21 December 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Mara Faye Lethem joins us this week to talk about Catalonia’s scatological obsession, the challenges of the current political situation, Max Besora’s wild novel, and Rodoreda’s triumphant return to the best-seller list. Then they get into a more autobiographical reading of this section of Death in Spring, a section that’s all about death and chaos.

Both Death in Spring and Selected Stories are available through the Open Letter website, and if you use 2MONTH at checkout, you’ll get 20% off.

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, Brian Wood, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. And be sure to read all of Mara’s translations, including The Boys by Toni Sala and Wonderful World by Javier Calvo.

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. And be sure to leave us a review on iTunes!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Montseny by Els Surfing Sirles.



20 December 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post should’ve gone up last Tuesday, December 12th, which happened to be the same day as our recording in front of a live audience at McNally Jackson. Although I did get some work done on the train ride to NYC, the Amtrak WiFi is garbage and crushed my hopes of writing this then. And Wednesday’s train ride back was mostly about surviving a bad hangover . . . so it’s time to catch up! Last week, Jess Fenn and P. T. Smith came on the podcast to talk about the second part of Death in Spring, pages 29-68. Below are some thoughts I have about this bit of the book.

If you prefer, you can also download this post as a PDF document.

As always, you can get Death in Spring and Selected Stories for 20% from our website by using the code 2MONTH. It’s also available at better bookstores everywhere.

And be sure to join the Goodreads group and subscribe to the Three Percent Podcast on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Full confession: We recorded the podcast about this section weeks ago, and my thinking about Death in Spring as a whole has evolved over the recording of the last two episodes. Given my limited brain capacity, it’s hard for me to go back and remember what it was exactly about this section that I wanted to write about. So I’m going to keep this rather brief, and just try to do some recapping while calling attention to things that will come up in the podcasts (and posts) for the last two parts of the book.

Part One left off with the narrator’s dad failing to evade the village’s ritual of having cement poured down your throat before dying (can’t let your soul escape!) and the narrator violently wrecking the nature that seemed so very pleasant in the opening paragraph.

[Opening Paragraph]: The sun-dappled light was different now that spring had arrived, reborn after living beneath the earth and within branches. [. . .] As soon as I passed the stables and the horse enclosure, I realized I was being followed by a bee, as well as by the stench of manure and the honey scent of blooming wisteria.

[Final Paragraph of Part One]: A dead bee was trapped in a spider web suspended between two tall bushes. I broke the web and shoved it into the ground with the tip of my foot, bee and all.


OK then! If Part One was all about world building—describing and naturalizing the village’s rituals, constructing a sense of timelessness that’s both familiar and weird—then this section is about the young boy entering the world fatherless, independent for the first time, and trying to make his way through these myth-spawned rituals that trend toward the violent. Coming into this section, I wondered about how this strange world would impact him. How would he adapt? Would he just get sucked in, becoming the biggest, baddest cement stuffer in the village, or would he rebel? Or something else?

This core idea is somewhat reinforced in the opening bit of Part Two—an almost surreal depiction of the birthing, life, and death of the village’s birds. There’s some interplay between the birds and the horses and the bees and the people and it’s all one big cycle of life that’s both intricate and balanced, and almost unstoppable. As natural or unstoppable as the narrator becoming close friends with his stepmother, who is only a couple of years older than him and a bit odd?

There’s no real way around the weirdness of the narrator getting attached (well, SPOILER, married to) his stepmother, but to give it a bit of a try, there is this paragraph about her relationship with the narrator’s father:

Not much was known about her father. Her mother hanged herself. The old men at the slaughterhouse took her in, but when she had grown up a bit, she began following my father like a shadow. Father finally brought her home with him. She would fall asleep on top of the table, and father would pick her up in his arms and carry her to bed. Some nights I would reflect on things and sneak down to listen to them sleeping. I would steal down the stairs, keeping close to the wall because one of the steps creaked. Standing in front of their room, I would imagine she wasn’t sleeping with father.


Not really the sort of stepmother found in fairy tales. (Of which Death in Spring isn’t really one, but it kind of is.) Although maybe that’s wrong . . . She’s not the sort of stepmother who badgers her husband’s offspring and is evil and trying to fuck their lives up as part of some competition for the man of the household. But she does tempt the narrator, both in terms of desire (as you’ll see) and to do things that are socially disruptive.

Before we get to that, let’s look a bit closer at how the stepmother is described:

My stepmother was shorter than me; she came to just above my shoulder. Her hair was straight and black, her eyes vaguely green. The corner of her eyes fanned out into thin lines, the same lines she had on both sides of her forehead and round her mouth. Like a little old woman.

She would settle in a corner on the days she was happy, from time to time laughing a howl-like laughter that gave a glimpse of the roof of her open mouth and her lizard-thin tongue. Little lizard arm, little lizard tongue. Her dresses fell straight from the shoulder, trailing the ground. In winter her feet and hands turned purple. She said they hurt. She was always cold.

I caught her one day eating a bee. When she realized I was watching, she spit it out, saying the bee had flown into her mouth. But I knew she ate bees.


However it happens, the two of them end up spending a lot of time together. And, one could argue, she ends up helping our narrator leave his childhood behind. First off, she coerces him into doing some rather disruptive things that sometimes seem like the playful actions of children, and at other times seem to be pointed rejections of this town’s belief system.

For instance, they go into the cavern where the red dust is gathered every spring to paint the town’s houses, and throw all the powder into an underground river. Fun times! Where does it go? Will the water look like blood? Who doesn’t like throwing handfuls of rock and sand into the water? (Don’t ask.) But then, when the springtime comes, there’s no red dust to collect, which is not very good.

More unsettlingly, there’s the scene where they go into the forest of the dead and rip open all the trees and steal all the bones and stack them up in a huge pile. Even in a bizarre-ass place like this, grave robbing (or grave remodeling?) isn’t very cool.

*


As alluded to above, there are really two strands at play in this section: the emotional growth of the narrator, and the village’s way of reinforcing all their rituals.

Let’s take one second to look at two moments of narrator’s growth. First up is this bit from when they go into the cave with the red powder. Not only does it show the narrator overcoming his fear, but it indicates how the stepmother is really the driving force here.

When I reached the bottom I was stiff and felt like crying. I felt I would never again be able to leave the well; I would smother to death because the entrance would be closed off, or the rope would break . . . She descended slowly, blocking the little bit of sky I could see. She pushed me further inside, then clasped my hand again, telling me she had been afraid the first time, but she had killed the fear because it was bad for you. Her heart had almost run away.


And then, when they’re standing on the kind-of-broken sundial, acting as its pin (and right before a bunch of kids attack them verbally and physically), the narrator has a much grander realization that directly points to his emotional growth.

The sun dispatched a trail of misty haze over the slopes of Maraldina and Senyor’s mountain. And while we were Time, a strange force arose within me, as though my guts had been made of iron, as though my mother, behind the forge, had moulded me from iron as she merged with the blacksmith. At that moment I understood what it meant to experience the force of the boy leaving childhood behind.


He’s really going to leave that childhood behind in, like, twenty-one pages, but I’ll wait till the next post to spoil the ending of this section.

*


In terms of the village reinforcing its rituals, there’s one key section that I want to point out.

A woman died in childbirth, and when they went to bury her, they discovered the forest had been ravaged. The weather that afternoon was troubled. The sky was sulphurous, not a leaf stirred. The unrest that had commenced at the cave returned. Between young and old. For some time the young from the wash district had been saying that people should be left to die their own death. The old men from the slaughterhouse argued that everything should continue as before. The middle-aged men were inclined to side with the elders, except for a few that no one heeded. One elderly man lamented the sad affair of mixing bones and stuffing grass in eye-wells, it should never have happened.


Just like with the never-ending cycle of life, there’s the never-ending cycle of who knows best. The young are ready to upend all traditions, burn the past (as Kylo Ren would say?), whereas the olds want it all to remain the same because goddammit that’s just the way things are, and those in the middle are inclined to side with those in power (or be ignored). And so we have a system that benefits a few instead of the many, and a large group of people who use the social media to try and upwrench age-old institutions, which doesn’t always play that well, since youngsters don’t know shit yet and watch too much YouTube, but what if . . .

There’s also a bit in here about Senyor, who comes down from his house on the hill to reassure everyone: “Senyor kept telling them not to worry.” (I imagine him delivering these lines like Tommy Wiseau in The Room, “Oh hai! Don’t worry about it!”)

And there’s the bit about the prisoner. Which is really too close to our real world for anyone to feel comfortable with. (What exactly is our end goal with prisons? Rehabilitation or dehumanization?) Which brings up my final point—although this book initially seems super crazy and symbolic and almost surreal, it’s really not that weird if you frame it as a young boy trying to find his way amid a series of violent, nearly superstitious, rituals. That’s like everyday life?

19 December 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Back at last! Chad and Tom reunite after a month in which Tom finished building an entire bookstore and bar, which is now open! In addition to talking about Riffraff’s first week of business, they talk about the NCIBA statement against publishers selling direct to consumers and institutions, about Tyrant Books tweeting about never again working with agents, about “Cat Person,” and about the release of the Translation Database on Publishers Weekly.

This week’s music is “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me” by Ron Gallo.

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



18 December 17 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Katherine Rucker on Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès, published earlier this year by Open Letter Books.

Katherine Rucker is a graduate of the MA in Literary Translation Studies program at the University of Rochester. She has work forthcoming in the Hay Festival’s English-translation edition of Bogotá39-2017, a selection of the best fiction writers under 40 from across Latin America aiming to celebrate good literature by highlighting literary production variety and talent in the region.

Here’s the beginning of Katherine’s review:

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 begins as a seemingly simple case of jewel-thievery affecting a high-class widow takes a twist for the dystopian and absurd as the heroes chase severed limbs and diamonds the size of your fist across the globe. Every clue toward the recovery of the jewels is another knot in the storyline, and every character they meet is a new disaster, a new twist in the road.

On the advice of hookers, sword-swallowers, and train car strangers, always dandily dressed to the nines, Martial Canterel, our hero, races toward Point Nemo (the place in the ocean geographically farthest from land) in search of the stolen diamond while Point Nemo (the book) barrels deeper into a world that, every time you think it’s gotten too fantastical, you’re reminded how real it is.


For the entire review, go here.

14 December 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week, fresh off a publication in the Boston Review, Jess Fenn (JR Fenn) joins Chad, Brian, and Best Translated Book Award judge Patrick Smith (P.T. Smith) to talk about the second part of Death in Spring. They trace a few motifs, talk about dystopias and literary world-building, and much more. Another very informative and captivating episode about one of the greatest novels of the past hundred years.

Both Death in Spring and Selected Stories are available through the Open Letter website, and if you use 2MONTH at checkout, you’ll get 20% off.

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, Brian Wood, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. Be sure and buy the Boston Review to read Jess’s story, and follow Patrick on Twitter for various book thoughts and terrible sports takes.

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. And be sure to leave us a review on iTunes!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Montseny by Els Surfing Sirles.



7 December 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Welcome to one of the strangest villages in all of fiction! Now that Chad and Brian have gone through the stories, they turn their attention to Rodoreda’s Death in Spring, which was published posthumously in 1986. They’re joined by Catalan researcher and translator Meg Berkobien and Anastasia Nikolis, who you might remember from the season on Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller. This episode is loaded with information about Rodoreda and this novel, followed by accolade after accolade about one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.

Both Selected Stories and Death in Spring are available through the Open Letter website, and if you use 2MONTH at checkout, you’ll get 20% off.

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, Brian Wood, and 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!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Montseny by Els Surfing Sirles.



5 December 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

For our final episode of the Rodoreda season, Brian and I will be taking the early morning train to NYC (seriously, it leaves at 5:41am, which is a time that exists) so that we can talk about Death in Spring in front of a live audience.

At 7pm at McNally Jackson (52 Prince St.) we’ll be joined by María Cristina Hall of the Ramon Llull Insitut to go over the final section of Rodoreda’s amazing last novel.

After the formal conversation—which will be as varied and fun as the normal episodes, but also with questions from the audience—we will have some Spanish wine to drink while you do your holiday shopping.

See you next week!

5 December 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Coming up on this Thursday’s Two Month Review podcast I join Brian Wood, Meg Berkobien, and Anastasia Nikolis to talk about the opening section of Death in Spring, the first Rodoreda novel that Open Letter ever published. To preface that conversation (which is a lot of gushing over her prose and ideas, along with some solid historical information), I thought I’d break out some aspects of Part I.

If you prefer, you can also download this post as a PDF document.

As always, you can get Death in Spring and Selected Stories for 20% from our website by using the code 2MONTH. It’s also available at better bookstores everywhere.

And be sure to join the Goodreads group and subscribe to the Three Percent Podcast on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.

This week’s podcast—the first to dig into Rodoreda’s final novel, Death in Spring—is one of the most informative ones we’ve recorded to date. This isn’t to dismiss anything that came before (I love all my baby podcasts equally), but given Meg Berkobien’s background both as a translator and academic, she was able to bring the knowledge. You’ll have to listen to the whole thing to get all the goods, but here are a few choice bits that provide some background.

First things first, although this book was published posthumously, a few years after her passing, it’s by no means incomplete. There’s a mention on the Mercè Rodoreda Foundation website about how she submitted it for a literary prize back in the 1960s. It lost, she was greatly disappointed, she spent twenty years refining and honing it. That’s committment! And god damn does it show. This is one of the most carefully crafted novels I’ve ever read. No word is out of place (special shout-out to Martha Tennent), every image is layered throughout, every sentence feels twice as long as it is. This book is magical. So, although it was “unfinished” in the sense that she never approved the final proofs, but it’s not incomplete. It’s a full novel with a satisfying ending. As you’ll see.

One of the first things you’ll notice is that the village in which the novel takes place is unlike any village you’ve ever visited. Outside of time, home to a very unique set of myths and rituals, this place is a bit bewildering and disturbed. (Or a slightly exaggerated and twisted version of the myths and rituals in our lives?) Although the geography doesn’t seem nearly as unsettled, the layout of the village can be hard to visualize. But, thanks to Mercè (via Meg), we have this sketch of the village:



There’s a lot more that could be said about the background to this novel, but I think that’s best left to the podcast. Also, I kind of want to provide a bit of an overview to this section, but, well, I’m afraid that it will scare some of you off since it will sound absolutely batshit. Still, it can be useful for understanding the set of quotes below, so here goes:

In part one we’re introduced to our main character, a fourteen-year-old boy who lives in a village that is bound by strange beliefs and rituals. One of those rituals involves what happens to a dying body—something that the boy sees firsthand in the opening pages of the novel when his dad passes away. Freed from his parents, he serves as the reader’s lens onto the village in which he lives. In this first part, a lot of the world building is set forth. We learn about some of the major characters (the Blacksmith, the stepmother, Senyor), and some of the annual events that organize the lives of the villagers. At the start of this section, a bee is following the boy, at the end he crushes a bee. That happens as well.

As you can probably tell, the plot itself—though there, though compelling—is secondary to the way in which Rodoreda creates this almost alien environment. Although “world building” is a term usually used more in connection with Game of Thrones than modernist literature in translation, it’s very apropos here, for this part.

Rather than ramble on about this, I want to give you a taste of Rodoreda’s writing, which is absolutely phenomenal. And to tie her prose to the idea of world building, I’d like to look at three things that run throughout this section: myths, rituals, and fears. I’m more or less just going to piece together quotes from the book that fit into those respective categories. This will also give you an immediate sense of how weird this book is, and will probably (hopefully) make you want to read it. It’s wild! There’s nothing quite like Death in Spring and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.

This post and these lists will likely serve as building blocks for trying to create a larger understanding of what Rodoreda’s up to in this book as we go along. Not that there’s a single reading or way to understand this book—not by any means. The ways in which interpretations of images and motifs shift throughout the novel is one reason why this is so rich, so engrossing, and so lasting. Let’s dig in.

Myths

The old men explained that the low wind on Maraldina blew through the brush when no one was on the mountain. It carried souls that wandered the mountain with the sole purpose of creating fierce winds whenever we went in search of powder, rendering our work more arduous. The wind was telling us that ours was a senseless job, something that was better left undone. Souls have no mouths, so they spoke to us through the voice of the wind.


Souls and shadows show up a lot in this book. Usually tied together. Shadows take on a real physical presence in this novel, even if it is a presence that works on the edges of existence. They’re also responsible for a lot of the beliefs held by the villages, including this creation myth:

On a slope, man met shadow and they never parted. They established the village. The man, the shadow by his side, planted the first wisteria. But that’s not exactly how it was. A long time ago when the oldest of the old men in the village was young, he witnessed the birth of everything. The village was born from the earth’s terrible unrest. The mountain was cleaved and it collapsed into the river, scattering the water through the fields. But the river wanted to flow with all of its water gathered together and began burrowing beneath the crumpled mountain, emptying it little by little. The river never rested until all the water could flow happily together again, although at times it grew furious when it hit the rock ceiling. They say that one night, not at the bottom of the slope, but on the ground, on the rocks hurled from the cliff, the moon showed two shadows joined at the mouth. And it rained blood. That is how it all began.


Yep. As Meg mentions on the podcast, Rodoreda was very interested in cosmogony, which is quite evident in this book. There’s one more myth that I want to share—one that also crosses over into the section about the village’s rituals:

Near the canes where I was hiding, a group of dirty, disheveled women were sitting on the ground away from the fire, their eyes blindfolded. They were the pregnant ones. They covered their eyes because if they gazed at other men, the children they were carrying would also take a peek and begin to resemble the men. They said a woman fell in love with every man she saw, and the longer she was pregnant, the faster she fell in love. So, what with women falling in love and children looking, what shouldn’t happen, happened.


This is an example of how these unusual beliefs—how genetics are influenced by love—end up creating a series of rituals that keep this society functioning. In this case, all pregnant women are blindfolded, which, though cruel and misguided (although some flat-earther out there would probably buy into this “science”), is not as violent and messy as what happens when you die.

Rituals

Again, I don’t want to give away too much (read the book!), so I’ll just quote this passage about what happens when someone is dying and why without any larger context:

Don’t kill him, shouted the cement man. The mortar trough, filled with rose-colored cement, lay at this feet. Don’t kill him before he has been filled. They pried his mouth partially open, and the cement man began to fill it. First with watery cement so it would slide far down inside him, then with thick cement. When he was well cemented, they stood him up and put him back inside the tree. They replaced the cross and left to prepare the Festa. [. . .] I would end my days locked in that tree, my mouth full of cement that had been mixed with crimson powder, my entire soul within. Because, you see, the blacksmith used to say that with the last breath, without anyone realizing, your soul flees. And no one knows where it goes.


Cement to keep your soul in. Otherwise maybe it will be part of the fierce winds that make the search for powder more difficult. OK. Got it. And speaking of that powder, the men and boys gather this special pink powder every spring so that they can repaint all of the houses in the village. Every year. Like clockwork. As if it’s part of nature.

For a funeral Festa, they killed horses and pregnant mares. First, they ate the soup, then the horse or mare, and then a morsel—but only a small piece because there wasn’t much to go round—of the little ones the mares were carrying inside them. They made a paste with the brains; it helped digestion.

If you think that’s gross, wait till you read about the stepmother snacking on balls of fat . . .

Fear

Most, if not all, rituals exist because a group is afraid of what would happen if they don’t perform the ritual. Their mythic beliefs contain a bit of danger (don’t let the souls out!), so they create a particular set of actions to stave off the threat. They’re afraid of something.

There are a variety of normal fears sprinkled throughout the first couple parts of this book, but one thing that I want to track as we read and talk about this is the role of Senyor. Here’s how he’s introduced:

All of the houses were pink except one: the house that belonged to Senyor. He lived at the top of the small mountain that was cleaved by a cliff and overlooked the village, protecting and menacing. The cliff, topped by Senyor’s house, was covered with ivy that blazed in autumn and died soon after.


Innocent enough, I suppose. But then there are a few lines that, taken together, bring in a slightly more ominous tone:

When I had finished planting the grass, I thought again about Senyor’s house. I could see the side of it, the side without windows. It was topped by a spire. I could see Senyor, in my thoughts, coughing and eating honey, waiting always for the river to carry away the village. [. . .]

When we burned [the leaves], we would look up because Senyor’s head would appear through the long, narrow, middle window, and we would stick out our tongues at him. He would remain motionless, as if made of stone, and when the blue smoke disappeared, he would close his window, and that was it until the following year.


We’ll see more of Senyor soon enough, but I think I’ll leave it there for now. This is a much easier book to talk about (just wait till you hear the podcast) than it is to write about. Granted, I’m sort of holding back because part of the joy of reading this first section is finding yourself in a strange new world that you slowly come to understand—something I don’t want to take away from anyone. But even putting that aside, there’s just so much here. So many approaches to take. In future weeks, I hope to get more into the actual craft of her sentences and paragraphs, talk a bit more about how an element (like the bee in this section) is introduced early on and then weaves through the chapter accruing significance as it goes along. There’s also the issue of what sort of bildungsroman this really is, and if there’s a different world that this village maps on to (such as Franco’s Spain).

This is a good start though—especially if you listen to Thursday’s podcast. That really puts things in motion.

30 November 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

After yelling at Skype a bunch, Chad, Brian, and special guest Tom Flynn of Volumes Bookcafe discuss the merits of some of Rodoreda’s final stories, especially “The Thousand Franc Bill,” “Paralysis,” and “The Salamander.” Then they manage to slightly diss groups upon groups of people—in a rather entertaining way. And they discuss the state of the short story collection and how stories are perceived by publishing execs and bookstores. They also preview next week’s book, Death in Spring.

Both Selected Stories and Death in Spring are available through the Open Letter website, and if you use 2MONTH at checkout, you’ll get 20% off.

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, Brian Wood, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. Follow Volumes Books to keep up to date on all their events, staff picks, and general comments.

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. And be sure to leave us a review on iTunes!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Montseny by Els Surfing Sirles.



28 November 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, and here it is: A single Word Document collecting all the posts about The Invented Part along with all of the Two Month Review podcasts.

What I did was list every single essay with a link to the corresponding podcast, followed by the complete interview that Will Vanderhyden did with Fresán, followed by a simple list of all eleven podcasts with the names of the guests.

It’s a mere 73 pages long, and—I hope—is really helpful in understanding the first book in Fresán’s mind-blowing trilogy. There’s some solid analysis in here, some clues for helping you get through the more challenging sections, and lots of jokes. This is one of the books that I read this year that helped keep alive my love of literature and what it can do.

And the guests on the eleven podcast episodes were incredible! Mark Binelli, Jonathan Lethem, Rachel Cordasco, Jeremy Garber, Tom Flynn, Tom Roberge, Valerie Miles, Will Vanderhyden, and Fresán himself all came on to talk about this novel.

So if you haven’t read the book already, or if you want to teach it in your class (hint, hint), please download this document and use it as a sort of spirited, non-academic reading guide. With audio. Reading guide plus audio. Man, it almost does sound like a class . . .

Enjoy!

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. . .

Read More >

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. . .

Read More >

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. . .

Read More >

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. . .

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A Simple Story: The Last Malambo
A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero
Reviewed by Emilee Brecht

Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story: The Last Malambo chronicles the unique ferocity of a national dance competition in Argentina. The dance, called the malambo, pushes the physical and mental limits of male competitors striving to become champions of not only. . .

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The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof
The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof by Cesar Aira
Reviewed by Will Eells

Aira continues to surprise and delight in his latest release from New Directions, which collects two novellas: the first, The Little Buddhist Monk, a fairly recent work from 2005, and The Proof, an earlier work from 1989. There are a. . .

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Agnes
Agnes by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

The narrator of Peter Stamm’s first novel, Agnes, originally published in 1998 and now available in the U.S. in an able translation by Michael Hofmann, is a young Swiss writer who has come to Chicago to research a book on. . .

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