11 January 08 | Chad W. Post

One of the fun things about compiling the 2008 Translations list is going through various publishers websites, uncovering books that may otherwise have slipped by unnoticed.

A case in point are the books by Kathrin Roggla and Gert Jonke that Ariadne Press is bringing out this year.

I first heard of Ariadne when I was in Vienna, which isn’t all that unusual considering the fact that they specialize in books on Austrian thought and culture, ranging from more scholarly titles to works of fiction by authors such as Heimito von Doderer.

There isn’t much info online yet, but two of the fiction books they’re bringing out this year sound amazing.

Kathrin Roggla is a fairly young author (born in 1971) who has already won the Alexander Sacher-Masoch prize, the Italo-Svevo prize for literature and the Solothurner prize for literature. The forthcoming book from Ariadne—we never sleep—is an “docu-novel” about a business trade convention and the impact the terms and structures of the New Economy have on us as humans.

Through the conversations of six representative figures, the IT supporter, the online editor, the senior associate, the key account manager, the partner and the intern, the reader is led deeper into the psychological desert of a labor force that has internalized values inimical to both its individual and collective survival. The pressure to perform is driven by the pace of the twenty-four hour work cycle and the frenzied competition motivated by the first signs of collapse and panic in the New Economy boom. Going days without sleep is a point of honor. There is no quitting time. The novel is both a darkly comedic and deeply disturbing view of the work world in the digital age.

Currently, the only work of Gert Jonke’s available in English is Geometric Regional Novel published by Dalkey Archive some years ago. It’s a hysterically funny book, and Blinding Moment. Four Pieces about Composers, which Ariadne is bringing out later this year sounds equally amazing:

Writing from his background as a conservatory-trained musician and his lifelong passion Gert Jonke (born in 1946) has produced literary works in every genre involving the lives and works of various composers. The present volume includes four pieces in several forms — a prose poem in tribute to Olivier Messiaen’s great piano work “Catalogue d’oiseaux,” which gives the title to the piece; a short story in the form of recollections by George Frederick Handel during the last hours of his life; a play (Gentle Rage) in which Ludwig van Beethoven figures as the alternately despondent and triumphant main character; and a novella whose point of departure is the bizarre, accidental shooting death of Anton Webern in 1945 (Blinding Moment).


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