16 April 18 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Peter Constantine on the 2017 new translation of The Odyssey by Homer, published by W. W. Norton.

Peter Constantine is a literary translator and editor specializing in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Russian literature, as well as literary translation from German, Italian, Modern Greek, and other European languages. He is also the director of the Program in Literary Translation at the University of Connecticut, editor-in-chief of _New Poetry in Translation, and publisher at World Poetry Books.

Here is the beginning of Peter’s review:

In literary translation of works from other eras, there are always two basic tasks that a translator needs to achieve: translating from the writer’s language into a target language, the language of the reader, and also translating from the writer’s era and culture to the era and culture of the contemporary reader. In her newest translation of Homer’s The Odyssey, Emily Wilson has turned the Greek dactylic hexameter into iambic pentameter, a remarkable feat and a well-considered strategy. Her choice of iambic pentameter as the basis for a twenty-first-century translation gives us a traditional meter familiar to us from narrative verse. Matthew Arnold famously pointed to four characteristics that are vital to a good translation of Homer: plainness, directness, rapidity, and nobleness. Wilson’s iambic translation recreates the rapidity of the original and gives the lines an epic nobleness, but one not too alien to the modern reader. Homer’s dactylic hexameters sound unusual and unnatural in English, a forced meter, as we see in H. B. Cotterill’s 1911 translation.

For the rest of the review, go here.

12 April 18 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week, Chad and Brian are joined by Stiliana Milkova from Oberlin College to talk about the final sections of The Physics of Sorrow: “An Elementary Physics of Sorrow,” “Endings,” and “Epilogue.” They talk about the structure of the novel as a whole, about Chad’s favorite page in the book, about aging and nostalgia, and, in a true throwback moment, Twin Peaks.

You can watch the video recording of this episode on YouTube, and while you’re there, subscribe to Chad’s channel and stop by next Monday, April 16th at 9pm eastern for a very special episode that will feature Santiago Morrice AND Georgi Gospodinov himself! If you watch that episode live you’ll have the opportunity to ask Georgi all the questions you want!

As always, The Physics of Sorrow (and all the previous Two Month Review titles) is available for 20% off through our website. Just use the code 2MONTH at checkout.

While you’re there, pick up a copy of Fox by Dubravka Ugresic. This will be the next Two Month Review book, and we’ll release the schedule in the near future.

Feel free to comment on this episode—or on the book in general—either on this post, or at the official GoodReads Group.

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, and Brian Wood, for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests.

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. And be sure to leave us a review on iTunes. It really helps people to discover the podcast.

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Stars and Babies by Splendor and Misery, featuring Georgi’s translator, Angela Rodel!

11 April 18 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As mentioned on the most recent podcast, we are searching for a Marketing Assistant to help out with promoting our books to reviewers, booksellers, and individuals. The complete ad is posted below, and available here.

And you have to apply through that link. Open Letter is part of the University of Rochester, so the entire application process has to be done through their systems. If you run into problems or have questions, you can reach out to me at chad.post@rochester.edu, but don’t send me your resume—just upload it into the HRMS system.


Open Letter Books is seeking a creative, organized, and dynamic Marketing Assistant to work closely with the Publisher on marketing campaigns for all of the press’s titles, along with marketing the press’s brand as a whole. This will include creating press releases, developing marketing plans, working directly with booksellers and book reviewers, crafting weekly newsletters, running the press’s social media platforms, along with other marketing-related tasks. The role requires an incredibly detail-oriented, creative professional capable of strategic thinking and the ability to multitask.


Brainstorm, develop, and implement marketing campaigns for the press’s titles and relevant events;

Present the ten annual titles to book review editors and freelance reviewers;

Cultivate relationships with booksellers across the country;

Travel on occasion to meet with booksellers and reviewers, or to attend select trade shows;

Produce a weekly newsletter for readers, booksellers, reviewers, and librarians;

Assist in maintaining the press’s social media presence;

Write press releases for all of the books and other newsworthy events;

Assist in organizing author tours when appropriate;

Help with organizing annual Open Letter gala and other promotional events for the press as a whole;

Ensure that all books are submitted for any and all available prizes and awards;

Add marketing materials to CoreSource and digital review copies to Edelweiss for all of press’s books;

Help in writing jacket copy and other promotional copy, and evaluating potential cover designs;

Assist in supervising summer marketing interns;

Other marketing-related tasks that arise as part of normal publishing activities.


Bachelor’s degree in Journalism or an area of Arts and Sciences that includes some writing experience; one year of experience in newspaper or magazine writing, either in broad subject areas or in a specialized field (physical sciences, social sciences, etc.); or an equivalent combination of education and experience.

Prefer 2+ years of publishing or bookselling experience, with bookstore and nonprofit publishing experience preferred;

Experience with and understanding of general book marketing ideas and trends;

Excellent writing skills, including ability to write in a voice that will appeal to Open Letter’s fan base;

Comfortable presenting in front of large groups and networking with other industry professionals;

Ability to multi-task and complete all projects on deadline;

Appreciation and knowledge of contemporary trends in publishing and book culture is extremely helpful;

Flexibility in taking on new tasks and reprioritizing in a fast and efficient manner is a must;

Knowledge of Open Letter’s past publications, mission, and position in larger publishing world is required;

General interest in international literature and translation preferred.

If you’re interested, you can apply here.

11 April 18 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Chad and Tom reconvene to talk about self-published titles that stay local, the Best Translated Book Award longlists, the elitism of the industry, and how you should vote for Emma Ramadan’s translation of Not One Day for this year’s Albertine Prize.

This week’s music is a snippet from the 13+ minute long Beach Life-in-Death by Car Seat Headrest. Great song, great album.

As always, feel free to send any and all comments or questions to: threepercentpodcast@gmail.com. Also, if there are articles you’d like us to read and analyze (or just make fun of), send those along as well.

And if you like the podcast, tell a friend and rate us or leave a review on iTunes!

If you don’t already subscribe to the Three Percent Podcast you can find us on iTunes, Stitcher, and other places. Or you can always subscribe by adding our feed directly into your favorite podcast app: http://threepercent.libsyn.com/rss

11 April 18 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I have a litany of reasons for why I’m combining a few posts here and writing a shorter, more condensed, straightforward post than most of the others. Baby (always an excuse), other obligations—such as the Best Translated Book Award longlists announcement and a bachelor party in which “what happens in Boiceville, stays in Boiceville, especially if what happens is a bunch of aging dudes sit in a living room getting drunk and talking about books and movies for two days,” and the never-ending assault of reading for my international fiction class. It’s also too cold! And we have a translator arriving for their residency and two author visits over the next two weeks. Phew.

So this piece is going to be a bit shorter. That’s OK. It’s poetry month, so I’ll embrace the brevity.


Poetry is actually where I want to start. On my monthly roundups on the “state of translations,” I’ve been mostly ignoring poetry collections and only making comparisons about how many works of fiction are being published. (Spoiler: Not as many as past years.) So let’s take a quick look into the numbers for 2018 and see what’s going on.

Number of poetry collections published, January-April by year:

2015: 28
2016: 33 (+18%)
2017: 43 (+30%)
2018: 21 (-52%)

What the shit is going on in 2018? This is crazy. I just went through SPD’s catalog and every translation publisher from 2017 and I got this. How disappointing.

I could try and break this precipitous fall-off down by publisher, language, country, translator, etc., but why bother. Either we’re missing something major, or the bottom is falling out and the boat is sinking. Regressing to the mean. Playing like the Cardinals. Whatever.

When it comes to translation statistics, 2018 is the worst. Like, literally.

Let’s just move on and check back in when there’s good news to share. Instead, let’s talk about actual poetry!


My plan for this month was to read a work of fiction and a poetry collection and talk about them every week. I have four April collections already picked out—which represent almost 20% of the poetry in translation published so far this year?—and the first one up is Stormwarning.

Stormwarning by Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir, translated from the Icelandic by K.T. Billey (Phoneme Media)

I feel like a terrible hypocrite.

For years I’ve advocated for the idea that anyone can read international literature, or “difficult” domestic literature, or, well, anything—you just had to dive in, give it a chance, let the book guide you and explain how to read it.

At the same time, I’ve written on this blog (and said on our podcasts) that I don’t read poetry. That I don’t get it. There are a bunch of “good” reasons I could trot out here about time and attention and my literary upbringing, and so on and forth, but if I’m being honest, I don’t read much poetry because it’s “beyond me.” I have none of the vocabulary to speak with poets or academics (not sure how much those vernaculars actually differ), I haven’t read nearly enough to feel confident in making my own connections (which I can do with fiction), and I don’t know what to say about it in a post (which is all that matters since I’m self-centered, like most people).

That last one is probably the most real. If I can’t figure out a fun way to write about/talk about a book, it’s dead to me. This is my way of engaging with the text—using it as a launching pad for other ideas, or going deep into it with my students or friends. When I try to write about international poetry, I feel like I’m way out of my depth and likely sound like an idiot. (More of an idiot, I suppose.)

But how shitty is that? How can I advocate for crazy, semi-experimental international fiction for the masses and then blatantly ignore a whole category of writing? Hypocrite.


So let’s give it a try. It’s insane to think that I could develop a reasonable set of ideas and approaches to talking about poetry over a single month, but maybe by doubling down on this, I can at least find some sort of foothold—however tenuous it might be.

One place to start is with the immediately visceral: Did I enjoy reading the poems in Stormwarning? I did! Since I’ve more or less sworn off jacket copy—I only judge a book by its front cover—I had no idea what to expect. Poems about Iceland, I assume, since Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir is Icelandic. But that’s as far as that idea went. (Although betting on some environmental/nature poetry slant would’ve seemed a safe bet given the title.)

Joy is a slippery term though. One I try and force my students to get past. “I really enjoyed reading this” doesn’t really signify anything concrete. What did you enjoy? The linguist puzzles? Fantastic descriptions of Quidditch matches? The humor? Sorrow? And isn’t this whole “I enjoyed it” a way of hiding the fact that you don’t really have anything else to say?

“Being Positive”

Go mountains!
Go clouds!
Go moss!

I enjoyed that. That sort of playful narrative voice—which, in my opinion, is both honest and ironic at once through the juxtaposition of esteem-centric cheers with natural objects that require no encouragement—is the thing I gravitate toward in poetry. Usually. I want my poetry to be understood on first pass, probably because I’m lazy and always trying to move on to the next book.

Another example of this from Stormwarning (and please, go buy this book from Phoneme so that they don’t shut me down for raiding their content):


Once everyone wanted to get to the moon.
It happened in the summer of 1969.
Then no one longed for the moon.
The moon is empty and abandoned.

Again, a bit ironic, a bit true, a bit humorous. Humor will get me most every time. That and poems/sections about aging. Especially if there’s a little seasoning of nostalgia. Like this bit from “In the Nursing Home”:

the dissolution is here
everything is
the self
the memory
the built-in locating equipment
we are all here
but also other places
and no one knows what happens next

Still, there’s a difference between pointing to something you like, and explaining what makes it good. I can’t do that with poetry, which is unfortunate, since listening to smart people talk about poetry in smart ways can be really entertaining.

I was hoping to find more reviews of Stormwarning to help guide me, but I’m honestly not even sure where exactly people review poetry collections in translation. I mean, there are reviews in Publishers Weekly and Modern Poetry in Translation, in places like The Brooklyn Rail, and in various academic journals, but that still seems kind of thin. I’m 100% sure these conversations are going on elsewhere, so please do @ me and let me know what to pay attention to!

For now though, with regard to Stormwarning, I’m going to leave it at this: I like the tone, I like the plain language. I also love these lines:

The day tomorrow will be worse
but that does not mean that the day today is not bad.

It’s a start.


Let’s be honest though. The best poem of 2018 are the lyrics to “Unlovable” by Chad Post.

Yeah this can’t end well
When the flames feel like hell
Put me on a pedestal
But you’ve been lying to yourself

And if that’s how you act
Then yes I would take it back
Memories that we had
Must hurt so bad
Don’t throw your hands up like that
Save the tears your bags are packed
Because it’s too late now to ever go back

It’s all because you said I was unlovable.

I feel ya, Chad Post! And check out the video:

Actually, don’t. This song feels like it was written by Apple’s “predictive text” technology, including that one inexplicable blip in the prediction that leads to some odd statements. (See lyric about “stole all my hair.”) And he pronounces words in ways that no other human being pronounces them. I can barely understand any of this, and it’s not just because I’m twice his age and my ears never stop ringing.

Instead, I would recommend reading all of the comments. Scratch that. I’d recommend reading this comment:

Judy Hages
1 week ago
This is one of the best music videos I have ever seen……….and I am 75years old!! Wow! Everyone associated with making this video should be incredibly PROUD!!! Wow!! Woo Woo and YIPPEE!! Judy Hages

But like a good infomercial—WAIT, THERE’S MORE.

Over at Amazon you can find this little book of Chad Post’s poems entitled, Death by Poetry and The Lies about Me. This is more gold like an Axe body spray commercial. (If I’m ever drinking around you when this commercial comes on—take cover. I loathe this commercial, especially the gif ending with the woman making impressed hand gestures at that turd who stands there smug as . . . UGH. For me, this is the visual representation of the BuzzFeed aesthetic.)

Here’s a couple of Chad Post’s poems:

Every time you give
your heart the chance
to break you give your
soul the chance to fly.

chad post

And, one more:

The two things you need
most in life are
happiness and confidence
and both of those are

chad post

Yes, every poem ends with his name. No, I have no idea. Yeah, totally possible that you read that one in the dentist’s office last week. Sure, yeah, I’m glad to stick with my day job as well.

And here’s the thing. It’s only a matter of time before every Google search for me is replaced by this:

Given that he has <1,000 plays on Spotify and an EP coming out soon, I'll give it a month before my image is swept away in the Unlovable Chad Post of it all . . . Hey, maybe I'll get some cool new Twitter followers!


The Emissary by Yoko Tawada, translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani (New Directions)

There was a moment around page 60 of Yoko Tawada’s The Emissary when I started asking myself if this was actually good, or bad, or something that’s neither and just a book that I’m supposed to like. It was almost a moment of crisis, as if I had been secretly drugged with something that made all words lose their meaning.

Which might actually be an aspect of the book and the future it posits:

Soybeans and buckwheat were still grown in the “Far West” of Tokyo, along with a new strain of wheat, but not enough was produced to export to other regions, and besides, these were crops that could be grown elsewhere. Long ago, the words “something new from Tokyo” brought to mind a plug attached to a long tail called a cord, but things like that didn’t sell anymore. Electrical appliances had met with disapproval ever since electric current was discovered to cause nervous disorders, numbness in the extremities, and insomnia—a condition generally known as bzzt-bzzt syndrome. Newspapers carried reports of chronic insomniacs who slept soundly at camping grounds in the mountains where there was no electricity. A popular writer published an essay on how the sound of the vacuum cleaner drove all thoughts of the novel he was writing out of his mind.

Back some weeks ago, I predicted this would make the National Book Award for Translation shortlist. I’m still going to back that idea, although it’s not my favorite book. The lightness of the tone and writing will likely appeal to a lot of readers, as will its fable-like qualities.

I was left with one major question though: This is set in a world that’s all divided up, dysfunctional following an undefined major disaster. Society is ordered by a whole new set of rules, old people can’t die, young kids are incredibly weak, there are all sorts of random holidays (like “Green Day” and “Red Day”), etc. And yet, in a world devoid of electrical appliances and, well, most foods, Yoshiro is still working as a novelist. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to make me feel hopeful, or like this book is just trolling itself.

Unfortunately, this book just isn’t for me. To be completely honest, I’m not sure if any of Tawada’s recent books are for me. I’m not into Memoirs of a Polar Bear (like that Axe ad, don’t get me going on books with talking animals), but I know a lot of people who are. I don’t want to take any potshots at her, her fans, her translators, or anything, since the sum total of my opinion about her last couple novels is an exaggerated shrug.

In some weird way, I ended up feeling like I have more to say about a book of poetry than about a novel that I should probably like. But I guess that if there’s a point to this filler post—aside from bringing the amazing (though unlovable) Chad Post to your attention—is that it’s OK to give something a try and then quit it. Trying makes the quitting OK.

I do want to write more about the difficulties in simply not liking a popular book—about the anxieties over the potential backlash, the idea that our group of people values books and reading at a total stratospheric level compared to most other people, about the need for works that are neither “the greatest!” or “the worst!”—but this is a filler post. More on that some other time.

11 April 18 | Orisa Santiago Morrice | Comments

Last week, Chad and Brian were joined by Rachel S. Cordasco of Speculative Fiction in Translation as they discussed Part VII, “Global Autumn,” of Georgi Gospodinov’s Physics of Sorrow. This section hits us from too many angles, from the relatable hilarity of having a phobia of being asked “how are you?” to trying to address what brings an author to write. Through this post we’ll try to connect this section to the longer spiral that Gospodinov is drawing out as we slowly approach its end.

Redefining: Last Lengths of the Spiral

As we approach the end of the piece we meet a singularity of ideas as elements we’ve encountered start to collapse upon themselves. Collapse shouldn’t read as a pejorative but as the experience of a reader approaching the end of a world that an author has built for them. The collapse exists solely in our experience as readers as the hot white expanse of the final blank pages is soon upon us. But while all novels—at least the good ones that try to end—come to an end, The Physics of Sorrow, with it’s unique form and approach to its content, makes the fact that it will end significant.

If my obsession with spirals has illuminated anything its that Gospodinov has created a form in The Physics of Sorrow that allows it to continue as long as there are pages to carry it. As long as light shines upon ideas, people, cities, and the transformation of these elements over time The Physics of Sorrow is a constant longing for an empty expanse. With each page, each story, and each section, we learn more and more on the complexity of this work as Gospodinov drags us from across realities and redefines the ideas that we’ve become accustomed to with each leap. And even so close to the end, there’s still more to learn about the universes we’ve inhabited and the rules that guide them.

Alleys, Corridors, Cities, Labyrinths

This section, as the spiral dictates, expresses another re-imagining of a previously established idea and provides further insight into the rules of The Physics of Sorrow. “Labyrinth and Choice” guides us through this. At its simplest, it describes narrator Gospodinov traversing the heart of Paris, and as he loses his place and starts to panic and regret every decision he makes he works towards the ideological core of the labyrinth in this work.

The time when I stood between two streets, wondering which one to go down. Both of them would have led me to the place I was looking for. Incidentally, there was nothing particularly unusual about the streets in and of themselves. The problem was, as always, no matter which one I chose, I would lose the other one.

What follows is Gospodinov’s attempt to experience both paths, but, as he’s already speculated about choosing one path, as one attempts to navigate both there will always be one collection of decisions untouched. He directly addresses the impossibility of this through the science of quantum physics, writing, “I could only have been satisfied in that quantum physics experiment that shows how a particle also acts like a wave, passing through two openings at once.”

The spiral of this work is formed by Gospodinov—again either narrator or author—attempting to have gone down multiple paths. Of course, this still means that there are numerous paths that we, as readers, cannot experience, as his decision to go down one path locks us away from experiencing another. With that futility considered, as we read through The Physics of Sorrow and continually encounter new approaches, interpretations, and constructions of the same ideas, Gospodinov has almost given us the closest to a quantum experience that we as readers can through a novel. That process is almost laid out here:

I headed down one of them, the street to the right, but I was thinking about the other one the whole time. And with every step, I kept repeating to myself that I had made the wrong choice. I hadn’t gone even a third of the way before I stopped decisively (oh, that decisive gesture of indecisiveness) and turned down an alley toward the other street. Of course, hesitation seized me with the first couple steps and again after a few meters, I practically ran down the next alley to the first street. And then again, seized by hesitation—back to the other one, then back to the first. To this day I don’t know whether with that zigzag I gained both streets or lost them both.

But while the narrator may have lost access to one path, the author and reader haven’t. Through each encounter with a repeated idea, we’re gaining yet another path each time. The form of this novel, that originally came to me as a spiral as I read through reinterpretations of the same idea, now feels like a span of spirals across dimensions—each arc being drawn from various quantum paths into one spiral with a clear start and end through its physical form in a book.

With this in mind, we see how author Gospodinov layers our encounters with his constants—the minotaurs, myth, loss, and abandonment, and, in this case, even labyrinths—yet varies them as we experience multiple paths. With this stylistic strategy he’s given us a quantum building of his own work.

In particular this piece redefines the labyrinth.

The most oppressive thing about the labyrinth is that you are constantly being forced to choose. It isn’t the lack of an exit, but the abundance of “exits” that is so disorienting. Of course, the city is the most obvious labyrinth.

We’re left to unravel our sense of cities and labyrinths that Gospodinov constructed for us in previous stories—in previous sections—as he’s given us yet another quantum path to explore. We’ve encountered numerous cities throughout this work, as a whole, and now, with only one section left, we have yet another way to approach them. And labyrinths aren’t the only idea in this section revisited in this quantum way.

The Doctor’s Humorous Diagnosis

Throughout The Physics of Sorrow we’ve encountered moments where Gospodinov attempts to understand the nature of his afflictions. His family recognized the physical manifestation of his embedding, with his body stiffening and his eyes resting lazily on objects in the room. He’s even gone to medical professionals, finally receiving a diagnosis for his condition—a name both the narrator and I can no longer accurately recall. As the narrator aged, his closeness with the condition that almost single-handedly defined our experience with the book diminished as well. With the timely death of this element—which if drawn out for too long could have survived as a gimmick in a weaker piece—we’re left with the natural reading experience dictated by Gospodinov, as either author or narrator.

This section provides another moment with doctors and diagnoses. With this instance in “Advice from the Nineteenth Century” Gospodinov has been diagnosed with stagnant bile.

Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy, my friend the doctor said.

Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t there some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet? I ask.

There’s never been as much melancholy as there is today, the doctor said with a throaty laugh. They just don’t advertise it. It’s not marketable, melancholy doesn’t sell [. . .]

Greek medicine—which experienced a resurgence of popularity across Europe in later centuries—had a “humor” based approach to health. The four humors—blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm—determined the physical and emotional wellbeing of an individual and shifted between stagnancy, excitement, abundance, scarcity, and so on. In this case, the doctor’s diagnosis of stagnant bile and melancholy likely reflects a problem with Gospodinov’s black bile. But while issues with black bile can lead to melancholy—and The Physics of Sorrow easily contains a deep sadness that Gospodinov negotiates—yellow bile is responsible for more manic, or choleric, behaviors.

While Gospodinov may be consumed by melancholy to a degree, a build-up of yellow bile accounts for this work being in front of us at this point. The effort to build a time capsule, to create lists, to buy stories from strangers, and similar behaviors reflect a tenacity within himself to not allow the darkness of the world to wash over him, but rather gets him up at the right time of the day to slip on waders and dredge.

But getting back to the point, I’ll recommend something to you that you’ll say is straight out of the nineteenth century: travel, stir up your blood, give your eyes new sights, go south[.]

And Gospodinov has taken this advice to heart throughout this work. Travelling takes many forms for Gospodinov as traverses a geographic world while buying up stories and recording his own experiences in thoughtful narratives like “Howl” in this section. But he also explores an ideological globe as he combs through philosophies throughout space and time and gleans conclusions—read ‘remedies’—to what ails him and the world at large. Through this, we see yet another balance between the humours: narrator Gospodinov with both an energy to explore and record the world but who also affected by its contents—just not enough to be fully consumed.

And this section is like many others that developed a psychological profile for narrator Gospodinov. Early on we learned of embedding as a purely magical ability, only to have a psychological and neurological capacity developed to understand it. And as he aged, and his ability to embed was compromised, he found new ways to satisfy this cornerstone of himself through collecting stories. And now, as the spiral continues to wind, we’re provided with yet another way to understand narrator Gospodinov—we’re provided with yet another path to go down.

Lists of the Apocalypse

And even in the light—or rather the darkness of the end, the lists that Gospodinov has constructed gain a new understanding with another approach. We’ve seen lists throughout the piece, from erotic experiences in Communist Bulgaria to collections of consumed children in myth, but they gained an additional importance through the “Time Bomb [. . .]” section of The Physics of Sorrow where they served as condensed inventories in the event of annihilation.

If you recall, I noted a confluence of form and content in the blog post for that particular section as the The Physics of Sorrow, which contained fragments of larger things, took the form of a time capsule which sought to protect the contents of one time for another. As we learned of narrator Gospodinov’s time growing up with a threat of nuclear annihilation, seeing The Physics of Sorrow as a time capsule seemed practically rooted in the idea that Gospodinov, both as narrator and author, was attempting to collect and save things for a physical sense of a destruction wrought from something like nuclear war. Thusly, the lists throughout the piece possessed an additional importance. And with yet another approach in this section, their importance continues to grow.

In “Lists and Oblivion” we come to understand annihilation by different terms.

I rush to write everything down, to gather it up in my notebook, just as they rush to bring in the lambs before the thunderstorm whips up. My memory for names and faces is fading ever more quickly. That’s the most likely explanation. That’s how my father’s illness was at the end. Somebody with a big eraser came and started rubbing everything out, moving backward. First, you forget what happened yesterday, the most distant, out-of-the-way stuff is the last to go. In this sense, you always die in your childhood.

I’m writing this section with my heart racing as I go over this short narrative again. Gospodinov started us with this idea. “There is only childhood and death,” and now the epigraphy reaches far from those early pages for our narrator’s father, and narrator Gospodinov fears that this will also be his fate. As an isolated experience, this collapse as the pages run thin is very well upon us. In an expanded sense, the apocalypse that these lists are constructed and saved for is not entirely physical, but also mythic: erasure in an experiential sense. He continues:

My worst nightmare is that one day I will be standing just like that at some airport, the planes will land and take off, but I won’t be able to remember where I’m going. And worse yet, I’ll have forgotten the place I should return to. And there won’t be anyone to recognize me and bring me back home.

And with this speculation these lists serve as guideposts for the post-apocalyptic Gospodinov—now a time capsule to let him return to places and times lost to dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Gospodinov, the Reader

I had a longer section written for this blog post that I scrapped—foolishly, in retrospect—regarding the detail in the subjective accounts in both “Global Autumn”—this full section of the book—and throughout the novel as a whole. It addressed, hastily, the relationship between narrator Gospodinov and the nature of his very personal narratives. While his ability to embed started to diminish, I started to feel like the short, heavily detailed narratives—like “Howl” in this section—provided a window for a reader to embed in the memories of the narrator.

I quickly scrapped the idea because it felt too obvious: readers perform a similar embedding through the act of reading the experiences of others, which is further aided by a writer’s skill. But I was still marked with in interest due to the detail of these pieces and their ability to draw on multiple time periods and multiple philosophical tracks—the conflation of these elements guiding an individual to a very specific time with ideological, phenomenological, and geographic queues. Following the discussion of lists with narrator Gospodinov, my heart is wrenched by these implications, and I’m left wondering: in the time capsule of The Physics of Sorrow, are these hyper-subjective moments here for Gospodinov to return to following the possibility of annihilation?

Whatever the answer, the end is near.

10 April 18 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Adrenalin by Ghayath Almadhoun, translated from the Arabic by Catherine Cobham (Syria, Action Books)

Hackers by Aase Berg, translated from the Swedish by Johannes Goransson (Sweden, Black Ocean Press)

Paraguayan Sea by Wilson Bueno, translated from the Portunhol and Guarani to Frenglish and Guarani by Erin Moore (Brazil, Nightboat Books)

Things That Happen by Bhaskar Chakrabarti, translated from the Bengali by Arunava Sinha (India, Seagull Books)

I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio, translated from the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas (Uruguay, Ugly Duckling Presse)

Astroecology by Johannes Heldén, translated from the Swedish by Kirkwood Adams, Elizabeth Clark Wessel, and Johannes Heldén (Sweden, Argos Books)

Magnetic Point by Ryszard Krynicki, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh (Poland, New Directions)

Third-Millennium Heart by Ursula Andkjaer Olsen, translated from the Danish by Katrine Øgaard Jensen (Denmark, Broken Dimanche Press)

Spiral Staircase by Hirato Renkichi, translated from the Japanese by Sho Sugita (Japan, Ugly Duckling Presse)

Directions for Use by Ana Ristović, translated from the Serbian by Steven Teref and Maja Teref (Serbia, Zephyr Press)

Before Lyricism by Eleni Vakalo, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (Greece, Ugly Duckling Presse)

Iron Moon by Chinese Migrant Worker Poetry edited by Qin Xiaoyu, translated from the Chinese by Eleanor Goodman (China, White Pine Press)

10 April 18 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Incest by Christine Angot, translated from the French by Tess Lewis (France, Archipelago)

Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated from the French by Rhonda Mullins (Canada, Coach House)

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson, translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith (Iceland, Open Letter Books)

Compass by Mathias Énard, translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell (France, New Directions)

Bergeners by Tomas Espedal, translated from the Norwegian by James Anderson (Norway, Seagull Books)

The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán, translated from the Spanish by Will Vanderhyden (Argentina, Open Letter Books)

Return to the Dark Valley by Santiago Gamboa, translated from the Spanish by Howard Curtis (Colombia, Europa Editions)

Affections by Rodrigo Hasbún, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (Bolivia, Simon and Schuster)

Old Rendering Plant by Wolfgang Hilbig, translated from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole (Germany, Two Lines Press)

I Am the Brother of XX by Fleur Jaeggy, translated from the Italian by Gini Alhadeff (Switzerland, New Directions)

You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann, translated from the German by Ross Benjamin (Germany, Pantheon)

Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall, translated from the Polish by Philip Boehm (Poland, Feminist Press)

Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo, translated from the French by Allison M. Charette (Madagascar, Restless Books)

My Heart Hemmed In by Marie NDiaye, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (France, Two Lines Press)

Savage Theories by Pola Oloixarac, translated from the Spanish by Roy Kesey (Argentina, Soho Press)

August by Romina Paula, translated from the Spanish by Jennifer Croft (Argentina, Feminist Press)

The Magician of Vienna by Sergio Pitol, translated from the Spanish by George Henson (Mexico, Deep Vellum)

The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza, translated from the Spanish by Sarah Booker (Mexico, Feminist Press)

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell (Argentina, Riverhead)

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag, translated from the Kannada by Srinath Perur (India, Penguin)

For Isabel: A Mandala by Antonio Tabucchi, translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris (Italy, Archipelago)

Ebola 76 by Amir Tag Elsir, translated from the Arabic by Charis Bredin (Sudan, Darf Publishers)

The Last Bell by Johannes Urzidil, translated from the German by David Burnett (Austria, Pushkin Press)

Radiant Terminus by Antoine Volodine, translated from the French by Jeffery Zuckerman (France, Open Letter)

Remains of Life by Wu He, translated from the Chinese by Michael Berry (Taiwan, Columbia University Press)

10 April 18 | Chad W. Post | Comments

April 10, 2018—Celebrating its eleventh consecutive year of honoring literature in translation, the Best Translated Book Awards is pleased to announce the 2018 longlists for both fiction and poetry.

Announced at The Millions, the lists include a diverse range of authors, languages, countries, and publishers. On the fiction side of things, several previously nominated authors made the longlist, including Mathias Ènard and Marie NDiaye, along with a number of first-time authors, such as Naivo, whose Beyond the Rice Fields is the first novel from Madagascar to make the list. Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag is the first book translated from the Kannada to receive this honor, and this is the first time on the longlist for a number of translators, including Will Vanderhyden, Gini Alhadeff, and Charis Bredin.

As fiction judge Patrick Smith put it, “Nine readers of varied backgrounds, taste, and experience came together to create an awards longlist reflecting just that. There are new voices and powerhouse authors on the list. Amir Tag Elsir appears for the second time in three years—a quiet demand that places like Sudan be recognized for their contribution to world literature. From intimate books about families and relationships, to loud, wildly entertaining books, this list shows the strength of literature in translation, and that it’s for readers of all sorts. Anyone can find something on the list to engage with and to move them.”

According to poetry judge Emma Ramadan, the poetry longlist is equally diverse. “This year’s poetry longlist was especially competitive, with the judges seeking to highlight works that bring something new into the English language. With eleven countries and three continents represented, the BTBA poetry longlist this year, as in years past, is a rich representation of what the rest of the world has to offer to our ways of thinking about the possibilities of literature.”

It features an array of notable presses—Ugly Duckling Presse, Black Ocean, Action, White Pines—along with previously nominated translators (Johannes Göransson appears for the second year in a row) and some new names, such as former BTBA judge, Katrine Øgaard Jensen.

Combined, the longlists reflect the diversity of international books published last year by featuring authors from twenty-five different countries, writing in eighteen languages, and published by twenty-six different presses. New Directions and Seagull Books are the only presses to have titles on both longlists, with Feminist Press, New Directions, Open Letter, and Ugly Duckling Presse receiving the most nominations, with three longlisted titles each.

Thanks to grant funds from the Amazon Literary Partnership, the winning authors and translators will each receive $5,000 cash prizes. Three Percent at the University of Rochester founded the BTBAs in 2008, and over the past seven years, the Amazon Literary Partnership has contributed more than $140,000 to international authors and their translators through the BTBA.

“Translators are the overlooked heroes of international literature, and these awards shine a light on translators’ efforts to bring global stories from diverse voices to English-language readers,” said Neal Thompson, director of the Amazon Literary Partnership program. “Now more than ever it feels vital for us to be sharing stories, voices, and perspectives from around the world, and Amazon is proud to continue its support for the Best Translated Book Awards in fiction and poetry.”

The finalists for both the fiction and poetry awards will be announced on The Millions on Tuesday, May 15th, and the winners will be announced on Thursday, May 31st, as part of the New York Rights Fair following the 4:30 panel on “Translated Literature Today: A Decade of Growth.”

Past winners of the fiction award include: Chronicle of the Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson; Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman; The Last Lover by Can Xue, translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen; Seiobo There Below and Satantango, both by László Krasznahorkai, and translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet and George Szirtes respectively; Stone Upon Stone by Wiesław Myśliwski, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston; and The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal.

In terms of the poetry award, past winners include: Extracting the Stone of Madness by Alejandra Pizarnik, translated from the Spanish by Yvette Siegert; Rilke Shake by Angélica Freitas, translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan; Diorama by Rocío Cerón, translated from the Spanish by Anna Rosenwong; The Guest in the Wood by Elisa Biagini, translated from the Italian by Diana Thow, Sarah Stickney, and Eugene Ostashevsky; Wheel with a Single Spoke by Nichita Stănescu, translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter; and Spectacle & Pigsty by Kiwao Nomura, translated from the Japanese by Kyoko Yoshida and Forrest Gander.

This year’s fiction jury is made up of: Caitlin Baker (University Book Store, Seattle), Kasia Bartoszyńska (Monmouth College), Tara Cheesman-Olmsted (Reader at Large), Lori Feathers (Interabang Books), Mark Haber (writer, Brazos Bookstore), Adam Hetherington (author), Jeremy Keng (reader, freelance reviewer), Bradley Schmidt (translator), and P.T. Smith (Ebenezer Books, The Scofield).

The poetry jury includes: Raluca Albu (BOMB), Jarrod Annis (Greenlight Bookstore), Tess Lewis (writer and translator), Aditi Machado (poet and translator), and Emma Ramadan (translator, Riffraff Bookstore).


For more information, visit the official Best Translated Book Award site and the official BTBA Facebook page, and follow the award on Twitter.

Additionally, over the next month, leading up to the announcement of the shortlists, Three Percent will be featuring a different title each day as part of the “Why This Book Should Win” series.

5 April 18 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As you hopefully noticed, earlier this morning the eighth episode of the current season of the Two Month Review went live. This was the seventh straight week of talking about Georgi Gospodinov’s incredible novel, The Physics of Sorrow, which was translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel. And the eighth write-up by Santiago Morrice will be up in just a couple days.

Given how much content we’ve produced for this season of the Two Month Review, and how daunting it could be to get into if you missed the beginning, I thought I’d do a quick summary post now collecting all of the various pieces from this season, making it a little bit easier for those of you who are interested in catching up.

One quick note first: Although this series is based in the idea of reading a single book over a multi-week period, I’m not convinced that you need to start from the beginning, or even read the whole book before listening to these episodes. Would it be helpful? Sure. But the spirit of the Two Month Review is to bring together a few smart, literary people to use a given section of a book as a starting point for a discussion that is likely to meander and expand outward. Each episode does dig into the construction of the work in question, and what makes it good, but there’s also a lot of outside knowledge that comes into the conversation.

Main point: You can enjoy this podcast even if you aren’t reading the book! So subscribe today and chime in with your thoughts and comments!

Here are all of Santiago’s articles, all of the podcasts, all of everything that we’ve produced (so far) about Georgi Gospodinov’s amazing novel:

4.01: The Physics of Sorrow (iTunes)

Georgi Gospodinov and The Physics of Sorrow

4.02: The Physics of Sorrow (iTunes)

Sorrow-Maker Gospodinov

4.03: The Physics of Sorrow (iTunes)

We are Minotaur, or: Eat your Darlings

4.04: The Physics of Sorrow (iTunes)

Obsessive Empathetic-Somatic Syndrome and You

4.05: The Physics of Sorrow (iTunes)

Gospodinov, the Curator; The Physics of Sorrow, the Time Capsule

4.06: The Physics of Sorrow (iTunes)

A Myth with a Twist

4.07: The Physics of Sorrow (iTunes)

The Return of Gospodinov, the Curator

4.08: The Physics of Sorrow (iTunes)

That should make it a bit easier to catch up on the current season of the Two Month Review. Again, you can dip into these as you want. These are written and recorded with the idea in mind that not all the listeners/readers will have read the book already.

And if you’re all caught up, be sure and watch us talk about the ending of the book on Monday.

The Odyssey
The Odyssey by Homer
Reviewed by Peter Constantine

Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.

–(The Odyssey, Book I, line 10. Emily Wilson)

In literary translation of works from other eras, there are always two basic tasks that a translator needs. . .

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I Remember Nightfall
I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio
Reviewed by Talia Franks

I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio (trans. From the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas) is a bilingual poetry volume in four parts, consisting of the poems “The History of Violets,” “Magnolia,” “The War of the Orchards,” and “The Native. . .

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Joyce y las gallinas
Joyce y las gallinas by Anna Ballbona
Reviewed by Brendan Riley

This review was originally published as a report on the book at New Spanish Books, and has been reprinted here with permission of the reviewer. The book was originally published in the Catalan by Anagrama as Joyce i les. . .

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Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

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The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

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Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

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The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

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I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

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Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

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The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

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