22 May 12 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The people at Very Short List were kind enough to ask me to put together a special list featuring items related to World in Translation Month.

For anyone who doesn’t know, VSL started a few years ago with a very simple idea: every day subscribers would receive an email highlighting one cool and interesting thing. Could be a book, a website, a short video, whatever—just something interesting to check out. Over time, the site has evolved a bit, and the new format is based on having three links: one featured idea and two related things.

To see the email/feature in its colorful glory, simply click here.

The three things I chose to feature were the BTBA 2012 finalists, The Canvas, and this amazing Bill Johnston t-shirt.

Just to dwell on the Bill Johnston t-shirt for a minute, this is something that Kaija Straumanis designed as a way of honoring Bill—this year’s winner of the BTBA for his translation of Wieslaw Mysliwski’s Stone Upon Stone. The plan is to sell these through Archipelago’s site, and at the ALTA conference this fall. (And to make up t-shirts for other BTBA winners . . . )

Proceeds from sales of these shirts are being split among all worthy parties, so by buying this, not only will you be pimping one of the greatest translators working today, but you will be helping out Archipelago Books and Open Letter. And beyond that, it’s just totally rad.

Here’s the front graphic:

And here’s where you can buy it.

17 May 12 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Earlier this month I posted about World in Translation Month, and asked everyone to buy one Open Letter book to a) celebrate this special month and b) save our fiscal year (which is Quite Bad).

I want to take a minute to thank all of you who have helped out by buying a book directly from us (a lot of you did!), or from your local bookstore, Amazon, B&N, wherever. If you haven’t participated yet, there’s still fifteen days left to get in on the World in Translation Month fun . . .

(What’s really interesting to me is how many people have contacted me this month about doing interviews/special things to promote World in Translation Month. There’s a HUGE thing coming out next week that I can’t tell you about [yet], but which will likely impress a lot of you. And will likely involve one of my favorite translators ever. . . . I believe this is what is called a “tease.”)

Anyway, if you haven’t purchased an Open Letter title this month, I have a special suggestion for you.

Yesterday—literally—finished copies of Benjamin Stein’s The Canvas arrived in the office. If you’ve talked to me in person in the past few months, you’re probably already familiar with this novel (or novels?).

We first featured The Canvas on Three Percent a couple years ago as the Next German Book I Want to See Translated. That post included this BBC video about Benjamin Stein and his formally interesting novel:

Since that time, I’ve been able to read the novel (obviously) and can tell you that this novel (and Brian Zumhagen’s masterful rendering of it in English) is absolutely amazing. Beyond the fun formal aspect—in which you can start from either side (there is no “back cover”) and flip back-and-forth whenever you want—this pair of narratives is incredibly easy to get sucked into, and is extremely rewarding.

On one side, you get Amnon Zichroni’s story about growing up in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Israel before going to live with his uncle in Switzerland, then eventually coming to the States and learning psychiatric so that he can put his “gift” of being able to see people’s memories to good use.

Other side: Jan Wechsler receives a mysterious suitcase. When he finally opens it, he finds a bunch of materials that call into doubt everything Jan knows about his life, from where he was born to what sort of literary works he’s written.

How do these two narratives connect? You’ll have to read the book to find out . . .

And as a special World in Translation Month offer, NOT ONLY will we give you free shipping, but we’ll send this out as soon as you order (the official pub date is September 26th). You’ll have this book before everyone else, and this fall you can play the “oh, I read The Canvas back in May” card on your friends when EVERYONE is talking about this novel.

Order it now by clicking here.

And thanks again for your support of Open Letter. You’re the reason we do all the things we do—podcasts, reading series, books, blog posts, the BTBA, etc.—and you truly do make it worthwhile.

1 May 12 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Years and years ago, when Karl Pohrt and I were launching the Reading the World program to enable independent bookstores to promote more literature in translation, we found out that May was officially World in Translation Month. This was a pretty happy coincidence, since we had already planned all of our activities to take place in May, and since people don’t celebrate this near enough.

In fact, after Reading the World morphed into the Best Translated Book Awards and whatnot, the concept of World in Translation month sort of faded to the background . . . Which is really too bad. May is the month for the PEN World Voices Festival, and the time when everyone gets out of school and has time to read something from another culture.

So, what I’d like to propose is that for World in Translation Month—and because our book sales for this fiscal year have been rather lagging—is that everyone reading this buy just one Open Letter title this month. But it from your local independent bookstore, from B&N, or Amazon—wherever you want. As a special incentive, we’re offering free shipping on all orders this month that are placed through our website.

And to be completely honest, there are two main reasons I’m personally asking all of you to do this. As you probably know, we don’t spend a lot of time on Three Percent pimping our own books. Instead, I’d rather talk about great works of international literature that are coming out from all over the place—I think that makes for a more interesting and valuable website. At the same time, I do have to try and sell as many Open Letter titles as possible, and for whatever reason—Borders closing, sluggish economy, etc.—this year hasn’t been our best. We do still have time to turn it around though, and literally, if all of the fans of Three Percent, the listeners to our podcast, the people who access our Translation Database, or the readers who follow the Best Translated Book Awards each purchase one single title of ours, we could end the year on a very high note.

Also, reading international lit during World in Translation Month should be mandatory for everyone.

Thanks in advance, and I apologize in advance for posting regular reminders about this. And please, if you support Open Letter and World in Translation Month, pass this post along to all of your FB/Twitter/RealLife friends.

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This Life
This Life by Karel Schoeman
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .

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A Dilemma
A Dilemma by Joris-Karl Hyusmans
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .

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Walker on Water
Walker on Water by Kristiina Ehin
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .

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The Nightwatches of Bonaventura
The Nightwatches of Bonaventura by Bonaventura
Reviewed by J. T. Mahany

Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .

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Pavane for a Dead Princess
Pavane for a Dead Princess by Park Min-Gyu
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .

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Tram 83
Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
Reviewed by Caitlin Thomas

Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .

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Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic by Octave Mirbeau
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .

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