25 March 10 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Again with me and the last minute postings, but if you’re planning on participating in Conversational Reading’s YFT Reading Group, here’s the official schedule:

VOLUME 1

–1: Fever–

  • Week 1, March 21-27: pp. 3 – 95 (Section ends at: “But before getting back to the Tupras . . .”)
  • Week 2, March 28 – April 3: pp. 96 – 180 End of Section 1

–2: Spear–

  • Week 3, April 4-10: pp. 183 – 233 (“Yes, I did remember . . .”)
  • Week 4, April 11 – 17: pp. 234 – 316 (“This ability or gift was very useful . . .”)
  • Week 5, April 17 – 24: pp. 317 – 387 (End of VOLUME 1)

VOLUME 2

–3: Dance–

  • Week 6, April 25 – May 1: pp. 3 – 60 (“And so in the disco . . .”)
  • Week 7, May 2 – 8: pp. 61 – 121 (“I left the restroom as resolutely . . .”)
  • Week 8, May 9 – 15: pp. 122 – 201 (End of Section 3)

–4: Dream–

  • Week 9, May 16 – 22: pp. 205 – 264 (“He fell silent for longer this time . . .”)
  • Week 10, May 30 – June 5: pp. 265 – 341 (End of VOLUME 2)

VOLUME 3

–5: Poison–

  • Week 11, June 6 – 12: pp. 3 – 113 (“Yes, we almost certainly shared that in common . . .”)
  • Week 12, June 13 – 19: pp. 114 – 171 (End of Section 5)

–6: Shadow–

  • Week 13 June 20 – 26: pp. 173 – 230 (“When you haven’t been back . . .”)
  • Week 14, June 27 – July 3: pp. 231 – 328 (End of Section 6)

–7: Farewell–

  • Week 15, July 4 – 10: pp. 331 – 393 (“I didn’t in fact think much about anything . . .”)
  • Week 16, July 11 – 17: pp. 394 – 482 (“Wheeler stopped speaking and eagerly . . .”)
  • Week 17, July 18 – 24: pp: 483 – 545 (End of VOLUME 3)

And more importantly, for anyone getting started, Scott posted an excellent overview of Marias’s work, linking to a number of overview pieces in The Quarterly Conversation, New York Review of Books, and elsewhere.

Even if you’re not participating in the book club, Scott’s piece is really interesting for finding out about Marias’s work. So often people talk about the more crazy aspects of his life—like the fact that he is the King of Redonda.

I’m already behind in the readings, but hopefully will catch up by the 3rd . . .

22 March 10 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

After reading a bunch of glowing reviews for the third volume of Javier Marias’s Your Face Tomorrow trilogy (including this one from the Independent in which the trilogy is referred to as “one of the most thoughtful and inspiring fictional works of the last decade”) I tentatively decided that I would spend the last few months of 2010 reading all 1,500 pages, so that I could fully experience the hype.

I love Marias’s other books—especially the twinned All Souls and Dark Back of Time, the latter of which actually references Normal, Illinois of all places—and back years ago, like literally years ago, when Volume I of the YFT trilogy came out, I read about half of it on a plane to somewhere and remember greatly enjoying it. Actually, all I really remember is that the sentences were labyrinthine in that Marias way, and that the book was all about reading, about learning how to read, how to interpret. At the time it seemed like vintage Marias: pensive, thoughtful, detailed and methodical to a point of near-overkill. But in contrast to some of his other books, which are often about secrets, human relations, and women’s legs, the mental meanderings of the YTF trilogy are strung onto a spy-thriller plot. It’s like Proust meets Ian Fleming. (Or some other reviewer platitude.)

Anyway, as compelling and mentally exhilarating the idea of reading one of the great twenty-first-century works (so far) might be, I still need a little motivation . . . It’s not like I’m not already inundated with fascinating samples, readings for the Best Translated Book Award 2011, or Open Letter books that need to be proofed. But still . . .

Which is why I’m thrilled that Scott Esposito put together a Your Face Tomorrow Reading Group. Kicking off this week (I believe—more info TK), this should be pretty interesting. Scott does shit right. (Check recent issues of The Quarterly Conversation if you doubt.) And I know he already has a number of great features lined up.

Hopefully we’ll be able to do some cross-posting, etc., etc., between Conversational Reading and Three Percent, and regardless, I’ll definitely keep everyone updated as things progress.

Now, if you’re not up for 1,500 pages of European intellectual spy games (of however you want to categorize this), you might be more interested in Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico, a very, very short Marias book that just came our from New Directions. I know little about this novel (except that Esther Allen translated it, so it must be awesome), although I do know that ND absolutely nailed the jacket copy: “In this classic Marias story, Elvis and his entourage abandon their translator in a seedy cantina full of enraged criminals.” Sold!

16 December 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I’m a big fan of year-end lists. Especially year-end lists that include Open Letter titles . . . But seriously, the International Reads for the Holidays feature that Bill Marx put together for PRI’s World Books is a very solid, quirky, highly literary collection of great titles from 2009.

Bill is a panelists for this year’s Best Translated Book Award for Fiction, which I believe is why he goes on about “old” books and “new” retranslations in his openind statements. (We’ve had ongoing discussions about which titles qualify for the award, which we set up to honor new voices, new books that had never before been available to English readers. Although point taken re: ham fisted crap translations and the way the media tends to ignore new, complete translations of old books. But still . . .)

Anyway, here’s Bill’s fiction list:

  • Memories of the Future by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. Translated by Joanne Turnbull. (NYRB Classics) A Russian writer whose morbidly satiric imagination forms the wild (missing) link between the futuristic dream tales of Edgar Allan Poe and the postwar scientific nightmares of Stanislaw Lem.
  • Your Face Tomorrow Volume Three: Poison, Shadow and Farewell by Javier Marías. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. (New Directions) The final installment in Marías’s super spy novel extraordinaire, a final playing out, to the point of demonic exhaustion, of the last century’s obsession with double agents, secret codes, voyeurism, and betrayal.
  • The End of Everything by David Bergelson. Translated by Joseph Sherman. (Yale University Press) First published in 1913, Bergelson’s prophetic novel makes use of a surprisingly nervy minimalism to tell the tale of a beautiful woman from a privileged background whose life is shattered by a marriage of convenience – a searching diagnosis of the anxious hollowness at the center of Jewish life during the turn-of-the-century.
  • Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. Translated by David Slavitt. (Harvard University Press) An at times intentionally zany new version of one of the literary high points of the Italian Renaissance, an epic crowded with jousting men and monsters that influenced Spencer’s “Faerie Queen,” that Shakespeare lifted a plot from, and that Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges admired.
  • The Salt Smugglers by Gerard de Nerval. Translated by Richard Sieburth. (Archipelago Books) This volume is the rib-tickling oddity of the year: the first translation into English of an experimental novel that, back in 1850, appeared in a French newspaper masquerading as reportage.
  • The Golden Calf by Ilya Ilf & Evgeny Petrov. Translated by Konstantin Gurevich and Helen Anderson. (Open Letter) A satire of political and economic corruption in 1920s Russia whose delicious blend of the daffy and the acidic resonates today.

Visit the original article for the complete descriptions and his nonfiction list.

And while I’m writing about World Books, I want to mention (again) how impressive this program is. Over the past month, pieces have appeared on Horacio Castellanos Moya, Carl Gustav Jung’s Red Book, the passing of Chinese translator Yang Xianyi, Jake Adelstein’s Tokyo Vice, and the Best European Fiction anthology that Dalkey put out.

As part of the coverage of the Dalkey anthology, there’s also an interview with the volume’s “editor,” Alexander Hemon. Personally, I have a lot of issues with this book, why it was put together, and the way Dalkey’s marketing materials try and use “European” as a substitute for “World,” but regardless, this interview with Hemon is pretty interesting:

World Books: Are the writers in the anthology examples of authors who shape their fiction to address a global audience? Are there first class writers in Europe whose work resists adequate translation?

Hemon: Dan Brown (a cynical emotional manipulator) shapes his fiction to address a global audience. Great writers have integrity and sovereignty; they write what they write out of some kind of inner need, in pursuit of knowledge that is available only in literature. Rilke (whose work could also be accused of being removed from ordinary experience) believed that great art can only come out of necessity. I’m sure that there are writers in Europe who have yet to be translated or translated adequately–every great writer needs a great translator– but I do not believe that there is untranslatable literature. Robert Frost said that poetry is what is lost in translation, Joseph Brodsky said that poetry is what is gained in translation. I would go with Brodsky.

30 November 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Always a big fan of TLS‘s best books of the year feature in which they ask authors to talk about the best books they read over the past year. Even cooler when an Open Letter title is included . . . (And we’re 2 for 2! Last year, The Pets by Bragi Olafsson was selected.)

Ali Smith

The final parts of two great European novel trilogies were published in English this year: Jan Kjærstad’s Wergeland trilogy with The Discoverer (Arcadia/Open Letter), and Javier Marías’s Your Face Tomorrow 3: Poison, Shadow and Farewell (Chatto). Kjærstad’s trapeze act of interconnection makes life force out of its endgame; translator Barbara J. Haveland navigates this irrepressible Norwegian voyage through the universe with a studied lightness. Marías is simply astonishing. The concluding volume of his mighty Spanish trilogy about power, surveillance, morality and mortality is even more gripping than its predecessors. With its contemporary longsightedness and unique ethic-aesthetic agenda, Your Face Tomorrow seems to me unparallelled in literature – as, in its own right, does Margaret Jull Costa’s translation.

See the whole list by clicking here.

....
The Antiquarian
The Antiquarian by Gustavo Faverón Patriau
Reviewed by P.T. Smith

Gustavo Faverón Patriau’s The Antiquarian, translated by Joseph Mulligan, is a genre-blending novel, a complete immersion that delves into a lesser-used niche of genre: horror, gothic, the weird. There are visual horrors, psychological ones, and dark corners with threats lurking.. . .

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Elsewhere
Elsewhere by Eliot Weingerber (ed.)
Reviewed by Grant Barber

What a wonderful, idiosyncratic book Weinberger has written. I say book, but the closest comparison I could make to other works being published right now are from Sylph Edition’s “Cahiers Series“—short pamphlet-like meditations by notable writers such as Ann Carson,. . .

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The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang
Reviewed by Chris Iacono

Early in Sun-mi Hwang’s novel The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, the main character, a hen named Sprout, learns about sacrifice. After refusing to lay any more eggs for the farmer who owns her, she becomes “culled” and released. . .

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Sankya
Sankya by Zakhar Prilepin
Reviewed by Kseniya Melnik

When Sankya was published in Russia in 2006, it became a sensation. It won the Yasnaya Polyana Award (bestowed by direct descendants of Leo Tolstoy) and was shortlisted for the Russian Booker and the National Bestseller Award. Every member of. . .

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Stalin is Dead
Stalin is Dead by Rachel Shihor
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Stalin is Dead by Rachel Shihor has been repeatedly described as kafkaesque, which strikes a chord in many individuals, causing them to run to the bookstore in the middle of the night to be consumed by surreal situations that no. . .

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Paradises
Paradises by Iosi Havilio
Reviewed by Andrea Reece

Paradises by cult Argentinian author Iosi Havilio is the continuation of his earlier novel, Open Door, and tells the story of our narrator, a young, unnamed Argentinian woman.

The very first sentence in Paradises echoes the opening of Camus’s The Outsider. . .

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Two Crocodiles
Two Crocodiles by Fyodor Dostoevsky; Felisberto Hernández
Reviewed by Sara Shuman

This pearl from New Directions contains one short story from Russian literary master Fyodor Dostoevsky (translated by Constance Garnett) and one short story from Uruguayan forefather of magical realism Felisberto Hernández (translated by Esther Allen). Both pieces are entitled “The. . .

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