I first found out from Scott Esposito of Conversational Reading that Hermano Cerdo — the fantastic Spanish-language blog about literature and martial arts — is running an incredible Books of 2008 series of posts.
They’ve asked a wide range of authors and editors (mostly Spanish, although not entirely) to name the best book(s) they read this year. (Like The Millions’ Year in Reading these don’t have to be new books.)
I’ve been slowly working my way through all these posts and recommendations, but the one that caught Scott’s eye was Enrique Vila-Matas’s recommendation of Mis dos mundos by Sergio Chejfec
Chejfec es un escritor argentino (Buenos Aires 1956), tal vez no muy conocido, pero autor de libros tan recomendables como Los incompletos (Alfaguara 2004). En Mis dos mundos desarrolla la crónica de un paseante, de un caminador, en la línea de Walser, Magris o Sebald. Incorpora un sorprendente humor dentro de la densidad germánica de una historia casi inmóvil en la que cuenta básicamente la reflexión sobre el desconcierto general de un viajero extraviado, inteligente y con buena disposición (a todas luces inútil) para acoplarse en un mundo que no parece hecho para él.
In my opinion, when Vila-Matas compares another writer to Sebald and Walser, it’s worth paying attention . . .
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. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .