25 October 07 | Chad W. Post

I first heard about Fogwill from Javier Molea at McNally Robinson, who insisted that I read him. (I think the phrase Javier kept repeating was “mind-blowing.”) It was a great coincidence to find that Serpent’s Tail had just published Malvinas Requiem (Los Pichiciegos), and an even greater coincidence to find out that the fantastic Michael Gaeb is Fogwill’s agent . . .

Anyway, E.J. referenced this earlier, but I’m planning on reviewing this remarkable book later this week. What really struck me about the Guardian article though was it’s cultural specificity re: the Falklands conflict. It’s a truism to state that jacket copy is written with a specific audience in mind, but it’s really interesting to compare the Serpent’s Tail copy to that of the agent. . . .

First, Serpent’s Tail:

June 1982, The Falklands/Malvinas.

Twenty-four young Argentine soldiers who have deserted the army spend the last weeks of the conflict hiding out in a cave. Inside their refuge they listen to the radio, stockpile supplies and exchange stories; outside, under cover of night, they trade with the Argentine Quartermaster and with the British. Looking out over the bleak landscape, after weeks of grey skies and horizontal snow, one of them remarks that ‘you’d have to be English to want this’.

Catch-22 meets Dispatches in the Falkland Islands—Malvinas Requiem is a shocking, subtle and superbly written commentary on the utter futility of war. Darkly comic and deeply affecting, the book contributed to the defeat of the military junta in Argentina and, 25 years after its first publication, still continues to make waves.

And Michael Gaeb’s description:

Los Pichiciegos is an astonishing tale derived from the Falklands/Malvinas conflict in 1982. The Pichis are a group of Argentine deserters, who have established a subterranean settlement. They are maroons who trade with both sides (British and Argentinean) as they seek the kerosene, sugar, cigarettes, and so on that they need to survive. In this work Fogwill shows the dissolution of virtues in a world where only survival counts and the loss of national identity in the face of war. He intentionally didn’t write a story of heroes or a reflection on war or pacifism but an unsympathetic depiction of the harsh conditions of survival. In the tradition of Bioy Casares’ novel La invención de Morel, Fogwill creates a narrative universe between reality and fantasy.

Here in America, the Falklands War doesn’t hold the same fascination as it obviously does in Great Britain, but it’s interesting to me how much more Falklands specific the first description sounds in comparison to the second. To me, Michael’s copy plays up the literary side of things (and the sort of absurdity) rather than emphasizing the specificity of the book.

(As a big Bioy Casares fan—which all Lost addicts should be—it’s that reference that caught my eye.)

It’s not as if these descriptions are incongruent or anything, it’s just curious to me from a marketing perspective to see these cultural differences play themselves out.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

A Simple Story: The Last Malambo
A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero
Reviewed by Emilee Brecht

Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story: The Last Malambo chronicles the unique ferocity of a national dance competition in Argentina. The dance, called the malambo, pushes the physical and mental limits of male competitors striving to become champions of not only. . .

Read More >

The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof
The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof by Cesar Aira
Reviewed by Will Eells

Aira continues to surprise and delight in his latest release from New Directions, which collects two novellas: the first, The Little Buddhist Monk, a fairly recent work from 2005, and The Proof, an earlier work from 1989. There are a. . .

Read More >

Agnes
Agnes by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

The narrator of Peter Stamm’s first novel, Agnes, originally published in 1998 and now available in the U.S. in an able translation by Michael Hofmann, is a young Swiss writer who has come to Chicago to research a book on. . .

Read More >

Class
Class by Francesco Pacifico
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

The thing about Class is that I don’t know what the hell to think about it, yet I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ll begin by dispensing with the usual info that one may want to know when considering adding. . .

Read More >

The Dispossessed
The Dispossessed by Szilárd Borbély
Reviewed by Jason Newport

To be, or not to be?

Hamlet’s enduring question is one that Szilárd Borbély, acclaimed Hungarian poet, verse-playwright, librettist, essayist, literary critic, short-story writer, and, finally, novelist, answered sadly in the negative, through his suicide in 2014, at the. . .

Read More >

A Greater Music
A Greater Music by Bae Suah
Reviewed by Pierce Alquist

A Greater Music is the first in a line of steady and much-anticipated releases by Bae Suah from key indie presses (this one published by Open Letter). Building off of the interest of 2016 Best Translated Book Award longlist nominee. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >