This post is courtesy of Best Translated Book Award judge, the inimitable George Carroll. Not only is he one hell of a West Coast sales rep for publishing companies large and small, he has an inexhaustible knowledge of translated literature.
The Infatuations by Javier Marias rolled into its publication date with more baggage than the Coast Starlight, more anticipation than the Wells Fargo wagon in The Music Man.
Immediately, the griping and whining started. “It isn’t his best book.” “It isn’t as good as (fill in the blank with any of his previous books).” “I really loved the trilogy, but this…” “Knopf paid serious money for the book, did they know what they were getting?” I even heard someone suggest the book was slighted because of readership loyalty to New Directions, Marias’ previous publisher.
However, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, and Slate all made it through their reviews without an audible groan – and for good reason. This is a really good book.
Marias is writing in genre, and he appears to be having a hell of a good time doing it. It’s cerebral in ways similar to Frederick Knott’s Dial M for Murder. It’s less about the crime, less action, and more about the paths and perception – more philosophic than forensic.
I’ve read a boatload of mysteries, but I can’t remember one that does exactly what The Infatuations does. Not going to outline the plot, but the ending, no spoiler alert here, is dropped in your lap.
I love Marias. I don’t care if what he writes is High Fecking Art or not. And you shouldn’t either.
This book should win The Best Translated Book Award.
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.. . .