“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.
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .