10 April 15 | Monica Carter | Comments

George Carroll is the World Literature Editor of Shelf Awareness and an independent publishers’ representative based in the Pacific Northwest.

James Crossley is a bookseller at Island Books. He writes regularly for the store’s Message in a Bottle blog and for the website of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association.

Harlequin’s Millions – Bohumil Hrabal, Translated by Stacey Knecht
Archipelago Books

Rambling On: An Apprentice’s Guide to the Gift of the Gab – Bohumil Hrabal, Translated by David Short
Karolinum Press

James: This year’s BTBA longlist is excellent, and there are lots of books on it to talk about, but when you and I did that, George, we both gravitated toward the new one from Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. We raved to each other for a while before we realized that we were each talking about a different new book—he has two on the list this year, which I’m going to say without doing any research (that’s why we have editors) is a BTBA first. I was gushing about Rambling On: An Apprentice’s Guide to the Gift of the Gab, translated by David Short, while you were selling me on Harlequin’s Millions, translated by Stacey Knecht. What makes you prefer that book?

George: Nothing much happens in Harlequin’s Millions. An elderly pensioner reflects on her life and her village. There’s no horrid tragedy in the past that shapes the characters or drives them forward. There’s no denouement lurking at the end to pull you through the book. You get to laze around in beautiful, page-long sentences deep with observation and memory. The rhythm and lyricism are powerful and subtle. I can’t believe I’m writing this. It sounds like a book I would detest. And yet it stays perched at the top of my longlist.

James: Good points. Hrabal flows like nobody else, except maybe a jazz soloist. Not pretentiously, though. He’s mostly very earthy and amusing while he’s meandering through the minds of his characters. I’d say the things you liked about HM are equally present in Rambling On, but the latter book has an advantage that the former doesn’t. Since Rambling is a collection of linked stories, all set in the Bohemian forest town of Kersko, that typical Hrabal style gets expressed in multiple voices. Each story features a different figure who has his or her own things to say about whatever’s on Hrabal’s mind. A lot of that has to do with what it was like to live under the repressive Communist regime of the 1960s and ’70s, but it usually involves a whole bunch of drunkenness, lust, and other kinds of good old-fashioned fun. You can’t tell me that doesn’t sound appealing.

George: Rambling On has it over HM in that many of the stories take place in a pub or involve a pub. It catches a bit of an edge that you don’t get from a pensioner walking the halls of a one-time castle, now retirement home. Hrabal was apparently infamous for hanging out in the At the Golden Tiger pub in Prague listening closely to others’ stories. One of my favorite scenes in RO is when Mr. Belohlavek convinces everyone in the pub to go into the forest to pace off the size of a Boeing 727 that he’s in charge of landing in Prague. Oh, wait. I’m supposed to be talking about HM. All right, so there isn’t lot of pub time in HM but there are mentions of pubs that no longer exist in the little town where time stood still like Big Stomper, Heavenly Host, Bloody Paw, Cafe Pigskin. Think I would have liked hanging out in At the Golden Tiger with Hrabal on a Saturday watching footie, of which Bohumil was a huge fan.

James: A grand, Homeric catalog of vanished pubs is just about the highest pinnacle to which literature can aspire, so I have to credit HM there. But you played my trump card for me on behalf of Rambling On when you mentioned football (note to editor: stet, please; don’t change to “soccer”). There’s a scene in the book where an uninvited guest barges in on the narrator and persuades him to be buried in particularly sacred ground: “[T]he cemetery is the other side of the forest, so you’d have pine needles an’ the smell of pine right on top of your grave, but the main thing is there’s a football pitch in the forest, an’ knowin’ how fond you are of football … there’s no other cemetery like it, the ref’s whistle will easily carry all the way to your grave.” Reading about it is the next best thing to being there for you, isn’t it?

George: The narrator of HM takes an after-dinner walk through the village with “three witnesses to the old times.” No one else is on the street, no cars, no motorcycles. She can see people watching television through their windows, and realizes the entire town is watching an international football match (the 1962 World Cup?). I guess that’s enough about football. The three witnesses—a railroad engineer, workshop foreman, and the elegant Otokar Rykr, pomaded hair, pince-nez—are a curious trio. You get the feeling that they may or may not exist, which is a bit unsettling. I’m not real comfortable with unreliable narrators. Last year I got punked by Hofmeester in Arnon Grunberg’s Tirza. I’m much more of a ham and beans reader—fewer veils, less layers. Hmm. The characters are pretty straightforward in RO. You know, I’m thinking…

James: I on the other hand don’t mind at all when things get strange and phantasmagoric. I couldn’t get enough of Mircea Cărtărescu’s Blinding from BTBA 2014, for example, which is as much both of those things as it’s possible to be. I may be coming around to HM’s side for 2015. Sounds like we’ve come to an agreement.

George: Sounds like it. The winner of this year’s BTBA should definitely be…

James: Bohumil Hrabal’s Harlequin’s Millions.

George: Bohumil Hrabal’s Rambling On.

James: Definitely.

9 April 15 | Monica Carter | Comments

George Carroll is the World Literature Editor of Shelf Awareness and an independent publishers’ representative based in the Pacific Northwest.

Street of Thieves – Mathias Énard, Translated by Charlotte Mandell
Open Letter Books

Last year, I advanced Mahi Binebine’s Horses of God, tr. from the French by Lulu Norman, for The Best Translated Book Award a book that follows the lives of a group of teenage soccer players from Sidi Moumen who become Islamist martyrs, suicide bombers in the 2003 Casablanca attacks.

This year I’m championing Street of Thieves by Mathias Énard, translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell, in which one of the main characters becomes involved with an Islamist group turned Jihadist.

I hope that I’m not developing a pattern – not the French translation part, the radicalism part.

Street of Thieves is a coming-of-age story of two childhood friends set mostly in Tangiers during the Arab Spring. Lakhdar, the narrator, wants freedom – to travel, smoke weed, earn money, read French noir detective novels, have sex with Spanish women. His friend, Bassam, introduces Lakhdar to the “Group for the Propagation for Islamic Thought” for whom he becomes their seller of books and pamphlets.

After the organization severely beats a neighborhood bookseller, their paths split, Lakhdar moves away, Bassam gets deeply into the group. Bassam might be involved in a stabbing in Tangiers, a bombing in Marrakesh, and ultimately an assassination.

“Men are dogs,” says Lakhdar, “they rub against each other in misery, they roll around in filth and can’t get out of it…” Exiled from his family because of an indiscretion with his cousin, Lakhdar starts with nothing, lives on the street, takes a series of jobs, goes on the run, falls in love, and ends up in a Barcelona neighborhood of junkies and prostitutes, the Street of Thieves.

Lots of big words – fate, fear, corruption, revolution, liberty, love and loyalty and tragedy, but no theme bigger than identity. Is Lakhdar more than his religion? More than his nationality? In the final pages of the book, he testifies “I am not a Moroccan, I am not a Frenchman, I’m not a Spaniard, I’m more than that . . . I am not a Muslim, I am more than that.”

Love of language, the study of language, the beauty of language are all manifested in the book. Love of books – “which is the only place on earth where life is good” – certainly won this judge over.

Street of Thieves should win The Best Translated Book Award because Énard has filtered multiple complex social issues through the eyes of a wonderfully likable narrator. If I’ve made that sound dreadfully serious, it’s my mistake.

6 November 14 | Monica Carter | Comments

George Carroll is the World Literature Editor of Shelf Awareness and an independent publishers’ representative based in the Pacific Northwest.

None of the San Francisco Giants spoke with pitcher Madison Bumgartner in the dugout before he took the mound in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series except for a brief exchange with his catcher Buster Posey. Partly due to superstition and partly because Bumgartner was intensely focused, was in the zone.

I’m currently in The Best Translated Book Award reading zone. Please do not distract.

There are rules and traditions about not speaking the name of something, whether it’s Voldemort in the Harry Potter books or Nest Egg in Lost in America, or saying rain while fly-fishing.

This is so, in my mind, with longlist and the BTBA.

There’s an ultra-secret password-protected, for-your-eyes-only spreadsheet that the BTBA judges use that lists the title, author, translator, publisher, language, and country for each of the 2015 submissions. There is a column for each judge to place her notes or remarks. (Don’t try to access the spreadsheet, publishers, it will self-destruct quicker than Jim Phelps’ MI instructions.)

Fortunately my spreadsheet column is at the beginning of that section, just to the right of Katrine Osgaard Jensen’s. She uses a letter code, which I’m pretty sure I’ve cracked. But I scroll right no further, for therein lies the use of longlist, the word that assigns power, the word which can strip power. “Longlist contender, must longlist, short of longlist, no longlist.” It can draw you in (I better read this) or repel (I better move on to something else).

I just have a list. Books move around like the stairways at Hogwarts. (Did I mention I just watched all of the Harry Potter movies?) Books that I read early in the process that I thought were really good, were really good, but they’re not as really good in comparison with the other really good books that I’ve now read.

That doesn’t mean that some of the books I’ve read don’t keep popping up a like a literary Whac-a-Mole. But will they make it to l-word? I don’t know.

Milena Michiko Flasar’s I Called Him Necktie, Pascal Garnier’s How’s the Pain, Eduardo Halfon’s Monastery, both Bohumil Hrabal titles Harlequin’s Millions and Ramblin’ On, Carlos Labbe’s Navidad & Matanza, Michel Laub’s Diary of the Fall, Valeria Luiselli’s Faces in the Crowd, Scholastique Mukasonga’s Our Lady of the Nile, Andres Neuman’s Talking to Ourselves, Roderigo Rey Rosa’s Severina, Paulo Scott’s Nowhere People, Solvi Bjorn Sigurdsson’s The Last Days of My Mother, Goncalo Tavares’ A Man: Klaus Klump, Antoine Volodine’s Writers, Christa Wolf’s August.

All have much to love and I can do no better than to arrange them alphabetically.

Cesar Aira’s Conversations, Roberto Bolano’s A Little Lumpen Novelita, Hilda Hilst’s With My Dog-Eyes, Jorn Lier Horst’s The Hunting Dogs, Giulio Mozzi’s This is the Garden, Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, Audur Ava Olafsdottir’s Butterflies in November, Antonio Skarmeta’s A Distant Father, Juan Pablo Villalobos’ Quesdillas, Urs Widmer’s The Blue Soda Siphon.

Again, only alphabetical, all flawed in little ways, but solid nonetheless.

Predicting the longlist is a bit like handicapping horses: consistency, class, form, and pace. Books get boxed, parked out, shuffled back. Fortunately, I have miles to read before I sleep and need not place my bets until March.

17 June 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This match was judged by George Carroll. For more info on the World Cup of Literature, read this, and download the bracket.

Garcia Marquez was my gateway into non-dead-white-guy authors in translation. I read One Hundred Years of Solitude on a chaise lounge in Waikiki, on a trip when my friend Howard and I drank the pool bar out of Heineken. But I was sober enough most of the time, enough to appreciate that there was more out there to read than my then steady diet of American noir.

The first line in One Hundred Years of Solitude and the first line of the second chapter are the only two sentences I’ve committed to memory—that, and the opening of James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss.

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

When the pirate Sir Francis Drake attacked Riohacha in the sixteenth century, Ursula Iguaran’s great-great-grandmother became so frightened with the ringing of alarm bells and the firing of cannons that she lost control of her nerves and sat down on a lighted stove.

When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.

I first read Murakami in a hammock in Mexico on my honeymoon. I was too lazy to locate a bookstore in Tecate, but found a galley of Kafka on the Shore in the hotel library. That started a thorough run of Murakami; that’s a hell of a lot of cats in a short period of time.

For years, when asked, I would say that either The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or One Hundred Years of Solitude was my favorite book. The World Cup of Literature rules disallow both of these books because they’re pre-2000 releases. The only Garcia Marquez work that qualifies is Memories of My Melancholy Whores. Six Murakami titles qualify, including Kafka, but The World Cup of Literature entry is the very troubled 1Q84.

There are no match-ups in the first round of The World Cup of Literature that approach the naming rights, product placement, endorsement deals, or star bling of Colombia / Japan. The burden of commercial success over perceived literary merit haunted this match-up since the bracket was posted.

Crikey, it’s fucking hot in Manaus. Sweat is pouring over my eyebrows like Gullfoss (I seriously wish that Eidur Gudjohnsen was in Brazil rather than Luka Modric). The weather favors Team Garcia Marquez who thrives in heat and humidity. Team Murakami usually practices either in the mountains or at the bottom of wells.

1Q84 entered the pitch in its spiffy Chip Kidd designed kit, visibly suffering from over-exposure. The team is comprised entirely of members of former great Murakami sides with the exception of a young striker, Aomame.

The captain of the Colombia side, unlike many footballers who go by one name, has no name. We’ll just call him Jose Arcadio, because there’s one too many of them in One Hundred Years of Solitude. When manager Jose Pekerman realized that his side was a 90 year old journalist and a sleeping virgin on valerian, he decided to park the bus.

Alberto Zaccheroni sent multiple Murakami recurring themes down the flanks. Tengo, the other forward, confused, was unable to deliver any shots on goal, and waited sullenly for a midfielder to drop the ball on his only good foot (think Eddie Johnson or Wayne Rooney).

All Japan advance, all Colombia defense. Two minutes into stoppage time, Aomame realized it might go to PKs and you don’t know what a 90-year-old whore-monger can deliver when needed. Fuka-Eri sent a cross to Aomame who did a roll and scissors, then entered her parallel universe. She reentered the pitch reality on Arcadio’s weak side and finished into the bottom left corner.

Japan 1 – 0 Colombia


George Carroll is the World Literature Editor for Shelf Awareness for Professionals and the Soccer Editor for Shelf Awareness for Readers. In other words, he’s got this nailed.


Did 1Q84 Deserve to Win?


13 January 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week’s BTBA post is written by George Carroll, a publishers representative based in Seattle who blogs at North-North-West. He is also the soccer editor for Shelf Awareness and he and Chad frequently spent part of the weekend texting about EPL match-ups and Manchester Fucking United. He’s also helping to organize our forthcoming World Cup of Literature.

The protagonist of Rafael Bernal’s The Mongolian Conspiracy, is a police hitman named Filiberto Garcia. His job is to eliminate people as directed by his superiors. He says “Pinche!” a lot, mostly in exasperation. Katherine Silver translates “Pinche!” as “Fucking!”

So, here’s a synopsis of the book seen through Garcia’s interior monologue:

Fucking tame tiger! Fucking goddamn captain! Fucking furniture! Fucking jokes! Fucking Chinamen! Fucking experience! Fucking laws! Fucking Revolution! Fucking Chinamen and old people! Fucking conscience! Fucking loyalty! Fucking sovereignty! Fucking colonel! Fucking mysteries! Fucking gringos! Fucking Outer Mongolia! Fucking souls! Fucking bitch! Fucking tears! Fucking Marta! Fucking Poles! Fucking Chinese gal! Fucking stiffs! Fucking investigation! Fucking gringo! Fucking broad! Fucking Russian! Fucking mission! Fucking washed-up gringa! Fucking little brat! Fucking father! Fucking del Valle! Fucking Charanda! Fucking host! Fucking bills! Fucking Chink! Fucking meat! Fucking hands! Fucking team! Fucking life! Fucking faggot! Fucking Doris! Fucking Liu! Fucking solitude! Fucking wake!

My favorite line from the book actually doesn’t have “fucking” in it. Garcia is dressing to go out, straightening his tie, arranging his handkerchief, examining his nails, “The only thing he couldn’t fix was the scar on his cheek, but the gringo who’d made it couldn’t fix being dead, either.”

The first short story in Zhu Wen’s The Matchmaker, The Apprentice & The Football Fan is Da Ma’s “Way of Talking.” Da Ma is a pretty annoying character. He and his class are sent to northeast China for a month’s training in the People’s Liberation Army. When they’re on the shooting range, he points a rifle at the students on his left and yells “Freeze! Or you’re fucking dead.” One of the students says “Fucking hell! . . . That gun’s loaded! Fuck, fuck, fucking fuck.” Four occurrences in one sentence, devoid of other words, is hard to beat.

I recommend both Rafael Bernal and Zhu Wen’s books highly. They’re very fun reading that I’ve been able to sandwich between The Literary Submissions of High Art.

Finally, there’s a book I haven’t received yet—Jens Lapidus’s Never Fück Up. It’s part of The Stockholm Noir Trilogy, published in Sweden as Aldrig Fucka Upp. Nice to know some things just translate easily.

18 November 13 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The latest addition to our reviews section is a piece by George Carroll on two Maurizio de Giovanni books that Europa Editions recently released: Blood Curse and I Will Have Vengeance.

I’ve been hoping to cover more crime books on the site—mainly because there are so many, lots of people, including Tom Roberge, that love these sorts of novels, and because it’s a genre of fiction that I don’t read very often—and thankfully George Carroll agreed to try and review some of these for us.

The first ones he decided to write about are two of the five books by Maurizio de Giovanni that Europa Editions has published. He opens by comparing this series to those from two other famous crime writers:

There are curious similarities in three Italian mystery series, written by Maurizio de Giovanni, Andrea Camilleri, and Donna Leon.

They’re all police procedurals, and all set in Italy: Naples, Sicily, Venice.

The three protagonists are Commissarios: Luigi Ricciardi, Salvo Montalbano, and Guido Brunetti.

They all report to self-serving, social-climbing, ass-covering Questore buffoons: Angelo Garzo, Bonetti-Alderighi, and Patta

Each has a loyal, efficient, well-connected right-hand Sergente / Ispettore / Brigadier: Raffaele Maione, Giuseppe Fazio, Lorenzo Vianello.

And they all have testy, feisty relationships with their forensic pathologists: Doctors Modo, Pasquale, Rizzardi

But this is where most of those similarities end.

Click here to read the full thing.

18 November 13 | Chad W. Post | Comments

There are curious similarities in three Italian mystery series, written by Maurizio de Giovanni, Andrea Camilleri, and Donna Leon.1

They’re all police procedurals, and all set in Italy: Naples, Sicily, Venice.

The three protagonists are Commissarios: Luigi Ricciardi, Salvo Montalbano, and Guido Brunetti.

They all report to self-serving, social-climbing, ass-covering Questore buffoons: Angelo Garzo, Bonetti-Alderighi, and Patta

Each has a loyal, efficient, well-connected right-hand Sergente / Ispettore / Brigadier: Raffaele Maione, Giuseppe Fazio, Lorenzo Vianello.

And they all have testy, feisty relationships with their forensic pathologists: Doctors Modo, Pasquale, Rizzardi

But this is where most of those similarities end.

De Giovanni’s Commissario Ricciardi novels are set in 1931 Fascist Italy whereas the other two series are contemporary.

Ricciardi has a neighbor, a muse, who he doesn’t meet until the second book in the series. Montalbano has a girlfriend who appears frequently at the beginning of the series but then gets more and more distant as the series progresses. Brunetti has a relatively happy marriage although his boss’ secretary is a bit of distraction.

Quite a few of Leon’s victims end up floating in canals. Oh, I hate floaters.2 Most of Camilleri’s novels have two incidents or two separate crimes that appear to be unrelated, but come together somewhere along the plotline. And de Giovanni’s Ricciardi has visions, which is the main thing setting this series apart from the others.

Ricciardi sees the last few seconds of the lives of victims’ violent deaths. Many of them lurk in the shadows and aren’t connected to the investigations. A child who fell from a third-story balcony (Can I go down and play?), a man in a barbershop bleeding from a razor cut to the neck (By God, I didn’t touch your wife! ). Gushing blood—there’s a lot of gushing blood.

His visions are a blessing and a curse. The upside is that even though the words the victims speak are enigmatic, they aid in resolution of the crimes. The downside is, well, life sucks when you’re sidestepping grotesque images of dead people all day. His solace comes in the evening when he sits in his room, watching his neighbor across the courtyard doing embroidery.

The tricky, and frustrating, device that de Giovanni uses is mixing up his character’s narratives. Most of the time he identifies who’s speaking or pondering or doing bad things. Other times he doesn’t, which creates red herrings and sends you down dead ends.

I Will Have Vengeance involves the death of an opera tenor, and Blood Curse, the death of an elderly fortune-teller and moneylender. Neither perpetrator is obvious or stereotypical. Both books, yes, read them, but in order.

De Giovanni is a very talented writer. He keeps enough hidden, layers his writing deep enough that the twists and turns come naturally. The books are dark enough to work in Europa’s World Noir series, which thanks to a very aggressive marketing campaign, were on feature tables in most independent bookstores over the summer.

1 Donna Leon has lived in Venice for 25 years, so I’m just going to call her Italian. I’ve lived in Seattle for 25 years and I don’t call myself a Pennsylvanian.

2 A great line and timely line by Coroner Dominic DaVinci in DaVinci’s Inquest.

12 November 13 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week’s BTBA post is written by George Carroll, a publishers representative based in Seattle who blogs at North-North-West. He is also the soccer editor for Shelf Awareness and he and Chad frequently spent part of the weekend texting about EPL match-ups and Manchester Fucking United.

Paranoia by Victor Martinovich, translated by Diane Nemec Ignashev

A young writer falls in love with a woman who is also the lover of the head of state security in Belarus. The triangle falls apart when the woman says she is pregnant, disappears, is seemingly murdered, and the writer becomes the prime suspect.

The book opens with “There was light, then came darkness.” The beginning is a lot of romantic obsession, a bit cloying at times. The middle is written from transcripts of monitoring the apartment where the lovers meet. The final third of the book is the payoff—writing about it would be a minefield of spoiler alerts. Donald Rayfiled’s review in the TLS remarked that Martinovich’s achievement was showing how “a hole can open up in the ground and drop you into hell.” That pretty much sums it up. It’s dark, unsettling, and capped with a major WTF ending.

That the book takes place in Minsk during the dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko, and that the head of security invokes the historical figure Mikhail Muraviov, aka “the hangman” is thinly disguised. Timothy Snyder wrote a lengthy piece about the book in New York Review of Books three years ago, noting that the book was removed from bookstore shelves in Belarus two days after it was published.

The Silence and the Roar by Nihad Sirees, translated by Max Weiss

A couple of weeks ago Publishers Weekly announced The Silence and the Roar as one of the top ten books of 2013. What does that mean? Not a whole heck of a lot. However, it’s great to see a book in translation make a general wrap-up and the fact it wasn’t written by one of the Yankees of the Translation League is a huge plus.

The book was written in 2004, pre-current-revolution Syria. The main character, a writer, gets in trouble with security forces, has his ID card taken away, tries to retrieve it at headquarters, only to be refused entrance because, well, he doesn’t have an ID card.

This book, like Paranoia, has all of those descriptive pigeon-holes—Orwellian, Kafkaesque, dystopian. There’s a real snarkiness to the protagonist and the female characters (mother, girlfriend) have a nice depth to them.

The Village Indian by Abbas Khider, translated by Donal McLaughlin

Abbas Khider recently received the Nelly-Sachs-Preis, a biennial prize awarded by the city of Dortmund, who just lost to Arsenal. Wait. That’s a different column I’m writing. Previously Khider was a runner-up for the Adelbert von Chammiso Award, given to non-German writers who make a contribution to German letters. Not bad for someone who arrived in Berlin knowing three German words: Hitler, Lufthansa, and scheisse.

Khider was arrested six times for leafleting against Saddam Hussein’s regime and spent two years in an Iraqi prison. On his release, he became an undocumented refugee traveling through North Africa and Europe.

The narrator in the book finds a manuscript on a Munich-Berlin train that tells his own story but with a different name. How much similarity the character Rasul Hamid has with Khider would be very interesting to know. My takeaway from the book—when you’re on the run, carry a knife and duct tape.

That Smell by Sonallah Ibrahim, translated by Robyn Creswell

After spending five years in prison, a political prisoner, now under house arrest, tries to adjust to life in Cairo. This book doesn’t qualify for the BTBA award. Snap. But just because it doesn’t qualify, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it.

13 August 13 | Chad W. Post |

This week’s podcast is a special combo version featuring two separate conversations: one between Chad, Stephen Sparks (BTBA judge, Green Apple bookseller, and excellent reviewers), and George Carroll; and one between Chad and Paul Yamazaki (legendary City Lights bookseller). Topics range from soccer to Karl Pohrt to Javier Marias to Jonathan Lethem to other books we’re reading this summer. It’s always great to hear from booksellers about what they’re reading—they’re more in touch with what’s coming out than basically anyone. Additionally, it’s always fun to give a bit more love to these two epically great bookstores.


22 February 13 | N. J. Furl |

This week, Chad talks with special guest George Carroll about the enchanted lives of literary sales reps, Seagull Books, the Seagull School of Publishing, László Krasznahorkai’s forthcoming books, and . . . the UEFA Champions League.


20 August 12 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Sales rep superstar and international literature enthusiast George Carroll just posted a “destination guide” at NW Book Lovers that highlights a number of great presses, organizations, and books worth checking out.

Many of these—like Three Percent, New Directions, the Center for the Art of Translation—you’re probably already familiar with, but it’s always fun to see someone else talking about your books and/or the reasons for reading international literature in the first place.

There’s an opinion in publishing that literature in translation doesn’t sell— that the books are dense and unapproachable, and that Americans won’t read authors whose names we can’t pronounce. Norman Manea (The Lair, Yale Margellos) says books in translation are thought to be “too ‘complicated,’ which is another way of saying that literature should deal with simple issues in a simple way.”

Haruki Murakami once said, “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” If that’s true, people who read international literature are true iconoclasts. Only about three percent of all books published in the United States are works in translation. In terms of literary fiction and poetry, that number drops below one percent. And mainstream reviewers ignore most of the books that make it through the translation process into print.

I also want to point out that his three recommendations—Satantango by Laszlo Krashnahorkai, Maidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin, and Almost Never by Daniel Sada—are three of my favorite books from 2012 . . .

We're Not Here to Disappear
We're Not Here to Disappear by Olivia Rosenthal
Reviewed by Megan C. Ferguson

Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .

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The Queen's Caprice
The Queen's Caprice by Jean Echenoz
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .

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French Concession
French Concession by Xiao Bai
Reviewed by Emily Goedde

Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .

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Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .

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The Cold Song
The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann
Reviewed by David Richardson

Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .

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This Life
This Life by Karel Schoeman
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .

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A Dilemma
A Dilemma by Joris-Karl Hyusmans
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .

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