Claire is the first of three students (so far) of Susan Bernofsky’s who have written reviews for Three Percent. I’ll be running the others over the next few weeks, along with all the reviews I’ve been hoarding and need to get up here . . . So expect to be inundated with tons of reviews of interesting books.
Here’s the opening to Claire’s review of Dukla, the latest Stasiuk book to make its way into English (thanks to the amazing Bill Johnston):
Andrej Stasiuk, one of Poland’s foremost contemporary authors and founder of Wydawnictwo Czarne press, has led a life as complex and colorful as his writing. He was born in Warsaw in 1960 but left his hometown at age 26 to reside in the secluded city of Czarne, where he discovered the provincial beauty of rural Poland—a beauty that would serve as a characteristic landscape for his poetry and prose. Stasiuk was a dedicated participant in the Polish pacifist movement. His ardent opposition to compulsory military service led to his arrest as an army deserter; the year and a half he spent in prison inspired a collection of short stories called The Walls of Hebron (1992). It was this collection that brought Stasiuk to the fore of the Polish literary scene. Since the publication of The Walls of Hebron, Stasiuk has touched every genre, gaining popularity as a travel writer, poet, and novelist. His writing has a distinctive lyrical style, describing modern Poland through impressionistic portrayals of its small towns and the people who inhabit them. Stasiuk’s White Raven (1995; translated by Wiesiek Powaga, Serpent’s Tail, 2001) won the Kultura and Koscielski prizes and has since been made into a film. In his 1997 novel Dukla, presented in English by award-winning translator Bill Johnston, Stasiuk guides the reader through Poland’s landscape with the deft observational savvy of a seasoned traveler and a richness of imagery that exemplifies his poetic voice.
In Dukla, Stasiuk speaks to his reader through the voice of an unnamed narrator whose eccentric descriptions of the world around him echo the author’s avowed mission to illuminate Eastern Europe in print. But while his miniature epic certainly paints a picture of the land and offers insight into the changes that have taken place through the twentieth century to the modern day, the quirky narrator of Dukla insists that he is only interested in talking about light.
You can read the full review by clicking here.
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. . .