If you happen to be here in Rochester, you should definitely come to U of R’s Plutzik Library at 6:30 for tonight’s Reading the World Conversation Series event with Jorge Volpi and Alfred Mac Adam.
Jorge is one of the founding members of the “Crack” group—a collection of young Mexican writers who put together this manifesto about breaking with the (derivative) tradition of magical realism, and writing structurally complex, cosmopolitan books. Simon & Schuster published In Search of Klingsor a few years back, and we just got our copies of Season of Ash back from the printer.
Here’s the description:
Jorge Volpi’s international bestseller Season of Ash puts a human face on the earth-shaking events of the late twentieth century: the Chernobyl disaster, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of Soviet communism and the rise fo the Russian oligarchs, the cascading collapse of developing economies, and the near-miraculous scientific advances of the Human Genome Project. Told through the intertwined lives of three women—Irina, a Soviet biologist; Eva, a Hungarian computer scientist; and Jennifer, an American economist—this novel-of-ideas is part detective novel, part scientific investigation, and part journalistic expose, with a dark, destructive love story at its center.
Praised throughout the world for his inventive storytelling and stylistic ambition, Jorge Volpi has become one of the leading innovators of twenty-first-century world literature. Season of Ash calls to mind the best works of Richard Powers and Carlos Fuentes, and it is a stunning, singular achievement.
Here’s a promo bit from this morning’s news program (which, fantastically, always interviews out RTWCS authors):
Jorge’s an impressive guy, and when I was with him at the Guadalajara Book Fair, he was the equivalent of a literary rockstar. And his translator Alfred Mac Adam is equally interesting. Alfred has translated Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jose Donoso, and Julio Coratzar among others. He also used to edit Review: Latin American Literature and Arts and currently teaches at Barnard College.
The event should be really interesting, both in the discussion of the book itself and in talking about the future of Latin American literature. (All next week we’ll be running a five-part essay by Jorge about the future of L.A. lit . . . ) And for those of you not fortunate enough to live in Rochester (or, you know, whatever), we’ll be videotaping this and will post it as soon as possible.
(Also want to take a line here and thank both the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts for making the entire Reading the World Conversation Series possible.)
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. . .