I really like overnight flights within the same hemisphere. So much more civilized to eat dinner, fall asleep, and wake up in another country, without suffering from jet lag at all. (Buenos Aires is one hour ahead of New York . . .)
Buenos Aires is a pretty amazing city. Reminds me a bit of Barcelona—although not nearly as gentrified. And Palermo Viejo is sort of like Brooklyn—although not nearly as crowded. The wine is very good, the beef even better, and it’s one of the only places left on earth where the dollar is still worth something. (Which is very unfortunate for portenos, but good for tourists. Especially for me, since I’m planning on buying a new suit while I’m here . . . If anyone out there knows of any shops I should visit, please e-mail me. It’s all a bit overwhelming.)
The Fundacion TyPa (which stands for “Teoria y Practica de Las Artes”) people are rather amazing. We had our first “get to know each other” meeting and dinner tonight, which was very interesting and very pleasant. This is, by far, the most international editors’ trip I’ve ever been on. I went to Poland a few years ago with a few other Americans (Lorin Stein, Jill Schoolman, Laurie Callahan) and a few Brits. I’m the only American on this trip, and translator Nick Caistor the only Brit. The other eight people hail from Germany (2 of the participants), Brazil, China, France, Israel, and Italy (2).
And, as I was warned in advance, everything is conducted in Spanish. Which is a bit of a struggle. I can understand about 70% of what’s going on, but I’m terrified to try and speak. This may well turn into the quietest week of my life . . .
Our schedule is packed—starting tomorrow morning at 9:30, we have meetings from 10am till 7pm (or later) every day of the week. And no scheduled tango dancing—all literary meetings. I can already tell that in addition to the great experience of learning about Argentine literature, this trip will result in publishing contacts that will last for years.
Since I got in at 8am, I had plenty of time to wander the city taking pictures and hanging out in the 80 degree weather, rereading Cortazar’s Hopscotch. (It’s been probably 12 years since I first read this, and there’s no better place that the Plazoleta Cortazar—which is at the end of Jorge Luis Borges street, but, to be honest, is a bit disappointing for a Plazoleta—to reread one of the greatest novels ever written.) I have lots of pictures to post, but no USB cord . . .
One of the best places I stumbled upon was the Jardin Botanico Carlos Thays, which was an extremely pleasant botanical garden, where people could hang out and read (seems like everyone here is always reading) and pet the tons of essentially domesticated cats that hang out there. The cat thing was really sort of amazing to see. They just wander around, chilling in the sun, not at all afraid of people stooping down to pet them. Very calming and natural . . .
Of course the first place I went was Ateneo Grand Splendid, which is every bit as awesome as the picture we uncovered a few months back. It is grand, almost overblown with its four floors, balconies, and restaurant on the old stage. The Argentine literature section was pretty fantastic—complete works of a number of authors who have yet to find an English audience, such as Roberto Arlt and Silvina Ocampo.
I’m really looking forward to gleaning as much as I can from tomorrow’s lectures on literary Buenos Aires, the history of Argentine literature, and contemporary Argentine lit.
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.. . .