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.
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
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. . .