2 November 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week, Chad and Brian dive into the first six stories in Mercè Rodoreda’s Selected Stories and call up Quim Monzó, arguably the most important contemporary Catalan author, to talk about the precision and emotionality in her work. They also talk about Catalan literature as a whole, A Thousand Morons, Catalan independence, and much more. An incredibly fun and funny episode, this one really lays the groundwork for approaching Rodoreda’s stories.

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 follow Quim Monzó to learn more about his writings and the case for Catalan independence.

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.

30 October 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Coming up on this Thursday’s Two Month Review podcast Brian and I talk about the first six stories in Mercè Rodoreda’s Selected Stories : “Blood,” “Threaded Needle,” “Summer,” “Guinea Fowls,” “The Mirror,” and “Happiness.” Which is only the first 50 pages, yet is as emotionally intense as almost any set of stories you can name. To give you a bit more insight into these stories, and to get you prepared for Thursday’s podcast, I’m going to summarize a few things I noticed in rereading these, and dig in a bit more into my favorite story of the bunch.

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

As always, you can get Selected Stories and Death in Spring 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.

1) I Want to Reread Nathalie Sarraute.

I think I’ve brought her up on both of our podcasts—and inevitably will a dozen more times—but the first author who comes to mind when reading these early stories has to be Nathalie Sarraute.

Frequently grouped in with Robbe-Grillet, Duras, Pinget, Simon, and the rest of the “Nouveau Roman,” Sarraute was one of the most interesting French writers of the mid-twentieth century. And although she was instrumental in paving the way for this group’s relationship to the possibilities for the novel, her work isn’t as staunchly cerebral as the rest of these writers. Not that her books aren’t incredibly intelligent and experimental in style and form, but the first handful—Tropisms, Portrait of a Man Unknown, Martereau, and The Planetarium—revolve around the idea of depicting “tropisms,” a imprecise feeling or set of feelings that arise within a given person or character in response to the outside environment. Here—The Guardian does a better job of explaining this:

The term “tropism” she had taken from biology, where it names the reactive, almost imperceptible movements that living organisms make, towards or away from whatever impinges on them. Sarraute’s are tropisms with a human face, the buried, never quite conscious to-ings and fro-ings of the psyche that accompany all social contact, which she turns pitilessly yet very gracefully into words as she delves into the unspoken and quite often unspeakable root-system of polite conversation. Politeness is shown cruelly up in Sarraute, as the mask for aggression on the part of some and for a corresponding anxiety on the part of others. She is the unforgiving zoologist of our dissembling species, as observed in the habitat she shared with it, of “civilised” Paris.

Or, in her own words, tropisms are “interior movements that precede and prepare our words and actions, at the limits of our consciousness.” And from an interview in the Paris Review

I knew it seemed impossible to me to write in the traditional forms. They seemed to have no access to what we experienced. If we en- closed that in characters, personalities, a plot, we were overlooking everything that our senses were perceiving, which is what interested me. One had to take hold of the instant, by enlarging it, developing it. That’s what I tried to do in Tropisms.

I’m in Poland, sans my copy of Tropisms, but I think this example from a Full Stop review of Saurrate’s short book can link this idea with Rodoreda:

“Well, then! How are you?” He would dare to do that. “Well, then! How do you feel?” he would dare to say that to her – and then he would wait. She should speak, make a move, show her real self, let it come out, let it finally explode – that wouldn’t frighten him. But he would never have the strength to do this. So he was obliged to check it as long as possible, to keep it from coming out, from spurting from her, curb it in her, at any cost, no matter what.

So, turning to Rodoreda’s stories, here’s a bit from “Blood”:

But then I started to agonize. If I hadn’t seen them together, maybe the strange change in me would never have happened. I began to feel like I was a nuisance to my husband; something was different, and without wanting to, I started to distance myself from him. [. . .] Obsessions of mine, I know. Because you see, when a woman stops being a woman, her head fills with obsessions.

From “Summer”:

His wife turned over. She was small and weak. She had been very sick three or four years ago and looked the worse for it. She tired easily and coughed all winter. The doctor said it wasn’t anything serious. All of a sudden, she sighed. A brief sigh, just enough to show she was alive. He was filled with grief. Yes, a deep grief, without really knowing why.

One last one, from “Guinea Fowls”:

Quimet started sobbing uncontrollably. He wept loudly, his mouth open, his eyes all wrinkled from being closed so tight.

“What’s the matter? Did someone hit you? What is it?”

He shook his head after each question, but couldn’t stop crying. All his grief, all his pent-up pain, came pouring out. When the trauma began to pass, his chest still shaking from the last of his sobs, he announced, as if he had suddenly grown older:

“I’m terribly sad.”

2) No Surprise She Wrote a Novel Called Garden By the Sea

I have no grand statements about how to interpret all the garden imagery in these stories, but I just want to draw attention to it now, since it might be interesting to track across both this collection and Death in Spring.

“Blood” opens with the narrator talking about how her husband used to plant dahlias in a particular basket, and the climax of this story involves her husband playing a trick on her (or just has a vivid dream) in which there’s a woman sneaking around their garden. And, tying this back into the first observation, the story ends with this paragraph:

“Dahlias have never grown in this basket again. Sometimes, when the weeds grow high, I pull them up, and move the earth around so it won’t look bad, and if I see dahlias at the florist, a kind of dizziness sweeps over me and I feel like vomiting. Forgive me.”

Things are a bit more complicated in “Summer,” although flowers once again draw the characters into the past, this time also symbolizing some primal desires and the vitality of life (or lack thereof). This story is narrated by the husband, who goes into a bit of a revery on his balcony after getting into a bit of a debate with his wife about their son’s safety:

The scent of flowers reached him from the gardens below. He could see them all from the balcony. The palm tree at the Codinas’ spread its dusty fans in the thick air. The darkest tree of all was a medlar, old and tall, with a smooth, knotless trunk and leaves so stiff they looked like cardboard. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and neck. A mosquito buzzed furiously around him. What if by magic he suddenly found himself in the woods . . . If he could only spend the night in the woods . . . Life, after all . . . This is the only good thing there is in life. Just this. The night. A girl. Just this. And even then it’s so terrible, as if you were suffering or dying. For a girl like that you could do anything. “Carme, Carme.” Why does a beautiful girl always have an ugly girlfriend?

And then, after his son gets back home, right before he’s overcome by “grief” looking at his recently-ill wife, he thinks, “He knew both of them were thinking about the unwatered carnations.”

Near the opening of “Guinea Fowls,” Quimet, the young boy who will end the story “terribly sad” after helping slaughter some poultry, has a chance to take a different path:

The garbage was piled up in front of him, at the edge of the sidewalk. As he munched calmly on the bread, he poked through the pile and discovered a bouquet of wilted flowers, a dark, still fresh carnation, cabbage and lettuce leaves, leek stems, and a few squashed tomatoes full of shiny white seeds. He was tempted to pick up the seeds and put them in the empty matchbox in his pocket; he could plant them in a flowerpot and put it on the balcony. But he was feeling lazy after the sleepless night.

I’ll write more about “The Mirror” later, but in the present of this story, the narrator’s daughter-in-law and grandson are working in the garden. More unsettling though—if we link gardens up with interior life, healthy relationships, etc.—we get this passage about the narrator:

She wanted to be alone, to rest. Her room was her world, filled with secrets, with pictures of people that not even her son or daughter-in-law knew. As she entered, the mirror on the wardrobe reflected the mysterious-looking green garden, barely visible behind the slats on the partially lowered blinds, a dreamlike landscape.

“Happiness” includes another example of the link between a garden (or nature generally) and a more serene, positive relationship:

Quick, quick, she thought. If only the clock could be turned back, back to a previous moment. Back to the little house last year by the sea. The sky, water, palm trees, the fiery red of the sun reflected at sunset on the glass of the balcony. Blooming jasmine gripping the balcony. And the clouds, the waves, the wind that furiously blew the windows closed . . . It was all in her heart.

3) The Complexing of Form

This post is already thesis length, so I’ll try and keep this section to just a couple of paragraphs. Mostly, I just want to point out that, for anyone who’s read War, So Much War or Death in Spring, these first stories might come as a bit of a shock. They’re so direct! So straightforward! A different side of Rodoreda.

And this is all true. These early pieces are working within an aesthetic that’s not as baroque or symbolic as her later works. They’re still absolutely amazing in their precision, emotional power, and depiction of her character’s inner lives. But in terms of form and structure, we’re going to see an immense amount of growth over the next two months.

That growth is even evident in these first six stories. We talk about “Blood” a bit on the podcast this week, so I won’t say too much here, but this framing device seems acts as a sort of unlocking mechanism, a simple way for Rodoreda to give herself permission to tell this story of a marriage failing and a woman leaving. In “Threaded Needle,” internal fantasies start to appear, fantasies that run counter to what is portrayed in “real life” and add a lot of emotional dimensions to these characters. The same thing is seen in “Happiness,” when the narrator goes through a whole internal journey in which she dreams of leaving her husband, and imagines what her life would be like if she went through with it. Finally, “Summer” has a nice interlude about the woods (see above) that’s one of the earliest examples of how Rodoreda juxtaposes unexplained images that are both fragmentary and open to interpretation. This will definitely show up later, and is one of the most incredible ways in which she complicates her texts and transforms them from simple stories into something more universal and multifaceted.

The story where these techniques really come together (at least in this artificial grouping of six pieces) is in “The Mirror”—my personal favorite of this bunch.

“The Mirror”

This is the story in which Rodoreda levels up. The primary elements of what makes this story work so well—melodrama related to a bad marriage, internal feelings straining to be expressive, events from the past couched in slightly obscure ways—can be found in the other stories as well, just not quite as compressed.

This is the same passage I mention on the (forthcoming) podcast, but it’s also a great place to start:

Beneath the lilac-filled vases lay purple stars; lots of tiny flowers had fallen. Roger was getting dressed. His initials, R.G., were embroidered on the left side of his shirt. I too needed to get dressed, but I lingered, afraid that the most insignificant gesture would shatter that mirror of sad, fragile happiness. As if my dismay could make the afternoon last for years and years. When we went down to the street, we stopped beneath a streetlight and shook hands, as if we were simply friends, and said good-bye. Yet coming down the stairs, we had stopped to kiss on each step. When I was alone again, I thought, “We’ll never see each other again as we have today.” I looked around for something to call my own: the light from the streetlamp, the purple sky, a window with a light. Then I started walking. And later? The dance, Agata, the child, my marriage.

So many great things about this paragraph! Tying this into all that came above, we have “lilac-filled vases” that are shedding their flowers. We have the “mirror of sad, fragile happiness” that’s ready to shatter. We have the honest, depressing thought that comes as soon as she’s alone. But most notably to me, we have a series of fragments that punctuate the real plot of this story and drive home the narrator’s sadness tinged with anger. “And later? The dance, Agata, the child, my marriage.” Just typing that leaves me with a sense of longing and nostalgia for what could’ve been.

I don’t want to spoil this story completely for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but it works through two plots running in parallel. In the present, the narrator goes to the doctor who gives her some advice about treating her diabetes by avoiding sweets. She then buys a bag of cookies and goes to her son’s house, where she lies about seeing the doctor and watches her grandson dig up the garden. There is a simmering contempt there, especially toward her son. (I’ll leave the why for you to figure out.)

Then there’s the story of the past, of two men, a too-brief romance, a tormented marriage, and a death. This too I’ll let you find out about as you read, but I want to end with one other example of the reason why I think her writing took a leap with this story. This muddled representation of the narrator’s internal life works so well because it’s slightly confusing to process, yet reeks of emotion.

“Why won’t you dance with me?”

Jaume Mas, her husband, had entered her life in that manner: timidly, as she gazed at Roger, remembering that afternoon. She was filled with the terrible wish to scream. Jaume had entered her life too late, but it was at the precise moment when she was losing her bearings. Are you tired? She was gazing at her fan, the mother-of-pearl ribs, the silk tassel. She had had a mauve dress with a lilac posy at the waist made for her. She had it made with Roger’s words in mind. We’ve begun to love each other beneath the sign of the lilacs. You could see clumps of lilacs in the park, and branches of them stood in vases around the room. On that afternoon. If Roger comes near, he’ll see the landscape on my fan, tender apple green with a peach-colored sky. But he didn’t approach. I don’t think he even saw me, and I wanted to scream.

“You don’t want to dance?”

I felt sorry for him, a sudden sadness, as if I had just been shown a condemned man.

Till next week . . .

26 October 17 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Jacob Rogers on I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju, published by Black Ocean.

We don’t seem to run many poetry reviews of late on Three Percent (something I’d sorely like to have change!!), but I’m very happy to have a review up for a book from Black Ocean—a press that’s been around for as long as Open Letter has (if not longer—I spoke with publisher Janaka Stucky at last year’s AWP in D.C., but don’t remember all the details because, well, AWP), but has only fairly recently started to publish in translation (again, I could be wrong, but again, AWP-brain). Their covers are great, and they’re cool people, and based on Jacob’s review, I’m happy they’ve joined the community of publishers publishing in translation!

Here’s the beginning of Jacob’s review:

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 forms of plays, all of which make use of what could most simply be termed an overriding sense of “synesthesia.” Throughout the collection, Kyung Ju mixes up sensorial language, whether that which we use to describe our bodies, or the world around us. What results is a fascinating defamiliarization and confusion of the way we use language to describe our lives, what we feel and experience, in a fever-dreamlike onslaught of vivid, visceral images.

Not simply interesting for their absurdity, these moments of confusion are also so well-rendered that they still feel somehow realistic and tangible. Jake Levine’s skillful translation of the collection must have been monstrously difficult, as it’s bursting at the seams with wordplay, assonance, consonance, and rhyme, with sumptuous, gorgeous language as fascinating for its absurdity as for its clarity. On top of the sensory confusion, Kyung Ju also weaves in a mix-up of the way we describe various forms of art: tactile or olfactory words for music, auditory words for painting, and so on.

For the rest of the review, go here.

26 October 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Brian Wood is BACK. Complete with a poem he wrote in his time away from the Two Month Review . . . In the introduction to season three, Chad and Brian talk about Catalan literature (briefly), Mercè Rodoreda’s career and comps, possible approaches to discussing Rodoreda’s stories, and more. As noted “elsewhere,”: this season will start with Mercè Rodoreda’s Selected Stories followed by one of her novels, Death in Spring.

Both of these books 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.

23 October 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

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

As you hopefully already know, the third season of the Two Month Review podcast will be dedicated to Mercè Rodoreda. Since most of her books are relatively slim (a.k.a., of readable length unlike the beasts that we’ve worked through in seasons one and two), we decided to do two of her books: Selected Stories and Death in Spring. You can get 20% off of both of these by using the code 2MONTH at checkout on the Open Letter site. (BTW, this link is good forever, so feel free to use it to buy any of the books featured in the Two Month Review.)

We’ll be starting in on her actual work next week, with author Quim Monzó joining our November 2nd podcast to talk about first six stories from Selected Stories (pages 1-50). But before you get started on reading this, I thought I’d post a short overview of Rodoreda’s life and works for anyone who isn’t already familiar with, arguably, one of the greatest Catalan writers ever.

Patriots Stand Erect!

Her Life

Admittedly, I’ve spent many more hours reading Rodoreda’s books than studying her biography, so this is really just a basic overview pulled from a few different sources. In pulling this together though, I was reminded of just how great it would be for someone to write a new biography of her and her work. Something like what Ben Moser did for Lispector. Hmm . . . Anyway . . .

Basics: Rodoreda was born in Barcelona in 1908 and passed away in Girona, Spain in 1983 at the age of 74. She got married young—at only 20—to her uncle, who happened to be fourteen years older than her. They had one child together, a son named Jordi.

She was working for the Catalan Government when the Spanish Civil War started, and fled the country shortly after the war ended. This isn’t the place for a history lesson on the Spanish Civil War (which, again, not an expert on), but suffice it say that when Franco won, things didn’t go so well for Catalans. After the Nationalist troops run roughshod over the region, destroying, looting, wrecking everything in sight, Catalonia lost its autonomy, and its language and flag were explicitly banned. And don’t forget the destruction of all Catalan newspapers along with the burning of banned books! These prohibitions lasted throughout the Franco regime, and are an unsettling basis for why things are so messy today, in 2017, in Catalonia.

When she left Barcelona, Rodoreda first lived in Paris (a setting for a number of her early stories) and then, well, World War II happened and the Germans arrived. According to the bio on the Fundació Mercè Rodoreda site, “when the Germans arrived, she had to flee on foot, facing horrifying sights, particularly the burning of Orleans.” (We’ll be reading “Orléans, Three Kilometers” in just a few weeks.)

It was in Switzerland that she started publishing again, and since it’s really her works that we’re interested in, let’s leave her bio here, after pointing out that there is a Catalan prize for short stories named in her honor, and that she was named as a Member of Honour to the Association of Catalan Writers.

Select Works

To put the two books we’ll be reading into the context of her career, here’s a rundown of some of her most famous books.

Aloma (1938): Of the early novels that she wrote, Aloma is the only one that she didn’t end up rejecting. This hasn’t been translated into English, although we have considered it in the past. It’s a short novel in the vein of Time of the Doves and Camilla Street, both of which are detailed below.

Vint-i-dos contes (1958): Twenty years, a civil war, and two major changes of scenery later, Rodoreda finally published another book. This time it’s a collection of stories—twenty-two to be exact. Twenty of these ended up in our Selected Stories, along with seven from Semblava de seda i alters contes (1978; “It Seemed Like Silk and Other Stories”) and three from My Christina and Other Stories (which was published in full by Graywolf in the 1980s). In other words, this collection is more or less what we’ll be talking about for the next month.

La plaça del Diamant (1962): This is Rodoreda’s most famous and popular novel. It’s the second most translated book from the Catalan (behind Albert Sánchez Piñol’s La pell freda or Cold Skin, which, whatever), and is oftentimes held up as one of the three or four most important works of Catalan writing. In fact, back in 2009, Jessica Lange performed the entire book as a single monologue for the Catalan Days festival that took place in New York.

A realistic novel that employs some stream of consciousness techniques, La plaça del Diamant is about a single woman’s life, the complications of marriage and motherhood, love and its deterioration, and the impact of the civil war. It’s a beautiful book that features a woman developing her own singular viewpoint and understanding of the world, and is both empowering and emotionally intense. It’s very much in keeping with the tone and nature of the early stories, and is incredibly well crafted. Anyone who likes Lispector, Ferrante, Sarraute, etc., will love this novel. Without question.

Before moving on from here, it’s worth noting that this has been translated twice. The Time of the Doves (translated by David Rosenthal) came out from Graywolf in 1986 and is still available here in the U.S. This is a semi-controversial translation, since the title has little to do with the original (which is just the name of a plaza in Barcelona—one that now features the statue pictured below), and the “doves” of the title are generally referred to as “pigeons,” a nitpicky thing that creates a totally different tone in English. (Can you imagine naming a book, “In the Time of the Pigeons”?) There is a more recent translation from Peter Bush and Virago entitled In Diamond Square. I would love for Open Letter to publish this version in the U.S. But alas.

El carrer de les camèlies (1966): This is Camellia Street, which we will be reprinting next year. It’s the story of a woman raised by nuns after the Spanish Civil War who becomes a prostitute. In terms of literary technique and emotional power, this novel fits in perfectly with the early stories and La plaça del Diamant.

Jardí vora el mar (1967): Another forthcoming Open Letter book, Garden By the Sea is told from the point of view of a male gardener who relates the goings on at the house where he works. Although it was published after La plaça del Diamant and El carrer de les camèlies, Rodoreda started working on it before those two novels and claimed that it was what allowed her to find the way to write those other books.

Mirall Trencat (1974): Translated as A Broken Mirror, this was the first Rodoreda novel I read, and god damn! That reading led to all of our Rodoreda publications, which led to a great deal of success for Open Letter, which lead to this new podcast featuring her work. Such is life. A relatively short novel, it relates a family’s dissolution over three generations, and is told in three distinct styles: part one is very naturalistic; the second uses a lot of high modernist techniques; and the final part is incredibly fragmented, ending in little poetic gems and no singular narrative. Although it may seem simple, the way form reflects content is absolutely masterful and reminds me of António Lobo Antunes and other more experimental writers. If this book ever goes out of print (if you’re reading this University of Nebraska Press, just let it go!) we’re going to reissue it immediately.

Quanta, quanta guerra . . . (1980): War, So Much War! This was the last book published in Rodoreda’s lifetime, and we brought it out in English a couple years ago. It’s a phenomenal book about a young boy wandering a war-torn landscape. Much more surreal and strange than La plaça del Diamant, a lot more in keeping with A Broken Mirror and Death in Spring.

La mort i la primavera (1986): Published a few years after her death, Death in Spring is, in the eyes of some readers and critics, the true high point of Rodoreda’s career. She worked on this for years and, as we’ll see, it’s a book that’s rife with symbolism and open to be interpreted as a representation of Spain under Franco, of the natural order of life, death, rebirth, and all sorts of things. Hold tight—come December, this book is going to blow your mind.

Other Resources

If you’re looking for more information about Rodoreda, a good place to start is the aforementioned Fundació Mercè Rodoreda. Their mission is to oversee her works and papers, maintain a library of all her works and translations of those works, promote her legacy, and offer grants to support research into her writing.

One of the most famous pieces about Rodoreda ever has to be this one (original Spanish) by Gabriel García Márquez. Here’s the opening:

While in a Barcelona bookstore last week, inquired about Merce Rodoreda, and y told me that she had died the previous month. The news caused me great sad-first, for the much-deserved admiration I have for her books and, second, for the unwarranted fact that the news of her death had not been publicized outside Spain with due coverage and honors. Apparently, few people outside Catalonia know just who this invisible woman was who wrote some wonderful and enduring novels in a splendid Catalan rarely found in contemporary literature. One such work, La Placa del Diamant (1963; Eng. The Time of the Doves, 1980), is, in my opinion, the most beautiful to have been published in Spain following the Spanish civil war.

(I have no idea why there are so many weird typos and snafus in this text, “great sad” being the most comical. Rather than edit this, I’ll just leave it as is, since the logic is still present despite the odd language.)

Fun fact! This appeared in the forerunner to World Literature Today.

I haven’t dug too much into the scholarly work that’s been done on Rodoreda in the States, but Kathleen McNerney has edited two volumes about her work, Voices and Visions: The Works of Mercè Rodoreda, and The Garden Across the Border: Mercè Rodoreda’s Fiction.

There are tons of reviews out there about her novels, including a bunch from the past year that include War, So Much War, but two notable ones that relate to this season of the podcast have to be: Jesmyn Ward’s You Must Read This piece on Death in Spring for NPR, and Paul Kerschen’s piece in the Quarterly Conversation, Mercè Rodoreda and the Style of Innocence, which covers the Selected Stories, Death in Spring, A Broken Mirror, and The Time of the Doves.

Tune in on Thursday for a bit more information, and then next week we’ll dive into the first six stories!

17 October 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

After an impassioned pitch for why you should support Open Letter’s annual campaign, Chad and Tom talk about ALTA, about how best to promote international literature to common readers, about the moral argument for reading translations, about Tim Parks and this article on Han Kang’s Human Acts, and about how baseball is broken and breaking Chad’s will to live. Enjoy!

One other note: The next season of the Two Month Review will kick off on Thursday, October 26th with an episode introducing Mercè Rodoreda and the two books of hers that will be featured this season: Selected Stories and Death in Spring. Both are avaialble for 20% off by using the code 2MONTH at checkout. The full schedule of episodes is available here.

This week’s music is Two Thousand and Seventeen (the same number of minutes in game five of the the Cubs-Nationals series) by Four Tet.

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

17 October 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

If you’re friends with us on Facebook (either me personally, or the press itself), or visit the Twitter on a regular basis, you’re hopefully aware that Open Letter just launched an annual fundraising campaign to support our 10-year anniversary. And if you’re not already familiar with this, that’s fine!, that’s exactly what this post is for.

Open Letter is a nonprofit literary organization dedicated to producing and promoting international literature in translation. It’s always been our belief that a publisher needs to do more than simply print books. A publisher needs to create a community around books and literature, while helping foster an appreciation and understanding of the literary arts. And in the case of Open Letter and our dedication to international literature, we take this one step further and work toward increasing the appreciation of translators as well—an essential part of this community.

To accomplish our mission, we use a three-pronged approach: we disseminate great works of literature that would otherwise be unavailable to English readers due to language barriers and/or the marketplace; we connect members of the international literary community, including writers, readers, translators, and booksellers; and, we educate readers to the art and craft of translation, while helping expand their literary horizons.

The only way to do all of this is with your help. Open Letter does receive some funding from the University of Rochester, but to balance our budget and accomplish all of the activities listed below, we have to raise a significant amount of money (almost two-thirds of our total budget) from sales, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, and some international literary centers, and with the support of individuals like you.

Your contribution helps us do the following:

* Bring ten works of international fiction into English every year. In 2018, we will publish books by Dubravka Ugresic, Rodrigo Fresán, Madame Nielsen, Xiao Hong, Bragi Ólafsson, Mercè Rodoreda, Asta Olivia Nordenhof, Oliverio Girondo, and more.

* Summer internships for students from around the world. We host between four and six students every summer—some undergrads, some who are much more advanced—who are interested in learning the ins-and-outs of literary publishing and translations. They are given the opportunity to write reader’s reports, do sample translations, craft jacket copy, promote books to booksellers and reviewers, get involved with Three Percent, and other publishing activities to ultimately help get their start in the publishing world and become future ambassadors for world literature.

* Maintain the Three Percent website, which includes the Three Percent and Two Month Review podcasts, the Translation Database, the Best Translated Book Awards, dozens of book reviews from up-and-coming reviewers, articles about the international literary world, and a variety of other features.

* The Reading the World Conversation Series allows for authors and translators to discuss their work in front of audiences who rarely have the opportunity to meet with internationally beloved authors. This series also enables us to bring a number of our authors to various cities across the U.S., introducing their works and viewpoints to as wide an audience as possible.

There are subsets within subsets for each one of these major categories. And over the next three weeks, I’ll write some additional posts about what we’re trying to accomplish with all the various parts of Open Letter, what we’d like to do (and continue to do) in the future, how we could expand, and more.

But for now, I want to ask once more for you to consider joining our campaign. Gifts of every size are welcome and appreciated, and fully tax-deductible.

Since our first book was published on September 26, 2008 (Nobody’s Home by the incredible Dubravka Ugresic), we’re treating 2018 as our 10-year anniversary. We have a lot of exciting things in store for next year, but we really need your help in order to be able to implement these plans as effectively as possible.

Thanks again for your time and support!

12 October 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Here it is—the infamous LIVE recording of the Two Month Review! Chad and Lytton travelled all the way to Brooklyn to record this episode as part of the “Taste of Iceland Festivities.” As a result, they recap the book as a whole and reflect on the speech from Iceland’s First Lady that prefaced the recording (and which you don’t get to hear) before diving into the particulars of the final section of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller. They also take questions from the audience about WWII and Kafka, and spend some time pondering the final line of the book: “i call the northern lights night rainbows.” And Chad works in multiple references to Twin Peaks: The Return.

As previously noted, the next season of the Two Month Review will feature two books by Mercè Rodoreda: Selected Stories and Death in Spring. Click here to get the full schedule, and use the 2MONTH code at our website to get 20% off. (That discount code also works for “Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller”: and “The Invented Part.”: And if you’d rather support your local bookstore, do it! They should have all of these titles. If not, shame them. Preferably in a very public way. Kidding, totally kidding. Obviously every store carries all of our books.)

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

And please rate us on iTunes and tell your friends to listen. We really appreciate your support of the podcast and want to reach as many listeners as possible.

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, Lytton Smith, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests.

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. Please rate us on iTunes and/or leave a review!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Long Year by The Anchoress.

5 October 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Icelandic novelist and poet Kári Tulinius joins Chad and Lytton this week to talk about three of the darkest sections of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller and the history of this novel’s reception in Iceland. They also talk about the recent scandal that brought down the Icelandic government—and how it ties into Tómas Jónsson—about why the book was out of print in Iceland for a couple of decades after its initial release, the way this book is scarily prescient, and much more.

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

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is available at better bookstores everywhere, and you can also order it directly from Open Letter, where you can get 20% off by entering 2MONTH in the discount field at checkout.

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, Lytton Smith, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests.

You can read an excerpt from Kári’s latest novel (translated by Larissa Kyzer) at Words and Worlds and can find his archived Grapevine articles here.

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. Please rate us on iTunes and/or leave a review!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Long Year by The Anchoress.

4 October 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The voting is in and . . . Well, The Physics of Sorrow and Maidenhair ended up with the most votes. That said, we’re not going to do those books next. Instead, since we haven’t featured any books by women yet—and since Catalan is undergoing some serious shit right now—we’re going to start by doing two books by Mercè Rodoreda: Selected Stories and then Death in Spring. And then we’ll do Physics of Sorrow. In fact, for the Physics season, we’ll do a live recording in New York with Georgi Gospodinov himself! So, stay tuned.

Here’s the schedule for the third season of the Two Month Review, the “Rodoreda and Catalan Independence” season:

October 26: Introduction to Mercè Rodoreda

November 2: Selected Stories: “Blood,” “Threaded Needle,” “Summer,” “Guinea Fowls,” “The Mirror,” and “Happiness” (pages 1-50)

November 9: Selected Stories: “Afternoon at the Cinema,” “Ice Cream,” “Carnival,” “Engaged,” “In a Whisper,” “Departure,” “Friday, June 8” (51-102)

November 16: Selected Stories: “The Beginning,” “Nocturnal,” “The Red Blouse,” “The Fate of Lisa Sperling,” “The Bath,” and “On the Train” (103-143)

November 23: Selected Stories: “Before I Die,” “Ada Liz,” “On a Dark Night,” “Night and Fog,” and “Orléans, Three Kilometers” (144-207)

November 30: Selected Stories: “The Thousand Franc Bill,” “Paralysis,” “It Seemed Like Silk,” “The Salamander,” “Love,” and “White Geranium” (208-255)

December 7: Death in Spring Part One (1-27)

December 14: Death in Spring Part Two (28-68)

December 21: Death in Spring Part Three (69-118)

December 28: Death in Spring Part Four (119-150)

And then we’ll kick off 2018 with Gospodinov’s The Physics of Sorrow and will follow up with Mikhail Shiskin’s Maidenhair, Dubravka Ugresic’s Fox, and Rodrigo Fresán’s The Bottom of the Sky.

Get the books now and join the Goodreads group to join in the discussion! And, of course, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

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

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

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

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

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

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

What. . .

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The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

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

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

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

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Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

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

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

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

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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 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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