6 July 07 | Chad W. Post |

As if Natsuo Kirino’s books don’t sound interesting enough by themselves, this interview in the LA Weekly has convinced me to check them out. Her books—two of which are available in English, Out and Grotesque, which was a Reading the World book this year—are beyond categorization, seeming to inhabit a space between crime fiction and literature, with a strong feminist underpinning that is twisted and disturbing.

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, here’s Margy Rochlin’s take:

Margy Rochlin describes her work as:

Author Natsuo Kirino is often referred to as “the queen of Japanese crime fiction.” But is that really the best way to classify her work? Her queasily disturbing, gender-political tales have also been called “Japanese feminist noir,” while in Japan, her brainy writing-style mashup is known as “Kirino Jynru,” or a book that borrows freely from several genres but feels beholden to none of their rules.

Michael Orthofer pointed this out as well, but Kirino’s response to the question about super-agent Binky Urban and which books are next in line to be translated provides an interesting glimpse into the politics of fiction in translation:

I went to New York and I hoped that Soft Cheeks would be translated because I thought it was a really good book. But Binky did her own research and found out through a Japanese connection that Grotesque might be a good option. After hearing a little bit about it, she decided that that would be the next one.

Since Binky doesn’t read Japanese, it’s odd that she has so much say in what comes out when. Although that kind of attention to the American market is what created the image we have of Murakami Haruki . . .

The next book does sound cool though, especially since it sounds like Americans won’t like it:

[What Remains] is a pretty dark story of kidnapping, and appears to be well received [in Japan], but I have my doubts about how it’s going to be received over here because of the sexuality. The narrative is structured in kind of a sandwich form, where you’ve got the author in the present, who’s reflecting on this time in the past when she was kidnapped for one year and held captive by a guy who said he wanted to be her friend. It’s a dark remembrance with these sexual scenes in it, so I feel a little skeptical about how it’s going to be taken here.

....
Sphinx
Sphinx by Anne Garréta
Reviewed by Monica Carter

Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .

Read More >

Morse, My Deaf Friend
Morse, My Deaf Friend by Miloš Djurdjević
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .

Read More >

The Crimson Thread of Abandon
The Crimson Thread of Abandon by Terayama Shūji
Reviewed by Robert Anthony Siegel

The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .

Read More >

Life Embitters
Life Embitters by Josep Pla
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .

Read More >

The Physics of Sorrow
The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov
Reviewed by Izidora Angel

“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .

Read More >

Vano and Niko
Vano and Niko by Erlom Akhvlediani
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .

Read More >

The Indian
The Indian by Jón Gnarr
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The opening of Jón Gnarr’s novel/memoir The Indian is a playful bit of extravagant ego, telling the traditional story of creation, where the “Let there be light!” moment is also the moment of his birth on January 2nd, 1967. Then. . .

Read More >