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.
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:
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.
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.
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .