This month we’re giving away copies of Giulio Mozzi’s This Is the Garden, translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris and pubbing in January.
Although Mozzi’s stories have been excerpted in just about every magazine imaginable, this is the first full collection of his to be published in English. This Is the Garden won the 1993 Premio Mondello and astonished the Italian literary world for its commanding vision and the beauty of its prose. In the eight stories of this collection, we see a steady reworking of the idea of the world as a fallen Eden. Here, in Mozzi’s garden, quasi-allegorical characters seek knowledge of something beyond their shaken realities: they have all lost something and react by escaping, retreating from reality into a world, as Mozzi says, that is “fantastic, mystical, absurd.”
Or, in the words of Minna Proctor:
Gorgeously rooted in the best modernist tradition of writers like Italo Calvino and Antonio Tabucchi, Giulio Mozzi is among the most fiercely literary authors emerging from Italian literature today. These stories, which in so many different ways are about writing itself, are like rivers cutting through the northern Italian countryside—lush, limpid, exotic. Elizabeth Harris’s translation beautifully renders the noble grit of Mozzi’s distinctive voice.
If that doesn’t sell you on it, there’s also this bit of praise from Federico Fellini:
I read Giulio Mozzi’s first book with real enthusiasm. What struck me most was his everyday language. Even when his subjects rely on metaphor, his words are plain, and so turn mysterious.
Follow the link below to enter yourself in the GR drawing.
Is L’Amour then a novel? Yes, in the ordinary and hardly helpful sense that there is a story (or rather, several intermingled, fragmentary stories) and that the book, with its 98 pages of text, is longer than a novella. But from onset, the writing is novelistic in no mainstream way whatsoever. It is script-like without being a script, focused on the real world and on an initial character without being realist and hauntingly poetic without being a poem. [. . .]
Whatever the puzzling blend of hazy or composite characters and fragmentary storytelling there is in L’Amour, I would suggest that Duras is closer to truth than to fiction. Life can be like this. We see a woman or a man, and another woman or another man superposes him—or herself on the former. We project ourselves into others and project others into others—especially when amorous attraction and attachment is at stake. Duras was fascinated by the force and the pain of amorous emotions, as well as by indeterminacy as one of the fundamental aspects of our being in the world and our being with others. Because the voice of the narrator is so essential to and salient in a book like L’Amour, it can be deduced that this narrative indeterminacy accurately reflects the levels of consciousness of this outside observer who speaks so enigmatically yet authoritatively. [. . .]
For those of you who have never read Marguerite Duras, L’Amour is an invigorating place to start.
You can buy this now directly from our website, or, if you want to try your luck, we’re giving away 5 copies through GoodReads—just click below to enter yourself in the contest.
You have three days left to enter our GoodReads Giveaway for Angel Igov’s A Short Tale of Shame. Click below to enter!
It seems like almost everyone I talk to is a big fan of Sergio Chejfec’s My Two Worlds (translated by Margaret Carson). It got a ton of press when it came out last fall, and was even longlisted for the Best Translated Book Awards.
Well, this summer (June to be exact), we’re going to be bringing out The Planets (translated by Heather Cleary), one of his earlier books that focuses on the Dirty War period in Argentina’s history. Although, seeing that this is a Chejfec book, it’s kind of more about the telling of the telling of a story of a friend of the author who disappeared and may have died in an explosion. It’s as masterful as My Two Worlds, and maybe even a bit more expansive.
Here’s the official jacket copy:
When he reads about a mysterious explosion in the distant countryside, the narrator’s thoughts turn to his disappeared childhood friend, M, who was abducted from his home years ago, during a spasm of political violence in Buenos Aires in the early 1970s. He convinces himself that M must have died in this explosion, and he begins to tell the story of their friendship through a series interconnected vignettes, hoping in this way to reanimate his friend and relive the time they spent together wandering the streets of Buenos Aires.
Sergio Chejfec’s The Planets is an affecting and innovative exploration of mourning, remembrance, and friendship by one of Argentina’s modern masters.
Anyway, if you want an advanced copy, click below and you could win one through the GoodReads Giveaway program. This contest closes on Monday, so enter right away . . .
For all the Jerzy Pilch fans out there, we’re going to be publishing his new book, My First Suicide, this summer, but for those of you who are too eager to wait until May, enter the contest below for a chance to win one of the 10 copies we’re giving away via GoodReads.
This new book is in the same vein as the other Pilch titles we’ve published: it’s semi-autobiographical, very funny, dark, filled with shittons of drinking and women . . . Vintage Pilch.
Just an FYI: We’re giving away 10 copies of Book of Happenstance via GoodReads. If you’re interested in getting in on the action, just follow the directions below.
Next month we’ll be reissuing The Guinea Pigs by Ludvik Vaculik, a Czech modern classic featuring one of the most memorably odd narrators ever. His sort of befuddled meandering through life (not understanding the strange situation going on at the bank where he works, berated a kid that he mistakes for his son, etc.) is funny in and of itself, but it’s the spectacularly peculiar word choices and phrasings that really make this book sing.
Here’s an example from the opening paragraph:
There are more than a million people living in the city of Prague whom I’d just as soon not name here. Our family is originally from the country. Our family, that means me, my wife, and two tolerable little boys.
(It’s that “tolerable” that’s so fantastic.)
As the story progresses and the reader gets more and more attuned to the quirks and clicks of the narrator’s voice, the funnier this gets. Even when our friendly narrator is doing very odd things to innocent guinea pigs . . .
Anyway, to share our love of this book with the rest of the world, we decided to give away 10 copies via GoodReads. So if you’re a member, be sure to click this handy little widget below to be entered into the drawing.
As you may already know, Bragi Olafsson’s new novel, The Ambassador, is releasing next month. It’s an awesome, hilarious, fun novel about an Icelandic poet who attends a poetry festival in Lithuania, where his coat is stolen, where he gets pretty wasted, and where he meets a bunch of eccentric poets (surprise?). (Read an except by clicking here.)
Anyway, we have a really cool promotion for this in the works (some of you already know about this, but I’ll officially announce and explain it later), and in addition, Bragi’s going to be giving a few readings over the next few weeks. Specifically:
Book Talk with Bragi Olafsson
Thursday, September 30th at 6:30pm
Scandinavian House, 58 Park Ave. (at 38th St.), NYC
The World on Our Bookshelves: The Import of Literature in Translation
Saturday, October 2nd at 9am
Pages & Places Festival
ArtWorks, 503 Lackawanna Avenue, Scranton, PA
Reading and Discussion at 192 Books
Tuesday, October 5th at 7pm
192 Books, 192 Tenth Ave. (at 21st St.), NYC
(please RSVP by calling 212.255.4022)
I’ll post more about the Pages & Places Festival separately, but for now, here’s the basic info. And I hope you can come out to at least one of these.
To celebrate the release of this book (Bragi’s second with Open Letter, you should also check out The Pets), we’re giving away 10 copies. Simply go to our Open Letter Books Facebook Fan Page and click “like” or leave a comment on the “giveaway post.” We’ll select the winners on Friday . . .
Yesterday afternoon we found out that The Conqueror by Jan Kjaerstad, the second book in the “Wergeland Trilogy,” received a glowing, starred review in Kirkus:
Back in the day, Jonas Wergeland was an inquisitive student, brilliant, capable of speculating that “Dante’s observations on the celestial spheres, based on Ptolemy’s theories, were at least as right or wrong as the theories about the universe with which he was confronted in his astrophysical studies.” Alas, it’s the here and now, and Jonas is a television personality, the most popular in all of Norway. The here and now doesn’t always agree with him; when we meet Wergeland, early in the pages of this sprawling postmodern whodunit, our hero, breast-obsessed (“it’s a long story altogether, that of men and breasts”) and bewildered, is being copiously sick, feeling “as if he were spewing over Oslo, over the whole of Norway, in fact.” Wergeland has reason to feel ill over the course of much of this novel, and it’s not just from all the aquavit; his wife, Margrete, has been shot dead in the first volume of the trilogy, The Seducer, and all fingers point at him. [. . .] Think of it as Kafka-meets-Billy Connolly, and you’re almost there.
In celebration of this, our first starred review, we’re giving away the five extra copies of the galley that we have here in the office. The book will officially release in February, with the third volume (more on that a little later) coming out in August. (And just to clarify a bit, these three books can be read in any order, independent of one another, but if you’re chronologically inclined, The Seducer is available in paperback from Overlook.)
This is a great wintry book that is ambitious in scope and incredibly compelling. Each chapter reads like a perfectly crafted short story, and taken as a whole, the novel is a stunning accomplishment. It’s no wonder Kjaerstad won the Nordic Prize for the third volume . . .
If you’d like to be entered in the drawing for one of these copies, simply e-mail me your mailing address at chad.post at rochester dot edu with “The Conqueror” in the subject line. Since the holidays are here and we’ll be slowing down next week, we’ll keep this contest open until the morning of the 29th.
We haven’t done this before, but we have a couple extra copies of the galley for Vilnius Poker by Ricardas Gavelis and rather than let them rot, we thought we’d pass them along to you.
Considered to be one of the turning points in contemporary Lithuanian literature, Vilnius Poker is an ambitious book that—from four different, contradictory viewpoints—details life (and paranoia) in Lithuanian during the Soviet years.
I’m attaching a sample below, and if you’re interested in getting one of these galleys, just e-mail me at chad.post at rochester dot edu by tomorrow at 5pm. Winners (who must live in the U.S.—sorry) will be randomly selected from everyone who enters.
Here’s the sample:
The entire story of Camus’ life always seemed somewhat strange to me. Hidden in the sands of Algeria, he, of course, could have come across more essential things than the inhabitants of the large metropolitan centers can. In a center of culture and learning, in the hum of people, they feel safe, they blend into the crowd, into the profusion of words and opinions. They always dictate intellectual fashions, by this method concealing things that are troublesome to them. Inhabitants of obscure places have far more time to delve into the essence of the world, but also far fewer chances for their ideas to reach humanity. Camus successfully reconciled the qualities of a hermit and Europe’s darling.
His spiritual activity was twofold. Some of his writings, let’s say, The Myth of Sisyphus, seem to indicate that Camus was practically an apologist for their activities. This is partly confirmed by his Nobel Prize (_almost_ always it’s their emissaries who determine the awarding of official prizes: I emphasize—neither Joyce, nor Kafka, nor Genet received any prizes).
On the other hand, The Plague or The Stranger brazenly intrude into their inviolable domain. The portrayal of the plague is strongly suggestive of an allegory of their system, while Mersault is one of the most influential portraits of a kanuked being. There’s no sense in delving into Camus’ real activities—the most significant things won’t be found in the tangle of his biography. But his death is worth pondering. Perhaps at first Camus was an obedient (let’s say an inadvertent) servant of theirs, and later he saw through things. Maybe he was cleverly feigning all the time, secretly damaging them. We can only speculate. One way or another, he slowly began behaving in an unacceptable manner; maybe he even did things to them that are forbidden to talk about (even to think about them is dangerous). Retribution was quick. The fatalistic death, the lost manuscripts—all of that’s in an all too familiar style. Gediminas’s letters also disappeared without a trace.
Camus’ precedent was the first I wrote into the great list of their victims.
The fact that you won’t find straightforward information about them in books ultimately proves that they exist. It would be easy to fight with a concrete societal or political organization that everyone knows or has at least come across. An identified enemy is almost a conquered enemy. Everyone would have risen up against them a long time ago, they would have been destroyed at some point. Unfortunately, their race exists and works harmoniously. This proves that they’re hidden, undiscovered, uninvestigated. But whether they want to or not, they leave traces behind. All of their victims are indelible footprints.
More can be found here. And don’t forget to e-mail me at chad.post at rochester dot edu to be entered in the drawing.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
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. . .