10 March 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

For the handful of people who read these posts every month (I hope there are at least three of you), unfortunately, this one is going to be pretty short. I’m really strapped for time right now, with four trips (to New York, Bennington, Toronto, Seattle-Portland) and at least seven different events scheduled for the next month. And then, after than, AWP followed by two Jón Gnarr events. Summer “break” can’t come quick enough.

That said, yesterday was such a great day. Time jumped ahead and suddenly it was light outside after six pm. Not only that, but the “Real Feel ™” for Rochester was actually ABOVE zero. Really! Snow melted, children smiled, people took off their gloves. I actually thought (although only thought) about washing my car. The start of the baseball season (which kicks off with my beloved Cardinals playing the hated Cubs) is only twenty-six days away, and Selection Sunday for the Greatest Tournament on Earth is only six.

This horrendous winter is almost over.

So, in the spirit of all great Spring Cleanings, I’m going to pitch out all the things that I’m over, that have been annoying me, weighing me down. And then, I’ll brighten the corners with a handful of interesting books in translation. First up, all the crap that I’m just done with, in list form:

Grimy snow; seasonally enhanced depression; not being able to ride my bike; winter weight gain; the soundtrack at L.A. Fitness, which is equivalent to torture with its off-version remixes of every terrible pop song ever; the Kardashians; Time Warner’s On Demand being perennially out of date, probably because Time Warner hates its customers; getting frustrated when Open Letter titles are left off of hipster website lists; “Uptown Funk”; Kate Upton ads for iPhone games I will never play; pretentious coffee shops; Dick Vitale, Stephen A. Smith, and basically all sports pundits; Rochesterians who haven’t watched The Subterranean Stadium short; grading papers; readers who want books and TV shows to be “fun” and feature “likable characters”; bracket-based tournament competitions that are not about college basketball and instead feature things like cupcakes and fast food chains; all the awards ceremonies like the Grammys and the Oscars; and the guilt that comes from not keeping up with email.

And with that all cleaned out, here are some interesting things about a handful of interesting books:

The Dirty Dust by Máirtín Ó Cadhain, translated from the Irish by Alan Titley (Yale University Press)

Interesting Facts: 1) Ó Cadhain is considered to be the master of modern Irish prose writing, but has never been translated into English; 2) Dalkey is publishing another book of his, The Key later this year; and last, but most interesting, 3) from the press release, “Yale University Press will publish another translation of this novel, Graveyard Clay: Creé na Cille, translated by Liam Mac Con Iomaire and Tim Robinson, also as part of the Margellos World Republic of Letters series, in a special annotate edition in 2016.”

God’s Dog by Diego Marani, translated from the Italian by Judith Landry (Dedalus Books)

I wish Diego Marani still wrote in Europanto.

I was just texting with my friend Brian Jay (not his real name!) about the Iona-Manhattan basketball game, and decided that Iona sounds like a college where you can major in “School.” (I’m sure it’s a fine institution.)

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman (And Other Stories)

“Yuri Herrera must be a thousand years old. He must have travelled to hell, and heaven, and back again. He must have once been a girl, an animal, a rock, a boy, and a woman. Nothing else explains the vastness of his understanding.”—Valeria Luiselli

The Musical Brain and Other Stories by Cesar Aira, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews (New Directions)

The cover of this story collection—Aira’s first story collection to appear in English—changes depending on what angle you look at it. (Lenticular printing? Something like that? You know it when you see it.)

Also, Aira is actually coming to the U.S. for this book, and will be doing an event with Open Letter author Sergio Chejfec on Monday, March 23rd at the Cervantes Institute in NY.

The Adventure of the Busts of Eva Peron by Carlos Gamerro, translated from the Spanish by Ian Barnett (And Other Stories)

In 2008, we published a significant speech by Carlos Gamerro about Argentine literature. This was before And Other Stories started bringing out his interesting, unconventional fictions.

The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman (FSG)

Vargas Llosa, who has something like twenty-four books available in English already, has two titles coming out this year—this new novel and Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society. (Which, with its focus on the “death of the intellectual,” is right up my alley.)

Oh, Salaam! by Najwa Barakat, translated from the Arabic by Luke Leafgren (Interlink)

Interlink is the leading U.S.-based publisher of Arabic literature, and the fact that their books aren’t more regularly reviewed or included on lists like this is criminal. Also, it’s a great selling point when the jacket copy states that the book is “the story of three friends—an explosives expert, a sniper, and a torturer.”

The Dream of My Return by Horacio Castellanos Moya, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (New Directions)

Way back in the day, I interviewed Horacio as part of our Reading the World Conversation Series:



The Four Books by Yan Lianke, translated from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas (Grove)

This is the fourth Yan Lianke book to make its way into English, which, according to our Translation Database, makes him the second most-translated Chinese author of the past seven years. Only Mo Yan has had more titles published in English during that time (five). There are a few authors who have had three books translated, including my personal favorite, Can Xue.

9 March 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I’m going to be in NY most of this week for a number of events—a special seminar for publishing professionals on “Publishing Spanish Writers in English,” the National Book Critics Circle Awards—including the NY Circle of Translators Adventures in Literary Translation conference on Saturday, March 14th.

Here’s a description from the official website:

The New York Circle’s first-ever conference on the topic of literary translation will be held this coming March! The event will feature a two-hour session of presentations by three professional literary translators, an hour-long lunch and networking break, and a two-hour round table discussion with a panel of four experts discussing the topic from an editing and publishing perspective. Lunch is included in the registration fee.

And the list of speakers:

Russian>English translator Antonina Bouis
Spanish>English translator G.J. Racz
French>English translator Lee Fahnestock
German>English translator Ross Benjamin
Publisher Chad Post (Open Letter Books; Three Percent)
Editor Sal Robinson (Melville House; The Bridge Series)
Editor Peter Blackstock (Grove/Atlantic)
Editor Tynan Kogane (New Directions)
Editor Alessandra Lusardi (Penguin Rizzoli International)

Pretty loaded . . . Anyway, if you want to come see this, it will take place from 10am to 3pm at 15 Barclay Street, Room 430 (Chambers Street/City Hall stops).

There is a fee for attending—between $30 and $75 depending on what category you fall into—and you can sign up here.

Hope to see you there!

5 March 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

In this episode, Chad and Tom discuss the recent Festival Neue Literatur, a NYC-based festival promoting German-language literature, and spend a lot of time talking about the ins and outs of editing literature in translation. Additionally, they breakdown this Buzzfeed article about ebook data mining and what this means for the futures of publishing and reading.

This week’s music is Gemini by Lost Lander, which reminds me a bit of early Yeasayer.

As always you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes by clicking here. To subscribe with other podcast downloading software, such as Google’s Listen, copy the following link.

And you can email us with complaints and comments at threepercentpodcast@gmail.com


2 March 15 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

With the recent publication of French author Dominique Fabre’s Guys Like Me and the recent review thereof, we thought, why not get author and translator to chat quickly about the book, Fabre’s writing, and a bit more? Both were happy to do so, and translator Howard Curtis was kind enough to both prepare the questions and translate Dominique’s answers. Below is their Q&A.

Howard Curtis: Dominique, I can’t think of any other current French writers your work reminds me of. Your concentration on the everyday lives of supposedly ordinary people seems quite unfashionable. Do you feel a bit of an outsider in contemporary French literature? Is there perhaps an older French tradition that you relate more to?

Dominique Fabre: Actually I’m not aware that what I write is especially different, I’ve never wanted to be an outsider, but without ever being quite sure why I’ve always been a little bit outside the mainstream, and that’s just the way it is. I try to write about the strange and fascinating aspects of our lives, without turning them into something they aren’t. The everyday is the dimension of our lives, whether we like it or not. I am in fact very fond of certain writers from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s—Henri Calet, Emmanuel Bove, Guérin, Guilloux—who strike me as very modern, especially since they weren’t trying to be, but they’ve been forgotten. On the one hand, they were from working-class backgrounds, and then in France we had the nouveau roman. And that was followed by autofiction, always something new to replace the latest novelty, and so on.

HC: What’s remarkable about your work is that although the subject matter may seem dull, you manage to make it exciting and to keep the reader’s attention. One way you do this is through your style, the way you move constantly from present to past, from thoughts to memories to dialogue, sometimes in the same sentence, to convey the main character’s state of mind. I wonder if you can say something about how you evolved this style.

DF: Yes, I don’t write about amazing adventures! As far as the writing is concerned, it’s a kind of stew, I mix things up the way we all do when we talk to ourselves, I think this way of writing more or less reproduces how things happen in our heads, when we’re alone or when we’re not lying. This “style” is still evolving from book to book, I’m pleased when people tell me they recognize my work after two lines.

HC: Your novel has a very specific setting, not just Paris, but a particular suburb of Paris, and you include many references to actual places with which most of your readers would be unfamiliar. Are you ever afraid that your readers, especially those outside France, would be alienated by this, or do you think, on the contrary, that it adds to the book’s fascination?

DF: Almost all my books take place in a little corner of the Paris suburbs where, it’s true, nothing unusual happens. That’s why you can imagine all kinds of stories, which contrast with the rather gray setting. I spent my teenage years in the suburbs, I know certain places well, and that avoids me having to worry about getting the geography right when I’m writing. I’m a big fan of the Gare Saint-Lazare, and I always try to include a train in my stories, which gives me an excuse to go on an aimless excursion in the Paris region. I love these neutral places where nothing much happens, they give me a greater sense of freedom than places filled with significance. And perhaps this relative anonymity of the locations—a station platform, an apartment building, the Seine—actually allows the readers to imagine the settings for themselves.

HC: Your main character frequently refers to, and quotes from, F. Scott Fitzgerald. What does the work of Fitzgerald mean to you? And are there other English-language writers you feel close to?

DF: I fell in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald, he’s the first American writer I read a lot of. He foresaw many things, he was unhappy but quite brilliant, and The Crack Up is a great text about depression. Two American writers who mean a lot to me are John Cheever, who’s a wonderful stylist, and John Fante, whom I often re-read and whom I discovered because Charles Bukowski talks about him. John Fante is a very individual writer, a great stylist too, I find. I’ve also learned a lot from reading the books of Bernard Malamud . . . Actually, the list of wonderful writers is a very long one. There’s a British writer from the ’60s I really liked: Alan Sillitoe, he’s rather forgotten now, if I’m not mistaken.

HC: Finally, if you could sum up in a few words what you hope a new reader, especially a non-French reader, would get from your work, what would you say?

DF: Perhaps a sense of how wonderful and how fragile our lives are, and also the importance of resisting a technological consumer society in which the degree of mass dumbing-down can sometimes be really alarming.

26 February 15 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by P. T. Smith on Torvald Steen’s The Little Horse, translated by James Anderson and published by Seagull Books.

Here’s the beginning of Patrick’s review:

The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered on his own property for overdue political debts and ambitious/vengeful rivals, the book breaks down the five days. The structure provides clarity and directness, which Steen slowly unravels by traveling through Snorre’s memories and into the path of the lives intersecting his, of those who loved him, who hated him, and who killed him. The Little Horse shows just how much richness there is in dramatic irony. That we know Snorre’s end and he is ignorant is not single note. We can snicker, find fault and reason to mourn, but at its deepest expression, the dramatic irony is fate, death, and Steen shows it hovering over all of us. In the midst of this, Steen doesn’t abandon the ripe entertainment in a story of love, fatherhood, spies, betrayals, manipulation, revenge, and assassins attacking a man who has secret tunnels on his property and a son who kills on his orders in eleventh-century Iceland. It is a saga itself and Anderson’s translation accomplishes the difficult task of creating not just the descriptions of a historical time, but prose that has the stiffness of an older world, while still tumbling gently, never forgetting that Iceland is a land of beauty.

If historical fiction is straightforward, convinced of its own solidity, that the historical side coheres without the cracks of fiction, particularly the fractured narratives of post-modernity, then there is nothing to trust, naïveté or deception are in play. Done carelessly, plain facts mixed with the overwriting of a historical person to create the whole of a plot- and character-focused novel, leaves a thin fiction, easily undone by any inaccuracies and its leap over what is not and cannot be known.

For the rest of the review, go here.

26 February 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

So, this has been percolating for some time, but yesterday BookExpo America sent out the official press release (copied below) about how this year’s Best Translated Book Award winners will be announced on Wednesday, May 27 at 2:30 as part of BEA’s programming:

Norwalk, CT, February 25, 2015: BookExpo America (BEA), North America’s largest and preeminent book industry convention, continues to shine a light on international publishing by sponsoring the 8th Annual Best Translated Book Award which was founded to bring attention to great works of literature in translation and honor the translators who make these available to English readers. Over the past few years, underwriting from Amazon.com has made it possible for the winning authors and translators to receive $5,000 in cash prizes, making this the largest award for literature in translation in the United States. Inaugurated in 2008, the award is conferred by Three Percent, the online literary magazine of Open Letter Books, which is the book translation press of the University of Rochester.

The award will take place on the Eastside Stage at BEA on Wednesday, May 27 at 2:30pm at the Jacob K. Javits Center. BookExpo America is widely known as an ideal place for content creators, media, booksellers, rights professionals, and movie and television executives to meet new authors, discover new books, learn about trends shaping the book industry, and network with those who have a passion for books and reading. It is the nation’s largest gathering of booksellers, book publishers and book industry professionals.

“Announcing the winners of the Best Translated Book Award at BoookExpo America makes perfect sense,” notes Chad W. Post, publisher of Open Letter and Founder of the awards. “Booksellers are some of the biggest fans of international literature I know, and one of the most important groups out there for getting translations into the hands of individual readers. It’s exciting to be able to share this announcement with them directly, at one of the key bookselling events of the year. Plus, incorporating the BTBAs into the setting of BEA—with hundreds of authors, translators, and editors in attendance—is a fantastic way to show that international literature is a central, growing part of book culture.”

Any works in translation published in 2014 for the first time ever (no retranslations or reissues) are eligible for the award. More than 580 works of fiction and poetry have already met these criteria. These books originated from 73 different countries and were written in 46 different languages, making this the largest, and most diverse, pool of entries to date. Additionally, these books were published by 194 different publishers, demonstrating the large base of interest in bringing international voices to American readers.

Obviously, we’re going to party after this . . . Details on that are TK.

Couple BTBA points worth noting though:

Because of this change of venue (we used to announce the winners during PEN World Voices, and hope that next year we can announce the finalists there), we’ve altered the schedule for the 2015 announcements. (As you can see on the official BTBA site.)

The Longlists for both Fiction and Poetry will now be announced on Tuesday, April 7th;
Finalists will be announced on Tuesday, May 5th;
Winners & Celebration Party on May 27th.

Also, be sure and check out Best Translated Book for all of the amazing write-ups the judges have been posting about this year’s works. They’re doing a phenomenal job, and their columns make up the single greatest online source for information about 2014 works in translation, bar none. All of these posts go up on Three Percent as well, but over the next month, I’m going to be highlighting a bunch of them as we build up to the announcement of the two longlists . . .

19 February 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week’s podcast features a true roundtable discussion, with Tom and Chad being joined by Caroline Casey from Coffee House Press, Mark Haber and Jeremy Ellis from Brazos Bookstore, Stephen Sparks from Green Apple Books, and Danish author Naja Marie Aidt (Baboon, Rock, Paper, Scissors) to discuss the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute. One of the funniest podcasts to date, they break down what Winter Institute is, why it’s so important for the future of bookselling, and what various publishers get out of attending. They also make fun of all the crappy crutch phrases you find in jacket copy.

This week’s music is the Flaming Lips rendition of 21st Century Schizoid Man.

As always you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes by clicking here. To subscribe with other podcast downloading software, such as Google’s Listen, copy the following link. And you can email us with complaints and comments at threepercentpodcast@gmail.com


18 February 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Last week, the tenth version of the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute took place in Asheville, NC, at a resort straight out of The Shining.

I know! You should’ve seen the main lobby with it’s 40’ ceilings, giant fireplaces, and hidden passages. It was like something out of Hogwarts. (Actually, I have no idea if that’s true. I’m still pretty clueless when it comes to Harry Potter.)

For anyone not in the business, Winter Institute started ten years ago as a way of having the bookseller educational programs—which usually take place just before the start of BookExpo America—at a different time and place, one where it was basically all booksellers resorted off in such a way that they could share relevant information about the business of bookselling without having the Sweet Potato Queen thrusting books at you non-stop. (Not to pick on this particular book, but if you’ve been to BEA, you know that it’s filthy with over-the-top attempts to get the attention of booksellers and reviewers. Just check out the Ellora’s Cave stand and their calendar stud muffins.)

Over the past decade, Winter Institute has evolved, and is heavily underwritten by publishing houses. But even so, it’s much more classy and information-focused, rather than a buzz-producing free-for-all. For example, if a publisher sponsors Winter Institute at the mid-level (which is thousands of dollars), they get to bring two employees and spend four total hours “speed dating” with booksellers (Winter Institute is HOT), pitching a handful of books and making new connections. There are other sponsorship benefits, and most publishers arrange dinners with key stores, but nevertheless, it’s all pretty subdued and really focused on relationships and business practices.

You’ll be able to hear a lot more about this on the podcast that’s going up soon, and which features a handful of booksellers, publishers, and Naja Marie Aidt.

For years I’ve been trying to get to Winter Institute, and now that I finally made it, I’m going to be there every year going forward. It’s the best way to learn about new stores, reconnect with booksellers you don’t get to see that often, and party with other book people. Everyone working in this oftentimes thankless business needs a few days like this.

One of my favorite moments of Winter Institute was going to the special Consortium dinner with my former boss—Sarah Goddin of Quail Ridge Books! I had no idea she was going to be there, and Consortium had no idea that we had worked together, so it was a special sort of random reunion.

Since I love North Carolina (the far superior Carolina) so much, I spent a couple days after Winter Institute driving over to Raleigh-Durham, trying to find the apartment complex I lived in back in 1999 (I failed), meeting up with John Darnielle to talk about Mercè Rodoreda and book tours, and checking out all of the great bookstores. Although The Regulator seems to have shrunk quite a bit since the time I lived there (which, granted, was forever ago), the Triangle still has some incredible independent bookstores. Flyleaf in Chapel Hill is gorgeous and so well stocked (and is a store I wouldn’t have visited had I not met the very charming Travis at breakfast during Winter Institute) and over at Quail Ridge, the “International Literature” section I helped set up before Y2K didn’t do shit is still there, bigger and more international than ever.

I have no grand point to make with this intro . . . except maybe that it was rejuvenating. I would love to be back in Carolina, where there are great bookstores and breweries (sorry, Rochester, but you just can’t compete), and where I didn’t have to wear a winter jacket (it is -60 here right now, I think). But beyond the natural beauty and general coolness of Carolina, there’s that special internal joy that comes from talking with booksellers like Mark Haber and Jeremy Ellis and Robert Sindelar and Stephen Sparks and Brad Johnson and Jeremy Solomons and Paul Yamazaki and Rick Simonson and Sarah Goddin and everyone else that I talked with, but can’t remember right now.

Despite all the hardships it faces in our tech-obsessed world, bookselling is alive and well, and still populated by that special subset of book lovers who truly help make this whole book culture thing work.

The Knight and His Shadow by Boubacar Boris Diop, translated from the French by Alan Furness (Michigan State University Press)

Given that MSU’s men’s basketball team kicked the living shit out of Michigan last night, I have to take a minute to say GO SPARTANS! and give a shout out to my alma mater, and to say that I will savor every minute of a Kentucky loss. I have friends who love Kentucky in that way that you do when your family tree is a straight line and teeth are considered an optional accessory (sorry, sorry), and I’d be happy for them if Kent— Screw that. That’s a total lie. I can’t stand Calipari and his dirty recruiting and am sick to death of Dickie V, who has never held a skeptical position in his life and who has obviously spent way too many hours researching thesauri for new ways to say “Calipari and what he’s done with this program is nothing short of spectacular! He’s a diaper dandy winner, baby!” Please, ESPN, retire him. Let him write a weekly column from Florida where he can hang out with all his shady sports friends and verbally fellate all the “blue blood” teams that he loves.

In terms of this book, this is the only work of fiction from Senegal listed in our Translation Database. I know there are countries (like Chad, just, you know, as an example) that have zero titles available in translation, but it’s still crazy to think that, if you want to read some recent Senegalese literature, you have exactly one choice.

On the upside, this sounds spectacular. It includes a character who is hired to “sit before an open door and tell stories into an uncertain darkness, unable to see the person to whom she speaks.” Plus, it’s great to see MSU Press getting into the translation game. The only thing that could be better is if MSU interrupts Kentucky’s “Pursuit of Perfection” in the NCAA tournament. Dickie V would never recover . . .

Flesh-Coloured Dominos by Zigmunds Skujins, translated from the Latvian by Kaija Straumanis (Arcadia)

Look, it’s Open Letter editor Kaija Straumanis’s second full-length Latvian translation to be published! With a country of this size (3 million speakers worldwide?), it’s crucial that someone become a spokesperson/go-to translator who can act as a cultural conduit, or literary ambassador. Without a Kaija, Latvian literature would be even less well-known . . . And someone like Skujins, who is considered one of the top Latvian writers of the twentieth century, would remain unknown outside of this relatively small group of readers. Every country needs a few Kaijas.

Speaking of, here’s a picture of her while translating this book.



Lies, First Person by Gail Hareven, translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu (Open Letter)

2015 is going to be a huge year for Open Letter in terms of sales and publicity. I can easily see a handful of our titles on next year’s Best Translated Book Award longlist (Georgi Gospodinov, Naja Marie Aidt, Andrés Neuman, Gail Hareven), and it all starts here, with this book that is part-revenge fantasy, part-literary game. The follow up to the BTBA winning The Confessions of Noa Weber (also translated by Dalya Bilu, and sadly out of print from Melville House), Lies, First Person is about a female writer whose uncle molested her younger sister while writing his much-reviled book Hitler, First Person. Decades later, the uncle is making the rounds, apologizing for the upset his book cause, but Elinor isn’t ready to forgive anyone . . . Instead she decides to take matters into her own hands and get the ultimate revenge for what he did to her sister. Hareven complicates this storyline by exploring the gap between truth and lies in fiction, transforming a simple tale of abuse and vengeance into something that’s emotionally powerful and intellectually stunning.

No one writes with the warmth and honest of Hareven. She may well be the first female writer to claim the BTBA twice.

Guys Like Me by Dominique Fabre, translated from the French by Howard Curtis (New Vessel Press)

Since we just posted a great review of this by Peter Biello, I’m just going to quote from there:

In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying side that reflects, more than anything else, the emotional state of the storyteller, an unnamed narrator still reeling from his divorce many years ago. . . . The immersive power of the novel comes from the narrator’s voice. He begins each paragraph somewhere, then wanders somewhere else, jumping idea to idea, often without starting new sentences. The reader must slow down to figure out whether he’s integrating dialogue into his prose or recalling something someone once said or mocking someone. But in forcing us to slow down, the author has invited us to occupy the narrator’s mind perhaps more intimately than we would otherwise.

Fabre’s The Waitress Was New, which Archipelago brought out a few years ago, is brilliant, and I’m sure that this new novel is as well.

Adventures in Immediate Irreality by Max Blecher, translated from the Romanian by Michael Henry Heim (New Directions)

On its own, this sounds like a curious, strange book to read. According to the ND copy, Blecher “paints the crises of ‘irreality’ the plagued him in his youth: eerie unsettling mirages wherein he would glimpse future events.” Structured through a sort of dream-logic, this book probably isn’t for everyone, but will inspire some hard core fans.

Personally, I’m excited to read it because it’s a Michael Henry Heim translation. My love of MHH is unwavering (if you haven’t already, you should read The Man Between), and I know for certain that if he chose to work on this, it’s definitely interesting and worth reading. At the same time, the idea of reading the book Mike was working on when he passed away makes me sad . . . I know there are dozens of books he did that I have yet to read, but still, there’s something about the “final” one that makes me just miss him.

My Documents by Alejandro Zambra, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell (McSweeney’s Books)

New Zambra! I may not have been the biggest fan of Ways of Going Home, but given the greatness of The Private Lives of Trees and Bonsai, I will always and forever read every new book Zambra writes. This is his first story collection, and features eleven stories (or, according to McSweeney’s, “eleven brief novels,” which is really brilliant marketing speak, since stories don’t sell) that are archived in a folder labeled, “My Documents.”

Zambra is always a fun read, and he really is at his best in the short form, so this has a lot of promise. (It’s books like this that make me wish I only taught books I’ve already read, and thus would have more time for fun reading . . .)

The Scapegoat by Sophia Nikolaidou, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (Melville House)

When she spoke to my class last spring, Karen Emmerich talked a bit about this book, in particular about the role politics play in this novel and in Why I Killed My Best Friend by Amanda Michalopoulou. Not that the two books are similar, but both involve Greek political things that probably need to be explained to American readers.

The Scapegoat is about a murdered American journalist, a man who confessed to the crime under torture, and a young boy who sets off to find the truth. The bit about this that most caught my attention is that it’s based on the real story of CBS reporter James Polk, the namesake of the Polk Awards.

Also, as with Michael Henry Heim, I’m always interested in projects that Karen decides to translate. Which makes me want to run a poll/write an article about what it takes to become one of those sorts of translators (whose name signals true quality and can get me to pick up anything), and who exactly falls into this grouping . . . hmm . . .

Me, Margarita by Ana Kordzaia-Samadashvili, translated from the Georgian by Libby Heighway (Dalkey Archive)

Out of all the Georgian books Dalkey has published in their series, this is the one that I’m most interested in reading. Mostly because of this blurb:

“An unmatched achievement that simultaneously fascinates and alienates. What does cynicism taste like? And what color is disillusion? Me, Margarita is powder blue and tastes refreshingly bittersweet.“—Emil Fadel, octopus-magazin

I’ll buy a side of disillusioned cynicism for $15.95.

17 February 15 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

Today, Trafika Europe is launching an Indegogo campaign to help fund its forthcoming venture, Trafika Europe Radio. Set to start this fall, Trafika Europe Radio will stream original and partner-produced audio content, including: readings and performances; discussions with writers, translators, readers and publishers; “literary” music; festivals, book fairs, launches, and more.

From their press release brochure:

“Trafika Europe Radio offers a whole new window on Europe. With partner-produced series covering the 47 countries of Council of Europe, our online station will bring you in-depth features from across the continent—not just the EU!”

For more information on Trafika Europe Radio, go here.

For more information on their Indiegogo campaign, and the campaign itself, go here.

16 February 15 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Peter Biello on Guys Like Me by Dominique Fabre, translated by Howard Curtis and out from New Vessel Press.

Here’s the beginning of Peter’s review:

We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying side that reflects, more than anything else, the emotional state of the storyteller, an unnamed narrator still reeling from his divorce many years ago.

The novel begins as the narrator runs into an old friend, Jean, whose life has similarly stalled. With a wink and a nod they resume the friendship that they had lost years ago. We’re also introduced to Marco, or Marc-André, who, along with Jean, becomes the third member of this sad band of rapidly-aging, aimless men. As the novel unfolds, we learn about the narrator’s divorce from Anaïs, and the painful estrangement from his son, Benjamin.

Early in the novel, we learn the great extent to which the narrator’s mind torments him. “Since my separation, I haven’t had a real love affair,” the narrator tells us. “I don’t have the strength for it anymore, I kept telling myself. But why would I need strength? How the time passes . . . Quite often, my thinking stops there, and I try to sleep immediately afterwards, because I really don’t know what’s waiting for me if I keep thinking.” What little hope remains in his heart he’s found in the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who once said there are no second acts in American life. “There are no second acts,” the narrator says. “But I still believe there are, from time to time.”

For the rest of the review, go here.

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