5 September 08 | Chad W. Post

This isn’t a reflection on the start of the new school year, or the end of summer, or anything like that, but today’s capsules of forthcoming translations features three fairly bleak books . . .

Along with 2666, this was the other galley that I was thrilled to receive this past summer. Since reading The Natural Order of Things a number of years ago, I’ve read all of Antunes’s translated titles, with Act of the Damned being one of my all-time favorite titles.

Bookforum is the first place I’ve seen this new book reviewed, and although Craig Seligman has his reservations, it still sounds like a book definitely worth reading:

The style is poetic stream-of-consciousness, with voices melting and melding into one another. The principal narrator is Paulo Antunes Lima, son of the transvestite showgirl and prostitute Soraia (or Carlos, when he isn’t in his blond wig) and the alcoholic teacher-turned-whore Judite—in other words, a young man screwed from the start. At the novel’s opening, he has been hospitalized in a condition of near catatonia, circumstances suggesting a debt to Benjy Compson, though Paulo is no idiot. And while Benjy’s interior monologue at the beginning of The Sound and the Fury recalls the facts of his world as he remembers them, Paulo and the other narrators are constantly drifting into might-have-beens, making it hard to distinguish memory from fantasy. Dashes set off bits of dialogue (as in Joyce), and occasional italics signal a change of time or scene (as in Faulkner), but What Can I Do When Everything’s on Fire?, unlike Ulysses and The Sound and the Fury, doesn’t hotdog through a variety of styles. It’s way too somber for that.

  • Voice Over by Celine Curiol, translated from the French by Sam Richard, introduction by Paul Auster (Seven Stories Press, $24.95, 9781583228487)

Also reviewed in the new issue of Bookforum, and also involving a transvestite, this seems like a good pairing with the Antunes. From the opening of the Bookforum review:

Céline Curiol’s English-language debut, Voice Over, is a thoroughly French affair. Like much of Samuel Beckett’s work (the epigraph to this book is, quite appropriately, taken from Molloy), it chronicles, in relentless detail, an individual’s battle with a host of ontological neuroses that threaten to overwhelm her. And like Beckett’s worldview, Curiol’s is unremittingly bleak.

  • Bad Blood by Borisav Stankovic, translated from the Serbian by Milo Yelesiyevich (Serbian Classics Press, $19.95, 9780967889344)

After finding out about Serbian Classics Press thanks to a piece in Literary Saloon about Danilo Kis’s Mansarda (which SCP also published recently, and which we will be reviewing in the near future), I corresponded a few times with Milo Yelesiyevich, the publisher of SCP and the translator of this book. Milo was kind enough to send us a review copy, which was much appreciated—I had never heard of Stankovic, but the translator’s introduction is really intriguing. Despite the success of Stankovic’s musical play Kostana, Stankovic had a tough time getting Bad Blood published:

So why did publishers unanimously reject Bad Blood?

Stankovic broke a number of taboos. His ambition was to reveal the full spectrum of a woman’s life, ranging from childhood adoration of her father through immature fantasies, marriage, childbirth, disappointment, infidelity, to the final devolution of marriage into a sado-masochistic partnership where only death can bring relief.

Stankovic’s own view of civilization is pessimistic and inclined to tragedy.

Considered the “first true modern psychological novel written in Serbian,” Bad Blood looks very interesting, and hopefully we’ll have a full review of this in the not-too-distant future.

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