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.”)
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .
Like any good potboiler worth its salt, Fuminori Nakamura’s The Gun wastes no time setting up its premise: “Last night, I found a gun. Or you could say I stole it, I’m not really sure. I’ve never seen something so. . .
Heiner Resseck, the protagonist in Monika Held’s thought-provoking, first novel, This Place Holds No Fear, intentionally re-lives his past every hour of every day. His memories are his treasures, more dear than the present or future. What wonderful past eclipses. . .