This week’s podcast is the first one Tom and I have recorded in almost a month. So after a bit of catching up, we talked about David Bellos’s new translation of Simenon’s Pietr the Latvian, the difficulties of translating “I love you” and all the swears into Japanese, and this list of “The 20 Best Books in Translation You’ve Never Read.” As necessary, we also talked about the baseball playoffs and this cute flowchart.
Since Tom can’t post here, I just want to have the final word on our discussion of the list of translations that Stephen Sparks and I put together. First off, we didn’t give it this bombastic of a title, but whatever. We did put some time into coming up with twenty books that we love and that readers of international literature may not have heard of. As readers of heaploads of translated books, we had hundreds of titles to choose from. Every list is incomplete and flawed, but Tom’s accusation that this is “intentionally esoteric” is totally off-point. It is a symptom of today’s culture though, where if someone knows more about some topic that someone else, they are dismissed. Not to get all J-Franz about the kids these days and their Twitterversing, but there’s a reason why stupid websites like Flavorwire are popular—they replace genuine knowledge with listicles that make the common reader feel good about themselves. “Hey, I’ve read 20 of the 25 lists on the “Greatest List of Lists Created by Flavorwire” list! I’m gonna tweet this.” Sorry, Tom and whomever, for trying to share a bit of the lifelong research I’ve done on international literature. Next time someone wants to know about translated books, I’ll just search the “translationsIreadinHighSchool” hashtag and call it a day.
This week’s music is Rolling Waves by The Naked and Famous.
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .