With the Frankfurt Book Fair practically here, we’re rushing around the Open Letter offices desperately preparing for all the
So things might be a bit quite online for the next few days. But come next week, we’re hoping to provide some image heavy posts about our first trip to the FBF.
I’ve heard that to be cool in Frankfurt, you have to be reading some hip, slightly obscure books that you can toss casually into late-night, half-drunk conversations.
I always have a hell of a time figuring out what to bring on these 6+ hour plane rides, but a few books just arrived that I’m really excited about and seem to fit this billing:
Autonauts of the Cosmoroute by Julio Cortazar and Carol Dunlop will be out next month from Archipelago. Unfortunately, I just finished reading this (and writing a review for The Quarterly Conversation), so I can’t bring it, although I plan on mentioning it every chance I get. Seriously—this book is amazing.
John Siciliano at Penguin just sent me the new translation of Knut Hamsun’s Growth of the Soil . I’ve heard over and over how great this book is, but refused to buy the crappy looking Vintage mass market edition (again, snobbery) . Thankfully, this is part of the Penguin Classics line now, in a completely readable format.
Finally, I’m also excited about Bohumil Hrabal’s In-House Weddings, which just came out from Northwestern. Here’s a clip from the jacket copy:
Inspired by “Mrs. Tolstoy and Mrs. Dostoevsky, whose biographies about their husbands have now been published in Prague,” Bohumil Hrabal decided to produce his own autobiographical work, ostensibly fiction, from his wife’s point of view. He would write, he said, “not a putdown about myself, but a little bit of how it all was, that marriage of ours, with myself as a jewel and adornment of our life together.”
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. . .