10 November 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Milen Ruskov’s second published novel (and first to be translated into English), Thrown Into Nature poses as the traipsing and unfinished manuscript of an eager young Guimaraes da Silva (“The ‘da Silva’ part is made-up, by the way, since an aristocratic title causes people pay more attention to what you say.”). Set in sixteenth-century Sevilla the book follows the exploits of the famous Dr. Nicolas Monardes, founder of that great and all-curing medicine: tobacco.

Ruskov introduces Guimaraes da Silva as a (in his own opinion) regrettably Portuguese student on the cutting edge of medicine. Dr. Monardes sees him smoking a cigarella one day in a bar and takes him on as assistant; they are together ever after. Guimaraes is a mass of contradictions, innocent of opinion yet aware of deceit, indecisive yet committed, and above all, sure but misled. Though he is sometimes brought into the most un-scientific of adventures—chasing a ghost out a church with a cigarella and a staff—he nonetheless carefully records his experiences in the hopes of creating a great book like his mentor.

Ruskov presents Guimaraes’ manuscript as an unfinished text, heading chapters in the haphazard order of 3. For Having a Good Time; 3b. The Title Will Be Thought Up in December; 3c. The Following Summer—note, there is no 3a. As the book goes on it becomes apparent that the manuscript is not so much the pieces of an unfinished text, seemingly plot-less as it is, but the pieces of an unfinished mind. Guimaraes, young and impressionable, picks his way through the good doctor’s values and philosophies as he comes to better understand the people around him and executes a somewhat shady, if comical, coming of age.

In assisting with Dr. Monardes’ medical appointments Guimaraes literally gets thrown into Nature, and yes, that’s Nature with a capital N.

Is there anything more endlessly energetic, more lavishly fertile, yet crazier, than she? Of course not! If Nature put on a human face and strolled around the streets of Sevilla, she would have long since been locked up as a dangerous maniac, perhaps even burned at the stake by the Inquisition. She would be of the female sex, of course, giving birth to a child every five minutes, laughing and jumping about at the same time, and impregnated without a visible agent, as if by the wind itself. Yes, Nature is absolutely mad!

Yet she and she alone is the procreator of the world. Not the Devil or God, not some evil genius or some moronic mad scientist, much less the Good Lord, but simply a mad, all-powerful, all-purblind, accidental and chaotic Nature.

Again and again Guimaraes comes up against the force that seems to complicate everything in life. Serving everyone from King Don Felipe’s son to animals to peasants, Guimaraes gets taken on joyride that is not so much about the ins and outs of medicine as it is the ins and outs of human nature.

Dr. Monardes is a humanist because it is fashionable, a slave trader because it is profitable, and a chain smoking satire of privilege and money, yet serves as Guimaraes’ moral compass. A constant philosopher in his own way, Monardes tries to impart his wisdom on his apprentice and others, including peasants and priests. Though merciful in some instances, such as when Guimaraes and their resplendent carriage driver Jesus manage to burn down his barn, he can be capricious as well. Even in his will he displays this conflicting dual nature, going so far as to decide not to leave Guimaraes his house (“I’m not going to leave you anything, since I’ve never been particularly fond of you”), but gives him instructions on who to bribe on the municipal council to get it anyway.

As the story progresses the manuscript becomes less a tribute to the healing power of tobacco—for intestinal worms, bad breath, and waking the dead—and more a series of vignettes, flashing between Guimaraes’ past and present and brushing against the era’s most important figures: Don Felipe, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Lope de Vega and King James I. By pairing the serious with the ludicrous, Ruskov reminds us that even in its most sober moments life can be a farce.

24 August 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Julianna Romanazzi on Ludmila Ulitskaya’s Daniel Stein, Interpreter, translated from the Russian by Arch Tait and available from Overlook Press.

Ludmila Ulitskaya is one of a handful of contemporary Russian writers to have a number of their works translated into English. And the others that come to mind—Pelevin, Sorokin—are all males. Over the past few years, Schocken has published The Funeral Party, Medea and Her Children, and Sonechka: A Novella and Stories.

Helps that in addition to being a first-class author, Ulitskaya is a bit of a controversial figure, as chronicled in this piece in the Guardian, which includes a pretty sweet quote:

“My perception of Putin as an individual is that he is quite juvenile, not very mature, and all the pictures we have of him from state television are of Putin climbing Everest or fighting a tiger or extinguishing a fire. It’s just a kind of joke, these macho games.”

Anyway, on to Julianna’s second review of the week . . .

To some in the realm of journalism and literary representation the notions of “poetic license” and “poetic truth” stand as two very dubious cornerstones on which to build factual novels. The shaky foundations leave all kinds of room for interpretation, embellishment and, perhaps in the wrong hands, the glorification of the undeserving, Binjamin Wilkomirki’s Fragments a prime example.

Russian bestselling author Ludmila Ulitskaya, however, brings an interesting take to the table with her book Daniel Stein, Interpreter, a semi-fictitious (more on that later) account of the real life Brother Daniel who led an unconventional and in some ways unbelievable life. Ulitskaya’s novel chronicles the life and ripple effects of literary creation Dieter “Daniel” Stein, an alter ego based on the real Oswald Rufeisen—priest, Gestapo, and Jew.

Presented in epistolary format, the book brings the reader through a web of documents—everything from recorded “Talks to Schoolchildren” to NKVD archives, newspaper articles, and personal letters—on two twisting and intermingling chronological timelines. The first, as is a recurring theme, starts with one of Brother Daniel’s acquaintances in 1985, one for whom he starts as only a rumor. On paths always winding, whether through hearsay or by accident, the people of Ulitskaya’s novel and those existing in real life come to him with problems personal and profound.

Click here to read the full review.

24 August 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

To some in the realm of journalism and literary representation the notions of “poetic license” and “poetic truth” stand as two very dubious cornerstones on which to build factual novels. The shaky foundations leave all kinds of room for interpretation, embellishment and, perhaps in the wrong hands, the glorification of the undeserving, Binjamin Wilkomirki’s Fragments a prime example.

Russian bestselling author Ludmila Ulitskaya, however, brings an interesting take to the table with her book Daniel Stein, Interpreter, a semi-fictitious (more on that later) account of the real life Brother Daniel who led an unconventional and in some ways unbelievable life. Ulitskaya’s novel chronicles the life and ripple effects of literary creation Dieter “Daniel” Stein, an alter ego based on the real Oswald Rufeisen—priest, Gestapo, and Jew.

Presented in epistolary format, the book brings the reader through a web of documents—everything from recorded “Talks to Schoolchildren” to NKVD archives, newspaper articles, and personal letters—on two twisting and intermingling chronological timelines. The first, as is a recurring theme, starts with one of Brother Daniel’s acquaintances in 1985, one for whom he starts as only a rumor. On paths always winding, whether through hearsay or by accident, the people of Ulitskaya’s novel and those existing in real life come to him with problems personal and profound.

The second timeline, starting in 1959, follows the life of the man himself. Born a Jew in Poland and given a German education, Daniel came of age during the Holocaust and hid his ethnicity from the SS by working as an interpreter for the Gestapo, translating in turn for the Germans, Belorussians and the NKVD. While working for the Germans he organized the freedom of 300 Jews from the Emsk ghetto, escaped massacres and his own executions, and after the war converted to Catholicism and became a priest. He later moved to Israel. And that’s where the story really takes off.

Despite Ulitskaya’s creation of some characters and documents—and it should be noted that many of the documents and testimonies in the book are in fact real—her Daniel is not an exaggeration. Teaching without discrimination and at times to the dismay of his adopted Catholic Church, Brother Daniel went back to the teaching of God before the split of Judaism and Christianity. In the midst of writing a biography Ulitskaya gives an insightful and at times comical and cathartic look at tensions in and beyond Israel—of faith, of lifestyles, of ecclesiastical orders and families.

With the whole of his life he raised a heap of unresolved, highly inconvenient issues which nobody talks about: the value of a life turned into mush beneath one’s feet; the freedom which few people want; God for whom there is ever less room in our life; and life which has closed in on itself. Have I packaged that temptingly?

22 August 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a short review by Julianna Romanazzi of Sergio Chejfec’s My Two Worlds, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Carson and coming out this month from Open Letter.

My Two Worlds was a Read This Next selection a couple months back, so please click here to read an extended excerpt.

This is one of three Chejfec books we’ve signed on, with The Dark and The Planets forthcoming. It’s also worth noting that Sergio and Margaret will be doing a few events this fall, including one at McNally Jackson on September 15th and one at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

Julianna was a summer intern who, on the final day, told me I’ve been pronouncing her name wrong the past few months. Of course, now I can’t remember if it’s Julie-annnna or Julie-ahna. But it’s one of the two. Seriously, Julianna was a great intern, fantastic occasional poster, and quick learner, seeing that she only had to sit through two of my “why don’t you kids understand how to make logical Excel spreadsheets?!?!?!” rants. (And seriously. The future is in the hands of people who can’t organize data in spreadsheet form. Shudder.)

Here’s the opening of her review:

“In general, I know that when speaking of private and opposing worlds, one tends to refer to divided, sometimes even irreconcilable facets of personality or of the spirit, each with it corresponding secret value and in psychological, metaphysical, political or simply practical—even pathological—content. But in my case there was neither a moral nor existential disjunctive, what was more, I saw that my two worlds weren’t separated in an equal or reciprocal way; neither did one linger in the shadows or in private as the flip side of the other, the visible one, who knows which . . .”

Sergio Chefjec’s novel My Two Worlds is a tale that is part stream of consciousness and part self-reflection, a surfacing and resurfacing of a narrative vacillating between the outer world and the inner one. After leaving a literary conference the narrator, of whose inner and outer worlds the reader rides the waves, takes up his habit of walking while searching for a kind of contentment that has eluded him so many times before.

Reflecting on all things from street vendors and old men to the nature of emotional and philosophical inheritance (in the form of a wristwatch that ticks backward) the narrator phases out between different kinds of consciousness. Chefjec’s prose, lush with characteristic imagery, maintains its flickering style as it flows from the present circumstances to recollections of the past.

Click here to read the entire piece.

22 August 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

“In general, I know that when speaking of private and opposing worlds, one tends to refer to divided, sometimes even irreconcilable facets of personality or of the spirit, each with it corresponding secret value and in psychological, metaphysical, political or simply practical—even pathological—content. But in my case there was neither a moral nor existential disjunctive, what was more, I saw that my two worlds weren’t separated in an equal or reciprocal way; neither did one linger in the shadows or in private as the flip side of the other, the visible one, who knows which . . .”

Sergio Chefjec’s novel My Two Worlds is a tale that is part stream of consciousness and part self-reflection, a surfacing and resurfacing of a narrative vacillating between the outer world and the inner one. After leaving a literary conference the narrator, of whose inner and outer worlds the reader rides the waves, takes up his habit of walking while searching for a kind of contentment that has eluded him so many times before.

Reflecting on all things from street vendors and old men to the nature of emotional and philosophical inheritance (in the form of a wristwatch that ticks backward) the narrator phases out between different kinds of consciousness. Chefjec’s prose, lush with characteristic imagery, maintains its flickering style as it flows from the present circumstances to recollections of the past.

At first frustrated by his difficulty transposing a map’s two-dimensional representations to the three-dimensional world, the narrator eventually arrives at the city park he has been searching for. Coming up on another birthday and in between novels—the last of which an anonymous email tells him is doing poorly—the narrator sets out to find a sanctuary and further than that, a sense of self.

Trying to blend in and acting almost suspiciously casual, he seeks to become one of the denizens of the park, to be one of its natural and habitual citizens though it is his first time in the Brazilian city. As the narrator further weaves himself into the park’s framework—mimicking his bench partner, speculating on the nature of swans, faking familiarity in an interaction with an elderly woman—the two halves of his experience begin to come together. The reconciliation is not within the narrator’s adjustment to the park around him, but as it becomes clear in the landscape’s mirroring of his memories and impressions the narrator reconciles the gaps between his inner and outer perceptions, one no longer separate from the other.

Chefjec’s setting of the park situates his tale in a world within a world, with the quiet nature scenes and somnolent people sheltered from the city outside. In a subtle balancing act My Two Worlds conjures the art of mimicking itself and is an impressive foray into a new contemporary literary style.

1 August 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Julianna Romanazzi on the punctuation-confused “There Are Things I Want You to Know” About Stieg and Me by Eva Gabrielsson, translated by Linda Coverdale and published by Seven Stories.

Julianna’s been posting here for the past few months during her summer internship. She’s currently studying at Hobart & William Smith, and likes to tango.

This book isn’t exactly the sort of book we usually review here, but the whole Stieg Larsson phenomenon sure is something. And Eva Gabrielsson’s situation is pretty interesting. (See this Publishing Perspectives piece for more info about the boo.)

The book itself is meant to be a “biography“—take that as you will—of the late author’s long time partner Eva Gabrielsson, whom he met at age nineteen (she was eighteen), and stayed with for over 30 years. Eva chronicles the ups and downs of their life together, the different political movements and counter movements the couple was involved in, the roots and creation of the Millennium Trilogy, and their reasons for avoiding marriage. The last part of the book is also devoted to Eva’s loss of control over Stieg’s legacy and the downward spiral of his estate.

Gabrielsson writes “This book . . . I wish I hadn’t had to write it. It talks about Stieg, and our life together, but also about my life without him.” Reviews call the book “poignant,” “romantic,” and “touching”; and it is. There are moments of great accomplishment and personal danger mixed with the little everyday couples’ rituals that keep a relationship alive. But there is, of course, another tension.

The book admits early on, in both a foreword by Marie-Francoise Colombani and in the first chapter, that Eva is “today fighting to obtain control over Larsson’s literary estate.” An estate that is according to some sources worth $15 million dollars or more (over 97 million Swedish kronos), the sixth largest estate attributed to a dead celebrity after Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, JRR Tolkien, Charles Schulz, and John Lennon. But that is not to say that the book does not have its moments of emotion and poignancy.

Click here to read the entire review.

1 August 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I will admit, right off the bat, that I have never read anything by Stieg Larsson. Not a word, not a page, not even the back of a book cover. Yes, I am aware of the existence of the Millennium Trilogy, with the movies and the books and the commercials and whatnot, and I have perhaps eavesdropped on a few hushed, excited conversations; I am aware of the franchise that is approaching a kind of cultural phenomenon and of its rising popularity. But I haven’t read a word of it.
Really.

And now that I have established my unbiased-ly biased position, I have some things to say about Eva Garbrielsson’s “There Are things I want you to know” About Stieg Larsson and Me.

The book itself is meant to be a “biography“—take that as you will—of the late author’s long time partner Eva Gabrielsson, whom he met at age nineteen (she was eighteen), and stayed with for over 30 years. Eva chronicles the ups and downs of their life together, the different political movements and counter movements the couple was involved in, the roots and creation of the Millennium Trilogy, and their reasons for avoiding marriage. The last part of the book is also devoted to Eva’s loss of control over Stieg’s legacy and the downward spiral of his estate.

Gabrielsson writes “This book . . . I wish I hadn’t had to write it. It talks about Stieg, and our life together, but also about my life without him.” Reviews call the book “poignant,” “romantic,” and “touching”; and it is. There are moments of great accomplishment and personal danger mixed with the little everyday couples’ rituals that keep a relationship alive. But there is, of course, another tension.

The book admits early on, in both a foreword by Marie-Francoise Colombani and in the first chapter, that Eva is “today fighting to obtain control over Larsson’s literary estate.” An estate that is according to some sources worth $15 million dollars or more (over 97 million Swedish kronos), the sixth largest estate attributed to a dead celebrity after Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, JRR Tolkien, Charles Schulz, and John Lennon. But that is not to say that the book does not have its moments of emotion and poignancy.

I was an animal acting on instinct—a protective measure that kept anyone harmful to me a t a distance. I went through life like a zombie. Every morning I woke up in tears, although my nights were dreamless. Absolute darkness. The animal in me was restless and kept me constantly in motion. I did a lot of walking, but never alone, because I no longer dared to go out on my own. Not recognizing the woman I’d become, I had no idea what she might be capable of doing, to myself or to the people I might meet. Like a hunted beast, I fed only on little things picked up in passing: dates, nuts, fruits.

All the while Erland kept saying that he didn’t want any part of Stieg’s estate.

While the potential for gold digging and a character assassination of the Larsson family is there it is, as Eva promises, not the focus of the book. Short chapters further break down into vignettes on the couple’s life together and their experiences both political and personal, snapshots of 32 years, including the daily threats and phone calls from extremist groups retaliating against Stieg’s investigative journalism writing. Within this the writing is at some times fantastically picturesque and on point and at others of absolutely no relevance.

The writing itself has a kind of choppy, almost stilted quality. For someone who apparently spent many years translating magazine articles as well as doing editorial work, Eva’s work is somewhat unpolished and, in a few spots, clearly unedited. Whether this is due to a flat out refusal to make any changes, as some rumors have suggested, or simply Eva’s style, it is for the reader to decide.

And I suppose, in the act of reviewing this, that if I were a more suspicious person I would note that her writing becomes more fluid, coherent, and lyrical—and readable—in the second half of the book where she focuses on the creation of the Trilogy and her eventual loss of control over the Stieg Larsson estate. But that might be my small inner cynic talking.

However, it must be said that never in the book does Eva Gabrielsson write of a time when she asked for control of the estate’s money, only its intellectual property rights to protect, as she says, Stieg’s vision and his work’s integrity. Nor does she ask for money outright to continue her crusade, although a short chapter is devoted to her website supporteva.com, which has stopped taking donations as of January 10, 2011.

Bottom line, while “There Are things I want you to know” About Stieg Larsson and Me is no Millennium Trilogy novel (I am guessing) it will be an interesting read for book fans and people who are interested in Stieg Larsson’s life. Information is included on the backgrounds of the series’ characters and the real life inspiration for the plots, places, and names as well as some information on the unpublished fourth novel. If the book is perhaps not a great piece of writing, it is at least an intriguing read.

22 July 11 | Julianna Romanazzi | Comments

In addition to Leif Randt’s Ernst Willner prize, the Festival of German-Language Literature has also announced its Ingeborg Bachmann, Kelag, 3sat, and for the first time ever, Audience Award for its submissions of new German literature.

The Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, one of the most prestigious that the Festival awards, was given this year to Maja Haderlap for her Im Kessel (In the Kettle). The prize, named after famed Austrian writer and playwright Ingeborg Bachmann, was awarded by the provincial capital of Klagenfurt for EUR 25,000.

Also taking home an award was Steffen Popp with the Kelag Prize for his Spur einer Dorfgeschichte (Trace of a Village History). The Kelag Prize was donated by the Kärntner Elektrizitäts und Aktiengesellschaft (a local electric company) and worth a handsome EUR 10,000.

As well as the the Kärntner Elektrizitäts und Aktiengesellschaft, another corporate sponsor also awarded a prize. 3sat, a German-Austrian cultural broadcasting company, gave its 3sat Prize to Nina Buβmann for Große Ferien (Long Holidays) and a cash prize of EUR 7500.

Beginning this year at the Festival’s 36th inception VILLIglas sponsored the a new annual prize, the VILLI Audience Award. The award, donated by VILLIglas owner Phillip Daniel Merckle, was voted on by the public exclusively through the internet and given to Thomas Klupp for his 9to5 Hardcore.

21 July 11 | Julianna Romanazzi | Comments

After a three day marathon of reading a seven-person panel of judges for the Festival of German-Language Literature announced Leif Randt as the winner of the Ernst Willner Prize for his novel Schimmernder Dunst uber CobyCounty (The Haze Over Coby County), translated by Stefan Tobler.

The Festival, formerly known as the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, takes place yearly in Klagenfurt, Austria as a publicized event and since 2006 has been endowed yearly with EUR 25,000 in prize money. It is currently one of the most important awards for German literature. Submissions to the competition must be previously unpublished and have their original language as German, and during the judging process competitors must convince the public, the jury and its auditors of the quality of their pieces.

As part of this year’s Festival, Leif Randt was awarded the Ernst Willner Prize, so named after one of the Festival’s founders, for his work which has since been published.Schimmernder Dunst tuber CobyCounty has since been accepted by the BerlinVerlag publishing house and will be out in print in August. The book is Randt’s second novel to be published and follows his promising first _Leuchtspielhaus (Luminous Playhouse) which appeared in 2009 and won the Nicolas Born Debut Prize.

14 July 11 | Julianna Romanazzi | Comments

Digital Geishas and Talking Frogs: The Best 21st Century Short Stories from Japan
Edited by Helen Mitsios
Foreword by Pico Iyer

There are some pretty wild support groups out there. Acne support groups, jealousy support groups, lactose intolerance and tooth grinding. (And yes, these really do exist. I looked them up.) But wait, it gets better. What if you made a support group, more of a club really, for kids who have lost their fathers? That sounds pretty normal.

Except in this club members talk about their fathers as if they are still here, less as figments of revived memories and more a society of paternal imaginary friends. Yeah, this was a new one for me too.

Helen Mitsios introduces Tomoyuki Hoshino in her second anthology of Japanese literature Digital Geishas and Talking Frogs, a renewed and reworked edition of her New Japanese Voices: The Best Contemporary Fiction from Japan of twenty years ago. Mitsios’s collection, like the others in the Asian Anthology series, was recently published by Cheng and Tsui Company and is just now bringing new literature into English translation.

Hoshino’s story “The No Fathers Club” centers around a small group of people who are, in the absence of purpose and two-parent homes, looking for a connection. “We shared the problems and conflicts we had with our faux fathers and discussed together strategies for dealing with them. I told everyone how my father was perhaps too understanding, and that while it was nice that he let me do as I liked, I sometimes wondered if he really just didn’t care.”

While the whining and personal issues seem like things that ought to be listed as non-problems, the “fathers” in the club assume places in their world that are surprisingly real, even daring to leave a bruise and a split lip on one member for talk of not going to college. The club eventually shrinks to the narrator, Joe, and his friend Kurumi who he begins dating, but their time together is haunted (so to speak) by their paternal alter egos. Truly it is all they have in common. In the end, Hoshino explores how some relationships only last as long as the illusions do.

Aside from the support groups, Digital Geishas takes other interesting turns and shouldn’t be turned aside for some of its more unconventional content (as if that wasn’t reason to read it enough). Would you give your spouse permission to have month long affair? If you did, would you really mean it? Noboru Tsujihara brings to the table “My Slightly Crooked Brooch,” a story that plays on elements that are part fairytale and part urban legend. Ryō, a married man, has fallen in love. The proposal was all so very reasonable.

“She was a college student, he told her, just getting ready to graduate. Once she was finished with school, her parents had arranged for her to return to Matsuyama on the island Shikoku, where she was to get married. They’d already screened the groom and gone through with the engagement ceremony last fall. She and Ryō had decided a clean break would be best. But until then she wanted to live together during her final month of freedom, so he had agreed. It’s what they both wanted, he said.”

After some compromise, Ryō’s wife Mizue agrees. “He would be gone for a month. Not a day, hour, even a minute more. That was his promise.”

Over the course of the month Maiko and Ryō make the most of it, carefully avoiding the countdown to their final days; a husband with a different wife. Meanwhile, Mizue makes a change in her own behavior. A new apartment, a cell phone, an occupation of sorts. A jealous wife or something more?

Mitsios’s anthology takes the best of Japanese contemporary issues and writers today and brings them to English readers. Be it children of novelists or yes, talking frogs, Digital Geishas is good fodder for the reading inclined. Like the Cheng and Tsui’s other Asian works, the collection does not disappoint.

8 July 11 | Julianna Romanazzi | Comments

The Lotus Eaters: Short Stories from Contemporary South Asia
Edited by Trevor Carolan
Foreword by Urvashi Butalia

To escape from poverty a woman sells of her body in order to get by.

You’ve heard this story before, haven’t you? Actually, you haven’t.

Niaz Zaman of Bangladesh’s story “The Daily Woman” is part of one of the new Asian anthologies out by Cheng and Tsui Company and edited, like Another Kind of Paradise, by Trevor Carolan. This anthology primarily features short stories from the countries of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, but also Bhutan, Nepal, and the Maldives.

Playing on the region’s rich literary culture and history, old forms take new life. In Zaman’s story a house worker, a daily woman, reflects back on a choice she made before she was able to find her job. Her husband was sick and the babies came early. What is the price of surviving in Bangladesh? “How hungry she had been, and the two babies crying together were enough to make her go mad.”

And then the Amrikans came, pinkish-white people who were willing to solve her problem and take it away, a man and a woman. “White hair and wrinkles near her eyes. And thin. No breasts. No behind. Flat as a dried fish.” The narrator is not impressed, but it would be easier if there were less mouths to feed. So she made the deal and the Amrikans drove away.

“She sighed and drank the last of her tea. So that was what a Bangladeshi girl child was worth. Two brass bangles. She picked up the boy. Would he have been worth four brass bangles?”

Usha Yadav, an Indian writer, also takes a new twist on an old problem. In “Libations,” when the widow Saptadal dies during the festival of Holi, her fellow widows travel from door to door to seek men willing to arrange the burial rites for her funeral. When no one can be found three young women, going outside tradition, help the widows perform the burial themselves.

In a subtle (in terms of the story) and less than subtle (in verbatim) commentary on social customs and class divisions, Yadav writes “Not an ordinary funeral procession, this was also at once a protest march by women against a selfish and insensitive patriarchy which shadowed the lives of women from the beginning to the end: destroying the female embryo after the ultrasound report and forbidding women to perform the last rites of the dead. At least that is how it seemed to this small group.”

The Lotus Singers is an interesting and powerful collection and for those looking for a varied choice of reading and contemporary topics, the anthology has a lot to offer. While on the whole the stories are not as uplifting and positive as Carolan’s other anthology Another Kind of Paradise, their gritty darkness and at times black introspection give a telling look into South Asian life.

6 July 11 | Julianna Romanazzi | Comments

Another Kind of Paradise: Short Stories from the New Asia-Pacific
Edited by Trevor Carolan
Foreword by Frank Stewart and Pat Matsueda (from Manoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing )

It is generally agreed upon that, in general, short stories are…nice, like novels for those of us with short attention spans. They are, at times, interesting and funny and maybe even a little insightful. They are the fragile snippets of writing we smile and nod politely about as writers show off their artistic skill and then we say, “Oh, now I see it! Yes, this was the buildup to that wonderful novel they wrote.” Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

But those views only apply to general short stories. And that is the difference between the general short stories, those of that banal, groom-less category, and good short stories that are in a category all their own.

Good short stories are, yes, interesting and funny and insightful, but they also manage to accomplish in a few pages what some novels cannot. The deceptively fragile shell of their moniker hides the foundations underneath and the joy we find in the dips and twists and intricacies of the novel we consume in a single sitting.

Luckily, a collection of very good short stories just came out. Cheng and Tsui Company recently published a new set of Asian anthologies featuring collected short stories from authors around all parts of Asia and the Pacific, starting off with Another Kind of Paradise: Short Stories from the New Asia-Pacific. The work spans from Thailand to Burma to Japan and Vietnam.

In Mi-na Choi of Korea’s “Third Meeting” a mother facing the confines of a traditional Korean marriage is given a second chance, and a dilemma. To emigrate to her husband or stay home? “Her heart tightened again with guilt—not only toward Seuk-ho, but now toward her present husband as well. Was she undeniably such a sinner?” Her decision comes up against an echo of leaving the unfinished family of her first marriage, a son she could not bring with her, and the challenge of living with the expectations of something she no longer knows if she can do.

Filipino Gilda Cordero-Fernando’s “Bushouse” is a tale of coming of age set in the sequestered land of a company bus lot. The narrator, a nameless girl of seventeen, lives with her crippled brother and a mother removed from the world by grief in the shell of an empty bus, a gift from the company to the families of workers who have died. The narrator’s world is one of loneliness and a telling look at the third world’s endless recycling, both of people and things, and struggles with the more universal problem getting what you want when there is nothing there you want to have.

The anthology touches on a lot of different topics, some of them related—marriage, relationships, ties between people—some not (see homosexuality in Singapore and ghosts in the Cambodian jungle, for instance). Trevor Carolan, who edited the book, ties the topics in nicely with each other and their author’s biographical information and makes them flow, even if it seems like they shouldn’t. In the midst of their breadth, all the stories manage to capture that novel-in-short brilliance and the variety brought me some bibliophile’s joy.

For those of us with a jones for prose Another Kind of Paradise is a good collection with fresh, weighty prose and some very good short stories. But perhaps the point of Another Kind of Paradise is not limited to the stories inside it. Frank Stewart and Pat Matsueda of Manoa Journal (who wrote the book’s foreword) put it best:

“What appears to be a simple story by a Vietnamese writer can be a staggering lesson in the clash between personal ethics and social mores. Reading such a story, we feel gratitude to the author for bringing us to the cliff’s edge of morality and to the translator for enabling this moment of revelation. Through such stories, we are offered the chance to re-experience life, to exist among a different people without harm to them or their world. This is surely what we mean by world literature: writing that enables us to stay at home while traveling across temporal, cultural, and geographic boundaries. Reading this literature counters the ideas that the West is at the center of the universe and that its narratives of reality prevail over others.”

If they’re going to put it that way, why read anything else?

30 June 11 | Julianna Romanazzi | Comments

Today is our last day to get our ebooks at $4.99! Don’t forget to buy your favorites before they go back to $9.99 (like Amazon…) and help us outsell John Locke.

Check our our ebook best here.

29 June 11 | Julianna Romanazzi | Comments

To satisfy those fans of Arab literature, or those just getting turned on to the subject, Banipal is bringing out its newest issue, Banipal 41, available now.

Founded in 1998 and published for the last thirteen years, Banipal is an independent Arab literature magazine distributing contemporary work from all parts of the Arab world in English translation and is a co-sponsor for the Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prized for Arabic Literary Translation.

This latest issue, Banipal 41, focuses on essays “Celebrating Adonis” with writers VS Naipaul, Stephen Watts, and Hassouna Mosbahi, among others. The issue is also giving a special look at Arab writers in Sweden, paying homage to artists like Syrian writer Salim Barakat and Faraj Bayrakdar doing work in the Scandinavian home of Stieg Larsson and who are continuing to produce Arab works as pieces descending from a culture and a language, and not a place.

Banipal is released three times a year with the back issues touching on Modern Tunisian Literature, Arab American Authors, Iraqi Authors, and The World of Arabic Fiction. Banipal’s next issue, Banipal 42, will be Literature from the Emirates.

To check out the Banipal page, click here.

22 June 11 | Julianna Romanazzi | Comments

A woman receives letters from an unknown man. Racy? Possibly.

The story above, “Obscenities for a Housewife” (“Obscenidades para uma dona de casa”), by Ignácio de Loyola Brandão is part of the Brazilian bestselling anthology The 100 Best Brazilian Short Stories of the Century (Os cem melhores contos brasileiros do século), a book that was banned earlier this year after being called “inappropriate.”

The book includes stories from acclaimed Brazilian authors Clarice Lispector, Carlo Drummond de Andrade, and Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, among many others, and was bought in bulk by the Brazilian government for public schools as an expedient way to introduce students to Brazil’s literary tradition and culture.

Since then the book, published by Objetiva, has been banned from public schools by the Sao Paulo State due to an objection by mothers against Brandão’s story. A Brazilian court backed the mothers’ objection, citing a “high sexual content” in the book. There is no word on what will become of the government’s copies or if another book might replace the anthology in public schools’ curriculums. Maybe they should ask the mothers.

While I am no expert on school standards or public education, I did manage to find a translated version of the text (of the story, not the book) and read it, and it is surprisingly dirty. Dirty enough to be banned? Perhaps. But as much as I am usually against censorship it might not matter on this one. The book is already a bestseller in Brazil and popular in bookstores. Regardless of the ban, the book is still out there if kids really want to read it.

But then, that too might be up to the mothers.

If you would like to have an opinion on this yourself, you can read the Portuguese text for Obscenities here. And here’s the Google Translated version, of which, only the swear words are coherent.

20 June 11 | Julianna Romanazzi | Comments

Only four years old, the Premio Sao Paulo de Literatura has already become one of Brazil’s most coveted literary honors. Created by Sao Paulo State’s Secretary of Culture, the prize offers R$200,000 (more than US$127,000) for the categories of best book and debut writer. The Award is the highest cash prize literary award in Brazil. This year 221 novels were submitted to the contest in the hopes of the prize and the shortlists of the winners were announced earlier this month.

Best Book Shortlist
• Azul-corvo by Adriana Lisboa (Rocco)
• Paisagem com dromedário by Carola Saavedra (Companhia das Letras)
• Minha mãe se matou sem dizer adeus by Evandro Affonso Ferreira (Record)
• Do fundo do poço se vê a lua by Joca Reiners Terron (Companhia das Letras)
• Bolero de Ravel by Menalton Braff (Global)
• Chá das cinco com o vampiro by Miguel Sanches Neto (Objetiva)
• Poeira: demônios e maldições by Nelson de Oliveira (Língua Geral)
• Traduzindo Hannah by Ronaldo Wrobel (Record)
• Passageiro do fim do dia by Rubens Figueiredo (Companhia das Letras)
• Os negócios extraordinários de um certo Juca Peralta by Sérgio Mudado (Crisálida)

Best Debut Authors Shortlist
• Os Malaquias by Andréa del Fuego (Língua Geral)
• Perácio – Relato Psicótico by Bráulio Mantovani (LeYa)
• A ilusão da alma: biografia de uma ideia fixa by Eduardo Giannetti (Companhia das Letras)
• Prosa de papagaio by Gabriela Guimarães Gazzinelli (Record)
• Inúteis luas obscenas by Hélio Pólvora (Casarão do Verbo)
• Manhã do Brasil by Luis Alberto Brandão (Scipione)
• Os unicórnios by Marcelo Cid (7 Letras)
• Método prático da guerrilha by Marcelo Ferroni (Companhia das Letras)
• O dom do crime by Marco Lucchesi (Record)
• Lugar by Reni Adriano (Tinta Negra)

The official winners of the contest have not yet been announced.

Find the original website here

17 June 11 | Julianna Romanazzi | Comments

The University of East Anglia in the UK is looking for submissions for their biannual journal In Other Words, published by the British Centre for Literary Translation. If you are interested in contributing to issues 38-40 (and these contributions are not limited to the specific topics of each issue) drop a line to editor Valerie Henitiuk at v.henitiuk@uae.ac.uk.

In Other Words is a biannual journal published by the British Centre for Literary Translation, in collaboration with the Translators’ Association. The special themes of the next several issues are listed below, but we are also always happy to receive articles discussing any topic of interest to literary translators. Articles should be a maximum of 4000 words; style guidelines are provided in the back of each issue. Further information is available on our website, www.bclt.org.uk, and specific queries may be addressed to the editor at: v.henitiuk@uea.ac.uk.

Issue 38: Translating Music
We welcome article submissions on any aspect of ‘Translating Music,’ which can include but is not limited to:
The translation of musical texts (lyrics in songs, operatic works, etc)
Musicality in texts and how this can be translated
Translating performativity of musical works
Deadline for submissions is 1 October 2011

Issue 39: Translation and the Arab World
We welcome article submissions on any aspect of Translation and the Arab World’, which can include but is not limited to:
Translation in/as resistance
Toppling regimes, toppling paradigms
Unity and diversity in Middle Eastern literature
Deadline for submissions is 1 March 2012

Issue 40: Translating Children’s Literature
We welcome article submissions on any aspect of ‘Translating Children’s Literature’, which can include but is not limited to:
Age-based theories of translation
Translation vs. adaptation
The translation of different genres for young readers (picture books, young adult literature, nonfiction, fantasy, etc.)
Educating children via translated texts

Deadline for submissions is 1 October 2012
For more information, please contact Valerie Henituk at v.henitiuk@uea.ac.uk.

8 June 11 | Julianna Romanazzi | Comments

If you’re looking to try out your German translation skills the German company no man’s land contacted us and is looking for submissions for its 2011 issue coming out in November. no man’s land is now accepting poetry and prose electronically and by mail. If interested contact Isabel Cole. Viel Glück!

Call for Submissions – no man’s land # 6

Contemporary German-language fiction and poetry in English translation.
Deadline: August 6, 2011.

no man’s land, the online journal for contemporary German literature in translation, is seeking submissions for its 2011 issue.

For prose, send up to 3 texts (stories or self-contained novel excerpts, max. 4,000 words each) by one or different contemporary* writers. For poetry, send work by up to 3 poets, each to a maximum of 5 poems. No simultaneous submissions, please, and – with some possible exceptions** – no previously-published translations. The deadline is August 6, 2011 (postmark date), and we will inform contributors by early September 2011; the issue will go online in November. We regret that we are unable to offer honoraria.

Please include your contact information, biographical and publication information (for both translator and author) and a copy of the original. Also, please provide proof of permission from the original publisher and/or author – whoever holds the rights to the piece (this could be a copy of a letter, or forward us an e-mail).

If you can include the original text in file format (PDF or other), we prefer that you send submissions electronically to Isabel Cole at isabel@no-mans-land.org. Otherwise, mail them to no man’s land, PO Box 02 13 04, 10125 Berlin, Germany.

To save us time and keep us from misplacing your work, please observe the following guidelines for electronic submissions:

1) Submit all texts (poems or prose) by one author in the same file (i.e. not a separate file for each little poem).
2) Name the file with your translation as follows: pr for prose, ly for poetry_your last name_the author’s last name_e. So Anthea Bell’s translation of prose by E. T. A. Hoffmann would be: pr_bell_hoffmann_e.doc. Name the file with the original the same way, but ending with _dt (pr_bell_hoffmann_dt.doc). Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Rilke poems would be ly_mitchell_rilke_e.doc, and the original would be ly_mitchell_rilke_dt.doc.

Apologies if this sounds complicated, but it really would be a great help!

For more information, see our “Translators’ Tips” on the no man’s land website and feel free to contact us at the above e-mail address.

We look forward to reading your work!

The Editors, no man’s land
www.no-mans-land.org

*Defined more or less as writers currently active, or active in the later 20th/early 21st century. When in doubt, query!

  • We are willing to make exceptions for translations that have appeared previously in very limited circulation and that we feel deserve a new audience. Again, please feel free to query.

8 June 11 | Julianna Romanazzi | Comments

This week 50 Watts, a blog site by Will Schofield on book cover design and illustration, announced the winners of its Polish Book Cover Contest. The contest asked contestants to take their favorite books and create a “Polish design,” or fake book cover inspired by the style of existing Polish book designs.

Judges Aleksandra and Daniel Mizieliński, Peter Mendelsund, and Will Schofield himself chose Ben Jones as their winner with his design of George Orwell’s classic 1984, awarding him $400 and bragging rights for his remake of the classic. “Polish artists seem to use the atmosphere of the narrative to carry the artwork forward,” Jones said. “This is what I tried to do with my 1984 book cover.”



Second place went to Paris-based comic author Singeon (Nicolas Gallet) for his The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino and third place went to Bas Alberts of Amsterdam for Mark Z. Danielewki’s House of Leaves. Other judges’ favorites included remakes of Lord of the Rings books, Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Flies, and To Kill a Mockingbird.



While not as taken with the first place choice as the judges (perhaps it’s the feeling of being watched) I did enjoy the third place choice by Bas Alberts and the Alice in Wonderland rendition by Ada Buchholc. The designs are simple and clean, but then I’m a simple girl.



Check out the other contest submissions here.

Check out 50 Watt here.

8 June 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

In 17 minutes, Julianna Romanazzi will become the newest Three Percent blogger. Julianna is here all summer gaining invaluable publishing experience, such as “how to mail review copies,” “why we don’t edit Chad’s reviews,” and “why snarky blog titles are popular.”

She goes to Hobart & William Smith where she is majoring in comparative literature and minoring in Latin. (Latin!) Additionally, she’s interested in baking (and yet, she hasn’t brought us any treats! Interns!), and dances the Argentine tango.

As you may know, tango is a bit of an obsession in the office,
so I think she’ll fit in.

A lot of her initial posts will be of the more newsy variety—contests, awards, etc.—and will be adding events to our Translation Calendar. So, if you have any news stories, announcements, or upcoming translation related events, feel free to email here at julianna.romanazzi [at] hws.edu.

....
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It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .

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Reviewed by Peter Biellp

Spoiler alert: acclaimed writer Stefan Zweig and his wife Lotte kill themselves at the end of Lauren Seksik’s 2010 novel, The Last Days.

It’s hard to avoid spoiling this mystery. Zweig’s suicide actually happened, in Brazil in 1942, and since then. . .

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