Over at The Argentina Independent, Joey Rubin has an article about five “exciting new Argentine novels” that have recently been translated into English.
As a huge fan of Southern Cone literature, the fact that there’s quality contemporary works coming out of that area isn’t that surprising, but it is almost shocking to realize just how many great Argentine books are being published in the States . . . Here are the five titles that Joey focused on, with short clips from his descriptions:
Friends of Mine by Ángela Pradelli: Called ‘Friends of Mine’, and also translated by [Andrea] Labinger, the novel tells the story of a group of women living in the Buenos Aires province, who meet once a year on 30th December to eat dinner, celebrate the New Year, and reflect on the strange, difficult and wonderful passage of time. Structured in short, lucid fragments, the novel reads like a coming-of-age tale for a group of friends, a neighborhood, and an era of life in middle-class Argentina that has as much resonance today (and outside of Spanish) as it did when it was first published in 2002 and was awarded the Premio Emecé. [. . .]
The Islands by Carlos Gamerro: Like the spiralling narrator of ‘Bad Burgers,’ the protagonist of ‘The Islands’ chases his own trauma down a rabbit hole when he discovers that, despite the passage of ten years, the Falklands/Malvinas War is still raging — a reality he’s not quite ready to confront. [. . .]
Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman: Neuman, who has written poetry (‘No sé por qué’), short story (‘Alumbramiento’) and travelogue (‘Cómo viajar sin ver’), created in ‘Traveller of the Century’ a novel that is at once contemporary and historical: set in Restoration-era Germany, it discusses sexual mores and intellectual disputes in a distinctly modern way. Praise from writers like Roberto Bolaño long ago boosted his reputation in the Spanish-speaking world, but more than acclaim or ambition, it’s the clarity and grace of Neuman’s prose that has earned him high standing among fans. [. . .]
The Planets by Sergio Chejfec: First published in Spanish in 1999, ‘The Planets’ was written during the fifteen-year period when Chejfec lived in Venezuela, a temporal and cultural dislocation important to the text. As ‘My Two Worlds’ used ambulatory reflection, ‘The Planets’ uses the act of remembering to elevate a simple story into an elegant register. It’s a mode of literature difficult to master, but worthy of celebration when done right. [. . .]
Varamo by César Aira: A novel kind of about a Peruvian man who takes up the homemade art of fish embalming, and also kind of about a very slow city-wide car race, and also kind of about the makings of a classic Central American poem, and yet somehow also not about these things at all. ‘Varamo’ is as strange, and as compelling, as Aira’s best work. In fact, it may be Aira’s best work. Or his worst. You’ll have to read all his books to know for certain.
The Argentina Independent has a great feature on Carlos Gamerro, a very interesting Argentine writer who once contributed to Three Percent and has a couple books coming out in translation. Here’s Joey Rubin’s intro:
The time has come for Carlos Gamerro to speak English. Born into a bilingual family in Buenos Aires in 1962, he’s been using the language since childhood. Since the 1990s, he’s been translating from it (books by Auden, Shakespeare and Graham Green) and lecturing in it (at the Iowa Writers Workshop in the US; at Cambridge University in the UK). But now, readers can welcome the author into a different kind of English conversation: over the next year, two of his novels will be released in first-ever English editions. Those books—‘El secreto y las voces’ and ‘Las islas’—will be released in the UK as ‘An Open Secret’ (Pushkin Press, 2011) and ‘The Islands’ (& Other Stories, 2012).
They are part of a diverse and cultivated body of writing that includes other novels (‘El sueño del señor juez’ and ‘La aventura de los bustos de Eva’), literary essays (‘Harold Bloom y el canon literario’ and ‘El nacimiento de la literatura argentina y otros ensayos’), and short fiction (‘El libro de afectos raros’), works that have helped make Gamerro, according to fellow writer Federico Falco, “one of the inescapable narrators of his generation.” In the last year alone, he’s released two new books: the novel, ‘Un yuppie en la columna del Che Guevara’, and the literary study, ‘Ficciones Barrocas’—both to significant acclaim.
Bad Burgers, available here in an original English translation, has been published thrice before in Spanish—in the magazine ‘Pisar el césped’, the newspaper Página 12, and in the story collection ‘El libro de afectos raros’. It distills much of what makes Gamerro’s writing distinctive; what Federico Falco, writing in the newspaper Perfíl, has called “the three fundamental pillars” on which Gamerro’s writing stands: “brilliantly hatched plots, characters who, without surrendering the profound, rub up against pop culture, and a view of the national reality somewhere between critical and humorous.” Reason enough for English-speakers to listen to what he has to say; now, at long last, in our native tongue. tion (‘El libro de afectos raros’), works that have helped make Gamerro, according to fellow writer Federico Falco, “one of the inescapable narrators of his generation.” In the last year alone, he’s released two new books: the novel, ‘Un yuppie en la columna del Che Guevara’, and the literary study, ‘Ficciones Barrocas’—both to significant acclaim.
And here’s the opening of the interview:
Joey Rubin: You have two books coming out soon in English translations — ‘An Open Secret’ and ‘The Islands’. Can you tell us a bit about the process of bringing them into English? Are they your first full-length works to be published in English?
Carlos Gamerro: Yes, these are my first full-length works to be brought into English. After a few near misses — all of them in the UK, I suppose it’s a side effect of my upbringing. Or maybe it’s one of the mysterious effects of a general trend of Argentine culture where practically all the ‘English’ schools are precisely that, English (even though mine advertised itself as Scottish).
So, after years of waiting, I suddenly found myself with two publishers vying for my work! Pushkin is a prestigious publisher of classics and choice new fiction, and & Other Stories is an exciting new venture you should do a piece about! I was lucky in that both accepted my choice of translator, Buenos Aires-based, England-born Ian Barnett, who’s been living in Argentina for ages now, is an avid reader of Argentine fiction and has been wanting to do my stuff since he first read ‘Las islas’ back in 1998. His translations of me are ‘in collaboration with the author’ although my role is actually less to collaborate than to drive him crazy. With ‘An Open Secret’ we were using the ‘comments’ option and towards the end I thought of looking at the numbers and we had reached comment 1,500! But it’s a dream situation: to have the same translator for all my books, one who is open (or resigned) to all suggestions, who is obsessive, devoted and, to top it all, a good friend.
I’m personally very excited to get my hands on both of Carlos’s forthcoming books, which we’ll definitely review here. (And maybe include in Read This Next?)
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