17 April 08 | Chad W. Post

Joshua Cohen has a long review of both Kertesz books that have come out so far this year: Detective Story and The Pathseeker.

(Before going any further, I think it’s worth pointing out that Cohen rivals Three Percent fave Ben Lytal in the sheer number of literary translations he reviews.)

Cohen has mixed feelings about both books (but prefers The Pathseeker, calling it “the less surprising but ultimately more impressive fiction”), and about the quality of the translations.

But what I find most interesting is this:

I would like to say two words about the business and translation of books. One: Knopf — the American publishing house that has published more Nobel Prize-winner works than any other — has published Detective Story and is marketing it as a novel. And, Melville House — a small press based in Brooklyn — has published The Pathseeker as the debut of a series called “The Contemporary Art of the Novella.” It should be noted that in this instance, the novella is longer and more complex than the novel, which has been called what it’s not if only to help with its sales. Such are the hopes of multinational publishing. That Kertész has chosen to publish independently is laudable; Knopf was unwilling for reasons that were undoubtedly economic, or foolish.

There’s also a great quote from Kertesz about the first translations of his books (Fateless and Kaddish for a Child Not Born—is there a reason it’s not “for an Unborn Child”?) that were published by Northwestern some years back:

“I really tried to protest against the first translations, but I found complete rejection. The publisher was not willing to do new translations. It was a really bad feeling. It was as if you had a very sane character who has a rendezvous with the reader and the person who shows up is basically a real jerk, with a stammer, bad breath and a foul mouth.”


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