I can’t access the full review (yet), but according to Stephen Mitchelmore at This Space the new issue of the TLS has an interesting review by Nick Caistor on Enrique Vila-Matas’s Dublinesca. Here’s an interesting bit that Stephen pulled out:
Vila-Matas insists that there is a “moral contract” between writer and reader, and that the reader should be active, showing a “capacity for intelligent emotion, a wish to understand the other person, and to get closer to a language that is different from that of our daily tyrannies”. He goes further, declaring that: “the same skills needed to write are also needed to read. Writers can fail readers, but the reverse is also true, and readers fail writers when all they look for in them is a confirmation that the world is exactly how they see it”. In spite of all the playfulness therefore, the game of literature is the most serious and urgent there is.
Vila-Matas is a personal favorite—his Montano’s Malady is pure genius—so I’m excited to find out more about Dublinesca. And I did hear from Declan at New Directions that they signed this book on, so it will be available in English at some point in the future. In the meantime, ND is bringing out Vila-Matas’s Paris Never Ends sometime next spring (?). Can’t wait . . .
In anticipation of announcing the fiction longlist for the “Best Translated Book of 2008” on Thursday, here are a couple other “year end” lists worth checking out.
I don’t remember The Guardian using this format for its year end lists in the past, but then again, I have a hard time remembering things from last week. Regardless, this format of having authors, politicians, etc., write a couple lines about their favorite book of the year works really well. This is the same format that TLS uses every year, although the complete list from The Guardian is available online, whereas TLS only has a sampling . . .
Nevertheless, there are some good entries, including two from William Boyd (one in each paper), and this one from Doris Lessing in the TLS:
Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night (Yale). As a boy Alberto Manguel used to read to blind Borges at a time when Buenos Aires was a nest of poets and storytellers and love of literature. He dreamt of becoming a librarian, and in his mind were the great exemplary libraries of Alexandria, Pergamon and Carnegie, whose librarians got so many letters of thanks from writers and scholars. There were long years before he achieved his own library. In the fifteenth century a barn, at other times a temple to Dionysus, a Christian Church. The library had different characters at night and in the day. In the dark were the glittering books. One book calls to another, unexpectedly creating alliances across different cultures and centuries. Manguel muses over the possibilities of classification using Chinese and Arabic thought, but for me the image that stayed is of a hand reaching out to a book but being deflected, attracted by remembering the weight and balance of it and perhaps, “If time flows endlessly, as the mysterious connection between my books suggests, repeating its themes and discoveries through the centuries, then every misdeed, even treason, every evil act will eventually find its true consequences. After the story has stopped just beyond the story of my library, Carthage will rise again from the strewn Roman salt. Don Juan will confront the anguish of Dona Elvira. Brutus will look again on Caesar’s ghost, and every torturer will have to beg his victims’ pardon in order to complete time’s inevitable circle”. This is a book full of pleasurable memories – full of happiness.
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. . .