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.”)
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .
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. . .