11 April 14 | Monica Carter | Comments

Michael Stein is a writer and journalist in the Czech Republic and runs a blog on Central European writing called literalab. He is an editor at B O D Y.

Reading The Devil’s Workshop you come up against a remarkable and frightening historical reality: that the memory of the mass killings of World War II is most flawed, faded and even purposefully obscured precisely in those places where it was the most severe. At one point a western visitor to the commune that pops up around the site of the former concentration camp of Terezín makes a recriminatory speech to the Czechs how Western Europe has carefully tended cemeteries for its war dead, whereas here everyday life takes place on the very spots where people were killed or sent on to Auschwitz and no one seems to care. Of course, you could read about this imbalance in a history book or article, but the way Jáchym Topol is able to dramatize this amnesia and ignorance has the kind of effect no dispassionate recounting of figures could ever hope to achieve.

The novel is split into two parts, both attempts to memorialize the genocide that took place during the war. The first part revolves around an international commune of a decidedly bohemian bent in Terezín that publicizes the plight of the crumbling former camp site in the face of government disinterest that becomes outright hostility. The second part sees the narrator enlisted in a similar, though far more perilous cause, to help create a very different kind of museum of genocide in Khatyn, Belarus, a place where victims of Nazism far exceeded those in his native wartime Czechoslovakia.

Any novel that delves into humanity’s darkest horrors brings with it a certain set of assumptions – moral certainly, but also aesthetic, literary, stylistic. Here you have a book that deals with genocide and totalitarianism, so you can imagine a number of stylistic approaches: stark, steely prose to reflect a cold and painful reality; or pages without paragraph breaks, breathless, an unyielding barrage of images; or labyrinthine sentences to combat the inadequacy of memory so evidently on display here. But Topol has thrown all these assumptions out the window and written a book which is both entertaining and extremely beautiful. In fact, it would be the most unlikely (and undesirable) request at a bookstore counter ever made, but if someone were to ask for a fun book about genocide The Devil’s Workshop would be my pick. At no point though does the book’s fast pace and humor lessen the horror and impact of what its depicting. Both the pace and the humor are in a large part the result of Alex Zucker’s outstanding translation, which navigates between Topol’s colloquial style and the weighty issues the book is touching on.

Then there is the question of current relevance. You would think a book orbiting around crumbling, neglected and even non-existent memorials to World War II genocide wouldn’t necessarily be reflected in our front page news. But it’s almost as if events in the Ukraine, Russia and Crimea have brought scenes and themes from Topol’s novel directly onto our TV screens. The election poster for the Crimean Referendum showing a swastika superimposed on one Crimea and a Russian flag superimposed on another looks like it could have been pulled off the novel’s book cover. More importantly, the way the terms Nazi and fascist are being cynically thrown around in the current conflict show the degree to which this dark era of history remains misunderstood where it was most deadly and that Eastern European complicity in genocide is very far from being acknowledged.

But what brings The Devil’s Workshop above and beyond the issues it represents and the history it covers, and why it should win The Best Translated Book Award, is its sheer artistic force. It is never just a political or historical novel. Both memorial sites, for example, have networks of tunnels underneath them, are peopled with earnest, often troubled youth and are connected to people with tragic and shadowy pasts. But as evocative and developed as the symbolism gets it never gets reductive. There is never just one way to read this labyrinthine story.

To describe the bizarre imagery Topol evokes in the novel’s most powerful and disturbing scenes the word surreal seems inadequate, even quaint, though it may well be the first word to come to mind. This isn’t Paris but the killing fields of Belarus, and if the surreal is often conjured up by referring to “the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella” then what The Devil’s Workshop produces is the result of a meeting of two ruthless ideologies in a place far bloodier than a dissecting table, and of course of a master writer converting it into art.

10 April 14 | Monica Carter | Comments

Casey O’Neil is a bookseller at the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books. These days, he most often reads standing up, with a small sleeping daughter strapped to his torso.

How to describe a book as affecting and unusual as Tirza I could cobble together a few puffed-up jacket blurb superlatives—something like, “Hilarious Disturbing Subtle Horrific Masterpiece,” or maybe “Psycho-Cultural Familial Catastrophic Tour-De-Force.” But no, the best way to proceed in this instance is to accept that, confined to this meager space, I won’t be able to do justice to this irreducible book.

So I should start by admitting that I was totally unprepared for Tirza. To be honest, I would be scared to meet the person who is prepared for it. Two paragraphs in, I understood the caliber of writer I was dealing with. By the second page I had already laughed out loud. And from then on I was hopelessly immersed in the pathetic, compelling world of Jörgen Hofmeester. In his more restrained and classy jacket blurb, J.M. Coetzee says, “The wit and sardonic intelligence that shine through Arnon Grunberg’s prose make it a continual pleasure to read.” He’s absolutely right. Grunberg has that rare and most welcome of gifts: every sentence he writes—and I mean every sentence—is interesting. Whether he’s describing the apron chosen for sashimi chopping or the lamp chosen for human skull smashing, Arnon Grunberg is an absolute delight to read.

And if that were all, if Tirza were nothing more than a razor-sharp, comical evisceration of a hapless suburban father bumbling through his life with only his misguided devotion to his youngest daughter to provide some semblance of sanity, well, that would be more than enough to justify the price of admission. But in the midst of all this wit and sardonic intelligence, there emerges a slow, steady, disquieting rumble. Where at first the audience might have been comfortable—and even delighted—to sit back and watch Jörgen Hofmeester squirm and play the fool and fall on his face, eventually a slow boil and a sudden shift change everything. The prose is as light as ever. There is still plenty of laughter. We will gladly follow Arnon Grunberg wherever he leads us, but only once it’s too late do we realize that he has brought us to the edge of the abyss. And then, of course, he expertly hurls us into it.

Sam Garrett renders Tirza in flawless English, and there is something profound and unexpected in this translation. The novel’s attention to the fine line between privileged self-pity and vile brutality feels, at least to this reader, distinctly American. On one level this is ridiculous. This is a Dutch novel, rooted in Amsterdam, and the United States has little or nothing to do with it. Perhaps even the thought is just a symptom of my American selfishness. But I can’t help but feel there is a shared abyss here. And this connection points toward the sublime possibilities for fiction in translation: that a book taking place in a country almost 5,000 miles away, written in a language I don’t understand, can feel like it’s speaking directly to me.

Tirza deserves to be unleashed on as many readers as possible. It deserves to win the Best Translated Book Award for 2014.

9 April 14 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Chris Iacono on Sun-mi Hwang’s The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, translated by Chi-Young Kim, and out last fall from Penguin.

This is a review I’ve been sitting on a while and I apologize for that—but after a quick trip to NYC for a fantastic evening with Bulgarian authors and their readers at 192 Books, and before a whirlwind of Greek, Danish-Bulgarian, and Latin American events, looking back on this title was a nice, relaxing place to stop at mid-week. A little fable-esque, a little social commentary, a little simple and charming illustration: The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is a great read and chock-full of talking animals.

Here’s the beginning of Chris’s review:

Early in Sun-mi Hwang’s novel The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, the main character, a hen named Sprout, learns about sacrifice. After refusing to lay any more eggs for the farmer who owns her, she becomes “culled” and released from her chicken coop. However, she soon discovers that her new freedom comes with a loss of comforts such as shelter and food. To make matters worse, after she narrowly escapes from a menacing weasel in an open grave, the other farmyard animals, led by an arrogant rooster, reject her. “Culled?” he says. “Nobody wants you!”

Despite the harsh reality that Sprout has to face outside the coop, she doesn’t have to face it alone. While in the open grave, she meets Straggler, a mallard duck who also lives on the farm. Like Sprout, Straggler is a misfit, a wild duck among domesticated ones. He is allowed to stay on the farm, but he keeps his distance from the other ducks. Even though he isn’t able to convince the other animals to let Sprout stay on the farm, he is able to help her fulfill one wish: To sit on an egg and watch a baby hatch from it.

One day, while wandering the fields, she finds this egg and decides to sit on it until the mother returns. The mother never does, but when Straggler finds her, he agrees to stand guard while Sprout is brooding. The hen, of course, thinks this baby will be a chick. She also believes Straggler is under the mistaken impression that she laid the egg, but he really knows more about it than she realizes. In fact, before he meets a tragic end, he gives her advice on what to do with the hatchling.

For the rest of the review, go here.

9 April 14 | Monica Carter | Comments

Sarah Gerard’s novel Binary Star is forthcoming from Two Dollar Radio in January 2015. Her essay chapbook, Things I Told My Mother, was published by Von Zos this past fall. Other fiction, criticism and personal essays have appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Bookforum, the Paris Review Daily, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Slice Magazine, and other journals. She holds an MFA from The New School and lives in Brooklyn.

City of Angels: Or, the Overcoat of Dr. Freud was the first book I wrote about for Three Percent, and I jumped at the opportunity to write about it again now that we’re nearing the announcement of shortlist selections. Having read other books on the list, and even seven months after my first reading of City of Angels, I can say with confidence that I still think it should win.

The book’s translator Damion Searls, a deft craftsman, boasts another book on the longlist this year: Elfriede Jelinek’s Her Not All Her. Though Her Not All Her is also quite impressive, Searls’s work on City of Angels is exceptional. The book is a jagged exploration of memory across three time periods – Wolf’s childhood, the post-World War II years including the rise of the Berlin Wall, and the present-day (1992) opening of Christa’s Stasi files followed by a year spent in Los Angeles researching a missing piece of the past: the correspondent of her late friend Emma, whose letters are signed, simply, L.

Wolf slides and jumps around, making subtle, unexpected connections between places and events by ordering scenes back-to-back, sandwiching them together thematically (the 1992 L.A. riots and the Berlin uprising, for example), or connecting them linguistically (such as her descriptions of cities in states of sickness or health, using anatomical terminology). City of Angels is fragmented but not sprawling; it reads like a personal notebook in which the character Christa diaries but also keeps a record of her research, personal and professional. Though it covers a lot of historical and geographical ground, it holds together beautifully in the narrative of Christa’s present-day self-exploration.

City of Angels is an examination of history as much as it is an examination of memory. Christa claims not to remember the wrongdoing her Stasi file exposes: several years spent as an informant for the German secret police. And throughout City of Angels, we at turns believe her and believe her ability to deny out of necessity. While the newspapers flay her, Christa’s grief is consuming; she is thrown into a depression from which she can only emerge incrementally, through meditations on intelligence and surveillance, the human need for storytelling, translation, war, revolt, political bureaucracy and forgiveness.

Wolf was a lifetime scholar, and City of Angels is dense with her literary and philosophical influences, as well as references to her peers and other artists and thinkers, mostly Germans, or in Freud’s case, Austrian. Freud’s titular overcoat undergoes a slow transformation along with the progression of Christa’s character, and discussions of Freud’s work. But also, a daytime excursion takes Christa and others from the Institute to the homes of Thomas Mann and Bertold Brecht; a dinner conversation elaborates on Arnold Schoenberg’s influences on Mann; Marx, of course, figures largely in her reflections; in a bookstore, Christa buys Art Spiegelmans’s Maus upon someone’s suggestion; and, brilliantly, American culture seeps into the story’s fabric: Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck.

As the setting for the book, Los Angeles forms a warm counter to cold Berlin. Christa goes for drives along Wilshire Boulevard with others from the Institute, eats plein aire lunches, anticipates the next shift of the San Andreas Fault, closely observes the local population in its many colors and textures, watches Star Trek and pontificates on the strengths of the Enterprise crew: “[A]s usual Star Trek was on Channel 13 and I followed Captain Picard and his crew in shameless delight, given over to the outer-space adventures of the Starship Enterprise, where the Picard crew demonstrated that unconditional discipline could go perfectly well with mature humanity ennobled by masculine understatement.” We see that, even or especially in the face of tragedy, humor can be a balm.

In addition to the Jelinek, Searls translated another last year, A Schoolboy’s Diary by Robert Walser, that was notable in particular for his excellent translation, though unfortunately ineligible for the award, as some pieces in it had been translated previously. But as a pair, Wolf and Searls are perfectly suited for each other. Searls brings a light and elegant touch to City of Angels, and his writing is infused with the delicacy and complex inter-weavings Wolf would have intended. Wolf’s background as a critic is clear in her need to fuse unexpected relationships. The book, overall, has the effect of being the work of a rigorous thinker looking back through history with new and difficult insight, and a clear view of the present.

8 April 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As meta as it may be for an award to win an award, I’m incredibly excited that the Best Translated Book Awards won the inaugural “International Literary Translation Initiative Award” at today’s London Book Fair Book Industry Excellence awards ceremony.

I know it’s hokey, but I’ve been hoping for years that some part of Open Letter—one of our books, the press itself, etc.—would win something like this. I feel like everyone involved with the press does such great work, and really deserve some extra recognition. Especially all the judges that have worked on the BTBA over the past years, reading hundreds of books and helping promote so many great works of literature in translation.

Also, Amazon deserves a shout-out for helping the BTBA move to the next level. Being able to give out $20,000 in cash prizes to the winning authors and translators helped bring more prestige to this award.

If anyone reading this is in Rochester and wants to celebrate, come to the Daily Refresher at 9pm where I’ll be pretending I’m in London . . .

Thanks again to Monica Carter for accepting on my behalf and for sending this awesome picture!

8 April 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The shortlist for this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize was announced yesterday and features six books from around the world:

  • The Iraqi Christ, by Hassan Blasim, translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright (Comma Press)
  • A Man in Love, by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Harvill Secker)
  • A Meal in Winter, by Hubert Mingarelli, translated from the French by Sam Taylor (Portobello Books)
  • The Mussel Feast, by Birgit Vanderbeke, translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch (Peirene Press)
  • Revenge, by Yōko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Harvill Secker)
  • Strange Weather in Tokyo, by Hiromi Kawakami and translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell (Portobello)

Only one of these—the Knausgaard—is on the BTBA longlist, which is cool, since it (probably) means that the two international literature awards will end up with two different books.

Here’s a bit from The Guardian article:

Karl Ove Knausgaard, the current toast of literary Norway, is heading a shortlist for the Independent foreign fiction prize, which ranges from Japan to Iraq. Exiled Iraqi novelist Hassan Blasim also made the list for his short story collection The Iraqi Christ.

The shortlist, announced on Tuesday, for the first time includes two Japanese female writers. Hiromi Kawakami was selected for her story of a haunting romance between two “lonely losers”, Strange Weather in Tokyo, and Yōko Ogawa, who has won each of Japan’s major literary awards and is known as the Japanese Angela Carter, god a nod for Revenge, a collection of linked short stories. Past winners of the prize include Milan Kundera and WG Sebald.

Congrats to all the authors and translators!

8 April 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Shortly after the BTBA Fiction Longlist was announced, Tara Murphy and Jesse Eckerlin from Biblioasis came up with the idea of creating a “single-sentence sampler” featuring one line from each of the 25 longlisted titles. But I’ll let Jesse explain what developed:

This week’s post is for those of you who are eager for a taste of each work but might not have the time or resources to track down all the longlisted titles. Plus it’s also just plain fun. Open Letter’s Chad Post (the man behind the magic!) and Biblioasis decided to ask the publishers and translators of each book to select a single iconic or in some way representative sentence from their respective books: once compiled, the sentences would work as a kind of mini-anthology and stylistic shorthand to the year’s longlist. We then decided to go one further: why not post the respective sentences without attribution, embedding links to the pages of the individual books, and let the writing speak for itself?

The sentences below demonstrate a true breadth of narrative strategy and aesthetic sensibility. Some are aphoristic and ornate; some are brief and colloquial. Some are harrowing; some are funny, brusque, sarcastic. Some are only a few words long, creating direct portals to their overarching thematic concerns and pivotal plot points; and others are winding, piling clause upon clause like an intoxicated bricklayer, hinting at an elaborate structure whose dimensions can only be guessed at. Whatever the sentence or its intentions, each grants access to its corresponding text in a unique way. We hope a few pique your interest and persuade you to seek out the books from which they are excerpted.

Click here to read all 25 sentences.

My hope is that everyone reading this will be attracting to a line from a book that they might not otherwise have read . . . And that thanks to this one-sentence sampler, end up reading something that didn’t initially grab them.

8 April 14 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Kseniya Melnik on Zakhar Prilepin’s Sankya, translated by Mariya Gusev and Jeff Parker, out from Dzanc Books.

In addition to being a new name in our reviewer pool, Kseniya was one of Granta’s “New Voices” series:http://www.granta.com/New-Writing/New-Voices-Kseniya-Melnik in 2010, and has written a book of short stories, forthcoming in May of this year.

Originally published in 2006, Prilepin’s novel is still very timely and relevant to current world events. Prilepin has been called “the most important writer in modern Russia, a sensitive and intelligent critic of his country’s condition,” and is someone not afraid to express his social consciousness—a trait that easily makes him one of the country’s most popular and acclaimed contemporary authors.

Here’s the beginning of Kseniya’s review:

When Sankya was published in Russia in 2006, it became a sensation. It won the Yasnaya Polyana Award (bestowed by direct descendants of Leo Tolstoy) and was shortlisted for the Russian Booker and the National Bestseller Award. Every member of the cultural elite had an opinion on it. There was even a hatchet job by the president of Russia’s largest commercial bank; the banker-cum-critic received an avalanche of responses rebuking his review. Many reviewers disagreed with the Prilepin’s political beliefs, but acknowledged that the novel is a literary masterpiece. Already widely translated in Europe, this book struck a raw nerve, to say the least. The timely English edition, featuring an excellent translation by Mariya Gusev and Jeff Parker (with Alina Ryabovolova), and a heartfelt forward by Alexey Navalny, a Russian anti-corruption activist, will introduce America to a unique talent as well as the kind of Russia very few foreigners have seen. For the soul of the country is never in the news headlines; it is in literature. Sankya succeeds brilliantly in plunging the reader into the psyche of the young people on the fringes of the success story Russia projected to the world during the Sochi Olympics.

Twenty-two-year-old Sasha Tishin—or Sankya, as his grandmother calls him—and his friends are members of the Founders, an extremist right-wing group loosely based on the now-banned National Bolsheviks. The Founders want to tear down the corrupt government, destroy Western-style capitalism, and build a better country—one based on dignity, on ideals, one close “to the soil,” something like the Soviet Union but not quite, not so bureaucratic. If that sounds vague, it’s because in the beginning the Founders don’t have a plan beyond demonstrations, which often devolve into street vandalism. The book opens with one such protest. Sasha and his friends narrowly escape the riot police, but even the possibility of jail hardly scares Sasha. He will survive it, he thinks, because he’d survived his mandatory army service, a notoriously harsh ordeal in Russia.

For the rest of the piece, go here.

7 April 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Today’s entry in the “Why This Book Should Win” series is from Jonathan Stalling, an Associate Professor of English at Oklahoma University specializing in Modern-Contemporary American and East-West Poetics, Comparative Literature, and Translation Studies. He is also the co-founder and deputy editor-in-chief of Chinese Literature Today magazine and book series.

Howard Goldblatt’s translation of Sandalwood Death by Mo Yan is nothing short of astonishing. With over three dozen volumes of Chinese fiction in translation to his credit, Howard Goldblatt is widely considered one of the most prolific and influential translators of our time. Authors he has translated include a wide range of twentieth-century novelists and major figures of the post-Mao era. In 1999, his translation of Notes of a Desolate Man (with Sylvia Lin) by Chu Tien-wen was selected as Translation of the Year by the American Literary Translators Association. Three of his recent translations—Wolf Totem (Jiang Rong), The Boat to Redemption (Su Tong), and Three Sisters (Bi Feiyu, also with Sylvia Lin)—have won the Man Asian Literary Prize. He has received two translation grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and, in 2009, a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is the only English-language translator of Mo Yan, who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature. Yet Sandalwood Death marks a new level of accomplishment for Goldblatt because of its complex aural formalism and this is why it deserves to win this prize. Sandalwood Death was written in the form of an opera and has long been considered one of Mo Yan’s most ambitious work—the famously speedy and prolific writer took over five years to complete the book. Set in turn-of-the-century China at the dawn of the boxer Rebellion, Sandalwood Death explores the violent intersection of unstoppable global forces on the scale of vulnerable, individual lives. The novel—part thriller, part love story—weaves together several strands of a single family: Sun Meiniang is the daughter of Sun bing, a well-known folk opera star and a leader of the boxer Rebellion in Gaomi County in Shandong, Mo Yan’s ancestral home. Sun Meiniang’s father-in-law, Zhao Jia, is the Empire’s most accomplished state executioner, a master of the killing arts (he claims to have cut off more than 1,000 heads) who is called to perform a ritualized execution of Sun bing so viscerally precise and grisly it must be read to be believed. As an allegory of the dismemberment of the Qing Dynasty body politic itself, Mo Yan’s tour-de-force exploration of the public spectacle of executions is carried out on the most intimate level, deeply affecting characters that readers can both identify with and feel a great deal for.

While reviews of Sandalwood Death have marveled at the novel’s powerful narrative, few have explored how Mo Yan’s novel skillfully assumes the form of a Shandong folk opera. Most chapters open with formal arias with metered and rhymed language which Goldblatt translates faithfully capturing both the aural and semantic sinews that anchor each chapter into the operatic whole. In the chapter “Divine Altar,” the narrator’s voice weaves in and out of the protagonist’s plaintive and wrathful singing. In this climatic chapter, we find Sun bing, a famous Cat Opera performer, in shock after having witnessed the gruesome murder of his wife and most of his children at the hands of German soldiers. Climbing down from a tree on the far side of a river, he takes up a club and plunges into a fierce opera virtuoso rendered masterfully by translator Howard Goldblatt, who follows the original Chinese operatic form with such care that the chapter could be performed out loud. Just as in the Chinese original, Mo Yan’s narration continues in the standard font while Sun bing’s fierce Sprechgesang (a form of intonation between speaking and singing) is rendered in italics: “He struck out with his club, pointing east and striking west, pointing south and hitting north, shattering bark. Willows wept. You German devils! You, you, you cruelly murdered my wife and butchered my children~~this is a blood debt that will be avenged—bong bong bong bong bong—Clang cuh-lang clang Only revenge makes me a man. 德国鬼子啊! 你你你杀妻灭子/好凶残~~这血海深仇/一定要报——咣咣咣咣咣——里格咙格/里格咙——咙要报—/非儿男.” From the meaningless vocables (indicating folk opera instrumentation) to the rhythm and rhyme, the English carries the vitality of the original. In short, this is a stunning translation of a historic novel.

Most translators of Chinese poetry shy away from the challenge of replicating such formal elements, but Goldblatt does so consistently through this 500 page novel which marks it as not only one of the great translations from the Chinese in recent times, but one of the great translations of our time.

7 April 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

And, following on the posts about Amanda Michalopoulou’s tour and the announcement of the Reading the World Conversation Series events, here are some details about a few upcoming Bulgarian literature events that might interest you.

Bulgarian Fiction Night at 192 Books
Tuesday, April 8th, 7pm

Albena Stambolova and Virginia Zaharieva will be in conversation with Open Letter editor Kaija Straumanis about their books and Bulgarian literature as a whole.

PLUS, as a bonus, Kaija will be able to announce the winner of this year’s Contemporary Bulgarian Writers Contest during the event.

Celebrating Bulgarian Writers with Elizabeth Kostova
Sunday, April 13th, 3pm

Malaprop’s Bookstore
55 Haywood St
Asheville, NC 28801

Talented Women of Indie Presses
Thursday, April 17th, 7pm

Hopleaf Bar
5148 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60640

This event features Daniela Olszweska (Cloudfang::Cakedirt) along with Albena Stambolova and Virginia Zaharieva. Also, Hopleaf has awesome beer.

Celebrating Bulgarian Literature in Translation
Friday, April 18th, 6pm

Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637

The Antiquarian
The Antiquarian by Gustavo Faverón Patriau
Reviewed by P.T. Smith

Gustavo Faverón Patriau’s The Antiquarian, translated by Joseph Mulligan, is a genre-blending novel, a complete immersion that delves into a lesser-used niche of genre: horror, gothic, the weird. There are visual horrors, psychological ones, and dark corners with threats lurking.. . .

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Elsewhere
Elsewhere by Eliot Weingerber (ed.)
Reviewed by Grant Barber

What a wonderful, idiosyncratic book Weinberger has written. I say book, but the closest comparison I could make to other works being published right now are from Sylph Edition’s “Cahiers Series“—short pamphlet-like meditations by notable writers such as Ann Carson,. . .

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The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang
Reviewed by Chris Iacono

Early in Sun-mi Hwang’s novel The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, the main character, a hen named Sprout, learns about sacrifice. After refusing to lay any more eggs for the farmer who owns her, she becomes “culled” and released. . .

Read More >

Sankya
Sankya by Zakhar Prilepin
Reviewed by Kseniya Melnik

When Sankya was published in Russia in 2006, it became a sensation. It won the Yasnaya Polyana Award (bestowed by direct descendants of Leo Tolstoy) and was shortlisted for the Russian Booker and the National Bestseller Award. Every member of. . .

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Stalin is Dead
Stalin is Dead by Rachel Shihor
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Stalin is Dead by Rachel Shihor has been repeatedly described as kafkaesque, which strikes a chord in many individuals, causing them to run to the bookstore in the middle of the night to be consumed by surreal situations that no. . .

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Paradises
Paradises by Iosi Havilio
Reviewed by Andrea Reece

Paradises by cult Argentinian author Iosi Havilio is the continuation of his earlier novel, Open Door, and tells the story of our narrator, a young, unnamed Argentinian woman.

The very first sentence in Paradises echoes the opening of Camus’s The Outsider. . .

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Two Crocodiles
Two Crocodiles by Fyodor Dostoevsky; Felisberto Hernández
Reviewed by Sara Shuman

This pearl from New Directions contains one short story from Russian literary master Fyodor Dostoevsky (translated by Constance Garnett) and one short story from Uruguayan forefather of magical realism Felisberto Hernández (translated by Esther Allen). Both pieces are entitled “The. . .

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Navidad & Matanza
Navidad & Matanza by Carlos Labbé
Reviewed by J.T. Mahany

I’m talking about pathological individuals; six twisted people taking part in an unpredictable game.

Carlos Labbé’s Navidad & Matanza is the story of two missing children and the journalist trying to find them. Actually. it’s the story of a group of. . .

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Zbinden's Progress
Zbinden's Progress by Christoph Simon
Reviewed by Emily Davis

For Lukas Zbinden, walking is a way of life. At eighty-seven, he is still an avid walker and insists on going for walks outside as often as possible, rain or snow or shine. Now that he lives in an assisted. . .

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Commentary
Commentary by Marcelle Sauvageot
Reviewed by Peter Biello

Commentary is a book that defies simple categorization. Marcelle Sauvageot’s prose lives in the world of novel, memoir, and philosophical monologue as the narrator, a woman recuperating in a sanatorium, muses on the nature of love and examines her own. . .

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The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >