This city is exhausting. Way more so than New York. Even more than Barcelona. Dinner starts so late, and it’s the perfect setting to linger over a glass of wine chatting for hours . . . Then suddenly it’s two in the morning and the next round of meetings starts in just seven hours . . .
Anyway, the past two days have been incredibly interesting. I’ve learned more about contemporary Argentine writing in the past few days than I thought was possible. On Tuesday, we had a series of publishers (Norma, Adriana Hidalgo, Interzona, Sudamericana, Planeta, and Aflaguara) come and present us with information about their titles.
This may come out wrong, but of all the various editors trips I’ve been on, this group of presenters was by far the best at judging their audience, making the presentations exciting and relevant, and providing the editors with solid recommendations that may really lead to publication. (One of the things that’s really cool about being on such an international trip is the fact that all of us could conceivably publish the same book . . . Aside from the two German and Italian publishers, no one is in “competition” with each other.)
Interzona was probably my favorite. Very cool publisher doing a lot of young, experimental writers including Luis Chitarroni, whose Peripecias del no: Diario de una novela inconclusa sounds like a Pessoa-esque novel that’s “untranslatable.” Interzona also does a few Fogwill books (like En otro orden de cosas), which sound fascinating as well.
Norma was also really good. Their books look almost exactly like Archipelago’s, and are very high quality. Carlos Gamerro—whose essay on the history of Argentine lit I’ll post tomorrow—is published by Norma, and his book Las Islas sounds wild and amazing. According to the publisher, this is a book that contains “everything big and small.” It’s about the Malvinas war, and about how the war is actually still going on ten years later . . . It’s long, ambitious, and contains several different styles.
Oliverio Coelho is another author that came up several times of the past few days, along with Iosi Havilio, whose Opendoor I think we should publish just for the symmetry of names. (Actually, a lot of people I’ve come to trust recommended this book. It’s a first novel published by Editorial Entropia.) In terms of older authors, Juan Jose de Soiza Reilly was apparently Roberto Arlt’s teacher, and has a few novels that sound really amazing. And speaking of influences, we managed to sign on Macedonio Fernandez’s Museo de la Novela de la Eterna (Primera novela buena) today. Macedonio was Borges’s mentor and led a fucking incredible life. (He ran for president of Argentina—twice—with his entire campaign consisting of going around leaving slips of paper with “Macedonio” written on them at various cafes and bars. That way his name would infiltrate the consciousness of voters . . . ) I’ll be writing a lot more about this in the near future, but seriously, this is a book that fans of Flann O’Brien, Roberto Bolano, and Borges will absolutely love.
On the cultural front, my Spanish is improving in leaps and bounds. (Which is making it a bitch to write in English, actually.) I did have two odd encounters in the taxi last night though . . . I went out to San Telmo to meet Scott Esposito and his girlfriend Beth (oddly enough, this was the first time we ever met in person) for dinner and drinks. On the way, I was all bad-ass chatting with the taxi driver in Spanish about New York, publishing, etc. At some point he mentioned the beautiful women of Buenos Aires. I replied —in Spanish—by agreeing that the women of Buenos Aires sure are beautiful. (They totally are.) And he replied by asking if I want “sexo” . . . Which seemed like an odd response. What was even stranger was that the exact same thing happened during the taxi ride back to my hotel. I’m starting to suspect that all the time I spent during my Spanish classes figuring out how to swear has led me astray . . .
There’s a lot more to write about—like about one publisher I met who was a German who moved here in 1948 and now publishes kids books and erotica—but I think I’ll end here for now. Supposedly “the smoke” is supposed to be back tomorrow, which totally terrifies me . . . I guess some island is burning and when the wind shifts, it infiltrates Buenos Aires and smells fricking horrible. (There was a bit of it today, but last Saturday the city was apparently hazy with “the smoke.”)
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.. . .