26 February 08 | Chad W. Post

I’ve fallen a bit behind on these preview capsules of forthcoming translations, but hopefully will be able to catch up in the next week or so. For anyone interested, all the past write ups of 2008 translations can be found here. And I’ll be posting the current version of the complete database later this week. For now, here’s a quick look at five forthcoming works of fiction in translation.

  • Serve the People! Yan Lianke, translated from the Chinese by Julia Lovell (Black Cat/Grove, $14.00, 9780802170446)

This is a Reading the World 2008 title and has a great blurb on the back from the Chinese Central Propaganda Bureau: “This novel slanders Mao Zedong, the army, and is overflowing with sex. . . . Do not distribute, pass around, comment on, excerpt from it, or report on it.” It’s the story of an affair between the wife of a powerful communist party member and a her servant, and has received a number of good reviews (including a starred one in Booklist and a B+ from Complete Review), with many critics praising the way it subverts the language of the communist party. This bit of info from the Brooklyn Rail review, “A year before China’s Yan Lianke wrote Serve the People!, he was dismissed from his position in the People’s Liberation Army. Employed to write stories that improved soldiers’ morale, it is not surprising that he was shown the door after penning Enjoyment, the 2004 novel mocking the money-making schemes of local government.” E.J. is in the process of reviewing this in full for the site.

  • The Mule, Juan Eslava Galan, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman (Bantam, $12.00, 9780553385083)

Although Juan Eslava Galan is very well respected in Spain—and the author of some 50 works!—this appears to be the only book of his available in English translation. Set in the Spanish Civil War, this is a book about a man, his mule Valentina, and “low-brow drinking escapades, long shots at love, and an otherwise droning existence shared by his compatriots.” An excerpt is available from Bantam, but aside from that, there’s not a lot of info online. At least not yet. There are other things I want to say about this book, but I have to save them for the “odd things that publishers do” series. . .

  • The Lemoine Affair, Marcel Proust, translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell (Melville House, $9.00, 9781933633411)

I don’t think this is listed on Melville House’s website yet, but The Lemoine Affair is part of MHP’s fantastic “Art of the Novella” series, which includes books by Henry James, James Joyce, Robert Louis Stevenson, and soon will include some more contemporary authors, such as Imre Kertesz. As if it’s not enough just to have access to a “new” book from Proust, this description guarantees that I’m going to buy and read this: “In this overlooked comedic gem based on a true story, the author considered one of the most important writers of the twentieth century tells the tale of a con artist who claimed he could manufacture diamonds, with each chapter of the tale written in the style of a different French writer. This delicious spoof of Balzac, Flaubert, Chateaubriand and others is presented in a sparkling, nuanced translation by the award-winning Charlotte Mandell.” (Yes, the same Charlotte Mandell who is translating the Jonathan Littell book for HarperCollins.)

  • The Dancer and the Thief, Antonio Skarmeta, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (W.W. Norton, $24.95, 9780393064940)

Skarmeta is most well known for his novel The Postman (Il Postino), although a quick search reveals that a number of his books have been published here in translation. Unfortunately, most seem to be out of print . . . This title won the Planeta Prize in 2003, which may help with the reception here. It’s already gotten a few reviews, including a generally positive one by Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post that contains an odd, backhanded sort of compliment: “. . . The Dancer and the Thief is much more than an agreeable caper. Though Skarmeta scarcely ranks at the very top of Latin America’s remarkably distinguished and varied literary elite, he is a serious writer to whom the death and rebirth of democracy in his native Chile is an endlessly compelling subject.” Hmm.

  • The Sinner, Petra Hammmesfahr, translated from the German by John Brownjohn (Bitter Lemon, $14.95, 9781904738251)

Bitter Lemon recently sent us a few of the crime titles they’re publishing in translation, and out of all of them, this one seems the most promising. Hailed as “Germany’s Patricia Highsmith” (it’s sad that most international authors are some country’s equivalent of a famous English writer—Spain’s Richard Ford!, Croatia’s Dan Brown!, Japan’s Philip K. Dick!—although it may be lack of imagination on the part of the publisher, or a kowtowing to the LCD trends of mainstream marketing that cause this to happen), this is the sotry of a “quiet, lovable young mother” who kills a stranger one day. Very sparse, direct writing. As I said before, I’m not into crime novels, but for those who are, this looks intriguing. (A better write-up about this is available via International Noir.)


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 >