Over at Words Without Borders, Andy Tepper has a great post listing interesting books to read from all participating World Cup countries:
There are some interesting books, even more so perhaps this year because the Cup is being held in Africa for the first time. But I thought it might also be fun to use the idea of the World Cup, now in its final days, to kick off a discussion of some recent (or not-so-recent) books that might otherwise be overlooked. So I started thinking of a list of some of my favorite novels and collections from Argentina, Spain, Nigeria, Brazil . . . and on and on. Why did I do this? No special reason—I thought it might be fun, lord knows books could use more attention these days, and I had some time on my hands at work. But then I ran into countries such as Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, not to mention Paraguay and North Korea. What was I to do? (It would’ve been so much easier if Russia, Turkey, and the Czech Republic had qualified!)
His overall list is pretty solid: Ivan Vladislavic’s Portrait with Keys: The City of Johannesburg Unlocked for South Africa (a book that I read as the WC started and ABSOLUTELY LOVED), Geoff Dyer’s Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi for England, Jenny Erpenbeck’s The Book of Words for Germany, Antonio Tabucchi’s Indian Nocturne for Italy, Augusto Roa Bastos’s I, the Supreme for Paraguay, Alejandro Zambra’s The Private Lives of Trees for Chile, and 26 other titles.
This is a difficult list to come up with, but I’m sure readers have other interesting suggestions. (Personally, I’d replace the Ogawa with Kobo Abe’s The Box Man because it’s so Beckett and yet so singular.) If you have additions, suggestions, etc., etc., you should post them below, or on the WWB blog. It would be fun to come up with a sort of short reading list of books from these countries . . .
I meant to write about this last week, but I’m an idiot and totally forgot. Although there’s not a lot of time left to take advantage of this, Archipelago Books is having a World Cup Special: for $90 you get a set of nine Archipelago titles by writers from the host and quarterfinal-qualifying countries, or for $35 you can choose three of the nine featured books.
Here are the nine titles that are part of this offer:
Argentina: Autonauts of the Cosmoroute by Julio Cortazar and Carol Dunlop, translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean
Brazil: Education by Stone by Joao Cabral de Melo Neto, translated from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith
Germany: Lenz by Georg Buchner, translated from the German by Richard Sieburth
Germany: The Novices of Sais by Novalis, translated from the German by Ralph Manheim
Germany: Selected Prose of Heinrich von Kleist, translated from the German by Peter Wortsman
The Netherlands: The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker, translated from the Dutch by David Colmer
Spain: Plants Don’t Drink Coffee by Unai Elorriaga, translated from the Basque by Amaia Gabantxo
South Africa: Voice Over: A Nomadic Conversation with Mahmoud Darwish by Breyten Breytenbach
South Africa: Mafeking Road by Herman Charles Bosman
Overall, this is a great way to support Archipelago while getting a bunch of interesting books . . .
Thanks to Ed Park (who wrote the amazing Personal Days, which everyone who has ever worked should definitely read) for bringing this to my attention—a novel which you can start on either end and which seemingly ends with a confrontation between the two main characters that happens literally at the middle of the book!
According to the brief description with this video, Benjamin Stein’s The Canvas is being translated into English . . . More on that when I feel like disclosing more. (A publisher has to keep some secrets, right? Otherwise he’s just a blogger.)
Katy Derbyshire — who runs the wonderful love german books — wrote about this a while back in relation to a reading she attended (and as Katy pointed out to me, you should check the comments—there’s a cute fight between the author and his wife):
Then came Benjamin Stein. I haven’t read his new novel, Die Leinwand, but I’m going to have to now. It’s printed so that you can start reading at either end, with the two strands meeting in the middle where you then have to flip the book over and start again. Loosely based around the case of Binjamin Wilkomirksi, the novel looks at that old evergreen, the nature of memory, from a slightly different standpoint – how memories and truths can be manipulated and faked. Stein read well, a pitch-perfect chapter about books and libraries and ownership and lies, featuring a down-to-earth wife who made me wonder all over again about fact and fiction. And then he surprised me by giving a slide show. He’d been on a research trip to Israel, where the book is partly set, in search of a mikveh where his two (!) showdowns take place. Germans aren’t generally all that au fait with orthodox Judaism – and nor am I – so it was an unexpected lesson and gave us a great sense of Stein’s love for his subject matter. The serious reader was suddenly transformed into a smiling enthusiast, showing us the people and places that inspired him.
Oh, and sorry Germany. I thought for sure you would dismantle Spain the way you did Argentina, England, et and cetera. But no! Thrilling! And uh, go Spain? (I’ve been rooting for WC teams based on which cities I love the most. Amsterdam vs. Barcelona is a tough, tough call. I do love the color orange . . . And Catalan literature . . .)
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. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .