13 July 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

It’s been a nice couple of months for Antoine Volodine, publicity-wise. First, he had this long essay appear in The New Inquiry. Then Music & Literature honored the publication of Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven with a week of Volodine-related content.

And now, the Paris Review has an interview with Volodine conducted by two of his translators, J. T. Mahany and Jeffrey Zuckerman.

There are so many quotable parts from this interview . . . First, for anyone unfamiliar with “post-exoticism” here’s a clip from Volodine’s explanation of the origin of the term:

Twenty-five years ago, a reporter at Le Nouvel Observateur asked in which literary category you would place your work, and you responded that it was outside and beyond the conventional categories of existing literature. The question prompted you to invent the nearly nonsensical phrase “post-exoticism.” But eight years later, the phrase had taken on some significance, enough that you published a book around it, Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven. Since then, has “post-exoticism” come to mean something different for you?

I’d like to start by correcting an error I made. I attributed this question to a Nouvel Observateur reporter. It actually came from a reporter for Le Point in July 1991. Our conversation was exactly this—“What genre do you prefer to be classified in?” “Anarcho-fantastic post-exoticism.” It was a somewhat irreverent wisecrack, but it was a way, at the time, to confirm that I didn’t belong either to science fiction, the genre in which my first four books had been classified, or to highbrow French avant-garde literature, which Éditions de Minuit, my publisher at the time, often published. I took the opportunity of the interview to proclaim this break, which seemed evident to me but which literary critics had had trouble taking into account. They hid for far too long behind the adjective unclassifiable, which I can still find in numerous publications today.

I knew at the time that I was writing a literature distinct from the main literary trends all around me. In particular, I didn’t feel attached in the least to contemporary French literature, with all that implied about traditions, schools, and debates. I was steeped in translated literature, mainly from South America, the Anglophone world, Russia, and Japan. I knew French literature well, but I placed it among the others and not as an inescapable and necessary literary mold. Starting with the publication of my first book, I completely abandoned France’s cultural heritage and went independently and alone down a path that, in a way, had come from nowhere and went nowhere. “From nowhere, to nowhere”—this phrase nicely defines the literary process of post-exoticism, and I’ve reused it many times in clarifying or explaining it. Even in my first books, post-exoticism existed with its idiosyncrasies, its refusal to belong to the mainstream, its marginalized characters, its revolts, and its murky narrators. And behind this narration was a narrative background, a “backfiction,” guided by exterior and manipulative voices.

The next Volodine book that we’re publishing is Bardo or Not Bardo, a book made up of seven overlapping vignettes, all revolving around the Tibetan Book of the Dead and mostly taking place in the Bardo, or space that exists after life and before rebirth. Despite the seriousness of the setting—every chapter includes a person’s death, and most their journey through the afterlife—it’s actually a really funny book, with characters fucking up all over the place, both purposefully (one character decides to sleep away his 49-day journey through the Bardo) and accidentally (a different character reads a Tibetan cookbook into the ear of his deceased friend instead of the Book of the Dead).

Since I just read that, I also really like this part of the Paris Review interview:

You also talk about the Bardo Thödol, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, being the only non-post-exotic text shared among the various prison cells in which the writers are detained. That book’s realm, the Bardo, in which many of your writers and characters exist, isn’t necessarily the space of dreams, but the space between life and death, right?

We love the Bardo Thödol, which describes the floating world that follows death. Although we don’t appropriate its religious folklore or mystique, we see in it an immense poetic space. Our characters are quite often dead from the first page of the books in which they appear, which is why they cross the fiction like the dead cross the undefined space-time that follows their mortal passing. In theory, after death one enters the Bardo, where there is no longer calm or agitation, up or down, hot or cold, reality or dream, memory or invention. Opposites cancel each other out. It’s extremely exciting to build a fiction on this, particularly when there is also no longer I or you, male or female, narrator or character, or even reader or author. And since we are very open to the notion of compassion, this allows us to enter into the closest possible intimacy with our characters and share their thoughts, ramblings, and pain.

According to the Book of the Dead, the deceased’s walk through the Bardo lasts seven weeks and forty-nine days and ends either with enlightenment or rebirth. In post-exotic fiction, time is no longer measured, and characters often walk much longer through the fiction’s Bardic space. In Terminus radieux, this journey lasts hundreds of years, during which everyone mentally diminishes, loses language and intelligence little by little. They walk not toward rebirth but extinction. And they attain neither. The post-exotic Bardo seems to stray enormously from the Bardo described by Tibetan monks. In any case, for us, it’s a magnificent and inexhaustible reference.

Speaking of Terminus radieux, that’s the third Volodine book Open Letter is planning to bring out. It’s still a couple years off in the future (Jeffrey Zuckerman is translating it now, but it’s a 600-page book, so . . . ) but it opens with three characters “heading toward the hot center of a nuclear disaster zone, as in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker.” I can not wait!

Volodine is slowly building a nice oeuvre in English translation, with six titles already available: Minor Angels, Writers, Naming the Jungle, Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven, We Monks & Soldiers, and In the Time of the Blue Ball. As a publisher, I think you should start by buying our book, but as a reader, I think you should start wherever and devour them all. It’s a crazy world that Volodine has built, one that is more and more rewarding the deeper you read into it. All the various connections between the pseudonym, the books depicting this strange post-apocalyptic world, the books about the books and the post-exoticist writers—it’s all so fascinating and so much fun. Hopefully more and more readers will become ensnared in this spider’s web of a literary project as more and more of his books (from more of his pseudonyms) make their way into English.

13 July 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Recently, ALTA announced a new mentorship program to support emerging young translators working in Catalan, French, and Polish. This program—which is sort of like the one that BCLT does in Britain—provides emerging translators with the opportunity to work one-on-one with an already established translator over the course of a year. It’s probably the best possible way to improve your skills, especially when the three translators doing this are Ronald Puppo (Catalan), Alyson Waters (French), and Bill Johnston (Polish).

So, if you’re a young translator working in one of these languages, you should definitely apply by the July 15th deadline.

Here’s a link to the page where you can apply and get some additional information. And here’s some of the specifics of how the mentorship will work:

The ALTA Mentorship Program is designed to facilitate and establish a close working relationship between an experienced translator and an emerging translator on a project selected by the emerging translator. The mentorship duration is one year, and the emerging translator is expected to choose a project that can be completed in a year’s time and will only be advised on that particular project.

The mentor and mentee will meet at the beginning of their mentorship at the annual ALTA conference, and continue their work during the rest of the mentorship year, either in person, over Skype, or by phone as appropriate. A minimum of six meetings is expected for the course of the year. The mentorship will conclude with a presentation of the mentee’s work at the next annual ALTA conference. A number of magazine editors have agreed to review submissions directly from mentees at the end of their mentorship year, and to work with them on potential future projects. The award covers travel to the ALTA conference at the beginning of the mentorship.

10 July 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week Tom and Chad discuss the merging of the Man Booker International Prize with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the waning interest in Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Book Club, and the Women’s World Cup of Literature. There are also rants about Sevenevens, praise for the Minions movie, and more soccer talk, including this video:

Since a number of listeners have asked for this, here’s a complete list of books and authors that we mention on this episode:

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky
Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood
Delirium by Laura Restrepo
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Maidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin
Satantango by Laszlo Krasznahorkai
All of the books in Zuckerberg’s book club
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
50 Shades of Gray by E. L. James
Roberto Bolaño
Michel Houellbecq
The Mersault Investigation by Kamel Daoud
Hunter S Thompson
Tom Wolfe
W. G. Sebald
David Foster Wallace
Jonathan Lethem
Philip K. Dick
Miss Lonelyhearts & Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West
Karl Ove Knausgaard
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

This week’s music is SeeSaw from the new Jamie xx album.

As always you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. Or just copy this link to add our show’s feed to any podcast app:

10 July 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

OK, here we are, at the final match of the first ever Women’s World Cup of Literature. If you missed any of the earlier games, or just want to read about all the incredible books that were included in this tournament, just click here.

The Championship pits two very different books against one another. On one side is Germany’s The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky, translated by Tim Mohr.

Rosa Achmetowna is the outrageously nasty and wily narrator of this rollicking family saga from the author of Broken Glass Park. When she discovers that her seventeen-year-old daughter, “stupid Sulfia,” is pregnant by an unknown man she does everything to thwart the pregnancy, employing a variety of folkloric home remedies. But despite her best efforts the baby, Aminat, is born nine months later at Soviet Birthing Center Number 134. Much to Rosa’s surprise and delight, dark eyed Aminat is a Tartar through and through and instantly becomes the apple of her grandmother’s eye. While her good for nothing husband Kalganow spends his days feeding pigeons and contemplating death at the city park, Rosa wages an epic struggle to wrestle Aminat away from Sulfia, whom she considers a woefully inept mother. When Aminat, now a wild and willful teenager, catches the eye of a sleazy German cookbook writer researching Tartar cuisine, Rosa is quick to broker a deal that will guarantee all three women a passage out of the Soviet Union. But as soon as they are settled in the West, the uproariously dysfunctional ties that bind mother, daughter and grandmother begin to fray.

Told with sly humor and an anthropologist’s eye for detail, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine is the story of three unforgettable women whose destinies are tangled up in a family dynamic that is at turns hilarious and tragic. In her new novel, Russian-born Alina Bronsky gives readers a moving portrait of the devious limits of the will to survive.

On the other side of the field, there’s Canada’s Margaret Atwood and Oryx & Crake, the first book in the MaddAddam Trilogy. (Already a beer, soon to be an HBO show.)

Oryx & Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

An aggressive, dysfunctional mother against the apocalypse. Bio-modified animals against Tartar cuisine. These are very different books . . . Both of which you should read!

Anyway, on with the match!

Emily Ballaine: Germany

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine for the win! Rosa is clearly the Carli Lloyd of this match and should be awarded a golden boot for subterfuge, force of will and outright trickery.

Germany 1 – Canada 0

Hal Hlavinka: Germany

My Europa Editions-love won this one.

Germany 2 – Canada 0

Lizzy Siddal: Germany

Adopting an attack-is-the-best-form-of-defence strategy, the German team comes out and plays with astonishing brio. Their striker, the ruthless dynamo that is Rosa Achmetowna, never lets the goal out of her sight. Canada in Jimmy the Snowman, their one man guardian of the human race, have a resilient defence in the integrity that Rosa does not possess.

But in extra-time, Snowman is tired. Crake’s victim inevitably becomes Rosa’s victim and the ball lands in the back of the Canadian net. Rosa’s sheer bloodymindedness (and younger legs) carry the day.

Germany 3 – Canada 0

Kalah McCaffrey: Germany

Germany 4 – Canada 0

Lori Feathers: Canada

As much as I loved the imperious Rosalinda and cheered on Bronsky for being the lesser known author, I just can’t get the voices of Oryx and the other Crakers out of my head. Bronsky gives us an extraordinary narrator but Atwood creates an entire world. Atwood gets my vote.

Germany 4 – Canada 1

Meredith Miller: Germany

Sticking with Germany as my pony!

Germany 5 – Canada 1

Sal Robinson: Canada

Oryx & Crake! I love Tim and I get the masterful thing that Hottest Dishes is, but I just couldn’t ever warm up to it (ha ha).

Germany 5 – Canada 2

Rhea Lyons: Germany


Germany 6 – Canada 2

Hilary Plum: Germany

In a wicked upset, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine defeats Oryx & Crake. Germany’s game is streamlined, comical, and always a little bit nasty, and it triumphs over the elaborate world-building of its opponent.

Germany 7 – Canada 2

Rachel Crawford: Canada


Germany 7 – Canada 3

Margaret Carson: Canada

Oryx and Crake all the way! Time for a ticker-tape parade!

Germany 7 – Canada 4

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine wins!!!!!

Congrats to Alina Bronsky and Tim Mohr, and special thanks to all of our great judges who helped celebrate women’s literature and the world cup in a fun, interesting way.

9 July 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Carlos Labbé, author of the excellent novels Navidad & Matanza (available now) and Loquela (forthcoming), sent me this information about a fundraising event he’s putting on this Saturday for Sangría Legibilities, a nonprofit publisher that he helped found. Since Sangría is the sort of press a lot of Three Percent readers are in to, and since everybody loves a party, I thought I’d post all the necessary info here:

4 Dangerous & Immigrant Books: A Fundraising Party
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Y gallery, 319 Grand St, 5th floor, NY 10002
The event is free.

Sangría Legibilities is a non-profit independent imprint that publishes books in translation. In June 2015 we started a crowdfunding campaign to print our first round of novels and short stories by Latin American writers. We are celebrating the end of our campaign with a party and a killer program.

Readings by Claudia Salazar (Peru), Carlos Labbé (Chile), Dinapiera Di Donato (Venezuela), Charly Vasquez (Puerto Rico), and Mónica Ríos (Chile).

Perfomances by Francisca Benítez (Chile), Iván Monalisa Ojeda (Chile), and Claudia Bitrán (Chile-US).

Also, there will be tarot readings! And a DJ! (I really wish I could go.)

And here’s some info about the press:

Sangría Legibilities

The story of Sangria Legibilities begins 7 years ago. In 2008, Chilean writers Carlos Labbé and Mónica Ríos taught literature and scriptwriting, they were proliferate researchers, experienced publishers, and on the road to publishing their first novels. They were hanging out in their kitchen, jobless and dissatisfied with the literary scene in Chile, when they decided to start their own publishing house to give circulation to all those novels that get lost in the history of Chilean literature because rich publishers won’t even look at books without a big fat check between their pages. Having beers with visual artist Joaquín Cociña, Sangría Editora was born.

Labbé and Ríos arrived in the United States in 2010, following a scholarship Ríos earned for a Ph.D. program in Spanish at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, right after publishing her first novel Segundos. That same year, Carlos Labbé was recognized as one of the best young Latin American writers by Granta Magazine, as he had just published his third novel in Spain. In 2013, they moved to New York City, where they became a part of a growing community of Latin American artists. They soon found themselves with a bunch of different and rare novels in their hands. Adding to the independent publishers and translators in the US, where Labbé had already published his novel Navidad & Matanza (Open Letter, 2013), these Chilean authors created a non-profit organization called Sangría Legibilities, convinced that Latin American writers are more than informants or representatives of a minority.

Sangría Legibilities has a similar spirit to its sister imprint in Chile: it functions as a collective—in addition to Ríos and Labbé, Legibilities is composed of feminist intellectual and translator Carolina Alonso Bejarano and comic book artist and designer Peter Quach––and has different collections focused on novels, short stories, and political texts with rare textualities. Sangría aims to show another face of Latin America: Sangría, as we know, is a drink, but is also the word used in Spanish to call the old and senseless therapy of bleeding out illnesses, the inside of an arm, and, yes, indentation.

In September, Sangría Legibilities will release its first books in translation: Chilean Iván Monalisa Ojeda’s short stories, La Misma Nota, Forever, on transvestite Latina sex workers in Manhattan, translated by Professor Marc Brudzinski; The Book of the Letter A, a Bronx santero manifesto by Portorrican writer Ángel Lozada; and They Fired Her Again, a short novel on an the hardships of living in New York City with no papers, by Claudia Hernández, from El Salvador, translated by Aarón Lacayo. Sangría Legibilities launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance the publication of these works, which will close with a party at Y gallery: three hours of intense readings and performances by Latin American writers, artists, and musicians, all in celebration of bringing these Latin American voices to a wider audience.

Go check it out!

8 July 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood is already set to represent Canada in the WWCOL championship, so now we’re ready to find out who she’s going to face off against between Colombia’s representative (Delirium by Laura Restrepo) or Germany’s (The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky).

Laura Restrepo’s Delirium (Colombia) got to this point by by getting past England’s Life After Life and then Mexico’s Texas: The Great Theft before knocking out Costa Rica’s Assault on Paradise by the convincing score of 6-1.

Alina Bronsky’s The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine cruised into this semis, earning a bye after beating up on the Thailand entry, The Happiness of Kati by the score of 5-1, then taking apart Côte d’Ivoire’s Queen Pokou, 4-1.

And now . . .

Hal Hlavinka: Germany

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine wins in a cover art penalty shootout!

Germany 1 – Colombia 0

Meredith Miller: Germany

I’m picking The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, because Rosa is the type of manipulative, dirty-playing, spit-firing character you would not wish upon your worst enemy, but is so fun to explore her inner psyche as she wreaks havoc on her fictional world.

Germany 2 – Colombia 0

P.T. Smith: Colombia

With the tension and suspense spread across and between the varied narrators, Delirium continues its run to the Cup.

Germany 2 – Colombia 1

Kalah McCaffrey: Colombia

A tough call—both teams sport unhinged but powerful women and constant, unsettling action. My personal favorite is Germany, with Rosalinda carrying the team in the fashion of Lionel Messi. But as Colombia’s got more depth to the roster, they eke out the win.

Germany 2 – Colombia 2

Hilary Plum: Germany

Alina Bronsky’s The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine edges out Laura Restrepo’s excellent Delirium, if only because Bronsky’s cruel and indefatigable protagonist, Rosa Achmetowna, is willing to do anything to win. Both novels are very compelling, but a Women’s World Cup should maybe have a special place for a character as boldly “unlikeable” as Bronsky’s remarkable Rosa

Germany 3 – Colombia 2

Rhea Lyons: Germany

I can’t decide between Delirium and Tartar . . . Tartar is so good!! ARGH, I’ll go with that.

Germany 4 – Colombia 2

Mythili Rao: Germany

Three generations of quirky Soviet women, what’s not to love?

Germany 5 – Colombia 2

There we go! The two favorites after rounds one and two—Germany’s The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine and Canada’s Oryx & Crake—will face off in the first Women’s World Cup of Literature championship this Friday!

For more information on the Women’s World Cup of Literature, click here or here. Also, be sure to follow our Twitter account and like our Facebook page.

8 July 15 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Lori Feathers on Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic by Octave Mirbeau, translated by Justin Vicari and published by Dalkey Archive Press.

Now that the Women’s World Cup of Literature is nearing the final results, we’re resuming a less competitive path for reviews. Here’s the beginning of Lori’s:

Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous condition. Vasseur’s friends and acquaintances provide the material for his journal entries and they, like their respective stories, are connected only loosely—the characters through their relationships with Vasseur and his coterie; the stories in their common theme of man’s cruelty and injustice toward his fellow man.

For Vasseur the picturesque resort town in the Pyrenées does not offer the sensory calm prescribed by his doctor. Instead, when Vasseur looks out at the mountains he sees a foreboding presence, an enclosure that oppresses and suppresses, that draws to it discouragement and despair. An acquaintance tells Vasseur that landscapes are states of mind, and as Vasseur immerses himself (and us) in stories involving madness, dishonesty, and acts of despotism against the weak and poor, the shadows cast by the mountains weigh disturbingly upon Vasseur’s mind and his accumulating journal entries become darker by the day.

Go here to read the rest of the review.

7 July 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I’m flipping the schedule this week, and instead of posting the results from Germany vs. Colombia today, we’re going with Canada, represented by the incredibly famous Margaret Atwood up against Australia, represented by debut novelist Hannah Kent. The Germany-Colombia match (which is incredibly close at the moment, by the way), will go up tomorrow, with the WWCOL Championship taking place on Friday.

Before we get to Atwood vs. Kent, here’s a new bracket for all of you keeping track at home:

Australia’s Burial Rites by Hannah Kent got to this point by first beating Sweden and Camilla Läckberg’s The Stranger and then upending Nigeria and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah before defeating Cameroon’s Dark Heart of the Night by Léonora Miano by a score of 4-2.

Canada’s Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood made the semis by defeating Dubravka Ugresic’s The Ministry of Pain and then Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries by a combined score of 6-3, earning Atwood a bye into the final four.

So, here we go:

Hannah Chute: Canada

You know from the very beginning of both of these books that terrible things are going to happen to everyone, but Atwood manages her characters with a grace and humor that Kent just doesn’t have (yet). Plus, I’m a sucker for lushly imaginative world-building.

Canada 1 – Australia 0

M. Lynx Qualey: Canada

Compared to Oryx & Crake, Burial Rites seems exceptionally ordinary.

Canada 2 – Australia 0

Sal Robinson: Canada

Atwood’s tale of bioengineering gone very, very wrong handily beats out Kent’s turgid historical melodrama; any novel where a character says “But we are peasants” goes straight into my personal trash compactor. Go Canada!

Canada 3 – Australia 0

Margaret Carson: Canada

The recent appearance of “pluots” (a merger of plums and apricots) at my local Farmers Market made me wonder: is this the result of grafting, forced seed fusion, DNA splicing? Fruit mash-ups still on my mind, I picked up Oryx & Crake and discovered with delight that Margaret Atwood has taken this all to the logical next level, i.e. dystopia, with pigoons (pig + human), wolvogs (wolf + dog), rakunks (raccoon + skunk), snats (can you guess?) churned out by OrganInc., the biolab from Hell. With its deep bench of interspecies players, Atwood’s wild, entertaining ride to Extinctathon triumphs over Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites.

Canada 4 – Australia 0

Lizzy Siddal: Canada

You could say I have season tickets to both these teams, and I was very happy to reread both for the WWCOL. Both played as well as I had come to expect. Canada scores the winner though by being a spell-binding one-sitting read even on third outing.

Canada 5 – Australia 0

Lori Feathers: Canada

Although I found Burial Rites to be a more enjoyable reading experience and its characters more relatable, the imaginative genius of Oryx and Crake is nothing short of stunning. Atwood’s original, rich storytelling skills are on full display.

Canada 6 – Australia 0

And there you go. Atwood comes to the semifinals and destroys. She’ll meet up with either Alina Bronsky (Germany) or Laura Restrepo (Colombia) on Friday.

For more information on the Women’s World Cup of Literature, click here or here. Also, be sure to follow our Twitter account and like our Facebook page.

3 July 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

From here on out, multiple judges will be voting on each of the matches and the “score” will be an accumulation of these votes.

Just to recap, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Australia) got here by first beating Sweden and Camilla Läckberg’s The Stranger and then upending Nigeria and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.

Dark Heart of the Night by Léonora Miano (Cameroon) is here by beating Switzerland and Noëlle Revas’s With the Animals and then sneaking by Ecuador and Alicia Yánez Cossío’s Beyond the Islands.

The winner of this match will go up against Canada and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake next Wednesday, July 8th.

Here we go!

M. Lynx Qualey: Cameroon

Both novels have a murder at the center. But while Burial Rites feels like an ordinary Anglophone novel set in nineteenth century Iceland, with ordinary plays at character, plotting, and change, Dark Heart of the Night—although flawed—moves through its material with power, ambition, and a twinned fear and fearlessness.

Australia 0 – Cameroon 1

Rachel Crawford: Cameroon

I chose Dark Heart of the Night over Burial Rites because of Miano’s honest portrayal of the frightening human capacity to survive. More impressively, of its sheer slap in the face to anyone who thinks they have read Heart of Darkness, one of the canonical works we have all read, and finished it thinking they had any understanding of the affects of the colonization of Africa. A worthy winner of the quarterfinals in my opinion.

Australia 0 – Cameroon 2

Lizzy Siddal: Australia

While Cameroon fields possibly the most shocking contestant in this competition, the storytelling is subservient to the polemic. There’s too much telling, not enough showing. After the—let’s just call it, harrowing—event at the centre, the pages thereafter lost any form of narrative drive or interest for me. The dilemma at the end is the same as at the start. While this may be true to life, it’s not my kind of literature.

Australia, on the other hand, fields one of finest debuts I’ve had the pleasure of reading. A way of life is recreated making the reader experience the entire discomfort of living in nineteenth century Iceland. The dilemma of housing a convicted murderess awaiting execution in the bosom of one’s own family is portrayed convincingly. Characterization of hosts, spiritual counselors and murderess possesses a subtlety that is entirely lacking in the Cameroon entry. The ending, no surprise given that it is a historical fact, is approached with such finesse that it nevertheless left me feeling a little teary,

Australia 1 – Cameroon 2

Hannah Chute: Australia

While both of these novels are powerful tales of death and guilt in harsh lands, Burial Rites pulls ahead through the energy of its characters.

Australia 2 – Cameroon 2

Lori Feathers: Australia

Both novels succeed in conveying a fully realized, unusual setting and interesting moral ambiguities

But with its wonderfully executed narrative and precisely drawn characters Burial Rites compels you to devour it in great, greedy gulps and as such, out-scores Dark Heart of the Night.

Australia 3 – Cameroon 2

Margaret Carson: Australia

Grotesque crimes figure in both Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites and Léonora Miano’s Dark Heart of the Night, but Kent’s expansive narrative field and versatile storytelling, not to mention the knock-out first-person voice of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the convicted murderess who revisits her past while awaiting execution, give Burial Rites the edge over Dark Heart.

Australia 4 – Cameroon 2

Australia! To be honest, I wouldn’t have given Australia much of a chance going into the overall competition, but whatever, Hannah Kent is now in the semifinals, ready to meet up against Margaret Atwood!

For more information on the Women’s World Cup of Literature, click here or here. Also, be sure to follow our Twitter account and like our Facebook page.

2 July 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

From here on out, multiple judges will be voting on each of the matches and the “score” will be an accumulation of these votes.

Just to recap, Tatiana Lobo’s Assault on Paradise (Costa Rica) made it to this point by beating Brazil’s Crow Blue and Spain’s The Happy City.

Laura Restrepo’s Delirium (Colombia) got here by getting past England’s Life After Life and then Mexico’s Texas: The Great Theft.

The winner of this game faces off against The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine (Germany) on Tuesday, July 7th.

On to the match!

Hilary Plum: Colombia

Delirium is gripping and seamlessly made, even its seeming asides proving vital and resonant, and so it outmatches its worthy opponent, whose game is beautifully picaresque but thus less firmly organized.

Colombia 1 – Costa Rica 0

P.T. Smith: Colombia

Delirium wins, as books of madness usually do for me, and Natasha Wimmer proves her adeptness at translating unsettled reality.

Colombia 2 – Costa Rica 0

Meredith Miller: Costa Rica

Again, I’m choosing Assault on Paradise for the win. Both books involve a mystery surrounding the characters’ plights, and I am still blown away by the epic reach Lobo gives Pedro’s story. I found the revolving nature of Delirium’s narrative beautifully hypnotizing, but it failed to create the same sense of urgency that is experienced reading Assault on Paradise.

Colombia 2 – Costa Rica 1

Mythili Rao: Colombia

Delirium. Because the 80s are more fascinating to me than the 1800s, and Agustina seems to be lost in more interesting ways than Pedro is.

Colombia 3 – Costa Rica 1

Hal Hlavinka: Colombia

By turns light-footed, twisted, and toothy, Delirium out paces the great Assault on Paradise in this North v. South American quarterfinal faceoff!

Colombia 4 – Costa Rica 1

Katrine Jensen: Colombia

I vote for Delirium because it manages to combine a fast pace and punchiness with elegance and musicality on a sentence level, which is quite an accomplishment. Because of this, Delirium seems more complete than Assault on Paradise, which can be slow and confusing at times. Plus, Natasha Wimmer’s translation is simply masterful and difficult to compete with.

Colombia 5 – Costa Rica 1

Rhea Lyons: Colombia

I personally just love the perspective in Delirium, the voice, and it’s just more straight up entertaining.

Colombia 6 – Costa Rica 1


There you have it—the first semifinal is set, with Germany’s Alina Bronsky set to go up against Colombia’s Laura Restrepo for a spot in the first ever Women’s World Cup of Literature championship!

For more information on the Women’s World Cup of Literature, click here or here. Also, be sure to follow our Twitter account and like our Facebook page.

And check back tomorrow for the second quarterfinal featuring Burial Rites (Australia) up against Dark Heart of the Night (Cameroon). Promises to be a very tight match . . .

This Life
This Life by Karel Schoeman
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .

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A Dilemma
A Dilemma by Joris-Karl Hyusmans
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .

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Walker on Water
Walker on Water by Kristiina Ehin
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .

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The Nightwatches of Bonaventura
The Nightwatches of Bonaventura by Bonaventura
Reviewed by J. T. Mahany

Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .

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Pavane for a Dead Princess
Pavane for a Dead Princess by Park Min-Gyu
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .

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Tram 83
Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
Reviewed by Caitlin Thomas

Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .

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Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic by Octave Mirbeau
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .

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Sphinx by Anne Garréta
Reviewed by Monica Carter

Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .

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Morse, My Deaf Friend
Morse, My Deaf Friend by Miloš Djurdjević
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .

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The Crimson Thread of Abandon
The Crimson Thread of Abandon by Terayama Shūji
Reviewed by Robert Anthony Siegel

The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .

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