So last month, the day after the announcement of the Best Translated Book Award, the Americas Society hosted an amazing panel to help launch Macedonio Fernandez’s The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel).
This event—which Open Letter executive committee member Hal Glasser helped put together—was loaded with awesome panelists, including Margaret Schwartz, who translated The Museum; Edie Grossman, whose first translation was a short story of Macedonio’s that she did for an Americas Society publication; and Todd Garth (a Macedonio scholar and author of The Self of the City, a book about Macedonio and the Argentine avant-garde.
Overall, this was one of the most interesting panels I’ve ever moderated. We were able to cover a lot of stuff about Macedonio—his eccentricities, his work, his relationship to Borges, his hatred of public transportation (“down with the tyranny of bus routes!”) and his disbelief in all medical knowledge (which, well, was why he ended up toothless . . . ). And I was even able to read the most romantic paragraph ever written (in my opinion), which is something I tend to do when I talk about Macedonio . . .
Anyway, definitely listen to this audio file.. I promise you’ll be enthralled after the first few minutes . . . It was a sort of magical night and event.
Click here to download. Or simply hit the play button below . . .
So now that the Best Translated Book Awards are over, I can fully concentrate on the next event—one for Macedonio Fernandez’s The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel) that is taking place tonight at the Americas Society tonight at 7pm.
Our cheeky title for this event comes from Macedonio himself, who, within one of the fifty-some odd prologues to Museum, refers to the book as “The Best Novel since both It and the World Began.” Which is plan brilliant. Because it is one of the best novels ever written. It’s amazingly playful, innovative, and thought-provoking, but it’s also one of the most heartfelt love letters ever.
I’ll be moderating tonight’s event, which will feature superstar translator Edith Grossman (who is also the author Why Translation Matters), Margaret Schwartz (who translated Museum), and Todd Garth (author of The Self of the City: Macedonio Fernandez, the Argentine Avant-Garde, and Modernity in Buenos Aires). With such great panelists, and such an amazing subject (Macedonio may well be the quirkiest of all quirky writers), this is sure to be a spectacular event.
If you’re in the area and want to come out, the Americas Society is at 680 Park Avenue (68th St.). Here’s info on how to RSVP for the event:
Americas Society Members: firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 277-8359, ext. 4
Non-Members: Visit www.americas-society.org
Hope to see you there!
This is still a few weeks away, but seeing that I’ll be off in Abu Dhabi for a while (see tomorrow’s post), I thought I should mention this now.
On Thursday, March 11th at 7:00pm at the Americas Society (680 Park Ave, NYC) there will be a special event in honor of the first English publication of Macedonio Fernandez’s The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel), which the author referred to as “The best novel since both it and the world began.” Hence our witty event title . . .
But seriously, this is going to be an amazing event. Todd Garth (author of The Self of the City) will read a bit from Spanish and English and will talk about Macedonio and his influence on Latin American literature. Margaret Schwartz will talk about the intense process of translating this novel. And Edith Grossman—whose first translation was of a short story by Macedonio—will be there as well.
I’ll post another reminder in a few weeks, but for now, posted below is a description of Museum from the Open Letter website. And this has actually gotten a few stunning reviews: Bookforum‘s was probably the most enthusiastic (but isn’t available online), Complete Review gave it a B+ (solid!), and Luis Alberto Ambroggio wrote a nice piece for First Person Plural. And here’s the jacket copy:
The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel) is the very definition of a novel written ahead of its time. Macedonio (known to everyone by his unusual first name) worked on this novel in the 1930s and early ’40s, during the heyday of Argentine literary culture, and around the same time that At Swim-Two-Birds was published, a novel that has quite a bit in common with Macedonio’s masterpiece.
In many ways, Museum is an “anti-novel.” It opens with more than fifty prologues—including ones addressed “To My Authorial Persona,” “To the Critics,” and “To Readers Who Will Perish If They Don’t Know What the Novel Is About”—that are by turns philosophical, outrageous, ponderous, and cryptic. These pieces cover a range of topics from how the upcoming novel will be received to how to thwart “skip-around readers” (by writing a book that’s defies linearity!).
The second half of the book is the novel itself, a novel about a group of characters (some borrowed from other texts) who live on an estancia called “la novella” . . .
A hilarious and often quite moving book, The Museum of Eterna’s Novel redefined the limits of the genre, and has had a lasting impact on Latin American literature. Authors such as Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and Ricardo Piglia have all fallen under its charm and high-concepts, and, at long last, English-speaking readers can experience the book that helped build the reputation of Borges’s mentor.
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