As mentioned last month, I decided to start this monthly round-up for two reasons—to highlight a few interesting books in translation that other venues likely won’t, and because I think there’s more to literature that the monthly Flavorwire listicles. (One more Flavorwire thing: It’s totally fine that we’re not on the 25 Best Indie Presses list, but did you have to title it “Fuck You, Open Letter”?)
I’m writing this in haste, putting to use the four hours of “found time” that US Airways granted me by canceling my flight. Not that I really mind—I think I’m one of the few people who, aside from the remarkably uncomfortable seating options, doesn’t mind airports. If I could concentrate as well at work as I can in airports, we’d be golden. (And by “golden,” I mean, probably on that Flavorwire list.) The only thing that ever really gets to me are all of the asinine “businessmen” talking nonsense into their Nextel phones. What are these people even on about? I swear, I’ve eavesdropped on so many conversations that the NSA should hire me, but the only conclusion I’ve come to is that our entire economy runs on Excel pivot tables for mysterious “services,” about which the client is always a) unsatisfied, and b) a total prick. I wouldn’t be surprised if half these “businessmen” were just playing dress up to try and convince everyone that the U.S. economy wasn’t totally fucked. “Look! My cell phone’s not even on! What, did you really think Nextel phones worked? All I know about Excel is Minesweeper.” Business is stupid.
OK, this month’s books.
Wigrum by Daniel Canty. Translated from the French by Oana Avasilichioael. (Talonbooks, $14.95)
We ran a review of this book a week or so ago, and Patrick Smith captured all the things about this that first grabbed my attention when I saw it at BEA:
Known also as a graphic designer in Quebec, Canty takes those skills and puts them towards this “novel of inventory” and creates a framework from which to hang the inventories. We get a table of contents, where oddly, the preface follows the only chapter, we are given a set of “Instructions to the Reader” and the whole work ends with an index. The bulk of the book is the collection, the objects ostensibly found by the collector Wigrum, the man behind these collections (though the book throws this into doubt; there are other collectors, other writers). They are arranged alphabetically, all with an illustration in the margin, a touch that gives them more weight, rather than letting the story dominate the scale. It is a nice graphic touch, and eventually becomes part of how the book complicates itself.
That’s all great, but undersells the fun of yelling out “WIGRUM!” every once in a while. Such a great word that sounds both threatening and goofy all at once.
Milk and Other Stories by Simon Fruelund. Translated from the Danish by K. E. Semmel. (Santa Fe Writers Project, $12.00)
Kyle and Simon were in Rochester just last week to talk about Milk, an early book of Simon’s, and Civil Twilight, a more recent, and stylistically very different, novella, and I think you should really read both of these books.
Also, we’ll have a recording of the event up on Three Percent in the near future along with the one we did with Jean-Marie Blas de Robles. Watch both of these—they turned out to be two of our best ever Reading the World Conversation Series events.
Kyle Semmel is, like me, a die-hard Cardinals fan. How we grew up in Rochester, NY and Bay City, MI and became St. Louis fans is a bit strange, but Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, and Whitey Herzog should explain most of that. My baseball imagination was totally captured by those mid-80s teams who stole more than 240 bases a year (over 300 in 1985!)—a number that’s insane by today’s standards. (Jacoby Ellsbury lead the majors with 52 stolen bases this year; Vince Coleman stole 110 in 1985.) I loved the idea that you could succeed not by being all jacked up and huge, but by bunting and stealing every base even when the world knew you were going to be running. That’s baseball to me.
And for that reason, I’ve been through the emotional wringer the past few years, with Game 6 against Texas being the high point, and hating the shit out of San Francisco last year. After falling into a deep depression about last night’s loss, I’m fairly certain that the Cardinals will go down 5-1 today before staging a miraculous ninth inning comeback that will end with my heart exploding. Baseball.
Final sports note: Fuck Boston. Not only are their fans the worst—a sickening combination of faux-put upon (“But we didn’t win for years! We’re long-suffering!”) and entitlement (“We spent the most money and didn’t win last year—we deserve it!”)—but their franchise decided to carve “BOSTON STRONG” into the outfield. That’s tasteless to me, although I did predict that Boston would (grossly) capitalize on the Marathon Bombings as another reason why they “deserve” to win this year. “We’ve got to heal the city, ya’ know?” Shut up and please get swept by the Tigers. And screw Bill Simmons.
Private Pleasures by Hamdy el-Gazzar.& Translated from the Arabic by Humphrey Davies. ($18.95, American University at Cairo Press)
I’m currently reading another book that Humphrey Davies translated—Leg over Leg or The Turtle in the Tree concerning The Fāriyāq, What Manner of Creature Might He Be by Fāris al-Shidyāq. I mentioned this a while back as a sort of Arabic Laurence Sterne, and now that I’m more than halfway through the first (of four?) volume, I can affirm that this is a pretty apt comparison. I’ll write a full-length review later on, but I just want to say that this is nothing what I had expected a book written in Arabic in 1855 to be like. It’s filthy—I particularly like the bit where the people in the pub argue about what type of person is the happiest and decide that the whore must be, since she gets both money and pleasure and the devotion of her clients—and funny and obsessed with language. The language bits seem like the most difficult for Davies to translate, which is why there are hundreds of footnotes, but also make it clear that Fāris al-Shidyāq was a super-intelligent, strange man.
In a way, this reminds me of Macedonio Fernandez’s The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel) for all of its delays and sections addressed to future critics and readers and religious men and the like. Definitely worth reading.
Misfortunates by Dimitri Verhulst. Translated from the Flemish by David Colmer. ($23.99, St. Martin’s Press)
I haven’t read this Verhulst book yet—I really like Problemski Hotel when I read that years ago—but I do have a DVD of the movie version in my office:
Leapfrog and Other Stories by Guillermo Rosales. Translated from the Spanish by Anna Kushner. ($14.95, New Directions)
New Directions brought out Rosales’s The Halfway House a few years back to great acclaim, so I’m sure this collection will also do pretty well.
It’s hard to write about Rosales without mentioning his personal history, which is really bleak and awful. He was born in Cuba in the 1940s, but was forced to leave for Miami because of his “morose, pornographic, and irreverent” works. The rest of his life was spent going in and out of psychiatric hospitals, and he finally took his own life at the age of 47 after destroying most of his unpublished manuscripts.
The Elixir of Immortality by Gabi Gleichmann. Translated from the Norwegian by Michael Meigs. ($18.95, Other Press)
Other Press sure doesn’t shy away from publishing gigantic books. Where Tigers Are at Home, which I HIGHLY recommend, and I guarantee you’ll want to rush out and buy after watching the RTWCS interview with Blas de Robles, came out in March and clocks in at 832 pages. A True Novel by Minae Mizamura, which comes out next month, is 880 pages and comes in two volumes with a slipcase. This novel, The Elixir of Immortality is 768 pages long.
God bless Other Press for publishing such huge tomes at a time when the conventional wisdom is that readers have an attention span of approximately 140 characters. I love big-ass huge books, which brings me to—
Blinding: The Left Wing by Mircea Cartarescu. Translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter. ($22.00, Archipelago Books)
Along with Leg over Leg and the new Pynchon (which I’m really enjoying so far), this is the third book that I brought with me for this trip to Frankfurt. It’s the first book in a trilogy, and, to tell a whingey publishing story, Open Letter tried to get the rights to this book but we were rejected. (Cartarescu wasn’t impressed with us. But to be fair, this was back in 2006 before we had any books.)
Let me just quote you a part of Archipelago’s press release:
Blinding takes us on a mystical trip into the protagonist’s childhood, his memories of hospitalization as a teenager, the prehistory of his family, a traveling circus, secret police, zombie armies, American fighter pilots, the jazz underworld of New Orleans, and the installation of the Communist regime.
I won’t be surprised if this wins the 2014 BTBA for Fiction.
The African Shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa. Translated from the Spanish by Jeffrey Gray. ($13.00, Yale University Press)
Rodrigo Rey Rosa is an author I know I should read—some of his works were translated into English by Paul Bowles—but haven’t gotten to yet. I love the idea that The African Shore is a work of “dystopic travel fiction,” and I especially love what Roberto Bolaño said about Rey Rosa:
Miguel Ángel Asturias, Augusto Monterroso, and now Rodrigo Rey Rosa, three giant writers from a small, unhappy country.
Also, that owl is eating a frog. I am both disgusted and intrigued. Intriguingly disgusted.
The Dark by Sergio Chejfec. Translated from Spanish by Heather Cleary. ($14.95, Open Letter)
Moment of Open Letter self-promotion: Chejfec is one of the best Argentine writers working today. If you like Javier Marias, if you like W.G. Sebald, you will like all of Chejfec’s books. And of the three we’ve published—My Two Worlds, The Planets—I think this is my favorite. It has the concise style of My Two Worlds with the plotted aspects of The Planets. Both of his other books have been finalists for the BTBA, and with another stunning translation by Heather Cleary, I suspect this one will also make the shortlist.
Speaking of Heather Cleary, you need to check out the Buenos Aires Review. This is a fantastic new online journal that Heather is involved with, and which is spectacularly designed. It’s loaded with great writers and translators—from Russell Valentino to Tyrno Maldonado to Pola Oloixarac and more—and has recently been recommended to me by multiple people who just wanted to make sure I was aware of this “amazing new website.” Check it out!
The End of Love by Marcos Giralt Torrente. Translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver. ($22.00, McSweeney’s Books)
As part of Middlebury’s Clifford Symposium, I had the opportunity to meet Yumiko Yanagisawa, a Swedish-Japanese and English-Japanese translator who, over the course of her career, has worked on almost 80 different titles. Not only is she one of the most prolific translators of our time, but throughout Japan there are reading groups dedicated to her translations. This is something that an American translator can only dream of.
That said, I know that I’ll pay serious consideration to anything Bill Johnston, Margaret Jull Costa, Esther Allen, Sean Cotter, Susan Bernofsky, or Katherine Silver translates. And more. (Then again, I am weird, and not a typical reader.)
I know nothing about The End of Love, but I would totally join a Katherine Silver book club and read this.Tweet
BTBA blog post – Michael Orthofer
This Thursday or next the Swedish Academy will likely announce who will receive the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature – still considered the ultimate seal of approval for an author. The Best Translated Book Award has had occasion to consider Nobel laureates’ work over the years, but surprisingly few have fared very well – as best I can tell, The Hunger Angel, by Herta Müller, was (last year) the first to even make it to the ten-title strong shortlist.
Of course, the Nobel Prize and the Best Translated Book Award are very different sorts of prizes. The Nobel is given to an author, for his or her entire life’s-work. The BTBA goes to a single title – itself not just the work of the author, but also that of a translator (or several translators, as is the case with some of this year’s titles). Still, it’s interesting to see what overlap there is between the two very different awards.
There usually are a few titles by Nobelists out every year, and the name-recognition alone usually assures them of at least a closer look by the BTBA judges. This year’s small batch – just two titles, as far as I can tell: Mo Yan’s Sandalwood Death and Elfriede Jelinek’s Her Not All Her – looks to be a particularly strong one.
The authors of these two works are among the more controversial laureates in recent memory, but one of the nice things about the works we’re considering is that they don’t really play into the popular/media narrative about the authors. Sandalwood Death, set over a hundred years ago, deals with older Chinese history and makes it easy to avoid the issue of whether or not Mo kowtows to the present-day regime too much. Similarly, Her Not All Her avoids the politics, ostensibly harsh feminism, and coarse language that many have found objectionable in much of Jelinek’s work – while, as a work that is as much a performance-piece as it is a work of fiction, it also exposes English-speaking audiences to a neglected part of her output, her unusual (by American and British standards) stage-work.
Sandalwood Death was one of the first of the eligible-for-this-year’s-BTBA books that I read (almost a year ago), and I immediately pegged it as a favorite for the prize (and it confirmed to me what the Swedish Academy saw in Mo Yan). This is historic fiction of a high order, Mo slowly building his story to the (prolonged) torture that gives the book its title and capturing the China of those transitional times exceptionally well. It is a drawn-out story, and the torture is brutal, making it in some ways a difficult read, but if you can get past that it is certainly a very impressive work. Howard Goldblatt’s excellent translation also suggests some of the advantages of a single translator being responsible for more than just individual works by an author: responsible for almost all of the English translations of Mo’s fiction, Goldblatt obviously has an excellent feel for Mo’s writing and what the author is trying to do.
As to Her Not All Her – well, I was already on a jury that awarded Damion Searls’ translation of that work a prize: before it was published, the manuscript won the 2011 Austrian Cultural Forum Translation Prize. A fascinating personal exploration of the writer Robert Walser, it is a compact tour de force in both the original and English – and a beautiful volume in the Cahiers series (explorations of writing and translating that should be of interest to all who are interested in the BTBA …).
But what of the possible future laureates who have books eligible for this year’s Best Translated Book Award? Perhaps even this year’s laureate ….. In the absence of any better guide (the Swedish Academy is secretive about the whole process, and doesn’t reveal who is being considered, much less who the five finalists they choose the winner from are – well, not until 50 years from now), the names on the betting sheet offered by British bookmaker Ladbrokes at least suggest some or most of the likely contenders (along with many who certainly aren’t in the running). At well over a hundred names this year, they take something of a kitchen-sink approach – toss in every name they’ve heard of – but among all these names those of most of the serious contenders for the 2013 prize are also to be found. (For now you should be able to find the list here, but they’ll take it down when prize-day comes.)
Surprisingly many of the authors on the Ladbrokes list have books eligible for this year’s BTBA. Among the books we’re considering – and I think we’ll be considering these pretty seriously – by (in my view) possible Nobel-contenders (in parentheses: their Ladbrokes odds, last I checked) are:
• Melancholy II – Jon Fosse (9/1)
• Between Friends – Amos Oz (16/1)
• The Infatuations – Javier Marías (33/1)
• The Fall of the Stone City- Ismail Kadare (50/1)
• The Retrospective – A.B.Yehoshua (100/1)
Among the books by authors who I don’t think stand a particularly good Nobel chance – at least for this year’s prize – but might (or, in some cases, should) be in the BTBA-running are:
• Blinding: The Left Wing Mircea Cărtărescu (100/1)
• Days in the History of Silence – Merethe Lindstrøm (100/1)
• Fata Morgana Books Jonathan Littell (100/1)
• My Struggle: Book Two (A Man in Love) – Karl Ove Knausgaard (100/1)
• Shantytown César Aira (100/1)
• The Tuner of Silences – Mia Couto (100/1)
And then there are the authors who I don’t think even belong anywhere in the Nobel discussion (and whose books I suspect won’t quite make it the BTBA longlist cut-off, either …):
• The Dance of the Seagull Andrea Camilleri (100/1)
• The Dinner – Herman Koch (100/1)
• Treasure Hunt Andrea Camilleri (100/1)
Extensive though the Ladbrokes list is, it’s not comprehensive – and some of the likely contenders for the BTBA are by authors who don’t figure on it – but maybe should.
Arnon Grunberg is still a bit young for Nobel Prize-consideration (despite an enormous body of work), but I think he will be in the mix eventually – and his Tirza should, I think, easily make it at least onto the BTBA longlist.
The author of last year’s BTBA winner, László Krasznahorkai, has another title in the running this year, Seiobo There Below, and early word is that it is again a contender. (This book has a different translator – Ottilie Mulzet – and it will be interesting to compare the approaches to Krasznahorkai’s challenging prose she takes with those of last year’s winning translator, George Szirtes.) As to the Nobel: while there has been a relatively recent Hungarian Nobel winner – the great Imre Kertész – Krasznahorkai’s work is entirely different, so that shouldn’t be held against him. Still, the Hungarian connection can’t help his chances, as there are several other strong Hungarian candidates this (and every recent) year, led by Péter Nádas …..
Finally, there’s Mikhail Shishkin – a BTBA finalist last year with Maidenhair – with The Light and the Dark. I haven’t seen this one yet, but the Shishkin-word is finally spreading in translation (after he’s already racked up most of the big Russian literary prizes) and he has to be a hot tip for the Nobel in the coming years; I suspect this title will also at the very least figure in the BTBA longlist discussion.
We’ll see very soon who this year’s Nobel laureate is. As to the BTBA, that’s an enjoyably more extended countdown – and one done with considerably more transparency than the Nobel. You know which books are being considered (all of them ! – all the ones listed in the Translation Database, which is pretty much (we hope) all the possibly eligible books (first-time translations of works of fiction, distributed in the US in 2013)), and you can learn about what the judges are excited about in these weekly blog-postings. The longlist announcement is still a ways away – March 11, 2014 – but I think you’ll have more information to rely on suggesting in what directions we’re leaning than the Ladbrokes odds sheets might offer …..Tweet
With the Frankfurt Book Fair literally around the corner, it seemed appropriate to post something about the most recent trip (don’t worry, Iceland, Chad’s got your back for a recap) we took in the name of bringing great world literature to an international audience. Just over a week ago, Chad and I had the opportunity to hook over to Copenhagen, Denmark, for a brief (yet incredibly informative) editorial and research trip. Our goal: to learn more about the Danish publishing scene, its authors and other key players, and to learn about some modern classics of Danish literature that have not yet made it into the English speaking world.
This is going to be a somewhat disjointed recap, but when you’re packed full of all the information possible in three days’ time, things are bound to jump around a little. Expect parentheticals galore.
Over the course of three days we met with around 15 book folk—publishers, agents, authors, book sellers, arts council reps—and came away with a crapton of fantastic recommendations and insights. Before leaving for Denmark, the Danish Arts Council (to whom we are ever grateful for providing only our travel grant) set us up with a comprehensive list of people we should speak with or meet while abroad—a list that led us to some truly great contacts, and a better view of contemporary and classic Danish literature. The targets of our meetings ranged from two of the country’s largest houses, Rosinante & Co. and its parent company Gyldendal (both who have some of the coolest interior design elements I’ve seen in my life), to the pleasantly curious and not-unlike-Open-Letter indie press Basilisk (whose director, Martin Larsen, published an eight-volume collection of all the legal combinations of names—possibly around six million in total—as listed on the Danish government’s website that a person could register in Denmark—all interspersed at random with single lines of poetry); from agencies like Lindhart og Ringhof and Anneli Høier who represent some of the coolest authors in Denmark, to the authors and translators themselves, like Simon Fruelund (who was just in Rochester for a Reading the World Conversation Series event with his translator, K.E. Semmel, during which they discussed both Simon’s Civil Twilight and Milk, a book of short, short stories, which are perfect in their brevity, timing, and weight of what is left unsaid or unexplained), Iben Mondrup (whose prose challenges the setup and reception of linguistics, and whose parents regularly send her fish and whole legs of reindeer from Greenland), and Martin Aitken (who is a prolific and talented translator of Danish into English, a cool guy, and a big My Bloody Valentine fan).
My notebook is filled with Danish authors we were both already aware of and urged to check out, and some of the ones we’ve become particularly interested in (and in some cases obsessed with) are Claus Beck-Nielsen, Iben Mondrup, Josefine Klougart, Per Højølt, Asta Olivia Nordenhof, Pia Juul, and Naja Marie Aidt. These recommendations and more came from backlsits, frontlists, even people’s personal bookshelves (Andreas Poulsen of Arnold Busck runs the store’s book magazine—literally called “Bogmagasinet“—brought a stack of his all-time favorite Danish books from home, adding a nice nostalgic and personal touch to our growing list of names).
I’m probably missing a lot of things I know I wanted to write about the Copenhagen trip, but in addition to loading up on book knowledge, we also had the opportunity to wander around the city a bit (“wander” being the operative and relative term—I hadn’t been in Copenhagen in at least 10 years, and we had no city map), check out some great places in the old (yet still quasi-ongoing) meatpacking district, and make some new friends. And of course, find some awesome books. That said, once again a huge THANK YOU to Anne-Marie Rasmussen and everyone else at the Danish Arts Council for having us over for a visit, and the rest of you stay tuned to Open Letter’s list, as there will definitely be some Danish names cropping up in the near future.Tweet
Elizabeth Harris has translated fiction by Mario Rigoni Stern, Fabio Stassi, and Marco Candida, among others. Her translation of Giulio Mozzi’s story collection Questo è il giardino (This Is the Garden) will be published by Open Letter Books in 2014; the individual stories have appeared in The Literary Review, The Missouri Review, The Kenyon Review, AGNI, Words Without Borders, and elsewhere. Her translation of Mozzi’s “Carlo Doesn’t Know How to Read” appears in Dalkey Archive’s annual anthology Best European Fiction 2010, and her translation of an excerpt of Candida’s Dream Diary appears in Best European Fiction 2011. She teaches creative writing at the University of North Dakota.
First off, let me say what an honor it is to have been asked to help judge this competition, which provides one of the largest prizes in the US to my kind (to translators) and which also, by dividing this ten thousand dollar prize equally between the author and the translator, emphasizes the place of the translator as something like a “second author “of the work.
But how to discuss this second author? What I as a judge have to work with is an enormous pile of more than three-hundred books in English with two names (well, sometimes two names) on the cover. One of my initial quandaries in this judging (besides that enormous pile of books) was how I’d determine the quality of that second author’s efforts, how I’d evaluate the translator’s contribution, without looking at the original books. Honestly, I’m still working this out.
Oh, I can tell when something is badly translated, and I don’t need the original to do it—I can spot the clumsy pawing of an ineffectual translation a mile off because I’ve done so much clumsy pawing of my own. It’s the other kind of translation—the good kind—that’s hard to talk about. But I’ll give it a try with a couple of the books I’ve admired so far.
First, there’s Sondra Silverston’s translation of Between Friends, by Amos Oz. Silverston, in my view, has done a masterful job of handling voice in these interconnected stories about life on a 1950s kibbutz; we’re swept into this quiet, lonely world that’s at times funny, at times awful, from the very first, beautifully phrased line, “On our kibbutz, Kibbutz Yekhat, there lived a man, Azi Provizor, a short fifty-five-year-old bachelor who had a habit of blinking.” Of course the line is originally Oz’s, but Silverston has recognized and interpreted what was in his sentence and then created this wonderful, musical sentence of her own, with its side-stepping quality leading at last to an aging bachelor, and his charming “habit of blinking.” There isn’t a sentence in the collection that doesn’t have this sort of control, and the stories are quite varied, too, from different points of view, with different nuances of voice apparent throughout. I’m sure Oz’s original was a joy to work with and a great challenge, too—translating spare, quiet prose might be the most challenging of all, since there’s nothing to hide behind. That the prose seems effortless and clean is no doubt the result of Silverston’s sensitivity to the original and is also, no doubt, the result of a whole lot of hard work.
Finding the voice (or voices) of a piece of fiction is one of my great joys. I don’t know about other translators, but I actually feel like I can’t continue in a translation until I’ve wrestled with and gotten hold of an author’s voice in English. I very much admire Heather Cleary’s translation of The Dark by Sergio Chejfec because of this novel’s complicated, challenging voice, which I think she’s done a terrific job of capturing.
Here we have a very interior story, a distant narrative voice, as an educated, middle-class man recalls his past relationship with Delia, a young factory worker that he may have loved and whose child he fathered. What I was struck by especially in the novel was the level of abstraction I found—when I encounter abstraction as I translate, I feel like groaning; it is incredibly hard to render in English without sounding stilted and clumsy. But there is nothing clumsy about how Cleary handles abstraction here. Consider the gorgeous opening lines of the novel:
It has always unsettled me that geography does not change with time, with the changes that take place within it, within us. We retain something immaterial, similar to that something retained by geography, also immaterial. And yet, though it remains unaltered, geography is the measure of change. Just as happens with the temperature of a body, the trace it retains of its former heat allows it to continue being itself, yet this trace marks a difference. Bodies are and are not; they are at once more and less than.
I can only imagine how much work Cleary put into these lines; the opening of a novel is so important and to be faced with all of this abstract reflection besides!
In the case of the Chejfec, I did take a peek at the Spanish, and just as I thought, Cleary was true to what was there in terms of meaning and sentence structure, yet she also created something new in the English that was extremely effective. Consider the first two lines in the Spanish:
Siempre me ha inquietado que la geografia no cambie pese al tiempo, pese a nuestros cambios y los cambios que se producen en ella. Conservamos algo immaterial, equivalente a lo que conserva la geografía, también inmaterial.
My (very) rough translation of this would be:
It has always worried me that geography does not change despite time, despite our changes and the changes that are produced in it. We conserve something immaterial, equivalent to that which conserves geography, also immaterial.
I’m very impressed with that first line in Cleary’s translation, what she’s done to control a potentially flat sentence, by incorporating the repetition of “with” (“with time” and “with the changes”) instead of the repetition of a rather awkward-sounding “despite” (“despite time” and “despite our changes…”), and then echoing this “with” again, at the end of the sentence, with the rhythmically sensitive “within it, within us.” Here, Cleary got the sense of Chejfec’s words, but the sound of her ending and her use of repetition are much more effective for the English. That Cleary chose to break that first sentence down with that final brief phrase (“within us”) is perhaps also speaking to Chejfec’s second sentence that makes use of this technique, with the small additional phrase at the end, “también inmaterial.” She also very wisely reversed “nuestros cambios” and “los cambios que se producen en ella” in her first sentence so that she doesn’t both begin and end her first line with a pitiful little “it.” My own fumbling explanations don’t do the opening lines of the translation justice; they are beautiful, and they are Cleary’s.
Ultimately, I don’t know if Oz/Silverston’s Between Friends and Chejfec/Cleary’s The Dark will make my long list or not. I like both books very much, but I also have an enormous pile of books to get through. In any case, I’m very impressed with the work of the two translators, who have made the complicated, challenging voices of the original authors seem so effortless in English.Tweet
Arnon Grunberg—author of a number of books, including Tirza, which is one of my favorite Open Letter titles from 2013—has a really fantastic essay about a trip to Thessaloniki in the new issue of The Believer.
You need to read the whole long thing, but here’s a bit to entice you:
Until recently, wars had a venue. They had a front. Wars had a beginning, and often came to a clear end. Then the war against terrorism came along. This war was everywhere and nowhere; it could pop up anyplace. And although the war was more manifest in some places than others—Afghanistan and Iraq, for example—it remained elusive. Then the financial crisis hit, and proved every bit as elusive as the “real” wars at the start of the twenty-first century. The crisis, too, was everywhere and nowhere, but it did have a single nation at its epicenter: Greece.
Not at Lehman Brothers, which collapsed in 2008, and not on Wall Street; Greece was where the fire broke out. One heard the word contamination again and again, but this time it was no imperial cultural contamination, no creeping process of civilization. This time the crisis was a contagion: debts and obligations that would never be repaid, a gradual deterioration of the financial immune system.
And so, in the darkest days of winter, I decided to set off for Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city. Cities like that are often at least as interesting as the capital, and if God is in the details, then the truth is going to be revealed at the periphery. In conversations with people working in various capacities to regenerate Greek social and economic life, I would try to assess the collateral damage from this newest international conflagration. But I also went to Thessaloniki to meet its mayor, Yiannis Boutaris, who had recently rocketed to international stardom. In newspaper articles he was portrayed as a “good Greek,” a man who wanted to combat corruption, who did not compare Angela Merkel to Hitler, who did not blame everything on capitalism, and who had no desire to defend in veiled terms the country’s nepotism and status quo. In those articles one detected an unmistakable relief at the fact that a good Greek had been found.
I would spend Christmas in Thessaloniki—the light in the darkened world of the crisis.
Check out the whole thing, and then buy Tirza. We could really use the sales. Oh, and if you’re reading this and have $80,000 you’d like to donate to the World’s Coolest Publishing House, please call me. Please.Tweet
Will Evans—known to many as The Apprentice of Summer 2012 here at Open Letter—is the publisher behind the still-relatively-new Deep Vellum, a translated literature press deep in the heart of Texas. In addition to being fueled by unlimited amounts of caffeine and the love for world lit, Will is undeniably one of the coolest people anyone can ever meet.
Here’s the beginning of his review:
Equal parts stoner pulp thriller and psycho-physiological horror story, a pervasive sense of dread mixes with a cloud of weed smoke to seep into every line of the disturbing, complex Under This Terrible Sun. Originally published by illustrious Spanish publishers Editorial Anagrama, Under This Terrible Sun is Argentine journalist-cum-novelist Carlos Busqued’s debut novel in both Spanish and now English.
I don’t read many gruesome novels, so I don’t know exactly which other books to compare this novel to, but the vibe of Under This Terrible Sun reminds me of the creeping evil that saturates the movie Se7en, and not in the least because most of the deadly sins crop up throughout Busqued’s novel in various guises. The plot of Under This Terrible Sun is comprised of a convoluted series of events, with only a few central characters around whom the action takes place, and most of the action itself is moved forward by a true old-fashioned villain, who, in the end, receives his comeuppance through a deus ex machina event that wraps up this fucked-up story of greed, sloth, and murder a little too nicely. But boy, let me tell you, the story that leads to the ending is worth reading. The first time I read it, I was disconcerted by how easily I was flying through the book, how easily my eyes and mind were gliding over the events taking place on the page, which were pretty gruesome. But then I went back through the novel a second time to prepare for this review and realized that this story had more going on than I realized at first—and that was the most stomach-churning part: our society has become so dehumanized that we’ve become immune to horrific images and reports of violence. Nothing shocks us anymore. This book didn’t shock me, and that’s the disturbing part. It should have.
Patrick, who is one of our regular reviewers, not only has a heightened interest in) and geographical proximity to) Montreal and its literature scene, but also shares the amusement and probable giggles at the sound of the book’s title. (I used the arrival of the galley as reason to continually creep around the office muttering “Wigrummm, WIIIGRUUUMMMM!”).
I can’t wait to finish Wigrum myself, and enjoy not only the encyclopedic aspect of it, but also the “who’s really who” games Canty plays. Several times throughout the entries, Canty lists initials (like S. W. and J. S.) that correspond to multiple possible names, giving the perfect balance of ambiguity and certainty—not too unlike books like Antoine Volodine’s Minor Angels. And as you’ll see in Patrick’s review, the entries can be comical, sad, and at times pointless. And sometimes a little dirty, such as the “Arachnid Thimble,” in which one Baron Rudolf Drangstelzer has a pet Amazonian forest spider, Mother Salome, whose legs are tipped in rubber thimbles to protect humans from its venom—“an aphrodisiac with deadly properties, inducing in its victim a copulatory madness that eventually depletes them of all their bodily fluids . . .” And though things don’t end so well for Drangstelzer, he does go out with a happy ending.
Anyway! On to Patrick’s review:
From the start, Daniel Canty’s Wigrum, published by Canadian press Talonbooks, is obviously a novel of form. Known also as a graphic designer in Quebec, Canty takes those skills and puts them towards this “novel of inventory” and creates a framework from which to hang the inventories. We get a table of contents, where oddly, the preface follows the only chapter, we are given a set of “Instructions to the Reader” and the whole work ends with an index. The bulk of the book is the collection, the objects ostensibly found by the collector Wigrum, the man behind these collections (though the book throws this into doubt; there are other collectors, other writers). They are arranged alphabetically, all with an illustration in the margin, a touch that gives them more weight, rather than letting the story dominate the scale. It is a nice graphic touch, and eventually becomes part of how the book complicates itself. Novels where form dominates, and ones where the graphic design element is strong, can be exciting, but they are also easily met with a challenge—do you have more to offer me or are you just a pretty object, a chair that looks nice in the corner, but not recommended as a reading chair?
Besides risking form over substance, Wigrum is also immediately quirky—a culturally-loaded term that for some is ever-appealing, for others, an easy and lazy dismissal (the fear that it is simply a gimmick), with the middle ground needing the full context of the book or film. We aren’t in Wes Anderson territory here, but Canty does want to charm the reader with fantasy, with claims of authenticity that no one is falling for or being confused by.
For the rest of the review—and for more reasons to read this book—go here.Tweet
Last week I had the opportunity to interview Can Xue as part of the Reykjavik International Literary Festival. We ended up writing out our interview ahead of time, so I thought I would share it here. Enjoy!
Born in China, where her parents were persecuted as being “ultra-rightists” by the Anti-rightest Movement of 1957. As a result, her father was jailed, her mother and two brothers were sent to the countryside for “re-education.” Can Xue was raised by her grandmother, suffered from tuberculosis, and faced a series of hardships.
In 1983, she began writing, and here first short story was published in 1985. After that, there’s been no looking back, and, according to Wikipedia, as of 2009 she’s written three novels, fifty novellas, 120 short stories, and six book-length commentaries. Of these, six books have appeared in English translation—Dialogues in Paradise, Old Floating Cloud, The Enbroidered Shoes, Blue Light in the Sky and Other Stories, Five Spice Street, and Vertical Motion—with Yale University Press publishing another novel next year, and a critical piece on Kafka.
Can Xue’s prose has attracted a lot of attention from writers and critics, including such great American writers as Robert Coover and Bradford Morrow, the editor of Conjunctions magazine, which has published a number of Can Xue’s stories—the first two people to mention Can Xue’s work to me. Her reputation has continued to grow, recently attracting high praise from The Mountain Goats frontman, John Darnielle, and being the featured author in the forthcoming issue of Music and Literature.
Frequently characterized as “avant-garde,” Can Xue’s writing operates under its own logic, a unique overlapping of images that explode “conventional” storytelling approaches, instead creating a sort of shifting landscape that forces the reader to engage closely with the text.
For example, here’s a bit from “Vertical Motion,” the title story of the collection that we published:
We are little critters who live in the black earth beneath the desert. The people on Mother Earth can’t imagine such a large expanse of fertile humus lying dozens of meters beneath the boundless desert. Our race has lived here for generations. We have neither eyes nor any olfactory sense. In this large nursery, such apparatus is useless. Our lives are simple, for we merely use our long beaks to dig the earth, eat the nutritious soil, and then excrete it. We live in happiness and harmony because we have abundant resources in our hometown. Thus, we can all eat our fill without a dispute arising. At any rate, I’ve never heard of one.
The mixture of Can Xue’s beautifully strange prose with such complex structures is the main reason so many writers and critics are intrigued, and frequently obsessed with, her works.
Chad W. Post: I want to talk more about Can Xue’s aesthetic beliefs in a bit, but for now I thought I’d start off with a few simple, scene-setting questions. First off, what made you decide to become a writer?
Can Xue:I decided to become a writer when I was thirty years old. But I think before that I had been preparing for this, actually, since I was three years old. I still remember those things which happened when I was three and four years old. At that time I always made stories up in my heart about people, about animals, about plants around me—simple stories, happy stories, exciting stories, even horrible stories. But all these stories had good ending. Sometimes these stories lasted several days, even longer. And in all these stories, I was a leading role. I loved to make up my own stories. But I didn’t get any chance to publish any thing until I was thirty, when my preparation was complete. After the situation in China changed, all the literary things happened to me naturally. I have been like an erupting volcano ever since.
Another factor made me decide to become a writer, I think, was because of the circumstances in China. I was born in fifties, that was an idealistic time—people in China were very poor then, almost no one could pursue material wealth. My parents were firm communists, their hearts were very pure. So, in my family, the only thing that children could pursue were spiritual things. I remember the most enjoyable thing in my life was reading. I read and read, never stopping until today.
CWP: I could make some pretty good guesses about this, but what authors to do see as influences on your work?
CX: In my younger years (from thirteen to twenty-five), I loved Chinese writer Lu Xun and Red Chamber, the ancient novel. And I also loved Russian writers—Gogol, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and so on. In the late seventies, I got ahold of some western classics, and I was so deeply engrossed by them! I think the authors I loved most are these: Dante, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Kafka, Goethe, Borges, Calvino, Bruno Schulz, and Rilke’s poetry.
CWP: Over the past thirty years you’ve generated quite a number of pieces, ranging from critical essays to novels to novellas to short stories—how are you able to produce so much? Or, more to the point, what is your writing process like? (I read the interview in Asymptote, and the bit about not editing your work, and your amazing output, reminds me of Cesar Aira.)
CX: Maybe my writing process is unique. Everyday I write a page. I just get my pen and a notebook, sit down and write for an hour. Then I leave it as it is. I never have a structure in my mind beforehand, and I never revise my fictions—both short ones and long ones. This is how I write my fiction. For thirty years, I write almost every day, even during festivals. I had never been to a festival. That’s why I have produced so many works.
CWP: For a lot of readers your works can seem “challenging,” at least at first glance. Do you have advice for readers who are first approaching your work?
CX: Yes, I always give advice for readers when I publish my works. In my mind, my ideal readers are these: those who have read some works by the modernist writers, and who love metaphysical thinking and material thinking—both capabilities are needed for the reading of Can Xue.
CWP: Before getting more deeply into your aesthetic beliefs, I was wondering if you could talk a bit about the literary scene in China. From an American perspective, it’s always been a bit difficult to get a handle on what’s going on in contemporary literature, although with Mo Yan being awarded the Nobel Prize, and websites like Paper-Republic starting up, that’s starting to change. Nevertheless, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered another Chinese writer writing anything like you do. What is the writing scene like in China these days? How has it changed over the past thirty years?
CX: A good question. I also think that the Chinese know much more about America and the West than you know about China. In China, in the early eighties, a group of young writers studied western literature quite deeply, and these western classics opened their field of vision. They produced quite a number of good works. Can Xue was one among them. The group are all born in fifties or sixties—a very idealistic group. That was a literary era full of hope. But since the nineties, almost everybody in this group has changed their mind. They felt that they had had enough the West, and now want to return to their own tradition, which is much greater than the Western tradition. So their works, except a very few writers, have become more and more traditional, more and more readable. People welcomed this great regression. But I think this returning is the death of a language and a soul. Because our own cultural tradition has not got enough strength to support a new writing, the only way to develop it is by blood transfusion. I think as a Chinese writer, I should criticize my culture severely, only having done so, I get the possibility to develop it.
As for my own writing, the readers in China think that I’m very difficult but unique among Chinese writers. I dare say, no fiction writers in China has studied the Western literature and Western philosophy so exhaustively like Can Xue.
CWP: Although there are a lot of pieces of yours that have yet to be translated into English, you are one of the most translated Chinese writers, with books published by Northwestern, New Directions, Yale University Press, and Open Letter. How did you first get translated, and what has this process been like for you?
CX: That’s a long story. In 1986 in Shanghai, a student gave two of Can Xue’s stories to Ron Jansson, my earliest translator. He read the stories and decided immediately to translate them into English. He did the work with a Chinese colleague, Zhang Jian, and got more stories and two novellas published—three books altogether.
In the mid 1990s, Ron Jansson got very ill, so my English versions weren’t published in the United States continuously. Then Karen Gernant found Can Xue and she got in touch with me. Karen, along with Chen Zeping, have done a lot of work—also three books, including Vertical Motion from Open Letter and Five Spice Street, a novel published by Yale Press. Also a libretto for an opera performed in Germany, and some essays. They are continuing their translating now. I think Karen is a talented translator, and she and I have a lot common topics in literature.
Recently, Yale Press has found a new translator for Can Xue—Annelise, a young woman. She’s translating my new novel—The Last Lover. I’m very happy to get these precious friends in the United States!
CWP: Do you work closely with your translators? I believe that your forthcoming Yale book is being translated by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen, a young, extremely talented translator—how did she end up working with you?
CX: Yes, I work closely with Karen, Chen Zeping, and now, Annelise, I read their translations, and give my comments. Yes, I also think Annelise has a high talent for languages. Sometimes her English translation is better than my Chinese original!
CWP: OK, this a very long intro into a slightly different part of the conversation, so bear with me. I want to first read a bit from your afterword to Blue Light in the Sky and Other Stories:
The particular characteristics of my stories have now been acknowledged. Nevertheless, when someone asks me directly, “What is really going on in your stories? How do you write them?,” I’m profoundly afraid of being misunderstood, so all I can say is, “I don’t know.” From any earthly perspective, in truth I do not know. When I write, I intentionally erase any knowledge from my mind.
I believe in the grandness of the original power. The only thing I can do is to devoutly, bring it into play in a manmade, blind atmosphere. Thus, I can break loose from the fetters of platitudes and conventions, and allow the mighty logos to melt into the omnipresent suggestions that inspire and urge me to keep going ahead. I don’t know what I will write tomorrow, or even in the next few minutes. Nor do I know what is most related to the “inspiration” that has produced my works in an unending stream for more than two decades. But I know one thing with certainty: no matter what hardships I face, I must preserve the spiritual quality of my life. For if I were to lose it, I would lose my entire foundation. [. . .]
Some people say that my stories aren’t useful: they can’t change anything, nor do people understand them. As time goes by, I’ve become increasingly confident about this. First, the production of twenty years’ worth of stories has changed me to the core. I’ve spoken of this above. Next, from my reading experience, this kind of story, which indeed isn’t very “useful,” that not all people can read—for those few very sensitive readers, there is a decisive impact. Perhaps this wasn’t at all the writer’s original intent. I think what this kind of story must change is the soul instead of something superficial. There will always be some readers who will respond—those readers who are especially interested in the strengthening force of art and exploring the soul. With its unusual style, this kind of story will communicate with those readers, stimulating them and calling to them, spurring them on to join in the exploration of the soul.
Since writing this, has your approach, or thinking about your aesthetic changed at all?
CX: Basically, my stance, my way, and my thinking is always the same. But I’ve developed a lot since that time. My new thinking is that my experimental fictions have the same core as Western Philosophy. And in a sense, these kind of works are a new development to Classical Philosophy. Now I’m trying hard to open up a road for Western Philosophy, which has come to a standstill for many years.
CWP: In reading the recent Asymptote magazine interview a few things struck me, namely that when you talk about your aesthetic or the reasons you write the way you write, or the way that readers can only properly “understand” your stories is by struggling to understand them, your focus seems to be mostly on the process of creating and the creative process of reading. For me, this ties in with a comment you made about your fiction being “a performance.” In what way do you see your fiction as a performance? How does this relate to your view of yourself as an “experimental” writer?
CX: Yes, I think that you are absolutely right! You understand Can Xue very well. In the nineties when I studied Western literature, I found a metaphysical structure in these writers’ works: Borges, Kafka, Dante, Cervantes, Goethe, Calvino, and so on, even in the Bible. According to this structure, you can read their works as the process of creating and reading. Very few writers have this talent. Meanwhile, I found that Can Xue’s works had the same structure as these writers. And I felt that it was not painstaking, it’s an natural thing like giving birth. But why do all these first-rate writers have a same structure? After a hard and long period of studying, I have understood that the structure is just the structure of Great Nature, of course, it is also the structure of humanity. I expect that for great times to come to us, we artists should give performances, waking up people’s souls, I feel it’s a very urgent thing to do. This kind of literature actually means that one stands out, acting one’s own being. That’s why I said it was a performance.Tweet
Dan is a contributing reviewer of ours who is making his first appearance in a while on Three Percent—and with a piece on an author I understand to be one of his favorites. Dan also wrote for us about Amos Oz’s Scenes from Village Life.
Here’s an excerpt from Dan’s review:
hroughout his career—in fact from his very first book, Where the Jackals Howl (1965)—the renowned Israeli writer Amos Oz has set much of his fiction on the kibbutz, collective communities he portrays as bastions of social cohesion and stultifying conformity in equal measure. In his latest book, which like Where the Jackals Howl is a collection of eight short stories, the scales feel tipped toward the latter: to judge from Between Friends, if you set out to create a society plagued by gossip and spite, you could hardly do better than to establish a kibbutz.
Most of the protagonists of these linked stories about the fictitious, roughly 1950s-era Kibbutz Yekhat are in one way or another victims of peer pressure or ideological rigidity: Zvi and Luna, quiet, middle-aged platonic friends, are the subject of leering talk in the dining hall; Moshe, 16, a kind of foster member of the kibbutz, is treated harshly for wanting to visit his father, who is hospitalized off site; Martin, a shoemaker with emphysema, is pressured by the kibbutz leadership to quit his job because of his poor health.
For the rest of the review, go here.Tweet
Sarah Gerard is a writer and a bookseller at McNally Jackson Books. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Bookforum, the Paris Review Daily, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Slice Magazine, and other publications. She holds an MFA from The New School and lives in Brooklyn.
I’m only going to talk about one book in this first BTBA blog post. Okay, maybe two. Okay, maybe three. But first, the one: Christa Wolf’s City of Angels (FSG). Oh my God (as it were). This book. This book, you guys.
Not that I’m surprised. Admittedly, I’ve only read one of Wolf’s other books, Cassandra, a retelling of the Fall of Troy in the first-person from the point of view of Cassandra, the cursed soothsayer. It’s completely devastating and oh-so-complex, grappling with issues of patriarchy and violence, and language and…well, anyway. Highly recommended, but that should go without saying because Wolf, I’ve come to realize, is (was, R.I.P.) a complete genius.
I’ve read a lot of great books this year, but City of Angels is by far the most rewarding. I’m halfway through and the marginal notes are getting a bit out of hand. Wolf’s ability to create layers of meaning in a peripatetic structure across three, sometimes four, different time periods is astounding. Set in Los Angeles around the time of Clinton’s first election, she manages weave in the Holocaust, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the LA. riots, architectural and anatomic metaphors, particle physics, Communism, Capitalism, Buddhism, Greek mythology and so much more in order to investigate the further themes of loss, grief, surveillance, secrecy, self-examination and identity, translation, documentation, etc. I could go on. I really could. And she does this with utmost grace and fluidity.
Speaking of translation, Damion Searls has done a knockout job here. The prose is lovely but invisible in the reading, which is exactly what it should be. Wolf often hints at subtle connections between events by ordering them back-to-back, but never (never, this would be a sin to her, I think) states the connections overtly. Searls knows, though. He’s on it, and he’s done his job deftly. Systems of meaning rise to the surface like bubbles in a glass. So refreshing.
My favorite part of this book so far is the connection Wolf draws between political bureaucracy and architecture, using anatomical language to describe states of sickness or health as they occur in a population living under a functional or dysfunctional government, and the way architecture changes under those systems, directing bodies. The Berlin Wall is probably the biggest example of this. Again, Searls has handled this beautifully.
Wolf’s use of pronouns (I & you, most particularly) is also absolutely brilliant and I applaud Searls’s very elegant handling of them, but I would need a lot more room if I were going to talk about that in-depth. One blog post is not enough. I suggest you just go out and buy the book already.
But hey, there are other books, right? Firefly by Severo Sarduy – this is definitely another longlist contender for me. The book is a bildungsroman following the namesake young man through a series of sad and hilarious encounters with quasi-fabulist doctors and officials, the owner of an orphanage, and a young woman whose fate is bittersweet to say the least. Sarduy’s language is colorful and shapely, and his ability to frame tragedy in a humorous context is definitely one of his many strengths. Likewise, Mark Fried’s ability to relate Sarduy’s complex meanings in a way that remains childlike and playful is very impressive, and makes reading Firefly at once a fun and intellectually stimulating experience.
The last book I’ll mention is maybe not (or maybe is, we’ll see) a longlist contender for me, but I really think it merits attention because its story is so interesting and because (who knew?) Ursula K. Le Guin translated it. Squaring the Circle by Gheorghe Săsărman (Aqueduct Press) is “a book of brief descriptions of imaginary cities.” Sound familiar? It’s basically the Romanian Invisible Cities, and was published roughly around the same time, although the introduction to this edition suggests that Calvino and Săsărman were unaware of each others’ work. Calvino’s enjoyed greater success largely because Săsărman’s book was banned while Calvino’s had wide distribution. If I can speak honestly here, I actually have no preference for one over the other – I was completely enraptured by Squaring the Circle and would only, maybe, not suggest it for the longlist because I have mixed feelings about the translation. Maybe I’ll write more about this in a later post. In the meantime, I must say that, in spite of these mixed feelings, I really loved this book and think you should, too.Tweet
Paul Klee’s Boat, Anzhelina Polonskaya’s newest bilingual collection of poems available in English, is an emotional journey through the bleakest seasons of the human soul, translated with great nuance by Andrew Wachtel. A former professional ice dancer(!), Polonskaya left the. . .
In Seiobo There Below, Lázló Krasznahorkai is able to succeed at a task at which many writers fail: to dedicate an entire novel to a single message, to express an idea over and over again without falling into repetition or. . .
There are curious similarities in three Italian mystery series, written by Maurizio de Giovanni, Andrea Camilleri, and Donna Leon.1
They’re all police procedurals, and all set in Italy: Naples, Sicily, Venice.
The three protagonists are Commissarios: Luigi Ricciardi, Salvo. . .
Poetry always has the feel of mysticism and mystery, or maybe this feeling is a stereotype left over from high school literature class. It is generally the result of confusion, lack of time committed to consuming the poetry, and the. . .
Our Lady of the Flowers, Echoic is not only a translation, but a transformation. It is a translation of Jean Genet’s novel Notre Dame des Fleurs, transmuted from prose to poetry. Originally written in prison as a masturbatory aid (Sartre. . .
Equal parts stoner pulp thriller and psycho-physiological horror story, a pervasive sense of dread mixes with a cloud of weed smoke to seep into every line of the disturbing, complex Under This Terrible Sun. Originally published by illustrious Spanish publishers. . .
From the start, Daniel Canty’s Wigrum, published by Canadian press Talonbooks, is obviously a novel of form. Known also as a graphic designer in Quebec, Canty takes those skills and puts them towards this “novel of inventory” and creates a. . .
Throughout his career—in fact from his very first book, Where the Jackals Howl (1965)—the renowned Israeli writer Amos Oz has set much of his fiction on the kibbutz, collective communities he portrays as bastions of social cohesion and stultifying conformity. . .
Antoon gives us a remarkable novel that in 184 pages captures the experience of an Iraqi everyman who has lived through the war with Iran in the first half of the 1980s, the 1991 Gulf War over the Kuwaiti invasion,. . .
Every fictional work set in L.A. begins with a slow crawl through its streets in the early hours of the morning right after sunrise. Maybe it’s always done this way to emphasize the vast sprawl of the city and highlight. . .