I can’t believe September is almost over . . . Although I’m sort of glad—October brings the Frankfurt Book Fair, a study trip to France (more on that in another post), and another playoff appearance for the St. Louis Cardinals. (Next year, Cubs fans. Next. Year.)
October also brings some interesting translations, a few of which are listed below:
The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk, translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely (Knopf): Publishers Weekly gave Nobel Prize recipient Pamuk’s latest a starred review, calling it “a soaring, detailed and laborious mausoleum of love.” And in summary, “though its incantatory middle suffers from too many indistinguishable quotidian encounters, this is a masterful work.”
Dream of Reason by Rosa Chacel, translated from Spanish by Carol Maier (University of Nebraska): a massive, 656-page “masterpiece of modernist fiction” (Lev Grossman, you are fairly warned!) centers around a self-absorbed chemist and his relationships with three women around the time of the Spanish Civil War. According to Javier Marias, Dream of Reason “is one of the best, most original, and most daring novels of twentieth-century Spanish literature.”
The Last Reader by David Toscana, translated from Spanish by Asa Zatz (Texas Tech University Press): the first title to come out in Irene Vilar’s revitalized The Americas series, which was formerly housed at the University of Wisconsin Press and is now at Texas Tech, sounds pretty intriguing (see above link for full description).
Blind Sunflowers by Alberto Mendez, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor (Arcadia): an import from UK-based Arcadia, a section of this book—which features four connected stories—was excerpted in The New Yorker back in 2006.
There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, translated from the Russian by Keith Gessen (Penguin): awesome title, translation by Keith Gessen, creepy jacket cover, and another New Yorker excerpt.
Brazil: A Traveler’s Literary Companion, edited by Alexis Levitin, translated from the Portuguese by several translators (Whereabouts Press):these Traveler Literary Companions are great books, and with Alexis guiding this one, it’s sure to feature some interesting authors and sharp translations.
Jerusalem by Goncalo Tavares, translated by Anna Kushner (Dalkey Archive): Tavares is an interesting writer, although his series of Neighbourhood books (short, playful texts named and modeled after famous authors such as “Mister Calvino” and “Mister Walser”) might be even more inventive and interesting. Excellent that there is a full-length novel of his available in English though.
Rien ne va plus by Margarita Karapanou, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (Clockroot): a strange and disturbing book featuring two versions of a failed marriage. One in which the husband takes a male lover on his wedding night and emotionally abuses his wife before killing himself. And another in which the wife is the sexually promiscuous one, and writes a story in which she depicts their failed relationship in an inverted way, making the husband the one who destroys their marriage. This is one of two Karapanou books Clockroot — a new line within Interlink — is bringing out this fall. They’re also doing Landscape with Dog by Ersi Sotiropoulos, another Greek book translated by Karen Emmerich. I think Clockroot just effectively cornered the market on contemporary Greek translations . . .
Running by Jean Echenoz, translated from the French by Linda Coverdale (New Press): Echenoz is an amazing writer who has greatly expanded his range over the course of career from more postmodern mysteries like Cherokee and Double Jeopardy to a novel on Maurice Ravel and now this book on Czech runner Emil Zátopek.
Season of Ash by Jorge Volpi, translated from the Spanish by Alfred Mac Adam (Open Letter): Volpi is part of Mexico’s “Crack Group”—a collection of young authors dedicated to breaking away from derivative magical realism and returning to more complex, formally innovative ideas of what a novel can be. Season of Ash is a sweeping novel about the big ideas of the latter half of the twentieth century, starting with the Chernobyl incident and ending with the Genome Project. Told through the lives of three women it’s also a murder mystery and quite a page-turner.
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. . .