Not sure why/how we haven’t written about this until now, but there’s a new online literary journal called Anomalous that’s worth checking out, especially now that they just released their third issue.
Founded and run by Erica Mena, Anomalous came into being in earlier this year
as a non-profit press dedicated to the diffusion of writing in the forms it can take. Its backbone is an editorial collective from different backgrounds and geographies that keep an eye out for compelling projects that, in any number of ways, challenge expectations of what writing and reading should be.
At the time of its launch, Anomalous is an online publication, available in both visual and audio forms on various platforms. It has its sights set on publishing chapbooks, advancing audio forms and creation, and supporting all sorts of alternative realities of the near future.
A lot of translation people are involved with this, both in terms of providing content, and on the masthead.
In this new issue — which you can download for free as a PDF, audiobook, ePub file, or Kindle version — you’ll find a Mani Rao’s translation from the Sanskrit of Guru-astakam, attributed to Sankara along with Dick Cluster’s translation from the Spanish ob “The Sign” by Pedro de Jesus, original poems by translator Anna Rosen Guercio, original work from fellow translator John Pluecker, part of Andrew Barrett’s translation from the Ancient Greek of Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, and Steve Bradbury’s translation from the Chinese of Hsia Yu’s “Lining Up to Pay,” along with work from a dozen other writers.
There’s a lot of poetry in here, which is one thing that really sets Anomalous apart. (That and the fact that every issue has an audiobook version.) It’s a very nice publication, and one that I’m sure we’ll be referencing again in the future.
Similar to years past, we’re going to be featuring each of the 25 titles on the BTBA Fiction Longlist over the next month plus, but in contrast to previous editions, this year we’re going to try an experiment and frame all write-ups as “why this book should win.” Some of these entries will be absurd, some more serious, some very funny, a lot written by people who normally don’t contribute to Three Percent. Overall, the point is to have some fun and give you a bunch of reasons as to why you should read at least a few of the BTBA titles._
Click here for all past and future posts.
The Black Minutes by Martin Solares, translated by translated by Aura Estrada and John Pluecker
Why This Book Should Win: The judges gave the first Best Translated Book Award to an awesome book called Tranquility by Attila Bartis, despite the fact that it was up against that behemoth 2666, and everyone knows that 2666 is the greatest book published ever, to say nothing of the year 2008. (Really, it is. I should know. I wrote it.)
As may be surmised from the above paragraph, this is the second entry in the WTBSW series from beyond the grave. This time it’s from The Late Roberto Bolano.
Needless to say, a lot of people were disappointed that the judges opted for the Bartis, so here’s their chance to give the award to a hyper-noirish, dark, convoluted, paranoid, freaky book about the Mexican drug war, in many ways similar to 2666 (and in many ways nothing like my master opus at all).
The Black Minutes tells a pretty gripping story about murder in 1970s, northern Mexico providing a kind of pre-war look at a land that is now dominated by huge narco-cartels. Like many good noirs are, it’s framed around the one cop who wants to do an honest job, named Cabrera. As as English-language translator Natasha Wimmer wrote in The Nation:
It’s crime fiction, but it’s also a meditation on corruption, and it captures the kind of nightmarish helplessness that many feel in the face of the tide of narco-violence sweeping the north of Mexico. In Tamaulipas alone, assassinations since June include the front-runner candidate for governor of the state and two mayors of a single small town over the course of two weeks. On September 19, after the killing of a photography intern, the Ciudad Juárez paper El Diario ran an extraordinary editorial asking the drug gangs for instruction: “We want you to explain to us what . . . we are supposed to publish or not publish. . . . You are at this time the de facto authorities in this city.” Scraping away some of the cool remove of the traditional noir, The Black Minutes gives a gorgeous, suffocating sense of life in Mexico’s sweltering northeast and an equally smothering sense of a justice system in which the concept of justice has been leached of meaning.
We soon find that the story of the honest cop is just the beginning, as about 1/3 of the way in Solares abruptly shifts to a story-within-a-story about Cabrera’s predecessor on the case, which makes the plot-line even more convoluted, the characters even more numerous, and everything that much more freakily connected.
So in sum, The Black Minutes is a big, wooly, meaty neo-noir with plenty of sex, guns, violence, death, and of course lots and lots of politics. It’s a chance to give the award to a Mexican drug war book in light of the fact that the judges dissed my book 2666, even as the Bartis was pretty freakin awesome.
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