Since I already wrote about her once, it only seemed fitting to make Pam Carmell a bit more visible . . . I met Pam at the first ALTA conference I ever attended. If I remember right (and trust me, I probably don’t), we ended up standing next to each other in a line for something (food?) and Cristina de la Torre introduced us. Pam’s big interest is in translating Cuban literature, and the special Cuban fiction issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction came out of this meeting. (As did Pam’s translation of Jose Lezama Lima’s Oppiano Licario, which won her a NEA fellowship, but now may or may not see the light of day.)
Anyway, on to happier and more fun moments—questions and italicized comments!
Favorite Word in Any Language: Serendipity
No need to define this word . . . But to wax longingly for a second, serendipity is a perfect word to apply to conferences like ALTA. Or Frankfurt. Or BEA. Things just sort of happen at these gatherings. You randomly meet someone in line for food who loves Lezama Lima. There are happy accidents that lead you to finding out about some great writer from some more remote corner of the world. It’s great. Almost magical. Serendipitous discoveries make up part of the unquantifiable good that makes it worth investing in attending conferences like these.
Best Translation You’ve Done to Date: Women on the Frontlines by Belkis Cuza Male
This collection of poetry was published in 1987 by Unicorn Press (Greensboro). I was hoping to find a poem of hers to reproduce here, but I’m not having any luck with that . . . Nevertheless, you can check out her blog, and her bio is pretty fascinating:
Belkis was born in Guantánamo, Cuba. She studied Humanities in la Universidad de Oriente. In 1967 she married Cuban poet Heberto Padilla. Though initially a supporter of the Castro Revolution, Belkis later became a censor critic of his regime. She was jailed with Padilla in 1971 charged with “subversive writing”, It was known later as the “Padilla affair”. She went into exile in the United States with her little son in 1979, until the Cuban goverment authorized him to leave Cuba. She founded Linden Lane Magazine, a review of Latin American and North American writers in 1982. And in 1996, La Casa Azul.
Book that Needs to Be Published in English Translation: Cien botellas en una pared by Ena Lucia Portela
_Portela is a very young Cuban writer who has published a number of books over the past decade. (Her Wikipedia page has more details and general information.) Full publishing disclosure: Pam sent Open Letter a sample of this book, but unfortunately, we can’t fit it into our schedule . . . So, if any publishers out there are interested in taking a look, e-mail me (chad.post [at] rochester [dot] edu) and I’ll put you in touch with Pam . . . We are a full-service blog . . .
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
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. . .