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.
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. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
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The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .
Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .
“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .
What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .