25 September 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

21 September 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week Patrick Smith (Best Translated Book Award judge, The Scofield) joins Chad and Lytton to talk about this incredibly powerful section of the book, which raises all sorts of topical ideas about adhering to national myths and the problems of masculinity. This is also the section where Hitler shows up, and where a character literally eats himself out of house and home. And this podcast is a crucial one in helping frame the way this novel simultaneously holds up and undermines a variety of dangerous, unpleasant ideas. After listening to this, we hope you will have an even broader and more nuanced understanding—and appreciation—of this great novel.

Reminder! On September 30th, we will be recording the final episode of this season of the Two Month Review at Spoonville & Sugartown in Brooklyn as part of Taste of Iceland. The First Lady of Iceland, Eliza Reid, will kick things off at 2pm with a lecture and reading, then at 3pm, Lytton and Chad will discuss the final section of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller (and take audience questions), followed by a recpetion at 4pm. It’s free to attend, so come on out and see us do this live!

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. And follow Patrick Smith for a variety of literary insights and other commentary.

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.



14 September 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week Norwegian translator and ALTA Fellowship recipient David Smith joins Chad and Lytton to talk about the next forty pages of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller. The two sections covered this week are wildly different from one another, opening with a much more fragmented, poetic bit then transitioning through a hilarious, yet creepy, moment in which Tómas pees all over the laundry room into a more straightforward section—but one that still brings out all the wild contradictions in Tómas’s character and this book itself. This week’s episode also includes Chad reading a section that’s perfect for a voiceover movie trailer. (And yes, he reads it in exactly that voice.)

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.

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.



11 September 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Over the next couple weeks, you’re going to hear me mess up this announcement on podcast after podcast, but on Saturday, September 30th at 3:30pm Lytton and I will be recording the final episode of the second season of the Two Month Review LIVE at Spoonbill & Sugartown in Brooklyn.

This will be part of the Taste of Iceland events taking place from September 28th through October 1st. There will be music events, film screenings, food tastings, art exhibits, and, of course, literary readings. Here’s a link to the official announcement for the literary stuff, which starts with Eliza Reid, the First Lady of Iceland, talking about Iceland’s story tradition, following by this:

Immediately following The Write Stuff literature discussion by Eliza Reid, join in the live recording of Chad Post’s Two Month Review podcast as it dives into the classic Icelandic epic, Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller, by Guðbergur Bergsson. Featuring a reading from renowned Icelandic translator, Lytton Smith, the live recording will cover the last section of the book many consider to be the “Icelandic Ulysses.

This recording of the Two Month Review is the culmination of a season long analysis of Bergsson’s work, with each episode meticulously dissecting, discussing and appreciating Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller section by section and page by page. With rotating guests that include famous authors, booksellers, translators, and other readers, the podcast is perfect for anyone interested in plumbing the depths of this fascinating novel about the dangers of nationalism, chamber pots, and death.

We’ve never done this live before, so . . . . come on out to support us! We’ll be covering the last bit of the book, looking back on it as a whole, and taking questions from the audience. Should be even more shambolic than our usual recordings!

The event is free, and will be followed by a reception. But they do ask that you RSVP on Facebook so that they have an idea of how many people to expect.

Hope to see you in a few weeks!

8 September 17 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Sarah Booker on Yuri Herrera’s Kingdom Cons, published by And Other Stories.

Sarah Booker is a Spanish-to-English translator and doctoral student at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her translation of Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Iliac Crest will be published with the Feminist Press in October, 2017.

Here’s the beginning of her review:

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 published in Spanish in 2004 and translated by Lisa Dillman, is Herrera’s third novel to be published in English (though the first he wrote in Spanish) and it completes his loosely-connected triptych of border novels. In his other novels, Signs Preceding the End of the World (2015) and The Transmigration of Bodies (2016), Herrera tackles the experience of crossing the border, the conflicts between crime families, and the effects of disease within the context of the US/Mexico border. Taking on the upper echelons of narco-culture in this text, Kingdom Cons examines the possibilities of language, artistic creation, and the construction of power in a way that feels staggeringly contemporary and necessary.

Herrera’s writing can perhaps best be characterized by the ways that he blends myth and reality. In Kingdom Cons, a drug lord becomes a King, his cartel is depicted as his court, and his palatial residence is transformed into his kingdom. This structure can partly be explained by the author’s writing approach; in an interview published in “Latin American Literature Today”: http://www.latinamericanliteraturetoday.org/en/2017/april/literature-political-responsibility-interview-yuri-herrera-radmila-stefkova-and-rodrigo, Herrera explains that he writes lists of words that he will not use (such as Mexico, United States, border, drugs, and narco-trafficking) as a way of avoiding clichés, but this also means that his writing takes on a more mythical feeling as it is distanced from the specific culture depicted. While it clearly engages with the genre, Kingdom Cons is not a narco-novela because of this approach and the underlying critique of narco-culture that is embedded in the novel.


For the rest of the review, go here.

7 September 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week author and translator Idra Novey joins Chad and Lytton to talk about one of the most challenging sections of the book so far. Not only is there a proliferation of children whose voices constantly interrupt Tómas’s thoughts, but there are a few more unsettling bits that raise questions about what we should believe about Tómas’s narrative and morality. (Questions that will be further addressed next week.) They also talk about the brilliant ways in which Lytton balances all these various registers, and the poetry that shines through Tómas’s curmudgeonly rants.

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. Also, you can support Idra Novey by following her on twitter and buying her novel, Ways to Disappear, which is available now.

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 September 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Summer intern David M. Smith, translator from the Norwegian, 2017 ALTA Fellow, future guest on the Two Month Review, conducted this interview with Duncan Lewis of Nordisk Books.

Proving there’s more to Scandinavia than macabre crime fiction (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and—hygge (always hygge), Nordisk Books is a small UK press specializing in Nordic literary fiction, started in 2016 by Duncan Lewis. With two translations released in its first year and more on the way, Nordisk Books has pushed bold, challenging works whose authors (many of them women) are responsible for much of the innovation in Nordic literature today. Nordisk Books first crossed my radar when I found out they acquired the English rights to Gine Cornelia Pedersen’s Zero, a novel I loved in the original Norwegian. Recently I was able to ask Mr. Lewis about his experience starting a small, one-man press.



David M. Smith: How did you first get interested in Nordic literature? What are your all-time favorite authors and books from the region? And what ultimately led to the creation of Nordisk Books?

Duncan Lewis: My original connection to the region and its literature is from a period of six years (2005 – 2011) where I lived in Denmark, first in Aarhus and later in Copenhagen and Helsingør.

The original idea for Nordisk Books was really inspired by two things. Firstly, Karl Ove Knausgård’s description in the (I think) sixth tome of Min Kamp (My Struggle) of how he came to set up the press that he runs with his brother and friends, Pelikanen. One of their main goals was to publish exciting foreign fiction which had not found a home in Norway (for example, they have put out books by authors such as Ben Marcus).

Secondly, I felt that there was—and is—a huge interest in Nordic culture in the UK, but that from a literary perspective, not much was making the bookshops outside of the crime thriller genre. I thought it would be interesting to try and redress the balance a little. The UK public has recently shown itself to be more open to translated culture—think of the success of Les Revenants and Broen on television—and sales of translated fiction are on the rise.

As for favourite authors, the overall goal of Nordisk Books is really to publish contemporary, new fiction—I guess what used to be called “avant-garde.” So there may not be many that are well known, yet. I do like what I’ve read of Laxness, Hamsun, Carsten Jensen, and Michael Strunge. However, my real aim is to introduce people to some of the pulsating, raw energy that exists in current Nordic literature. The likes of Gine Cornelia Pedersen, whose debut novel is the latest that I’ve signed, is exactly the direction I want Nordisk Books to be going in.



(Love/War by Ebba Witt-Brattström, Translated by Kate Lambert)


DS: What was your publishing experience before starting Nordisk Books? What about the enterprise has surprised you, challenged you?

DL: None. I have worked in banking since 2006, which is to say, excluding stints in bars, cleaning a kindergarten and working behind the till at Disneyland Paris, my whole career. This is still my full time job and Nordisk Books is something I run in my—ever diminishing—spare time.

I started Nordisk in February last year and I’m fairly pleased with what has been accomplished so far. I’ve managed to work out the basics of the publishing environment; I have connections within a number of great publishing houses in Scandinavia, I’ve succeeded in releasing two books (one of which I translated and both of which I typeset) and in acquiring the rights to two more. I think the real challenge is, of course, getting the voices of these authors heard. There is evidently an enormous amount of competition. How many books does the average person read in a year, even a voracious reader? And think how many books there are out there. So the real work is in finding ways to get the attention of booksellers and the people buying books, without having a multi-million-pound marketing budget.

DS: What are some of the ways you have gone about promoting your titles?

DL: For example, I’ve been out with birthday cupcakes to lots of booksellers in London when it was Nordisk Books’ first anniversary (didn’t work) and have contacted bookstores directly over Twitter as well as going in to see them with copies of books to talk about what I’m trying to do (did work). Additionally, I held a couple of screenings of a film that the writer of Nordisk’s second book directed, which had great reviews in Norway and went down pretty well here. Once you start thinking about all the ways these books and their authors can reach people, there are plenty of ideas that start flowing.

DS: How did you decide upon Tom Kristensen’s classic novel Havoc as your first title, and what was the motivation behind updating the existing English translation?

DL: The Nordisk Books edition from last year uses a translation from 1968, by a Swede, Carl Malmberg, that was published in the US. I simply adapted this to British English and modified a few parts here and there, where I felt that the original had inaccuracies.

But as regards the idea behind starting with Havoc, so to speak, I thought it was important to start with a strong work to establish the label. Havoc was written in 1930 and is one of the most widely read and recognised works in modern Danish literature and I feel incredibly proud to have brought it to an English speaking audience.



DS: What other titles have you published and which are forthcoming? How do you generally decide what titles to publish?

DL: The second title was You can’t betray your best friend and learn to sing at the same time, by the Norwegian, Kim Hiorthøy. Hiorthøy’s book is a compact volume of 40-odd flash fiction-type short stories as well as drawings, which together form a wonderful reflection of the absurdity of everyday life.

The next book, to be published later this year, is Love/War, by the Swede Ebba Witt-Brattström. The novel was heavily inspired by a 1970s work by a Swedish-speaking Finn, Märta Tikkanen, telling the tale of the breakdown of the author’s marriage with her abusive husband. Like Tikkanen’s earlier work, Love/War is told in a semi-verse like form and has been hugely successful in Sweden, having been made into both a play and an opera, not least due to the public interest in the real-life couple behind the fictional narrative.

Following this will be Gine Cornelia Pedersen’s phenomenal, prize-winning debut novel, Zero. Pedersen is mainly known in Norway for her starring role in the TV series, Young and Promising, soon to be aired on Channel 4’s Walter Presents in the UK. The book tells the story of a girl growing into adulthood, at the same time as her mental state deteriorates.

To be honest, the choice of books has been very personal so far, entirely based on works that I have seen value in and wanted to put out in the UK. That’s one of the pleasures of running your own publishing company!



DS: Describe your relationship as an editor with both the original authors of the books and the translators.

DL: So far, so good. It’s an interesting process translating a book into English from a language which is spoken by comparatively few people. It of course gives the author access to a far greater number of potential readers, but the fact that Scandinavians tend to speak excellent English means that they are also keen to ensure, understandably, the quality of the translation and production generally. I see this as a good thing, it certainly keeps me on my toes.

As for translators, I only have admiration for this work. Whilst I translated Hiorthøy’s book myself—with plenty of input and assistance from the author—I wouldn’t attempt more lyrical works, such as the next two books. Maintaining not just the sense of the source language but also the feeling of it when reading the book is an incredibly difficult feat, which is why I’m so excited about the translation I’ve just received for Love/War.

DS: Where do you see it all going now that Nordisk Books has been up and running for a while?

DL: Good question. It’s still early days really. My main focus is on building out the list, both in terms of adding more authors from Denmark, Sweden and Norway and in terms of looking at works from Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands etc. The challenge for me personally with the latter countries is that I can’t read the original texts myself, so I need to let go some control of the project. Other than that, it will just be about strengthening the sales network in the UK, to try and get more of these books that I’ve worked so hard on into more of the fantastic independent bookshops across the country.

1 September 17 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Tiffany Nichols on The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán, published by Open Letter Books.

Tiffany went all-in while reading The Invented Part, even keeping track of each time the title phrase was used, among other lists (which, considering the manner of the novel, I think Fresán himself would appreciate!). You can see her list here.

Here’s the beginning of her review:

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 a work only to have the work identify and criticize your lack of attention. Yes, my phone was next to me at all times while reading Rodrigo Fresán’s The Invented Part, and often I was tempted to dash off 140 character reactions to the work, only to be shamed by it a few lines down in the text. This is part of the charm that is The Invented Part. Weaved throughout it are reflections and criticisms of our shift from the written word on a page to a screen. The timing of the publication of the English translation is perfect in light of the behaviors of our current news cycle, the relationships our elected officials have with Twitter, email, the methods used to inform themselves of “reality,” and our current dilema of phrasing through what is real and what is fake.

The Invented Part can be summarized as creating a discourse around the question: How do writer’s view their craft, reality, and relationships with readers and with those individuals who play a role in their lives? The response is addressed through distinguishing the invented part—the part that is created by a writer—and the real part—the reality leveraged by the writer. Through this work, the protagonist, The Writer, draws or focus to the question of our relationship with writers, books, and technology and the literary industry, which frustrates The Writer and causes him in turn to question the role and future physical presence of literature. The Writer is disillusioned with the state of the literary industry and thus decides to travel to CERN and merge with the Higgs boson, resulting in a transformation into invisibility and omnipresence. The publication of the English translation of The Invented Part also coincided with the five-year anniversary of the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs boson particle, also known as (to the dislike of most physicists) the God Particle and largely believed to provide matter with mass.


For the rest of the review, go here.

31 August 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Having announced the judges and details for the 2018 BTBAs just a couple days ago, it’s an appropriate time to revisit last year’s winners—in particular Extracting the Stone of Madness by Alejandra Pizarnik, translated from the Spanish by Yvette Siegert, and published by New Directions. Below you’ll find some remarks from Yvette, along with an audio recording. Enjoy!

I would like to thank the judges for selecting Alejandra Pizarnik’s Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962-1972 for this year’s Best Translated Book Award for poetry. (It was 2 AM in Switzerland when I heard the news. I was up late doing my Portuguese homework.) Heartfelt gratitude to my brilliant editors at New Directions—Tynan Kogane, Jeffrey Yang, and Barbara Epler—for everything they did to bring this book into the world. Thank you, as well, to Ana Becciu and Mónica de la Torre, for their commitment to Pizarnik’s poetry, and to Mieke Chew for accepting the award in my absence. And, finally, thank you, Chad and everyone at Open Letter, for doing the remarkable work you do on behalf of literature and/in translation.

There are always those books that obsess you and won’t let you go. Alejandra Pizarnik’s devastating work is like that. I was 20 years old when I entered her tortured world (the lilacs, the dolls, the cadavers and gardens and crows). Sometimes, what begins as an obsession will flourish into an impulse to translate. That impulse becomes a full creative act, akin to writing a novel or gathering the pieces for a poetry collection. It was never my conscious ambition to become a literary translator, but like Pizarnik, I am the daughter of immigrants and have been translating and interpreting since childhood, so nothing could feel more natural, more grounding. Her writing teemed with an urgency that resonated deeply and that practically demanded my advocacy. It felt like a relentless kinship. What’s more, the desire to find an English for these vibrant, harrowing poems came from an almost tactile artistic need. The result is that I grew up while translating Pizarnik. The experience was exhilarating, often brutal. Our minds got very close; our languages matured together; and her solitude inhabited and changed me. As I translated and revised, I was often the same age as Alejandra when she was writing collections like Diana’s Tree and A Musical Hell. Soon I will be older than she was when she died, and that feels like uncharted territory. It’s at once thrilling and terrifying to receive a prize for something that has been a part of my life like this.

The book’s title comes from a painting by Hieronymus Bosch called De keisnijding (1494; Prado Museum, Madrid), which, in English, is known interchangeably as The Cure for Folly or Cutting the Stone or The Extraction of the Stone of Madness. This work depicts trepanation, a medieval surgical technique believed to relieve various diseases, like migraine, and to remove madness, which was believed to manifest as a tumor in the skull. I opted for the gerund extracting in the title in order to convey the actual process depicted in Bosch’s piece, which in a way parallels Pizarnik’s process of creation.

César Aira once said that Alejandra Pizarnik “was not only a great poet, she was the greatest, and the last.” To hear from readers and writers who have been changed and wrecked by this book has been an extraordinary privilege. I am grateful to the BTBA for this opportunity to share Pizarnik’s work.

—Yvette Siegert
May 2017

Museo del Prado.

31 August 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week, Jacob Rogers—translator from the Galician and bookseller at Malaprop’s in Asheville, North Carolina—joins Chad and Lytton to talk about Tómas Jónsson’s next two “composition books.” Included in these sections are a long bit about the “board” and the general hierarchy of Tómas’s dining hall, the ways in which he’s both an insider and someone on the fringes, and the role of the U.S. military base in Iceland’s overall development. These sections are crucial in fleshing out both Tómas’s character and that of Iceland as a whole, while adding a lot of interesting—and funny—details about his everyday life.

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 also follow Malaprop’s on Twitter, and Jacob on Instagram.

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.



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. . .

Read More >

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. . .

Read More >

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

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

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

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

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Agnes
Agnes by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

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

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Class
Class by Francesco Pacifico
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

The thing about Class is that I don’t know what the hell to think about it, yet I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ll begin by dispensing with the usual info that one may want to know when considering adding. . .

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The Dispossessed
The Dispossessed by Szilárd Borbély
Reviewed by Jason Newport

To be, or not to be?

Hamlet’s enduring question is one that Szilárd Borbély, acclaimed Hungarian poet, verse-playwright, librettist, essayist, literary critic, short-story writer, and, finally, novelist, answered sadly in the negative, through his suicide in 2014, at the. . .

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A Greater Music
A Greater Music by Bae Suah
Reviewed by Pierce Alquist

A Greater Music is the first in a line of steady and much-anticipated releases by Bae Suah from key indie presses (this one published by Open Letter). Building off of the interest of 2016 Best Translated Book Award longlist nominee. . .

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Two Lost Souls: on "Revulsion" and "Cabo De Gata"
Two Lost Souls: on "Revulsion" and "Cabo De Gata" by Horacio Castellanos Moya; Eugen Ruge
Reviewed by Tim Lebeau

The dislocation of individuals from the countries of their birth has long been a common theme in contemporary literature. These two short novels recently translated into English appear firmly rooted in this tradition of ex-pat literature, but their authors eschew. . .

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Melancholy
Melancholy by László Földényi
Reviewed by Jason Newport

In Melancholy, Hungarian author, critic, and art theorist László Földényi presents a panorama of more than two thousand years of Western historical and cultural perspectives on the human condition known as melancholia. In nine chapters, Földényi contrasts the hero worship. . .

Read More >