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.
Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .
There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .
In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .
I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .