Barbara Epler gave me a copy of the new New Directions catalog at the 2666 party on Friday, and it’s so amazing that it deserves its own post.
There are a ton of translations coming out from ND next year—well, OK, nine—a good mix of classic authors (Walser, Borges, Bolano) and some new (like Guillermo Rosales). Here are some of the highlights:
The Tanners by Robert Walser (trans. by Susan Bernofsky) is coming out in May and features an introduction by W. G. Sebald (trans. by Jo Catling). Walser’s first novel, I heard Susan B. read a section of this at the PEN World Voices event last spring. It was a great reading (and great event), and made me excited to read The Tanners. The part she read wasn’t as wildly off-kilter as some of the other pieces, but it reminded me of The Assistant.
I think this is the season of Susan Bernofsky (and why not?) . . . Ini addition to the Walser, she translated The Naked Eye by Yoko Tawada, her first novel to be translated into English. (ND published a few story collections, and Kodansha brought out a few novellas.) (May)
Guillermo Rosales’s The Halfway House (trans. by Anna Kushner) sounds really intriguing. It’s about an exiled Cuban writer trapped in a halfway house after arriving in Miami in a very disturbed state. Rosales destroyed most of his work before committing suicide, but this novel survived and was published posthumously. (May)
Declan Spring is editing Inger Christensen’s novel Azorno (trans. by Denise Newman) and told me that it is as good as anything he’s worked on in the past few years. He mentioned Beckett, he mentioned Borges, and based on the description, this is the book that I’m personally most exited about from the new catalog. “Set in modern Europe, Azorno is a kind of logic puzzle or house of mirrors, concerning five women and two men. . . . Reminiscent of the works of Georges Perec and Alain Robbe-Grillet . . .” (July)
Also coming out in July is Seven Nights by Borges (tran. by Eliot Weinberger), a collection of seven lectures given by Borges in the summer of 1977.
Berberova’s Billancourt Tales (trans. by Marian Schwartz; July) and Yoel Hoffmann’s Curriculum Vitae (trans. by Peter Cole; July), both sound fascinating as well. As does the next Bolano title, The Skating Rink. Told by three male narrators, “The Skating Rink is not fundamentally a crime novel, or not exclusively: it’s also about political corruption, sex, the experience of immigration, and frustrated passion.” Translated by Chris Andrews, it’s due out in August. Which should be about the time that most everyone is finishing 2666 and looking for more Bolano . . .
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .