This week’s podcast is the first one Tom and I have recorded in almost a month. So after a bit of catching up, we talked about David Bellos’s new translation of Simenon’s Pietr the Latvian, the difficulties of translating “I love you” and all the swears into Japanese, and this list of “The 20 Best Books in Translation You’ve Never Read.” As necessary, we also talked about the baseball playoffs and this cute flowchart.
Since Tom can’t post here, I just want to have the final word on our discussion of the list of translations that Stephen Sparks and I put together. First off, we didn’t give it this bombastic of a title, but whatever. We did put some time into coming up with twenty books that we love and that readers of international literature may not have heard of. As readers of heaploads of translated books, we had hundreds of titles to choose from. Every list is incomplete and flawed, but Tom’s accusation that this is “intentionally esoteric” is totally off-point. It is a symptom of today’s culture though, where if someone knows more about some topic that someone else, they are dismissed. Not to get all J-Franz about the kids these days and their Twitterversing, but there’s a reason why stupid websites like Flavorwire are popular—they replace genuine knowledge with listicles that make the common reader feel good about themselves. “Hey, I’ve read 20 of the 25 lists on the “Greatest List of Lists Created by Flavorwire” list! I’m gonna tweet this.” Sorry, Tom and whomever, for trying to share a bit of the lifelong research I’ve done on international literature. Next time someone wants to know about translated books, I’ll just search the “translationsIreadinHighSchool” hashtag and call it a day.
This week’s music is Rolling Waves by The Naked and Famous.
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.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .
The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .