A few months back, I was contacted by the editor of Object Press, a relatively new publishing house in Toronto that was in the process of bringing out Christian Oster’s In the Train.
I’m always excited to find out about new presses doing lit in translation, especially ones with simple, effective, attractive websites (do you know how rare this is? do you? I can count the publisher websites that aren’t hideous on one hand) and an elegant cover design. I’m also a big Oster fan—mainly of The Cleaning Woman, and in part because of my intense crush on Émilie Dequenne who starred in the movie version.
Anyway, before talking more about In the Train (a full review of which will appear next week), here’s how Object Press describes itself:
Object Press was formed in 2008. We are a small, independent press that publishes fiction in slim, quality paperback editions.
While our publications might not easily fit into categories, there are certain motivations that unite the work we do. One of them is the desire to present fiction—focusing on, but not limited to, the novel—that is somehow different, expanding its potential, its horizon of possibility. One aspect of this is reflected in presenting titles of relatively short length, favoring writing that is precise, inspired and thoughtfully structured. Another important motivation for us is something we don’t hear very much of in publishing, and that is the pursuit of joy. The joy of writing, reading; of discovering a new narrative, a new voice; of holding and handling books; of seeing them on shelves, inviting them into our lives, our thoughts. These books are objects for use, objects for reflection. And these are our projects, focusing on literary innovation, good design and the pleasures of literature.
In the Train is a short novel (more like a novella, I suppose), and it is precise and well-structured. It’s also incredibly funny. I can’t remember the last time I literally laughed out loud while reading in a public place. But I spent yesterday afternoon cracking up in Java’s despite any and all odd looks . . . I’ll write more about the book later, but it’s a fantastic love story (of sorts) about a guy who goes to the train station essentially looking for someone to crush on. There he meets an odd, captivating woman and helps her with her bag . . . Things progress from there, all told through Frank’s point-of-view, which is skewed and charmingly insane in that way that contemporary French authors can portray slightly creepy old dudes as being charmingly insane. As a single man, I have to say that these sorts of odd neuroses and strange turns of thought are never as captivating to women you meet in real life . . . At least not here in Rochester. But because it’s funny, I’m totally willing to suspend my disbelief when it comes to Frank not getting slapped during his second meeting with Anne, which takes place in the hotel that he followed her into:
What about my room number? she asked. How did you get that?
I knocked on doors.
She looked worried. Or impressed, I’m not sure. She said I won’t really have time to see you.
That’s not the point, I said.
I’d sort of forgotten what was the point. But it wasn’t necessarily to see her, not for me, not now. I wanted to keep the connection, that was all. To say see you, like on the platform, that yes. I said it.
Anyway, I could go on and on about how much I love this book, but I’ll save it for the review. But seriously—check out Object Press. Very cool what they’re doing and I wish them the best of luck.
Pascal Quignard’s __The Hatred of Music_ is the densest, most arcane, most complex book I’ve read in ages. It’s also a book that covers a topic so basic, so universal—almost primordial—that just about any reader will be perversely thrilled by. . .
In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempted to highlight the ordinary, tired, and often crass nature of common expressions by italicising them within the text. When Charles, Emma Bovary’s mediocre husband, expresses himself in a manner akin to that of. . .
Eliot Weinberger takes big strides across literary history in his genuinely breathtaking short work, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, tracking translations of a short ancient Chinese poem from the publication of Ezra Pound’s Cathay in 1915 to Gary. . .
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. . .