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 . . .
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. . .