“The End of Love“: by Spanish author Marcos Giralt Torrente may not be the most gargantuan, epic, enormous, humungoid book on the BTBA longlist, but it may very well be the most perfect. Four stories, each about 40 pages long—sentence-by-sentence this is a book you can bet your life on. When I first read it in Spanish back in the fall of 2011, I immediately knew I was in the presence of a master craftsman. Whether writing long or short sentences, he exercises a remarkable control and precision with each and every word, calibrating nuance and impact with a true gift. As I read El final del amor, what was equally apparent was that this is a writer who is equally apt at crafting stories, manipulating structure, tone, pacing, and information to engineer profound depth and compression. It is for this reason that I like to think of the four pieces in The End of Love more as novellas than stories.
Two years after reading El final del amor, I then had the pleasure to read this book again, in English in the fall of 2013, and it was just as good. This brings me to another reason why this book is worthy of the award: the Best Translated Book Award prides itself on being as much about the translation as about the book, and very few books published in 2013 were translated as well as Katherine Silver’s The End of Love. This is an important point, for while I see very many good translations on the BTBA longlist, I see few masterful ones, and Katie Silver’s surely ranks among the latter.
So what does Torrente do in The End of Love? I would say he compresses a lifetime’s-worth of observations about love into four nearly perfect stories. Here we see all sorts of romantic relationships invoked, and Torrente gives us the pleasure of watching them play out over months and years (just how does he do this in only 40 pages? as I said, he is a master). Even the one story in this book that only takes place over two days makes us feel as though we understand its two couples as though we’ve known them for years. Across the sweep of this book we receive a rare insight into the many different sensations, emotions, and couplings that are generally referred to simply as “love.” Torrente makes us see just how much is contained in this small word, making us feel as though we are with an author who has witnessed love in every single one of its uncountable permutations. Quite simply, Torrente adds a few new thoughts to a concept that is as old as speech, a thing that, if you think about it, is truly a remarkable achievement. Torrente is in fact trained as a philosopher, and it shows in the depth of thought—and passion—that he has brought to this book.
The End of Love is also the entry of a remarkable new author into English. Already two more of Torrente’s seven books are slated for publication in English, and who can doubt that many more will follow? At the young age of 46, Torrente has already built a considerable international reputation for himself. He has won and judged major international awards, he has been translated into numerous languages, and, to top it all off, he is a member of the groundbreaking Spanish author Enrique Vila-Matas’s legendary Order of the Finnegans (the Order is explained in his 2010 novel Dublinesca). Surely we will be hearing much, much more from Torrente in the years to come.
For all these reasons, I would say that The End of Love is a book that demands to be read, and may as well take this year’s Best Translated Book Award.
Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .
There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .
In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .
I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .
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.. . .