11 March 08 | Chad W. Post

In part because of this news about Dedalus being sponsored for the next two years by Routledge Book, and in part because I just received a nice batch of their titles, I’d like to mix things up a bit today and focus on forthcoming translations from two UK presses distributed over here rather than looking at titles from a particular month.

For anyone who’s interested, all previous previews of 2008 translations can be found here. And in terms of the running total, I’ve now identified 140 original translations of fiction coming out this year and 36 poetry collections. So 176 books total . . . Maybe my prediction of 400-425 total original translations for 2008 is a bit high . . .

  • Magnus, Sylvie Germain, translated from the French by Christine Donougher (Dedalus Books, $15.99, 9781903517628)

This is the tenth book of Germain’s to come out from Dedalus, all of which sound quite interesting. Magnus consists of a series of “fragments” and interspersed “notes,” “resonances,” “sequences,” and at least one “timeline,” all working together to create a portrait of Magnus. This won the Goncourt Lyceen Prize in 2005, and a sample chapter is available online.

  • Mr Dick or The Tenth Book, Jean-Pierre Ohl, translated from the French by Christine Donougher (Dedalus Books, $15.99, 9781903517680)

Not unsurprisingly, Charles Dickens has become the go-to author for intertextual play (see Peter Carey, see Lloyd Jones). This debut novel is an allusion to The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dickens final, incomplete novel, and is centered around a Dickens addict of sorts who is involved wiht a “deadly rivalry” with another ambitious Dickens scholar.

  • The Staff Room, Markus Orths, translated from the German by Mike Mitchell (Dedalus Books, $12.99, 9781903517550)

I’m a sucker for these sorts of Kafka-esque, individual against the absurd totalitarian state sort of novels: “Kranich is a newly qualified teacher about to take up his first post. As soon as he arrives at the school he is plunged into a nightmare kafkaesque world which has all the worst features of a totalitarian state. Very soon he finds himself caught between the Education Authority Police, Secret Security Officers and the CG, the Conspiracy Group, that aims to undermine the school system but only ‘verbally, since no one would want to put their own job at risk’.” Sample chapter is available online.

A 100-page novella about “summer, childhood, and first love,” this book has received decent praise from Spanish critics. Gregorio Moran from La Vanguardia even called it “one of the most beautiful books written in post-war Spain.” As evidenced in the sample this is a lyrical, rhythmic book, and although it doesn’t immediately appeal to me, I would check this out simply because it’s translated by Margaret Jull Costa and published by Dedalus. In my opinion, Dedalus is one of those publishers—like an Archipelago, Dalkey Archive, New Directions, and others—that has earned a level of brand loyalty—readers know that if they buy a Dedalus book, it will be high-quality. It’s unfortunate that these books don’t get more play here in the States . . .

In many ways, Peter Owen Publishers are very similar to Dedalus: high quality fiction, modest U.S. distribution, lots of translations. But Peter Owen books cost a hell of a lot more here in the States. When I reviewed this book I was shocked by the $29.95 price tag on a 222-page paperback, and still am. This is just too much—I can’t imagine bookstores stocking this for very long, or casual customers deciding to buy it. Which really is a tragedy—this is a fantastic book that subverts itself time and again. For those unwilling to shell out $30 for a book, you could visit your local library, or wait for the Monzo titles Open Letter will be publishing in the near future. I promise our price point will be much lower.

I really can’t get past this pricing thing . . . Although this book, which comes is at just under 350-pages, seems like a much better deal. OK, enough of that. Druzhnikov has intrigued me ever since I read a review of Angels on the Head of a Pin, which was voted “one of the ten best Russian novels of the twentieth century by the Warsaw Conference.” This collection of ten “micronovels” (more on that in a second), sounds funny and quirky, and generally entertaining. Employing the typical “X meets Y” construction, Peter Owen refers to Druzhnikov as “a cross between Bulgakov and Solzhenitsyn,” which is also intriguing. And I really like the explanation of the micronovel given in the author’s postscript: “Analysis has shown that the micronovel differs from the three traditional and highly flexible genres of prose—the short story, the novella and the novel—and has a right to exist in both literatures. In content the micronovel is wider and socially deeper than the novella, although it has some of its features. The micronovel is distinct from the povest’ as well. [. . .] With the micronovel, a novelistic plot is packed into a novella-shped shell. Macrocontents in microform.” This is a book we’ll definitely review on the site in the coming months.


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