19 June 15 | Chad W. Post

This match was judged by M. Lynx Qualey, who runs the Arabic Literature website, and can be found on Twitter at @arablit.

For more information on the Women’s World Cup of Literature, click here or here. Also, be sure to follow our Twitter account and like our Facebook page. And check back here daily!

Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales, translated by Stephen Snyder, and Alicia Yánez Cossío’s Beyond the Islands, translated by Amalia Gladhart, take two very different stylistic approaches. The first is spare, light, and beautiful, while the second bounces along wildly, piling words on top of words (on top of words). But both are collections of linked stories that confuse magic and reality. One takes us around Japan and the other around the Galapagos.

Ogawa scores first with her tidily crafted tales that give us strange, miniature portraits of rejection, with perfectly tended sentences ably re-crafted by Snyder. Each of Ogawa’s creepy story-portraits is linked to the next, sometimes through a character, but more often through a single image. The stories aren’t linked organically, but through their recurring images: a strawberry shortcake, a torture device, apartment number 508.

She scores again as the stories go off-kilter. Each tale of revenge isn’t much in itself: a man won’t leave his wife for his lover, a father doesn’t properly look after his daughter, a woman kills and buries her husband. In the course of them, we hear about violence, but we don’t feel its impact. Instead, the camera cuts away just as a human tongue rolls semi-comically out of a pocket. It soon becomes clear that the violence has been staged for us, and are we to enjoy it? A character’s boyfriend asks, “Do you find it amusing that someone died?”

The echoes grow stranger as they move from one story to the next: kiwis, tomatoes, hand-shaped carrots, torture devices, a dying tiger. As the stories progress, the earlier tales reappear curled up inside the later ones. The women in the stories grow older, clutching their manuscripts, or their reams of blank paper.

None of the individual stories is particularly memorable. Instead, what fascinates about the collection is the echoes that move from one story and the next, often pointing back at the reader. These aren’t really dark tales. They’re light and creepy, twisted in their reflection of the reader looking at the strange violence of rejection, in a mirror that includes a look at ourselves.

Alicia Yanez Cossio’s playful, satiric Beyond the Islands is also a collection of short tales, each chapter focusing on a character who’s at the edge of the world, on the Galapagos Islands. The characters are wonderfully storybook: the pirate with buried treasure, the poet who’s lost his muse, the prostitute with a heart of gold, the narcissistic scientist, the spinster schoolmarm, the grieving mother, the witch-healer, and the baker with the blow-up baroness.

All of them are migrants in some way, and all have come to live among the strange animals on the beautiful, forbidding islands. Each is pushed to his or her outer limits in this place where land shifts its location and the rules of life and death are different than they are elsewhere. Many of the sections—particularly the poet and the scientist—are told with such over-the-top joie de vivre that the reader, thanks to Amalia Gladhart’s translation, goes bouncing over the sentences, with humor and exaggeration.

Everyone is pushed to absurdity here, as for instance the scientist who hijacks a plane in his self-important eagerness to get to the Galapagos (and to his lover), and the spinster schoolmarm who whips up the entire island in the cause of greeting Princess Anne.

This novel scores again and again with its bouncy sentences, its exaggerated marginal characters, the exploration of place beyond place, and the pure joy of its delivery.
Both books have their own strange wit, but Beyond the Islands is a thrill, even steering the reader in to a ridiculous, moving finish. Beyond the Islands definitively beats Revenge 4-2.


And that does it for the first round of the inaugural Women’s World Cup of Literature!

For Ecuador, Alicia Yánez Cossío’s Beyond the Islands will next face off against Cameroon’s Dark Heart of the Night by Léonora Miano on Wednesday, June 24t.

The second round will kick off on Monday with Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood (Canada) taking on The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (New Zealand). That’s a huge match! Experience against youth. A book about the future versus one set in the past. A reasonably sized novel compared with a giant. This should be interesting . . .

Tomorrow’s match will be judged by Rachel Crawford, and features Australia’s Burial Rites by Hannah Kent against Sweden’s The Stranger by Camilla Läckberg.

Comments are disabled for this article.
The Odyssey
The Odyssey by Homer
Reviewed by Peter Constantine

Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.

–(The Odyssey, Book I, line 10. Emily Wilson)

In literary translation of works from other eras, there are always two basic tasks that a translator needs. . .

Read More >

I Remember Nightfall
I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio
Reviewed by Talia Franks

I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio (trans. From the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas) is a bilingual poetry volume in four parts, consisting of the poems “The History of Violets,” “Magnolia,” “The War of the Orchards,” and “The Native. . .

Read More >

Joyce y las gallinas
Joyce y las gallinas by Anna Ballbona
Reviewed by Brendan Riley

This review was originally published as a report on the book at New Spanish Books, and has been reprinted here with permission of the reviewer. The book was originally published in the Catalan by Anagrama as Joyce i les. . .

Read More >

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

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 >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >