Following on my earlier post about the “buzz” panel on general fiction in translation, here’s some info about the one that Tom Roberge will be moderating on Friday morning, which will be featuring all crime novels.
BEA Selects Crime Fiction in Translation
Fricay, May 28th, 10:30am
Europa Editions (Booth 3124) will be presenting two titles, starting with Massimo Carlotto’s Gang of Lovers, translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar:
Padua, Italy. An unremarkable man, a husband and father, disappears without a trace. After a few months of searching, the police send his file to the cold cases department to be thrown in with the files of other missing persons. One woman knows the truth about his disappearance, but, being the daughter of a prominent and wealthy Swiss industrialist she fears coming forward with what she knows: that she was his lover and that there is more to his disappearance than another bored suburban husband running out on his. Stricken by guilt, she finally confides in a lawyer who advises her to turn to Marco Buratti, aka The Alligator, for help.
And, Michael Reynolds will also present Maurizio de Giovanni’s The Bottom of Your Heart, also translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar:
In the middle of a summer heat wave, as Naples prepares for one of its most important holy days, a renowned surgeon falls to his death from his office window. For Commissario Ricciardi and Brigadier Maione it is the beginning of an investigation that will bring them into contact with the most torrid, conflicting, and enduring of human passions. In the world Ricciardi and Maione are about to enter, infidelity appears inextricable from the most joyful expressions of love, and, this interdependence sows doubt and uncertainty in both men, compromising their personal lives.
Europa Editions is celebrating their 10th Anniversary this year, starting with a party tonight at Greenlight Bookstore. I’m planning on going, and, as if it were still 2008, I’m going to try and do some crazy blogging about BEA when I get back. Stay tuned.
Soho Press (Booth 3240) will present The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura, translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell:
On a nighttime walk along a Tokyo riverbank, a young man named Nishikawa stumbles on a dead body, besides which is lying a gun. From the moment Nishikawa makes the decision to take the gun, the world around him blurs. Knowing he possesses the gun brings an intoxicating sense of purpose to his dull university life. But Nishikawa’s personal entanglements are becoming unexpectedly complicated: he finds himself romantically involved with two women, while his biological father, whom he’s never met, lies dying in a hospital. Through it all, he can’t stop thinking about the gun—and the four bullets preloaded in its chamber. As he spirals into obsession, his focus is consumed by one idea: that possessing the gun is no longer enough—he must fire it.
Soho is one of the coolest presses publishing today. Great crime books, great literary fiction, great covers, great staff.
Come out on Friday to see Tom host this panel with Michael Reynolds and Juliet Grames.Tweet
So, this year, for the first time ever, BookExpo America is sponsoring two panels highlighting forthcoming works of fiction: one featuring general fiction, the other focusing on crime and thrillers. (Naturally, I’m moderating the first one and Tom Roberge is doing the other.)
The one on general adult fiction will take place first on Thursday, May 28th, at 10:30am on the Eastside Stage. The Crime one will be on Friday, May 29th, at 10:30am on the Eastside Stage.
Any of you who happen to be attending BEA should definitely come check this out. As a pilot program, it’s very important that we have a decent number of people show up for the events, so that we can hopefully grow this more and more in the future.
To whet your interest, here’s a bit of a preview of the General Fiction panel (I’ll do crime separately), complete with booth numbers so that you can go snag galleys of the books that look most interesting to you:
BEA Selects Adult Fiction in Translation
Thursday, May 27th, 10:30am
Coach House Books (Booth 648) will present Guano by Louis Carmain, translated from the French by Rhonda Mullins.
Since this won’t be available for a while, I can’t find any information about this on Coach House’s site, but I was able to scrape this off of Google Translate:
This is a story of war and love. Now, as these two are often born of entertainment no – tense border, made smiles – to surprise us in the end to be all – dead, tears, surprises – there was virtually no grand departure thing.
Which . . . is intriguing . . . (Seriously though, Coach House does great work and I’m really glad they’ll be featured on this panel.)
Coffee House Press (Booth 642) will present Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney:
Highway is a late-in-life world traveller, yarn spinner, collector, and legendary auctioneer. His most precious possessions are the teeth of the ‘notorious infamous’ like Plato, Petrarch, and Virginia Woolf. Written in collaboration with the workers at a Jumex juice factory, Teeth is an elegant, witty, exhilarating romp through the industrial suburbs of Mexico City and Luiselli’s own literary influences.
(I actually just finished reading this and it’s wonderful.)
Graywolf Press (Booth 3064) will present A Woman Loved by Andreï Makine, translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan:
Catherine the Great’s life seems to have been made for the cinema—her rise to power, her reportedly countless love affairs and wild sexual escapades, the episodes of betrayal, revenge, and even murder—there’s no shortage of historical drama. But Oleg Erdmann, a young Russian filmmaker, seeks to discover and portray Catherine’s essential, emotional truth, her real life, beyond the rumors and facades. His first screenplay just barely makes it past the Soviet film board, and is assigned to a talented director, but the resulting film fails to avoid the usual clichés. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, as he struggles to find a place for himself in the new order, Oleg agrees to work with an old friend on a TV series that becomes a quick success—as well as increasingly lurid, a far cry from his original vision. He continues to seek the real Catherine elsewhere . . .
Makine is extremely well-known throughout the world (you may be familiar with Dreams of My Russian Summers, which enjoyed a great deal of success) and it’s great that he’s found a home at Graywolf for his new books.
Come out on Thursday morning to see Erin Kottke, Alana Wilcox, and Caroline Casey talk about all of these!Tweet
This is just a reminder for any and everyone in the New York area—especially those of you who are attending BookExpo America.
The official announcement of this year’s Best Translated Book Award winners will take place tomorrow, Wednesday, May 27th, at 2:30pm at the Eastside Stage in the Jacob Javitz Center. Judges Katrine Ogaard Jensen and Jeremy Garber will be there to announce the fiction, and judge Bill Martin will do the poetry.
Following that announcement, everyone in NY with an interest in international literature will be gathering at The Folly (92 W. Houston Street, near Thompson) at 5pm for drinks and appetizers. This is open to the public, so be sure and come by!Tweet
This week’s podcast is the latest in the ongoing Three Percent Book Club. Julia Berner-Tobin of Feminist Press joins Tom and Chad to talk about Virginie Despentes’s fantastic Apocalypse Baby. (And to rant about Franzen, because, of course.)
And a reminder: Don’t forget to send us your own questions, rants, and raves (about anything from the podcast to publishing to literature to translations to Tom to Chad to soccer to cocktails to etc.) for our big episode 100. Hit us up at email@example.com.
This week’s music is Tous Les Mêmes by Stromae.
As always you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. Or just copy this link to add our show’s feed to any podcast app:
The chapbook itself is short—clocking in at 32 pages—and is yet another beautiful work of print done by Ugly Duckling. Here’s the beginning of Vince’s review, which tries to get a grasp on what to expect, or not to expect, from poems labeled as “avant-garde”:
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in _Morse, My Deaf Friend_— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling Presse as part of their Eastern European Poets Series— will be confounding to those accustomed to poetry that holds its reader’s hand. These poems do not. They are elliptical and strange and offer very few concrete signifiers.
For the rest of the review, go here.Tweet
Yesterday afternoon, as we were recording Three Percent podcast #99, it was announced that László Krasznahorkai had won the 2015 Man Book International Prize, becoming the only the sixth winner of the biennial award, and the first winner since Ismail Kadare in 2005 who doesn’t write in English.
From the judges:
In László Krasznahorkai’s The Melancholy of Resistance, a sinister circus has put a massive taxidermic specimen, a whole whale, Leviathan itself, on display in a country town. Violence soon erupts, and the book as a whole could be described as a vision, satirical and prophetic, of the dark historical province that goes by the name of Western Civilisation. Here, however, as throughout Krasznahorkai’s work, what strikes the reader above all are the extraordinary sentences, sentences of incredible length that go to incredible lengths, their tone switching from solemn to madcap to quizzical to desolate as they go their wayward way; epic sentences that, like a lint roll, pick up all sorts of odd and unexpected things as they accumulate inexorably into paragraphs that are as monumental as they are scabrous and musical.
And Marina Warner:
László Krasznahorkai is a visionary writer of extraordinary intensity and vocal range who captures the texture of present day existence in scenes that are terrifying, strange, appallingly comic, and often shatteringly beautiful. The Melancholy of Resistance, Satantango and Seiobo There Below are magnificent works of deep imagination and complex passions, in which the human comedy verges painfully onto transcendence. Krasznahorkai, who writes in Hungarian, has been superbly served by his translators, George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet.
My favorite part of the official press release has to be this paragraph:
Krasznahorkai and his translator George Szirtes were longlisted for the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for Satantango and Krasznahorkai has won the Best Translated Book Award in the US two years in a row, in 2013 for Satantango and in 2014 for Seiobo There Below.
For winning the award, Krasznahorkai will receive £60,000, and he “has chosen to split the £15,000 translator’s prize between two translators, George Szirtes (who translated Satantango and The Melancholy of Resistance) and Ottilie Mulzet (who translated Seiobo There Below).”
If you’re not already a Krasznahorkai fan and reader, you can find out more about all of his works via Scott Esposito’s Guide for the Perplexed and Fascinated.Tweet
The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Robert Anthony Siegel on Terayama Shūji’s The Crimson Thread of Abandon, translated by Elizabeth L. Armstrong and published by the University of Hawai’i Press.
Robert Anthony Siegel is the author of two novels, All Will Be Revealed and All the Money in the World. Recent work of his has been in Tin House and the New York Times, and is forthcoming in The Paris Review. More information on him and his work can be found at his web site.
Here’s the beginning of Robert’s review:
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important even if it wasn’t as good as it is: an introduction to the work of a creative colossus who helped define the Japanese counterculture in the 1960s and ’70s, leaving his mark not only on fiction and poetry, but also on photography, film, TV, radio, and the theater.
As it happens, Crimson Thread is thin but lovely, a gathering of very short wisps of stories that read sometimes as cracked postmodernist fables, sometimes as bemused and irreverent prose poems à la James Tate (Terayama actually started out as a tanka poet, bent on upending that most self-consciously refined of ancient aristocratic traditions). Terayama’s work thus anticipated both the rise of flash fiction and the resurgence of the fairy tale as a medium for serious writing. In his fictive world, puppets fall in love and make their owners jealous, lovers turn into birds at the wrong time, and pictures jump out of magazines to warn readers about the perils of desire. It is a world of chance and unintended consequences, where the boundaries between imagination and reality are porous, and wishes are both beautiful and dangerous.
For the rest of the review, go here.Tweet
This Thursday, May 21st at 7pm, I’ll be moderating a conversation at Albertine Book Store (972 Fifth Ave., NYC) with Jean Findlay and Esther Allen about the life and work of two celebrated translators: C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Michael Henry Heim. You should come!
While C. K. Scott Moncrieff’s work has shaped our understanding of Proust’s seven-volume masterpiece—published as Remembrance of Things Past—he has remained hidden behind the genius of the man whose reputation he helped build. In this biography, Chasing Lost Time: The Life and Work of C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Jean Findlay—Scott Moncrieff’s great-great-niece—reveals a fascinating, tangled life.
Michael Henry Heim—one of the most respected translators of his generation—translated two-dozen works from eight different languages, including books by Milan Kundera, Dubravka Ugresic, Hugo Claus, and Anton Chekov. But Mike, as he was known to his legion of friends, was much more than that. His classes at UCLA on translation inspired a new generation of translators, and his work altering the way translation is viewed will impact the livelihood of translators for decades to come. The Man Between is both a homage to Mike and a useful book for anyone interested in translation.
The discussion is free and open to all, and no RSVP is necessary. For more information, see the event page on Albertine’s website.Tweet
For this week’s podcast, we invited Best Translated Book Award Fiction Chair Monica Carter on to talk about the finalists for this year’s awards. Monica graciously gave us some insight into the voting process, revealed which of the final ten was a “personal pick” of one of the judges, and managed to make us second guess who we thought would win the award.
Additionally, we talked about the differences between the UK vs. U.S. book scenes, and had some rants, raves, and sports talk.
REMINDER: Next week, Feminist Press editor Julia Berner-Tobin will be our guest to discuss “Apocalypse Baby” by Virginie Despentes, translated from the French by Siân Reynolds, the latest book in the Three Percent Book Club. Go out and get a copy! It’s a fast, vicious read, and if you have any questions for the three of us, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday morning.
ANOTHER REMINDER: Our 100th episode is coming up, and to celebrate, we’d like to do one that’s all about “listener appreciation.” So send any and all comments and questions to email@example.com—we’ll answer anything you’d like . . .
This week’s music is Waste the Alphabet from the new Dick Diver album. (Dick Diver being a reference to Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night.)
And you can email us with complaints and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a couple weeks, the IDPF Digital Book Conference will take place in New York under the theme of “Putting Readers First.” As part of this Ed Nawokta (Publishing Perspectives founder and international publishing guru of sorts), Boris Kachka (Hothouse author and former BEA frond-waver [sorry, inside joke]), Andrew Albanese (Publishers Weekly and fan of all the teams my teams lose to, like Chelsea and the Yankees), and Kristin Nelson (Nelson Literary Agency) are scheduled to discuss whether Amazon is “good for readers,” a panel that’s sure to provoke both bookselling traditionalists and the new wave of ebook-loving Amazon loyalists.
When Ed mentioned this panel over dinner the other day, Will Evans of Deep Vellum expressed the reaction common to most all publishing people: “Amazon’s good for consumers but not readers. It’s bad for reading.”
Which, when you think about it, makes no sense. You’re not a better reader for having purchased your book at a local indie store, just as you’re not better at brushing your teeth if you refuse to buy toothpaste from Walmart. How you acquire your goods has no impact on how you actually engage with them—that’s a totally different process.
Will immediately agreed with me, backing off his instant condemnation and admitted that “if you buy a book from Amazon your eyes are just scanning over the words” is ridiculous statement, but one that you can imagine some die-hard anti-Amazonists making—and being totally serious about.
I suspect that Digital Book World is conflating the words “readers” and “book buyers,” but if not, what an odd topic for a panel. Because how can a retailer—especially of cultural goods—be responsible for making their customers “better” at using the products they buy?
All of this got me thinking though: How does one become a better reader? How do you learn this skill? And what exactly makes you a “good” reader?
Seeing that I’m based at a top notch university, and graduated with a degree in English, and work in publishing, and write about books a lot, and think about reading basically all the time, I feel like I should have some decent answers to these questions . . . but I really don’t.
If you take a sort of high school English approach to this, being a “good reader” is being able to identify themes and point of view, decipher symbols and metaphors, understand characterization, etc. Break down a piece of writing into its general components and “analyze” them in five-paragraph thesis papers.
These things are all great, but do they really help you judge whether a sentence is “well-written” or help you judge whether a book as a whole is successful? There’s so much more to a book than its organizing images and the fact that the story is an example of Man vs. Nature. I think.
In college, theories start to get worked into the mix, and being a “good reader” means that you’re good at applying Marxist/Feminist/Freudian/Post-Structural theory to a text, pulling out elements so that you can expand (still in five-paragraph, thesis-driven format) on some greater truths or observations about the world. In theory (sorry), the point of this approach is to make you a better reader of life, of all the texts—novels to film, street signs to non-verbal codes, cultural and architectural structures—connecting the work you do as a liberal arts major or professor to the “real world.”
I’m not sure that writers, or booksellers, or critics, or publishers, would necessarily agree that these are the absolute qualities of a good reader, since readers steeped in this methodology tend to ignore style in favor of content, and really only that content that supports a pre-existing paradigm, making you more of a good interpreter than a good reader.
Whatever criteria one chooses, I think it can be assumed that when a good reader reads a good book, something more than simple entertainment takes place. But maybe not. Maybe the best readers are the ones who can let a book take them over, let it guide their thoughts and emotions, instead of trying to crack it open, or utilize it as a tool in a greater theory.
Maybe good readers are the ones who are slow readers, who pay attention and notice things, and the process of noticing and making connections is what makes them “good.”
Regardless of the criteria, how does one become good at reading? On some level, this can be taught—you learn how metaphors and motifs work, you’re taught to pay attention in a certain way—but a lot of it comes from, well, simply reading a lot. You get better at pattern recognition—within a book and within books as a whole—the more books you’re exposed to, and, like some sort of textual feedback loop, the more texts you’re exposed to the more patterns you’re aware of and able to recognize.
One practical example: I’ve been reading Finnegans Wake all this year, and I really wonder what makes you a good reader of this book. What does it even mean to “read” a book that’s impossible to fully understand (another rubric for being a good reader is “understanding a book at a deep level”), because it is so coded with languages, puns, verbal jokes, misspellings, obscure references, and interior jokes? Where every sentence can be interpreted in several different ways? How do you prepare to be a good reader of this? Are you a good reader if you can explain the plot (which actually isn’t all that complicated), or do you have to be able to explain everything?
I could go on about this for a while, but the thing that keeps coming to mind is how being a good reader, to me at least, means being able to take part of ongoing literary conversations. This could take part in a classroom, or by reading, understanding, and reacting to a London Review of Books/New Yorker/New York Review of Books/Bookforum review, or through conversations with booksellers, critics, or other good readers. The conversation aspect is what really counts in my opinion. You can write as many college essays as you want, but that doesn’t mean that you can hold your own at a New Directions party.
And that’s the part that’s most fascinating to me. I’m not sure that reading a ton of books improves the quality of your life (to be honest, if you’re anything like me, it just makes you more miserable and aware of your shortcomings and impending death), but if it does, it’s not only through the books themselves and being able to see things in them and understand their craft and impact, but by being able to share that with others.
Which is something you have to create—find a community, engage with the conversation—and something that bookstores could facilitate. More on that next month. For now, let’s get to the May books!
The Indian by Jón Gnarr, translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith (Deep Vellum)
Calligraphy Lesson by Mikhail Shishkin, translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz (Deep Vellum)
Probably should’ve included The Indian last month, but I had it coded for May in our database . . . Anyway, Gnarr was here in Rochester at the end of April for a couple stellar events. I could go on and on about how great he and his family are, but instead I want to mention how much my daughter LOVED this book. Here’s a picture of her copy with marks for all the bits she either a) found funny or b) contained Icelandic words she couldn’t pronounce:
This is the first book that both of us read at the same time—and both really enjoyed. That’s a strange, fantastic sensation. She even got up at one of our events to try and convince everyone there that they needed to read The Indian. Natural born sales rep!
Shishkin you probably already know of, if not because of Maidenhair, then because of this New York Times op-ed.
Behind the Station by Arno Camenisch, translated from the German by Donal McLaughlin (Dalkey Archive)
I Saw Her That Night by Drago Jančar, translated from the Slovenian by Michael Biggins (Dalkey Archive)
First of all, as Michael Orthofer pointed out at the Literary Saloon, Dalkey Archive is moving to the University of Houston-Victoria, which I’d only heard of because it’s the home to American Book Review. ABR was also together with Dalkey at Illinois State, so in a way, this move makes some sense . . . Long way from Illinois though, in terms of location and perceived status, but at least Dalkey has a base from which to continue bringing out all their various series. And maybe Dalkey can link up with Deep Vellum to get introduced to the Texas Book scene that Will Evans has been helping create . . .
In terms of these two books, Dustin Kurtz sang the praises of Camenisch’s first book on Twitter, which caught my attention. (He said something about it being the best book of the summer of 2014, even though it’s only like 60 pages.) This is the second part of a trilogy, and since I’m planning on catching up on a number of series this summer—My Struggle, the Ferrante, that crazy new Danielewski thing—I’m moving this to the top of my pile.
And I really like Jančar’s Mocking Desire, which Northwestern brought out a million or so years ago. I haven’t read any of the newer books of his that Dalkey has been doing, but this one seems like as good a place as any to get back into him.
Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven by Antoine Volodine, translated from the French by J. T. Mahany (Open Letter)
So instead of going on about his incredible project (“Think Faulkner, but after an apocalypse.”) and all the reasons you should read this strange book—and then go back and read everything else of his that’s available in English—I’m just going to direct you to Music & Literature where all week they’re going to be posting Volodine-related content, including a review of this title, and an except from Lutz Bassmann’s The Eagles Reek.
Divine Punishment by Sergio Ramirez, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor (McPherson & Company)
I actually ran into Nick Caistor and his wife Amanda Hopkinson at a PEN World Voices event last weekend. They are two of the best translators in the world. Not only because they’re so talented, but because they’re great, happy people who have done a lot for the world of translation, be it via the Arts Council England, British Center for Literary Translation, or by mentoring younger translators. Overall, they are just wonderful and it’s always good to be able to highlight a book that they worked on.
And what a book! Ignore that cover for a minute and just read this:
Upon its original publication, Carlos Fuentes declared Divine Punishment to be the quintessential Central American novel. In this, the greatest work of a storied literary career, Sergio Ramírez transforms the most celebrated criminal trial in Nicaraguan history—the alleged murders in 1933 of two high society women and his employer by a Casanova named Oliverio Castañeda—into an examination of the entire Nicaraguan society at the brink of the first Somosa dictatorship. Passion, money, sex, gossip, political intrigue, medical malpractice and judicial corruption all merge into a novel that reads like a courtroom drama wrapped in yellow journalism disguised as historical fiction posing as a scandal of the first order.
There is some backstory to this about how a major publisher was going to bring it out, but after the Sandinistas lost the election in 1990, the book was dropped. (This is all hearsay, but an intriguing story.) Also worth noting that this is only the sixth book from Nicaragua to be listed in the Translation Database. Sixth.
The Guilty by Juan Villoro, translated from the Spanish by Kimberly Traube (George Braziller)
I have no idea why I haven’t published Villoro at either Dalkey or Open Letter. His name has been around for years, and now that George Braziller has broken the seal, expect four or five of his books to come out to wild acclaim over the next couple years.
El Testigo is the book I would’ve like to see come out first, but whatever, I’m sure these stories are just as brilliant.
Alexandrian Summer by Yitzhak Gormezano Goren, translated from the Hebrew by Yardenne Greenspan (New Vessel Press)
The Keeper’s Daughter by Jean-Francois Caron, translated from the French by W. Donald Wilson (Talonbooks)
If you’re outside of the industry you probably haven’t noticed this at all, but over the past couple years, Consortium has taken over as the distributor of translated fiction. Sure, they no longer sell Knausgaard or Ferrante (they once did!), but in terms of sheer volume and quantity, no one can compete with them. New Vessel, Deep Vellum, Open Letter, Hispabooks are four translation-only presses Consortium represents to go along with Akashic, BOA Editions, Copper Canyon, Bellevue, Coach House, Coffee House, Talonbooks, Biblioasis . . . I could figure this out if I wanted, but I’ll bet Consortium represents a larger percentage of translations coming out in the States than any other distributor out there. That’s impressive. I like that.
One of the aspects of the book trade that doesn’t get a lot of play from those of us writing about the industry are the sales reps. Granted, they’re honored by Publishers Weekly every year, but online, in blogs like this, we rarely discuss the valuable role they play in getting books from the publisher into the stores. For more than a decade, I did this myself, visiting Sessalee at B&N and calling on over a hundred independent stores. It was thankless and difficult. Since switching to Consortium, our sales are up over 40%, thanks mostly to the sales reps. That’s remarkable. And these reps are such great book people. They see everything, they dip into all of the books, they love bookstores and the whole process. I think it would be interesting to have a rep write something for a place like Publishing Perspectives about the process of being a rep. How it works, how many books you end up fronting, how many stores you visit, what the future of repping is in our digitally-obsessed world. I’d personally read that. Man, if I ever get out of publishing, I think this would be the job for me. Read all the books and talk to all the best booksellers!
The Game for Real by Richard Weiner, translated from the Czech by Benjamin Paloff (Two Lines Press)
Innocence; Or, Murder on Steep Street by Heda Margolius Kovaly, translated from the Czech by Alex Zucker (Soho Press)
All the Czech literature! Both of these books look really interesting, although Two Lines wins in terms of the most eye-catching cover. Although I must say, that guy’s face seems pretty disconnected from the fact that Richard Weiner, who died in 1937, was praised by Hrabal, was a member of the French surrealists, and was one of the Czech Republic’s greatest existential writers. There’s something about that cover that seems so now to me. Which is good for Two Lines. Bust out of the stodgy, traditional sort of cover that one would expect for a Serious Practitioner of Existential Art and get fans of Fight Club to pick it up.
I was initially interested in featuring Innocence because of all the great work Alex Zucker has been doing of late, and because I love all the Soho Press employees and their tiki bar obsession, but once reading the description, I just simply want to read this book.
In 1985, Czech Holocaust memoirist, literary translator, and political exile Heda Margolius Kovály turned her pen to fiction. Inspired by the stories of Raymond Chandler, Kovály knit her own terrifying experiences in early 1950s Socialist Prague—her husband’s imprisonment and wrongful execution, her own persecution at his disgrace—into a gorgeous psychological thriller-cum-detective novel.
Set in and around a cinema where a murder was recently committed, Innocence follows the unfolding of the investigation while telling the stories of the women who work there as ushers, each of whom is forced to support herself in difficult circumstances. As the novel brings this group alive, it tells their various life stories that have brought them to this job, the secrets they share with one another, and the secrets they keep. When the detective trying to solve the first murder is found slain by the cinema, all of their secrets come into the light.
Death and Socialism—perfect combo for a summer read!
Confessions by Jaume Cabré, translated from the Catalan by Mara Faye Lethem (Arcadia)
I’m curious to see what happens to the Arcadia list over the next few years, now that the founder and principle editors are all gone . . . I suspect that by 2017, this will be a very different sort of house. Which sucks, since they have a great track record of doing interesting literature in translation . . .
Anyway, like all of Cabré’s books, this sounds really fascinating. But man, does this guy write long. 751 pages?! Who does he think he is, Knausgaard? (Kidding, kidding.) As one-sentence descriptions of books go, this one is pretty killer: “At 60 and with a diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s, Adria Ardevol re-examines his life before his memory is systematically deleted.” Daaaammmn. Stylistically, there’s a lot that could be done with that.
Random note: I’m actually writing this from Torino, where later this afternoon I’m going to be giving a presentation on Italian literature in translation (and the lack thereof). Last time I was here was in 2010, when I first met Maya Faye Lethem’s brother in person and he took me to a place called “Seven Dwarfs” for farinata, which is one of the most delicious things in the universe. Oh, and a literal dwarf served us. I’m not making this up. It was an experience. This is exactly why I like to travel. Books and odd dining experiences.Tweet
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in _Morse, My Deaf Friend_— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .
Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .
“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .
What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .
The opening of Jón Gnarr’s novel/memoir The Indian is a playful bit of extravagant ego, telling the traditional story of creation, where the “Let there be light!” moment is also the moment of his birth on January 2nd, 1967. Then. . .
Mahasweta Devi is not only one of the most prolific Bengali authors, but she’s also an important activist. In fact, for Devi, the two seem to go together. As you can probably tell from the titles, she writes about women. . .
The prolific Spanish author Benito Pérez Galdós wrote his short novel, Tristana, during the closing years of the nineteenth century, a time when very few options were available to women of limited financial means who did not want a husband.. . .
Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .
There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .