As you probably know, this month’s Reading the World Book Club prose selection is The Weight of Things by Marianne Fritz, which is translated from the German by Adrian Nathan West and published by Dorothy.
Danielle Dutton—a highly regarded author and founder of Dorothy, a publishing project—offered to write a short piece about how she came to publish this wonderful, unsettling book.
We’re lucky to have a few brilliant friends—so brilliant we officially put them on our Advisory Board—who occasionally make the best recommendations. One of these is Jeremy Davies (excellent writer and editor in his own right), and it’s through Jeremy that we first heard about Marianne Fritz. He suggested I check out the essay on her work by Adrian Nathan West (aka Nate) that was online at Asymptote, so I did, and the essay I believe linked directly to a translated excerpt from what was at that time called The Gravity of Circumstances (for the book, the title was changed to The Weight of Things, which we all thought worked better, rhythmically, in the places where the phrase appears in the text). The excerpt was from a particularly harrowing dream sequence. It’s Berta’s anxiety dream: dark and surreal and poetic. I loved it. I couldn’t really imagine what the rest of the book would be like from that excerpt, though, so I reached out to Nate (whom at that time I didn’t know) and asked him if he had a completed manuscript of the book. He didn’t, but he said he could do a rough translation of the rest fairly quickly, and so he did. The book was, in different ways, so much stranger and also less strange than the excerpt suggested. It was shockingly sad and complicated, knotty and good. We took it on and edited it with Nate, who was a pleasure to work with—and The Weight of Things was born.
One thing I particularly like about this story is that it was exactly what I hoped would happen when I started Dorothy, a publishing project; I wanted to talk about good books with people who love good books (in fact, in the first year or so, we weren’t open for submissions but rather were looking for people to send in suggestions of other people’s books, whether these were OP or unpublished manuscripts). It’s actually hard to imagine people who love good books more than Jeremy and Nate, and the book’s warm reception among readers and critics has been edifying for all of us.
Thanks so much for featuring it at Reading the World!
Danielle Dutton, editor
I finished reading The Weight of Things on my flight to MLA and plan on posting some personal thoughts and reactions when I get back to Rochester. (Today I’m in Houston for an event at Brazos at 7, then will be in Dallas for events Tuesday and Wednesday night. If you live in either of those cities, you should definitely come out!) And if any of you have any thoughts about the book, please post them in the comments section below, on Twitter with #RTWBC, and/or at the Facebook group.
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. . .