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.
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
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. . .