’t realize it yet.
Vegas wants you to walk that fine line between “drunk enough to spend ten times what I was planning on” and “alcohol poisoning.” We were in a bar where you could order a kilo of cavier for $7,200. A kilo. Who the fuck says, “could I get a kilo of cavier please?” Someone who just won big at the blackjack table. Who believes this is “free money” and that the best way to get value out of this free money is to blow it in one big huge, story-creating sort of way: “Dude, I won ten grand at a poker tournament and bought Cristal and a kilo of cavier and hit up the strip joint and puked in the Bellagio fountain. It was fucking epic!”
Thing is, maybe Vegas is right. Maybe a life of books and music is totally overrated. (And that’s one more thing: culture really doesn’t seem to exist in Vegas. I’m sure it does, out in the city, in pockets, outside of the Stratosphere and the High Roller and everything else that sucks, but when you think Vegas, you think Celine and Britney and Carrot Top — Carrot Top! — none of which are interesting or novel or worth dropping $100 to see.) Vegas represents a cultural black hole where anything goes, where you can escape your normal shitty life and believe for a time that you’re a VIP, that you could win millions by betting on black, that the next drink will make you attractive. It’s supposed to be a place of ultimate freedom, but those freedoms seem, to me, as a cynical depressed bastard, to only involve cheap sex, all the drinking, and the highly unlikely dream of easy money.
Invisible Love by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, translated from the French by Howard Curtis (Europa Editions)
I went to two “parties” during ALA: one about “gaming and cosplay,” the other sponsored by Central Recovery Press.
No one was cosplayed up for the gaming one, and apparently, in the library world, “gaming” means “board games.” As in, twenty librarians were sitting around a well-lit room playing board games. And no, there were no drinks. I lasted less than 30 seconds. Even BEA does better than that.
Central Recovery is a very admirable press dedicated to helping people overcome their addictions. Their party was out at Vegas City Hall, which is so much more interesting than the strip. It also seems like it’s in the middle of nowhere, past the “Gambling Supplies Warehouse” and just out of sight from Circus, Circus. A special shuttle bus had to bring us there, since walking that far—even from the last monorail stop—would basically leave you dehydrated and dead. Good thing the Central Recovery party had all the Coke you could desire! (I was expecting coffee and donuts, but alas.) Anyway, aside from the fact that I’m not in AA and prefer parties with beers, this set up would’ve been totally fine if I hadn’t have overheard someone say “the speeches will start in about 15 minutes” just as the bus, the only link to civilization, pulled away. I can live without wine, but living through multiple speeches—or a poetry reading lasting more than 10 minutes—is tough . . .
Nevertheless I survived, regained my non-sobriety at the Peppermill, and made it back from Vegas with my mind only slightly broken . . .
Now that the 8th book in the Americas Series from Texas Tech has arrived, it seems like an opportune time to bring some attention to Irene Vilar’s exciting project.
Irene used to run this series out of the University of Wisconsin Press back in the early 2000s, but after leaving and writing a memoir (Impossible Motherhood, available from Other Press), she relaunched The Americas at Texas Tech with the publication of David Toscana’s The Last Reader, transated by Asa Zatz.
(Quick “let’s make fun of people who don’t understand the Internets” moment: I wanted to see which books ended up in the Wisconsin version of this series—I believe the Jorge Amado books were in this, but I can’t remember the others—so I visited this UWP page. Click on the link for “a list of the books in this series.” I dare you.)
The Last Reader sounds fantastic (see this earlier post), as do all of the other titles. Here’s a quick rundown of the ones I’m most interested in:
The Origin of Species and Other Poems by Ernesto Cardenal, translated from the Spanish by John Lyons.
Cardenal is considered by many to be one of Latin America’s greatest contemporary poets, and his work has been getting a lot of love of late. Pluriverse came out from New Directions a couple years back (see our review here), and did a great job encapsulating Cardenal’s 56-year career. This new book will likely get a ton of attention (more on that as it happens), and because of the new publication, Cardenal will be going on an extensive U.S. tour. (Check our translation events calendar for more specifics.)
The War in Bom Fim by Moacyr Scliar, translation from the Portuguese by David William Foster
Scliar—who passed away in February—is one of Brazil’s most beloved writers. A few of his books came out in the classic Avon series of Latin American authors, and a few others popped up here and there from a variety of presses, but I feel like his work has been underappreciated here in the States, and instead, he’s most known for thinking of suing Yann Martel for ripping his ass off for Life of Pi.
The War in Bom Fim sounds like a lot of fun (and will be the first of the series that I’m going to read and review):
What if, as David William Foster poses in his introduction to Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar’s novel, the Germans did choose to invade the Americas in the second World War? What if the Luftwaffe did plan to bomb American cities? [. . .]
With playful irony, homage to the Jewish folktale, a touch of magical realism, and keen insight into the customs and characters of this Yiddish-speaking melting pot, Scliar spins a fable of an imaginary war waged by the youngsters of Bom Fim. Brothers Nathan and Joel and their gang defend their quarter against a pretend German military invasion, while their parents deal with the quarrels and worries of the adult world. But which is more real? In Scliar’s richly layered fantasy Carnival and Pesach, Nazi and Jew, the consumer and the consumed, the grotesque and the quotidian intermingle unexpectedly amid the kitchens and alleys of Bom Fim.
The Fist Child by Lucia Puenzo, translated from the Spanish by David William Foster
Puenzo is a writer and filmmaker (she received a lot of praise of XXY as mentioned in our Granta post) and the movie adaptation of The Fish Child appeared at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival. Here’s the trailer:
Symphony in White by Adriana Lisboa, translated from the Portuguese by Sarah Green
Hut of Fallen Persimmons by Adriana Lisboa, translated from the Portuguese by Sarah Green
Both Lisboa books sound really interesting, and we have a forthcoming review of Symphony in White, which won the Jose Saramago Prize in 2003. Symphony in White focuses on two sisters, a “swirl of dark secrets,” and the “unspoken atrocities of the military dictatorship holding sway in their country.”
Hut of Fallen Persimmons just arrived the other week, and tells the story of Haruki and Celina’s trip to Japan. “Their trip to Kyoto provides a context for each to meditate on the past, their feelings for each other, and the questions of cultural difference. Through a counterpoint of narration and text, the pair’s losses and struggles gradually unfold.”
All with striking covers, these eight books make a fantastic collection. And I’m really looking forward to all the books Irene ends up including in the series. With a brilliant advisory board I have a lot of faith in the future of this series.
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .