So here are some things that I’ve reviewed, will review, or will do something with in some way at some point that I think are strong contenders for the 2013 BTBA.
First up: The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico García Lorca Ascends to Hell by Carlos Rojas. Yep, that’s the title, and it’s a damn good book. It’s very hard to summarize what this book does—or how it does it—so I’m going to encourage you to just read the review. Suffice to say, I like fiction that appropriates historical characters and/or incidents in interesting ways, and that’s just what Rojas does here.
Hypothermia by Álvaro Enrigue. I have a review of this one in this week’s Times Literary Supplement. Enrigue was someone whom I first discovered in Dalkey Archive’s Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction. His “On the Death of the Author” was the best thing in the book (which, I’m pretty sure, I wrote in my review of that book). Hypothermia was the book from which it came, and I’ve been eager to read it ever since. Well, now I have, and it’s a very strong book.
Seiobo There Below by Laszlo Krasznahorkai. I’ll have a review of this publishing soon. It’s my frontrunner at the moment for the BTBA. That’s kind of a bold thing to say since we gave Krasznahorkai the award last year, but, god damn, this book is incredible. It’s not fair. Maybe we should ban him for a few years if he takes the award two years running.
The End of Love by Marcos Giralt Torrente. I first found out about this book when Ethan Nosowsky of McSweeney’s Press (and now back to Graywolf) asked me to write a report on it. I recommended it without reservation, and it’s one of the best books I’ve ever reported on. These four long stories (or maybe they’re novellas) have a little of a Javier Marías thing going, a little Joseph Conrad, a little Henry James. They’re remarkable. On Oct 22 I’m going to be discussing just how great they are with their translator, the incredible Katie Silver at City Lights in San Francisco.
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. . .