8 February 08 | Chad W. Post

Listed below is the latest addition to the ongoing project of documenting all works of translated fiction and poetry published in the U.S. in 2008. Earlier posts can be found here, and in a couple weeks I’ll post the current spreadsheet of all titles (currently around 150 going through Apr/May for a host of presses) and some more careful (or not so careful) analysis. And next week I’ll do a number of these updates—we’ve fallen a bit behind and have a backlog of 20+ books to feature.

Kruger is one of the most influential literary men of Germany—not just for his writing and translating, but for the fact that he’s the head of Hanser Verlag—and this is his second novel to come out in English. In short, it’s about a literary executor who has to go through the papers of the recently deceased Rudolf, a scam of an academic who, nevertheless, leaves behind a unpublished masterpiece that will change the future of literature. This book received a nice review in the L.A. Times over the weekend that includes this bit of praise: “This is a book that not only lives up to its subtitle but also reminds us that between the dramatic poles of slapstick and black comedy is a broad, gray area where the absurd holds unsettling sway.”

  • Unforgiving Years, Victor Serge, translated from the French by Richard Greeman (New York Review Books, $15.95, 9781590172476)

NYRB editor Edwin Frank wrote this up in his monthly newsletter release. The whole release can be found here and rather than try and describe this book myself, I’m just going to quote Edwin: “The book has an epic scope—it is a picture of a planet in convulsion—without foregoing the detail of everyday life or a sense of the moment. It is a spy story and a war story and (several) love stories, gripping and terrifying, passionate and thoughtful, while the men and women in it—they include secret agents, true believers, philosophers, artists, and assassins—are at once larger than life and powerfully alive.”

Jason from the now defunct Lenox Hill Bookshop introduced me to Twisted Spoon books via Hermann Ungar’s The Maimed (a fine, disturbing book) years ago, and I’ve admired their list ever since. Not only are the books themselves really good, but the quality is superb. I am a bit confused by the $18.88 price, but whatever. Looks like a straight Euro to weak dollar conversion, or an Amazon screw-up. My only complaint about TSP is that the books aren’t widely available here. Maybe in a few high-minded indies on the West Coast, but aside from that . . . Really too bad. Anyway, continuing in the TSP tradition of introducing unique Czech authors to English readers, this is Klima’s first title to be published here in translation and sounds very interested. From their website: “In a series of journal entries, the novel chronicles the descent into madness of Prince Sternenhoch, the German Empire’s foremost aristocrat and favorite of the Kaiser. Having become the “lowliest worm” at the hands of his deceased wife Helga, the Queen of Hells, Sternenhoch eventually attains an ultimate state of bliss and salvation through the most grotesque form of perversion. Klíma explores here the paradoxical nature of pure spirituality with a humor that is as darkly comical as it is obscene.”

  • Jamilia, Chingiz Antmatov1, translated from the Russian by James Riordan (Telegram, $11.95, 9781846590320)

Telegram is an interesting publisher founded a few years ago by André Gaspard, who is also the co-founder and publisher of Saqi. They do lots of world literature, including this title, which is the first (and possibly final) Kyrgyzstan writer on the 2008 translation list. This hasn’t gotten much coverage here yet, but there is an excerpt online, and Louis Aragon called it “The most beautiful love story in the world.”

Although I’m not sure how much play they get nationally, White Pine has a really nice program, doing a ton of translations, especially from Korea (see the complete Korean Voices Series) and poetry. This story collection explores the devastating effects of war, including one story that sounds quite good: “Although the war happened many years ago, old animosities remain, and elderly nursing home residents are traumatized by their belief that the new resident was a collaborator.”

1 Or Chingiz Aitmatov, who has had several novels published in English, most recently The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years.

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