Ever since the year 2000, every year seems less believable to me . . . When I was a kid, I never thought I’d see the year 2000, much less the year 2010, after which, 2011 seems sort of anti-climactic. Sure, this technically marks the start of a new decade, but since we never named the last one, it feels pretty non-inspiring. (I mean really, “The Naughts”? WTF? Give me the “Roaring Twenties” or something that makes the time I’m living in sound totally BADASS.)
Nevertheless, the start of a new year is a great time for year end lists (LOVE) and resolutions of the diet and reading variety. I usually don’t do things like this, but when Carolyn Kellogg of the L.A. Times asked for my literary resolution of 2011, I came up with two goals: 1) to give away more books than I acquire this year (good luck! As of this morning I’m already a book and a manuscript in the hole) and 2) to read at least 52 translations over the course of the year. Which seems doable . . . maybe. I’m hoping to post reviews of most of these here (where I’m hoping we can review 100 titles over the course of 2011—a third goal for the new year), but will definitely post short write-ups on Goodreads (username: Chad Post), which has become my latest neurotic pleasure. (Seriously, as soon as I finish a book and/or start one, I log it in at Goodreads. So weird.)
So far, over the weekend I finished re-reading Manuel Puig’s Heartbreak Tango, which is by far my favorite of all of his books, and which I plan on using in the “World Literature & Translation” course I’m going to teach this spring . . . One down, fifty-one to go . . .
Going back to Carolyn’s post for a second, I would like to point out a few of the cooler resolutions for 2011:
David Kipen, former NEA director of literature and owner of Libros Scmibros bookstore in Boyle Heights: Find my Kindle.
Rachel Kushner, author of the novel “Telex From Cuba”: One of my resolutions is to finish the Recognitions, by William Gaddis. I’m on page 650. I have a ways to go, since it’s almost 1,000 pages. I’m not sure why I need a resolution to finish such an incredible novel: it’s startling on a line by line basis. I think I am almost afraid of its cumulative effect. So slick and erudite is it that it may pose some worldview that’s entirely retrograde or demonic or at the very least curmudgeonly, and I won’t know it, and will have internalized whatever its message is, and by the time I realize this, I will have been thoroughly indoctrinated. Because the tone of it, the one that can be grasped, convinces the reader she is in the hands of the Subject Supposed to Know.
The staff of Electric Literature: Our book-related resolution is to stop drinking so much.
I have a better chance of this 52 translations goal if I sign up for resolution number 3 . . .
But in terms of literary resolutions, Michael Orthofer called my attention to this piece by The New Republic senior editor Ruth Franklin on “being a better reader in 2011”:
3. Learn a new language. I have a degree in comparative literature and read a few languages well, yet even I didn’t review many books in translation this year. Critics love to bemoan the dearth of foreign literature available in translation in this country, and to avow our support for presses—like Open Letter or Archipelago Books—that devote their resources to promoting global literature. But how often do we actually review it? This year, I pledge to devote more space to work in translation.
Finally, to close this first post of the XXXX 10s, here are a few things I’ll be posting/launching over the course of this month: new update to the Translation Database, the announcement of the Best Translated Book Award Fiction longlist, a new series covering each of the BTBA fiction longlist titles, reviews of Hotel Europa, Sixty-Five Years of Washington, The Box, Primeval and Other Times, and at least four more, and more info on untranslated books from around the world. Also going to start a new Friday feature of excerpts from new books. Probably start with some Open Letter titles, but hopefully this’ll expand quickly to include other interesting books and presses.
So there. Welcome to 2011.
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. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .