27 October 16 | Monica Carter | Comments

This week’s post is by Jennifer Croft who is the recipient of Fulbright, PEN, MacDowell and National Endowment for the Arts grants and fellowships, as well as the Michael Henry Heim Prize for Translation. She holds a PhD from Northwestern University and an MFA from the University of Iowa. She is a founding editor of The Buenos Aires Review. Follow her on Twitter: @jenniferlcroft.
For more information on the BTBA, “like” our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. And check back here each week for a new post by one of the judges.

Thrilled to be a judge for this year’s Best Translated Book Award. Here are seven of my favorite titles so far.

Umami by Laia Jufresa. Translated by Sophie Hughes.

Sometimes it feels like they spent that entire first year locked away in a permanent rehearsal while we sat among the untouched instruments in their silent music school, the hallway piling up with gift baskets. Something I understood then is that the Mexican gift industry may be well at truly gringofied at Christmas, but when it comes to death, our own comfort foods trump everything. I’ve never received so many bags of Mexican sweet treats—pepitorias, palanquetas, jamoncillos—as I did when my sister died.

I couldn’t put this book down, and when it did end, it left me in tears. An extremely charming novel that seamlessly toggles between a couple of years in the lives of the people who inhabit a Mexico City tenement compound. Particularly wonderful are the amaranth scholar who sets out to reconstruct his beloved wife through writing after she dies of pancreatic cancer and Luz, the five-year-old girl who drowns shortly after her narration ends (as we learn from her sister Ana—a lovely character, as well—in the book’s opening pages). Jufresa’s disarming, unabashed tone and interest in the intersection of languages and cultures reminded me of Chloe Aridjis’ wonderful Book of Clouds, while Sophie Hughes’ translation stands alongside the original as a dazzling feat in its own right. Hughes won the English PEN Award for this translation, and I can certainly see why, as the English abounds with inventive and delightful solutions to the challenges of the Spanish.
A beautiful and surprising meditation on community, absent maternity and growth of all kinds.

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón. Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb.

The film was delayed by thirty minutes while the cinemagoers offered one another their condolences, passing from row to row, neither pressing hands nor embracing but bowing their heads and repeating the same words of consolation with the variations “your daughter,” “your sister,” “your wife,” “your husband,” “your son,” “your brother”—since everybody had lost someone.

The screening was accompanied by Reynir Gíslason’s Orchestra, and to begin with the music managed to drown out the sighing and weeping. Thick smoke rose from the more expensive seats, where the men were chain-smoking cigars in the hope that this would stifle their sobs.

A glittering little gem of a book that strikes the perfect balance between story and character, on the one hand, and capturing a moment and place, on the other. The place is Reykjavik, and the moment occurs in the midst of the city’s 1918 influenza outbreak. The excellent translation also finds the perfect tone. There is an irrepressible sweetness in protagonist Máni Steinn: as he awaits judgment after being caught engaging in sex with another boy, he tries to make out the identities of his captors, but “he can’t place the fourth, good at faces though he is.” That night, “he dreams of antelopes.” A beautiful meditation on cinema, queer identity and making one’s way in the world.

Willful Disregard by Lena Andersson. Translated from the Swedish by Sarah Death.

Hugo never followed up anything Ester said. Ester always followed up what Hugo said. Neither of them was really interested in her but they were both interested in him.

A painful account of unrequited love, told in sober, bracing prose. An astute deconstruction of a relationship over the course of a year. A quick and engaging read.

Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada. Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky.

Mold started to grow in my ears because no one ever spoke to me. The tongue is not only for speaking; you can also use it to eat with. Ears, on the other hand, exist only for the purpose of hearing voices and sounds.

This utterly brilliant and absolutely delightful novel by Japanese-born Yoko Tawada, written in German, is by far the freshest take I’ve read on both foreignness and writing in I don’t even know how long—possibly ever. The story of three generations of polar bears, each of whom engages with people and other animals in unique and fascinating ways while meditating on what it means to be a self—a performing or public self, as well as a contemplative, inner self—in different kinds of exile and cages. The earnestness of all the voices in this book is so endearing, often amusing and sometimes heartbreaking. As always, Susan Bernofsky’s translation is graceful and deft, making every single sentence a true pleasure. A treasure of a book, to be read and reread.

Panther by Brecht Evens. Translated from the Flemish by Michele Hutchison and Laura Watkinson.

An alarming and alluring story of a child whose mother has committed suicide, the horrifying brokenness of the domestic life that remains her gradually becoming clear over the course of the narration. Beautifully, hauntingly illustrated.

33 Revolutions by Canek Sánchez Guevara. Translated by Howard Curtis.

He walks in the direction of the bay, observing attentively—pretending to be distracted—the huddles forming on the corners, among the people standing in line, and on the seawall. To all appearances, the scratched record of everyday life continues intact, repeating itself as it does every day; but deep down, something is moving, falling apart, breaking up.

This neat, pocket-sized novel packs a real punch. With the rhythm of a lullaby and the entreating quality of a prayer, 33 Revolutions recounts the attempted escape of an ordinary man from Cuba, which he has come to view as a kind of island prison, drawing interesting comparisons with Soviet Russia throughout. The book covers a ton of territory in its few small pages while still preserving a powerful sense of enclosure and entrapment, stressing a repetitiveness that nonetheless is a kind of ticking time bomb—no easy narrative feat. I read this in a single sitting and liked it a lot.

Eve out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi. Translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman.

Men’s hands take hold of you before having even touched you. Once their thoughts turn toward you, they’ve already possessed you. Saying no is an insult, because you would be taking away what they’ve already laid claim to. Like the hand snaking up my T-shirt, they need me to lift my skin so they can feel my organs, or even stop my heart from beating. Their urges won’t be constrained. Soon they’ll be nothing left to take but they’ll keep going anyway. But why should I let them?

This is the most vivid novel I’ve read in ages, magnificently translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman. The gorgeous, profoundly poetic writing is completely mesmerizing and viscerally affecting: it gave me goose bumps several times. Cycling through four main adolescent voices in an impoverished neighborhood of Port Louis, Mauritius, the narrative slowly escalates through brilliant and memorable scenes, as well as haunting inner monologues, to its glorious conclusion that manages to somehow be both devastating and uplifting at once.

I am your double. I am your single. I have split completely and totally in two: I was Saad, sitting transfixed in my stiff chair (or stiff in my transfixed chair), and I was someone else, unmoored, observing things but pushing them away through his thoughts, his defiance, his mortality.

There is something so triumphant and so powerful in the structure of Eve, and something so real and touching in these characters, each consistent, unexpected, thought-provoking and wonderful.

My older brother Carlo is gone. He went to France ten years ago. I was little. He was my hero. When he left, he said: I’ll come back to find you. I’m waiting for him. He never came back. He calls sometimes, but only to make small talk. I don’t know what he’s doing over there. But when I hear his voice, I know he’s lying, that he hasn’t done well. When I hear his voice, I know he’s dead. And I’d love to kill, too.

A work of profound sympathy and deep desire.

26 October 16 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Kristel Thornell on Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías, and out at the beginning of next month from Knopf.

Here’s the beginning of Kristel’s review:

Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his customary ethical tangles and astute mulling over human behavior. At its most fluid, the reader drifts through the familiar density and detours in something like an intrigued torpor.

The focal point is the uneasy marriage of Eduardo Muriel and Beatriz Noguera. Juan de Vere, the narrator, is looking back on the period when, in his first job as an assistant to Eduardo, a well-known film director, he lived in the former maid’s quarters of the couple’s apartment. He was drawn to them, they relied on him, and this configuration made him a privileged voyeur. Provoked by rambling conversations with Eduardo and the titillating episodes of spying and eavesdropping Marías luxuriates in, de Vere wrestled to understand their union that was marred by unkindness and physical rejection on the part of Eduardo. This puzzling lack of intimacy appeared to stem from a perceived betrayal. Furthermore, Eduardo had entrusted de Vere with the mission of getting close to the shady, lecherous Van Vechten, family doctor and friend, to evaluate whether he could have behaved in an “indecent manner” toward women. To say more of the plot might spoil its teasingly deferred revelations, and in Marías seductive teasing is much of the point.

For the rest of the review, go here.

21 October 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As hopefully everyone knows, we’re taking advantage of the travel day in the NLCS to throw a little fundraising party for Open Letter. If you’re in Rochester, you should definitely come out to the German House tonight at 8 for food, booze, palm readings, music, and presenations by Rochester visionaries. Tickets are available at the door, and start at $20. (Which is less than dinner and a palm reading!)

Now, if you’re not in Rochester, and still want in on this, up until 10pm you can purchase raffle tickets for any number of goods and services that were donated by local businesses.

Tickets are available both online and in person for all of these grouping. They are $5 for 1 entry, $10 for 3 entries, or $20 for 8.

We will be doing the drawings at 10pm exactly, so if you want to get in on this—and support Open Letter—buy them now!

15 October 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

From now until October 31st, any and all GoodReads users can enter to win a copy of Justine by Iben Mondrup, translated from the Danish by Kerri Pierce:

Stylistically provocative, Justine tells the story of a young female artist whose life is upended when her house burns down with all of the artworks for her upcoming exhibit inside. With little time left to recreate every-thing she’s lost, Justine embarks on a series of sexual escapades with a sort of doomed intensity that foreshadows the novel’s final, dark twist.

Through flashbacks and fragmented memories, we see Justine as a student at the Art Academy first discovering the misogynistic order that rules the Danish art world, and later on as she constantly challenges its expectations—both in the studio and in bed.

A personal meditation on artistic identity, creative process, and the male-dominated art scene, the novel veers between the erotic and the savage, resulting in a spellbinding read from one of Denmark’s edgiest contemporary feminist writers.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Justine by Iben Mondrup


by Iben Mondrup

Giveaway ends October 31, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

14 October 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week’s podcast starts with the biggest, most surprising news of recent memory—Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. Then Chad and Tom talk about the National Book Foundation’s study of translation, the unmasking of Elena Ferrante (and the backlash to that unmasking, and the backlash to the backlash), and an article by Michael Hofmann about the dangers of over-thinking translation. They conclude by wondering about what the 1980 American Book Award TV presentation must have been like.

This week’s music is “Rainy Day Woman #12 & #35” by your new Nobel laureate.

Also, just a reminder, since we changed our podcast feed, you may need to unsubscribe and resubscribe to the correct feed in iTunes at that link, or right here:

Or, you can just put this feed link into whichever is your podcast app of choice:

As always, feel free to send any and all comments or questions to: threepercentpodcast@gmail.com.

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12 October 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week’s Best Translated Book Award post is by Lori Feathers, anAssistant Managing Editor at Asymptote, freelance book critic and member of the National Book Critics Circle. Follow her online @LoriFeathers. For more information on the BTBA, “like” our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. And check back here each week for a new post by one of the judges.

While it’s still very early days in the months-long process of reading and evaluating the hundreds of eligible fiction titles for the 2017 Best Translated Book Award, I’ve already made some discoveries that impressed me with compelling narratives and expressive writing that is skillfully sustained by very solid translations. In compiling this list I noticed a common theme: each of these books explores an extraordinary relationship, a bond that consumes and sometimes destroys those within it.

The Young Bride by Alessandro Baricco (tr. Ann Goldstein)

In this gothic fable Baricco portrays a family that tries to avoid life’s pain and disappointment by hiding within a meticulously maintained, insular world of its own making. This bubble is threatened by the unexpected arrival of the young Bride, fiancé of the family’s only son. The young Bride assimilates herself into the family’s peculiar household but over time both she and the family are indelibly changed by their relationship. The family’s extravagant lifestyle and hedonistic rituals are described with sly humor and sumptuous detail. As in his prior novel, Silk, Baricco’s characters exude an erotic sensuality that feels honest and natural. This richly decadent prose is masterfully translated by Ann Goldstein. Baricco uses the elements of a fable to their best effect: with fantastic settings and situations Baricco addresses our very real and relatable reluctance to face the pain of loss and our own mortality.

A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska (tr. Christina E. Kramer)

It would be difficult to find a relationship more foreign to most of us than that of conjoined twins. Dimkovska places us inside the mind and body of Zlata, joined at the head to her sister, Srebra, with exceptional detail and perspective. The girls’ physical and emotional entrapment to one another is made all the more difficult by their troubled, impoverished home life and the political and economic instability that rocks 1990s Macedonia. As the girls reach adulthood their situation becomes increasingly unbearable, and Dimkovska draws not-so-subtle parallels between the surgical separation of the twins and the rending of the former Yugoslavia. The writing is lyrical and beautifully perceptive, full of sensitivity and nuance for the girls’ affliction and the way that it controls their lives.

Bye Bye Blondie by Virginie Despentes (tr. Siân Reynolds)

Gloria, the forty-one year old protagonist of Despentes’s Bye Bye Blondie, is a force of nature: physically violent to herself and others, uninhibitedly honest, and devoid of self-control. Gloria reunites with her old boyfriend and fellow delinquent from teenage years, Eric, and they become entangled in a self-destructive, mid-life romance from which neither has the strength to escape. Despentes unabashedly refuses redemption for her protagonist, and she draws Gloria’s character so completely and authentically that this, along with the punchy momentum of the prose, results in a compulsively readable and exuberant novel.

About My Mother by Tahar Ben Jelloun (tr. Ros Schwartz and Lulu Norman)

Ben Jelloun’s fictional memoir evokes a middle-aged man’s patient guardianship over the mental and physical deterioration of his beloved, dying mother. The novel explores memory, suggesting that for both the dying and their loved ones memories are the only refuge from the painful realities of death. The son’s feelings about his mother are expressed with a poignant beauty that contrasts sharply with the crude breakdown of his mother’s mind and body. At the same time, Ben Jelloun paces his narrative to artfully mirror the slow, laborious monotony of a natural, age-induced death.

The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas (tr. Michael Barnes and Torbjørn Støverud)

The bond between Mattis, a mentally handicapped man, and his older sister, Hege, is the focus of Vesaas’ 1957 novel set in a remote Norwegian farming village where the two share a home. In most ways Mattis’ actions and emotions are those of a child, and he is entirely dependent upon Hege both as a caregiver and only friend. When Hege becomes romantically involved with an itinerant worker Mattis is incapable of sharing Hege’s affections with another. The author portrays Mattis’ innocence and naïve wonder about the world with clean, spare writing that despite its straight forwardness (or perhaps because of it) eloquently carries a real depth of perception and emotion.

UPDATE: Not actually eligible for the award! Peter Owen brought this out in 2013, so it can’t actually win. But that shouldn’t stop you from buying a copy from Archipelago!

My Marriage by Jakob Wassermann (tr. Michael Hoffman)

This fascinating, autobiographical novel is a husband’s account of his manipulative wife, their volatile marriage, and subsequent (but less than definitive) separation. Alexander possesses a passive nature and is quick to avoid confrontation. So when Ganna, a young admirer of his writing, proposes that they wed Alexander acquiesces. Although Alexander lacks any physical attraction for Ganna a sense of duty, feelings of pity, and her fawning admiration of his writing, keep him in the marriage despite their vicious arguments. Wasserman takes us inside the humiliations and inflicted pain of this unstable relationship. Not only do we understand the damage that this couple inflicts upon each other, we feel it, too, in writing that resonates with pitch-perfect tone in Michael Hoffman’s translation.

4 October 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Last October, we put on our first ever celebration (or gala) here in Rochester. It was centered around the release of Rochester Knockings, which was translated from the French by local poet-translator Jennifer Grotz (who also runs the translation program at the University of Rochester). The local band The Fox Sisters played, lots of great food was eaten, booze was consumed, and a great time was had by all.

Now it’s time to do it all over again . . . but even better. This year’s event will take place at The Historic German House (315 Gregory St., Rochester, NY 14620) on October 21st from 8pm till ??. (There will be a special V.I.P. reception at 7pm.) Tickets are available here at three levels: $20 to attend, $25 to attend and receive a copy of A Greater Music, and $100 for all that plus entrance to the V.I.P. reception.

This is our one and only fundraising event for the fall, the support from which goes a long way in implementing our various programs—from paying translators to help connect English readers with great works of international art, to hosting summer internships, to maintaining the world’s only translation database.

Which is why I hope all of you will consider purchasing a ticket. The $25 ticket really is the best bargain . . . You get entry to the celebration, a buffet dinner, and a copy of A Greater Music by Bae Suah, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith. If you’re not able to make it to Rochester for the event, we will still send you your copy of the book, and make your ticket available to a student who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend. (We’ve made it easier than ever for non-local fans to participate in this celebration. Keep reading for more details.)

Similar to last year, we will have a huge buffet spread from ButaPub, one of the best new restaurants in Rochester. Thanks to popular demand, the palm readers from last year will also be back, as will our specialty cocktails.

Here’s the new stuff: First off, instead of a live band, this year we asked several of our authors to provide us with curated playlists tied to their books. We’ll be printing these in the celebration booklet (and eventually here online), and will even make these available as a Spotify playlist.

To allow non-local fans another way to participate, we will be raffling off a few dozen products and services. All are from local businesses, with most being tied to a local venue (such as the tour and tasting at Black Button Distillery or the gift certificates to Daily Refresher), but some of them (including four artworks from Dave Pollot or the Open Letter subscription or the Pompous Ass Winery gift basket) are transportable. Tickets will be available online (still hashing this out, so give it a couple days) and at the celebration itself for the following: 1 ticket for $5, 3 tickets for $10, or 8 tickets for $20. You’ll be able to apply them to whichever particular items you want to win.

In terms of the program itself, we’re going to celebrate Rochester and the fact that we’re a born and bred Rochester press by having several local visionaries give short presentations on the future of the city and role of arts and culture in that future. We have lined up Rachel Barnhart (former newsanchor, local politican), Evan Dawson (host of WXXI’s Connections), Glenn Kellogg (founder of Hart’s Grocers and Rochester Local Capital), Kyle Semmel (translator, author, director of Writers & Books), and Leah Stacy (founder of Boomtown Table). All five are important people in the Rochester community and have unique perspectives on what makes this a great city to live in—and one filled with exciting future possibilities.

We’re also planning on decorating the room with items from our archives, highlighting the first eight years of our existence. Posters of our first book covers, copies of our earliest catalogs, copies of the first time we were featured in the CITY Paper . . . Lots of interesting items to check out, all of which tie into the general theme of celebrating Rochester and what the press contributes to the local community.

If you’re a fan of Open Letter, this website, literature in translation, or all of the above, I hope you’ll consider supporting our celebration. It’s thanks to the support of people like you that we’re able to keep connecting readers with international authors and help further the discussion and appreciation of both literature in translation, and the art of translation itself. Thanks in advance, and I hope to see you there on October 21st!”:http://www.openletterbooks.org/products/celebration2

2 October 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week’s podcast kicks off with a list of corrections from episode 117, from a mix-up of Sophies to an explanation of which Basque Country soccer team only fields Basque players. Then Chad and Tom move on to talk about the recent NEIBA conference and some fall titles they left out of their mini-previews before talking about the I Love Dick TV show (officially picked up!) and their rants. Always rants, always.

Here are links to a few of the books, articles, and websites that came up this week:

This week’s music is Standing in the Sun by Grouplove.

Also, just a reminder, since we changed our podcast feed, you may need to unsubscribe and resubscribe to the correct feed in iTunes at that link, or right here:

Or, you can just put this feed link into whichever is your podcast app of choice:

As always, feel free to send any and all comments or questions to: threepercentpodcast@gmail.com.

And if you like the podcast, tell a friend and rate us or leave a review on iTunes!

1 October 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

It’s been some months since I posted about GoodReads Giveaways here on Three Percent, but since I recently scheduled ones for all of our forthcoming winter titles, I thought I’d invite everyone to enter into these drawings.

Both of these giveaways—for The Brother and for A Greater Music—run from October 1st until October 15th, and you can throw your name into the virtual hat simply by clicking through the “Enter Giveaway” boxes below.

First up, Rein Raud’s The Brother, translated from the Estonian by Adam Cullen:

Winner of the Eduard Vilde Literary Award

The Brother opens with a mysterious stranger arriving in a small town controlled by a group of men—men who recently cheated the stranger’s supposed sister out of her inheritance and mother’s estate. Resigned to giving up on her dreams and ambitions, Laila took this swindling in stride, something that Brother won’t stand for. Soon after his arrival, fortunes change dramatically, enraging this group of powerful men, motivating them to get their revenge on Brother. Meanwhile, a rat-faced paralegal makes it his mission to discover Brother’s true identity . . .

The first novel of Rein Raud’s to appear in English, The Brother is, in Raud’s own words, a spaghetti western told in poetic prose, simultaneously paying tribute to both Clint Eastwood and Alessandro Baricco. With its well-drawn characters and quick moving plot, it takes on more mythic aspects, lightly touching on philosophical ideas of identity and the ruthless way the world is divided into winners and losers.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Brother by Rein Raud

The Brother

by Rein Raud

Giveaway ends October 15, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

And then A Greater Music by Bae Suah, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith:

Near the beginning of A Greater Music, the narrator, a young Korean writer, falls into an icy river in the Berlin suburbs, where she’s been house-sitting for her on-off boyfriend Joachim. This sets into motion a series of memories that move between the hazily defined present and the period three years ago when she first lived in Berlin. Throughout, the narrator’s relationship with Joachim, a rough-and-ready metalworker, is contrasted with her friendship with M, an ultra-refined music-loving German teacher who was once her lover.

A novel of memories and wandering, A Greater Music blends riffs on music, language, and literature with a gut-punch of an emotional ending, establishing Bae Suah as one of the most exciting novelists working today.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Greater Music by Bae Suah

A Greater Music

by Bae Suah

Giveaway ends October 15, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

30 September 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This is the third entry in a series that will eventually feature all of the titles Open Letter has published to date. Catch up on past entries by clicking here. Last week’s entry was a pretty solid Chad rant involving the incredible Maidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin. Definitely check that one out. By contrast, this week’s post is rainbows and bunnies.

One of Us Is Sleeping by Josefine Klougart, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken

Original Language: Danish, which has 5.5 million native speakers (according to Wikipedia)

Year of Original Publication: 2012, with our English edition coming out this past June.

Awards Received: One of Us Is Sleeping was an official best-seller in Denmark (making our edition an “International Bestseller,” I believe), weas shortlisted for the Readers’ Book Award (Læsernes Bogpris), and was a finalist for the Nordic Council Literature Prize. This was the second time she was nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize (she was also a finalist for Rise and Fall in 2011), which made her the youngest author ever to accomplish this feat.

Let’s put that in context for a second: By the age of 30, Josefine had published four collections, two of which were finalists for a prize awarding the best book from five countries (Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark). Too bad she wasn’t eligible for the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, because daaaammmnnn.

Notable Praise: The quote that we use on the cover of our book—like most anyone would—is “Scandinavia now has its own Virginia Woolf.” But just scroll down this page to see all the great blurbs that this book has received.

Americans—including most chain “booksellers” and probably even our distributor—would look at this and dismiss them because they’re “not from U.S. or UK publications.” Which is so utterly stupid when you think about it. I’ve heard that refrain my whole career, and every time I can’t help but think that reviews from foreign publications are oftentimes more intelligent and trustworthy since these reviewers read both their own country’s books and the big American novels. A Danish critic knows about J-Franz and Colson Whitehead and Josefine Klougart. Not to mention, they also have access to so many more international works than we do, simply by living in Europe where more titles are translated and where the people speak more languages. But because we can’t pronounce the name of the publication, we assume it’s some hand-printed broadsheet or a blog or something. We are so weirdly close minded.

Other Comparisons: The ones that have come up the most are: Anne Carson, Maggie Nelson, and Joan Didion. I like Josefine’s response to all these, in which she basically just shrugged it off. Everyone needs comparisons—our minds are great at understanding connections and things in relation to one another, but quite crap at evaluating things on their own, in isolation—and it’s the job of marketers to supply them. It’s why I usually include those cheeky “X Meets Y” bits in these write-ups. It’s so silly, and yet . . . In the way that it uses touchstone images and a circular, poetic structure, One of Us Is Sleeping most reminds me of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. I assume people still read The Waves. It really is the best Woolf.

A Word about the Translator: All of our translators are great translators, but holy mother has Martin translated a lot of key Danish authors. He doesn’t seem to have his own website, or a Wikipedia page, or anywhere really detailing what he’s done, except maybe this GoodReads profile. Jussi Adler-Olsen, Peter Høeg, Kim Leine, Helle Helle, Dorthe Nors, Pia Juul, and part of the final volume of My Struggle are just some of the highlights from his career. There are other great Danish translators—Kyle Semmel, Kerri Pierce, and Susanne Nied all come to mind—but given his output, the quality of his work, and the authors he’s doing, Martin is right there as one of the greatest translators of our time.

How Tall Is Josefine? I’m very short. Like not quite vertically challenged short, but you’d be hard pressed to find a grown male shorter than I am. So I like to exaggerate other people’s height, especially when they are legitimately tall. The first time I met Josefine, I felt like she had to kneel down to be able to hear what I was saying. Which led to my telling people she was like 6’6” or so. After Will Evans of Deep Vellum met her, he sent me a message about how she was the most wonderful eight-foot-tall author in the world.

I believe she is 6’1”. Which is pretty tall. Here’s a picture of her next to Susan Harris of Words Without Borders (who is a bit shorter than I am and interviewed Josefine in Chicago).

According to Susan, “Yes, I am wearing three-inch platforms, and Josefine is in flats. Hard to believe we’re the same species.”

Other Books in English: Up next for Josefine is :Of Darkness, which is forthcoming from Deep Vellum!

What’s Next: In November, Josefine’s new novel comes out in Denmark. I don’t remember the title at this second . . . I do know that it was supposed to come out last year, but she started revising and adding things and suddenly there were 200 new pages, bringing the total book to 700 pages. Given our string of 700 page books (Gesell Dome, Invented Part, etc.), I think this is destined to be an Open Letter title.

Danish Women Writers Series: One of Us Is Sleeping is the second book in Open Letter’s Danish Women Writers Series, preceded by Naja Marie Aidt’s Rock, Paper, Scissors, and followed by Justine by Iben Mondrup (November 2016), The Eternal Summer by Madame Nielsen, and The Easy and the Lonely by Asta Olivia.

This series grew out of a trip to Copenhagen in 2013 and a generous grant from the Danish Arts Foundation. Initially the grant was simply to do five books from Danish, but given that all the books we gravitated toward were written by women, and given the fact that so few books by women are translated into English, we thought we’d make this exclusively a series to promote Danish women writers. It’s an amazing list of five books that covers a range of genres and styles (from Aidt’s more thriller-esque novel to Olivia’s poetry) and is an attempt to bring more attention to writing by international women.

Of course, these books haven’t been as well reviewed as they should be (my opinion), and I’m scared to compare the amount of attention they’ve received against the books we’ve published by men around the same time. Someone should write a feature or blog post about this series though. Occasionally you see pieces like this—like about Dalkey’s Library of Korean Literature . . . Perhaps we should’ve published all five at once in similarly bland covers? That’s a joke, but there is a gimmick element necessary to get attention. Doing interesting publishing projects like this in a straightforward, meaningful way isn’t going to get you written up in the New Yorker. Seriously though: If you’re interested in reading more women, supporting women’s lit in translation, or just finding some great Scandinavian books, give this series a look.

A Rochester Shout-Out: I have to mention that when Josefine was here, she was on WXXI Connections with Evan Dawson, which was one of the first radio programs (I think she said “the first,” but I’ll give everyone the benefit of the doubt) she ever appeared on in which the host had actually read the complete book. And thought about it. And marked passages to read aloud during the program. It’s nice to share some kind words about our town.

Jacket Copy: Not the easiest book to describe, given how imagistic and non-linear it is. But here’s what we went with:

The English-language debut from one of Denmark’s most exciting, celebrated young writers, One of Us Is Sleeping is a haunting novel about loss in all its forms.

As she returns home to visit her mother who is dying of cancer, the narrator recounts a brief, intense love affair, as well as the grief and disillusionment that follow its end. The book’s striking imagery and magnificent prose underpin its principal theme: the jarring contrast between the recollection of stability—your parents, your childhood home, your love—and the continual endings that we experience throughout our lives.

A true-to-life, deeply poetic novel that works in the same vein as Anne Carson, One of Us Is Sleeping has won Klougart countless accolades and award nominations—including the Readers’ Book Award—securing her place as a major new voice in world literature.

And here’s Josefine’s statement from her website:

One of Us is Sleeping is a novel about leaving and being left behind; a story about the unfolding of a relationship that insists on the necessity of sorrow. It is a novel about loss, homelessness, and light.

Audience: Do you like to feel? Do you like sadness? Do you like to experience emotional loss? Then this book is for you!

To be serious, this is one of the most emotionally charged—and pretty depressing—books we’ve ever published. It’s intense and gorgeous and loaded with feelings.

When Is It Best to Read: The Winter.

Sample Paragraph:

It’s strange, he lies, I never miss you when you’re not here. I get so scared I might forget you, he tells her. He has talked her into meeting. I’m beginning to forget you, he says. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, malicious voices tell her, only these are her own thoughts, they carry her signature. And presumably it is what he wants, or what a person dreams about at night; dreams about during the day, not wishing it upon one’s worst enemy. They walk there together, in the park by the National Gallery. It is summer adn they are constantly on the run from someone. Both of them seeing someone else now, and one of them always wanting to try again. But only one.

Longer Excerpt: Check out the excerpt from our catalog.

Personal Pitch: I don’t have the time (or health to be honest, I’ve got a cold and I’m fading) to do a full-blown pitch like last week, but there are a few things that I want to say.

First off, I really don’t intend to highlight all our new books in this series as they come out. But with Josefine on tour, I wanted to bring a little extra attention to this book. It was absolutely incredible to hang out with her and her editor Jakob Sandvad here in Rochester. Their publishing company, Gladiator, was featured in the Danish Literary Magazine last fall, and presents an interesting way of conceiving of a publishing house. A lot of their focus is on involving authors in the whole process, including having them recommend authors for translation into Danish, and sometimes even doing the translation. When they were here, we spent a lot of time talking about how to reach readers, how to make events more exciting, how to make literary conversations more rich and fulfilling. It’s a breath of fresh air to talk to engaged literary people like this.

Also, I beat them badly at basketball. Well, this basketball:

Secondly, One of Us Is Sleeping is definitely the sort of book I was thinking of in last week’s post about wanting to reread particular novels. Although in this case, I think of it more as having to “read slow.” There’s no way to rush through this book. If you do, you’ll be completely lost and unaware of the recurring images and the ways in which the story could be restructured into something much more linear. English classes exist—at least in some regard—to train students how to read slow and read critically, skills that are very beneficial when it comes to serious literature like this. There should be some sort of “slow read” movement to go along with all the “slow eating” and “slow” everything movements that exist right now.

Finally, when Josefine was on the aforementioned radio show last week, she explained how she wrote this novel. Paraphrasing here, but basically, she kept a single Word document open on her computer for a year and wrote a page a day. After that, she went back and started looking through it for recurring images. And then built the book around that, retaining its nonlinear nature, since that’s really how our lives work. As she said, at any moment in time, our consciousness is living in the now, in the past, and in the future—almost simultaneously. One of Us Is Sleeping captures that feeling in beautiful, soul-crushing prose. And once you know the way it came together, it makes even more sense. Especially if you read it slowly!

Buy It: Of course you should buy it from us, but if you happen to be in the Bay Area next Tuesday (October 4th), you can catch her at Green Apple on the Park. Also, I know she signed copies at a number of New York area bookstores, and in Houston, Chicago, Dallas, and Portland. Go get one!

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