29 January 08 | Chad W. Post

Here’s the next installment in the ongoing project to chronicle all works of fiction and poetry coming out in translation this year. More fiction tomorrow . . .

All that really needs to be said is that Complete Review gave this an A. (By comparison, The Savage Detectives only earned an A-.) One of the most anticipated translations of the year, Bolano’s latest is a encyclopedia of sorts of imaginary writers from throughout the Americas. The buzz around this book is pretty incredible, thanks in part to the great job New Directions and FSG did in building Bolano’s reputation as one of the world’s greatest contemporary writers whose life was tragically cut short. An excerpt is available at the ND site, and in the new issue of Bookforum.

  • The Waitress Was New, Dominique Fabre, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (Archipelago, $15.00, 9780977857692)

Fabre is the author of nine works of fiction—including Fantomes, which received the Marcel Pagnol prize in 2001—but this is the first to appear in English. Fabre seems to fit in with the group of contemporary French writers that includes Echenoz, Oster, and the like, although that’s a pretty broad generalization. This just arrived in the mail yesterday, and based on the first few pages, I’m sure we will be reviewing this in the next few weeks. (I’m motivated by the writing itself and the line from the jacket copy about “the fellow who from time to time strips down and plunges into the nearby Seine,” which is exactly the sort of character most books need.) Fabre is going to be on tour here in the States, starting in New York with a reading at the Old Can Factory on Feb. 25th, then to Chicago on the 28th to be part of the Bookslut Reading Series, before going to Lincoln and Denver. For more info on this tour, please contact info at archipelagobooks dot org.

  • The Have-Nots, Katharina Hacker, translated from the German by Helen Atkins (Europa Editions, $14.95, 9781933372419)

This novel won the 2006 German Book Prize for best novel, and is yet another book we’re planning on reviewing later this month. An explicitly post-9/11 book, this novel is about two young people meet at a party and plan to get together again on the evening of 9/11/01 . . . Here’s what the German Book Award jury had to say: “Her protagonists are in their thirties,” wrote the jurors. “They know it all and yet of one thing they know nothing: themselves. They drift and yet are driven . . . Their questions are our questions.”

  • The Whistler, Ondjaki, translated from the Portuguese (Angola) by Richard Bartlett (Aflame Books, $14.00, 9780955233975)

Aflame is a relatively new press based in the UK and distributed via IPG. Their mission is very admirable—“to publish in English translation, works from Africa, Latin America and the Middle East; works whose brilliance has been hidden from the English-speaking world by the barriers of culture and language”—and their list is very interesting. (Thanks to Michael Orthofer for bringing Aflame to my attention.) The Whistler was praised in the African Review of Books for its humor and hope. It’s the story of the effect a mysterious young whistler has over the course of a week in an Angolan village. Sounds pretty interesting, especially since it “culminates in a Sunday Mass celebrated with orgasmic fervour—literally.”

Another title from Aflame that sounds kind of wacky: “A suave urban swindler invites himself to the sleepy hinterland of Nyanyadu where he dupes a well-meaning but naive local notable into a deceitful partnership. Pretending to be a modern-day Moses on a mission to save the people, CC Ndebenkulu is nothing more than a con man whose artifice exposes one man’s obsession with instant riches.” This was selected as one of Africa’s 100 Best Books from the Twentieth Century and is his first book to be translated into English.

  • Tworki, Marek Bienczyk, translated from the Polish by Benjamin Paloff (Northwestern University Press, $15.95, 9780810124769)

Over the years Northwestern’s “Writers from an Unbound Europe” series has been instrumental in introducing a lot of East European authors to English-readers. Bienczyk is yet another example of this. The translator of Kundera and Cioran into Polish, Bienczyk seems to incorporate a lot of literary games into his writing. This novel—set in a psychiatric hospital during WWII—sounds pretty fun and melancholy, and his earlier novel, Terminal—a “post-modern” love story—sounds good as well. It’s unfortunate—Northwestern does a lot of great books, but because of the staid jacket design and the lack of attention received by the media, a lot of these gems languish on bookstore shelves . . .


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