16 June 16 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Vincent Francone on Intervenir/Intervene by Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez, published by Ugly Duckling Presse.

It’s been slow on the review and post end this summer, while we’ve been busy around the offices here and elsewhere, but we hope you’ve all been enjoying your summers, and of course enjoying the Copa and Euro Cup games!

But literature in translation is as important as ever—so here’s the beginning of Vince’s review:

It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha! Shovels and lobelias; gardening, violence, flowering plants. Buried secrets and blossoming. There seemed a sense to it all.

Intervenir/Intervene is being sold as a book of poetry. That is true. But then again, this is not poetry that obeys the rules poetry are supposed to follow. I state this in the year 2016, long after free verse and post modernism have done their best to ruin formal poetry. Even in the age of facile “performance art” and hollow “experimentalism,” there is work that reminds jaded readers like myself that there is value in some of what stands under the all too wide umbrella of avant-garde. Intervenir/Intervene is that sort of work.


For the rest of the review, go here.

16 June 16 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha! Shovels and lobelias; gardening, violence, flowering plants. Buried secrets and blossoming. There seemed a sense to it all.


Intervenir/Intervene is being sold as a book of poetry. That is true. But then again, this is not poetry that obeys the rules poetry are supposed to follow. I state this in the year 2016, long after free verse and post modernism have done their best to ruin formal poetry. Even in the age of facile “performance art” and hollow “experimentalism,” there is work that reminds jaded readers like myself that there is value in some of what stands under the all too wide umbrella of avant-garde. Intervenir/Intervene is that sort of work.


It’s easy to throw words together in an attempt to confound, to shock, or to demonstrate cleverness. Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez are not doing the reader many favors, but they’re not simply engaging in empty experimentation. They have an impossible task: to articulate what often goes unsaid, the brutal, sanctioned violence of their native Mexico. Translator Jen Hofer calls this Mexico’s dirty war. How shocking to see this term applied to what so many of us might dismiss as political corruption, a term that seems insubstantial in comparison to “dirty war,” which is more often applied retroactively. But this is a contemporary, ongoing dirty war whose victims are largely unacknowledged. Since they cannot speak, Dorantes and Flores Sánchez do their utmost to give them voice and to blend those voices with those of the state, the killer, and the reader. Intervenir/Intervene is a polyphony of these voices overlapping, interrupting—intervening. Readers will likely be disoriented by the fragmented presentation, but the elliptical, overwhelming approach culminates in a sense of understanding. This is not an easy book, but neither is the subject matter.


Intervenir/Intervene surprises. There is the before-mentioned merging of voices, the seemingly free form style, but also, actually, structure. From the apparent chaos, a page of rather direct poetry emerges:


To my urn
To my museum
To my barking
To my pain
To my depth

I come

From a country of ash
From an ocean of blood
From another unfinished city
From my deserted head
From the mouth without its teeth


Here we have anaphora and fairly rooted lines and stanzas, a true oddity among passages like:



The effect is to disrupt the expectations of the reader, even after their expectations have been thoroughly disrupted. Anything is possible in this book, as in a country like Mexico, a place of immense beauty and tremendous suffering.


Intervenir/Intervene is a book of poems and a short study of translation. Jen Hofer ends the text with notes on her process, which are often as elusive as the poetry. It is a dual language book that subverts and embraces both languages. It is a political book coming partially from Dolores Dorantes, a writer in exile from Ciudad Juarez who once resisted her poetry being translated into culturally dominant English. It is a statement of the absurdity of communicating violence and the tragedy of keeping silent in its wake. Few works of art are able to succeed on so many levels.

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

Tomorrow morning we will unveil the 25 works of fiction that made the “Best Translated Book of the Year” longlist, but as a prelude, I thought I’d highlight a few titles that didn’t make it and a couple of magazines that deserve some special recognition.

A twenty-five title longlist might seem like a lot, but it was actually pretty difficult to choose the 25 best fiction titles from all of the great works of international fiction that came out this year. And inevitably a few worthy titles had to be left off. Arguments could be made for any number of titles that didn’t make it, but the ones I think deserve honorable mention are:

The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions). Ferrante’s first book, Days of Abandonment really put Europa Editions on the map, and this book is really good as well.

Knowledge of Hell by Antonio Lobo Antunes, translated from the Portuguese by Cliff Landers (Dalkey Archive). Martin Riker of Dalkey Archive said that this was one of the best translations Dalkey published this year, and that it is a “really intricate, sophisticated piece of translating. The book is very complicated, and I completely agree that Cliff did a remarkable job with this.

The Tsar’s Dwarf by Peter Fogtdal, translated from the Danish by Tiina Nunnally (Hawthorne Books). Joanna Scott blurbed this book, saying “There’s a potent mix of heartbreak and hilarity in this vividly imagined novel . . . The dwarf Sorine is completely spellbinding.” Larissa Kyzer agreed in the review she did for us.

To Siberia by Per Petterson, translated from the Norwegian by Anne Born (Graywolf). Out Stealing Horses, last year’s breakout novel for Petterson—and in some sense for Graywolf as well—was a finalist for the Best Translated Book award. There’s more Petterson to come — Graywolf is doing I Curse the River of Time, which is a finalist for this year’s Nordic Prize — so he’ll have more chances.

The most beautifully designed book that didn’t make the longlist has to be Bohumil Hrabal’s Pirouettes on a Postage Stamp, translated from the Czech by David Short (Karolinum Press). The book itself sounds fantastic—“On its surface a verbatim record of an oral interview conducted by Hungarian journalist László Szigeti, the book confuses and confounds with false starts, digressions, and philosophical asides.”—and although you can’t tell from the online image, the book itself is very sharp and the pages are very creamy (as fellow panelist Jeff Waxman called them).

If the year actually started in October 2007, sexoPUROsexoVELOZ and Septiembre by Dolores Dorante would’ve definitely made the poetry list. It was translated by Jen Hofer and published by Counterpath, one of the most interesting new presses out there. Steve Dolph is a huge fan of this book—if only its publication had been delayed a few months . . .

In terms of magazines, Absinthe, Calque, and Two Lines are three of the most impressive translation-oriented publications out there. (Along with Words Without Borders, of course.) All three are well edited, filled with exciting content, and beautifully produced. I especially like the unique size and shape of Two Lines. Not to mention a subscription to any one of these would make a fantastic holiday present . . . Just saying.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow we’ll release the complete longlist . . .

....
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