20 August 08 | Chad W. Post

Earlier this year, I was trying to write up short overviews of all forthcoming translations. Unfortunately, things got in the way, and this project was sort of pushed to the side.

Which is unfortunate. One of the main reasons we started this website was to promote international literature and uncover great books and underpromoted authors. Besides, going through all the books coming out is really fun and helps give me personally a good sense of what’s going on in the international lit scene . . .

So anyway, I’m going to try this again starting with September books. According to the latest translation database there are 35 translations coming out in September—31 works of fiction and 4 collections of poetry. Here are short write-ups on the three titles:

I heard of Moers a few years ago during an editorial trip to Germany when the representative from Hanser started telling us about “The Little Asshole” comic books that no Americans will publish due to the title . . . It sounds like a lot of Moers cartoon works are pretty irreverent and funny. It may just be the Overlook copy, but this book (with 21 woodcuts by Gustave Doré) sounds a bit more subdued and more young adulty (if there is such a term). Overlook describes this as “the tumultuous tale of a little boy who needs to defeat Death through a series of six impossible tasks.”

  • Only Son, Stephane Audeguy, translated from the French by John Cullen (Harcourt, $25, 9780151013296)

Although historical fiction isn’t really my thing, this interview with Audeguy makes this book about Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s older brother sound pretty interesting:

How did the ideas for this unusual novel and its central character come to you?
Did you simply want to write about the 18th century or were you formulating a response to Rousseau, or playing with literary conventions by creating an imaginary autobiography?

To paraphrase Alfred Jarry, I may say I think the need for an autobiography of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s brother was increasingly widely felt. Moreover, the fact that one of the most brilliant contributors to the invention of the modern individual should, in his own Confessions, show himself so blind to the existence of his own brother – this sparked off my imagination. My novel, Fils unique, was conceived in these imaginings. Incidentally, I have the greatest admiration for Rousseau (for his acute sense of comedy, for one thing) but also several reservations with regard to a particular kind of rousseauist attitude. I freely admit that my book plays something of a ‘game’ with literary conventions and with plenty of other things too; this is not, however, purely gratuitous.

  • Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery, translated from the French by Alison Anderson (Europa Editions, $15, 9781933372600)

This book—Barbery’s second novel—won the 2007 French Booksellers Prize. And the Brive-la-Gaillarde Reader’s Prize. And the Rotary International Prize (France). And the French Librarians’ Prize for Culture. And to top it off, this is a French Voices selection. The novel is set in a fancy French hotel and told in two voices—that of Renee, the “short, ugly, and plump” concierge who is also well versed in the arts and literature, and Paloma, a “super-smart twelve-year-old,” who lives in the hotel. There are a lot of positive reviews for this book, and I have the feeling this is going to catch on with a lot of people, even if it is “annoyingly simplistic,” like Michael Orthofer claims in his review. There is a sample chapter available online.

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