21 May 15 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Vincent Francone on Miloš Djurdjević’s Morse, My Deaf Friend, translated by the author and published by Ugly Duckling Presse.

The chapbook itself is short—clocking in at 32 pages—and is yet another beautiful work of print done by Ugly Duckling. Here’s the beginning of Vince’s review, which tries to get a grasp on what to expect, or not to expect, from poems labeled as “avant-garde”:

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 Presse as part of their Eastern European Poets Series— will be confounding to those accustomed to poetry that holds its reader’s hand. These poems do not. They are elliptical and strange and offer very few concrete signifiers.

For the rest of the review, go here.

20 May 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Yesterday afternoon, as we were recording Three Percent podcast #99, it was announced that László Krasznahorkai had won the 2015 Man Book International Prize, becoming the only the sixth winner of the biennial award, and the first winner since Ismail Kadare in 2005 who doesn’t write in English.

From the judges:

In László Krasznahorkai’s The Melancholy of Resistance, a sinister circus has put a massive taxidermic specimen, a whole whale, Leviathan itself, on display in a country town. Violence soon erupts, and the book as a whole could be described as a vision, satirical and prophetic, of the dark historical province that goes by the name of Western Civilisation. Here, however, as throughout Krasznahorkai’s work, what strikes the reader above all are the extraordinary sentences, sentences of incredible length that go to incredible lengths, their tone switching from solemn to madcap to quizzical to desolate as they go their wayward way; epic sentences that, like a lint roll, pick up all sorts of odd and unexpected things as they accumulate inexorably into paragraphs that are as monumental as they are scabrous and musical.

And Marina Warner:

László Krasznahorkai is a visionary writer of extraordinary intensity and vocal range who captures the texture of present day existence in scenes that are terrifying, strange, appallingly comic, and often shatteringly beautiful. The Melancholy of Resistance, Satantango and Seiobo There Below are magnificent works of deep imagination and complex passions, in which the human comedy verges painfully onto transcendence. Krasznahorkai, who writes in Hungarian, has been superbly served by his translators, George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet.

My favorite part of the official press release has to be this paragraph:

Krasznahorkai and his translator George Szirtes were longlisted for the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for Satantango and Krasznahorkai has won the Best Translated Book Award in the US two years in a row, in 2013 for Satantango and in 2014 for Seiobo There Below.

Go BTBA!

For winning the award, Krasznahorkai will receive £60,000, and he “has chosen to split the £15,000 translator’s prize between two translators, George Szirtes (who translated Satantango and The Melancholy of Resistance) and Ottilie Mulzet (who translated Seiobo There Below).”

If you’re not already a Krasznahorkai fan and reader, you can find out more about all of his works via Scott Esposito’s Guide for the Perplexed and Fascinated.

20 May 15 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Robert Anthony Siegel on Terayama Shūji’s The Crimson Thread of Abandon, translated by Elizabeth L. Armstrong and published by the University of Hawai’i Press.

Robert Anthony Siegel is the author of two novels, All Will Be Revealed and All the Money in the World. Recent work of his has been in Tin House and the New York Times, and is forthcoming in The Paris Review. More information on him and his work can be found at his web site.

Here’s the beginning of Robert’s review:

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 even if it wasn’t as good as it is: an introduction to the work of a creative colossus who helped define the Japanese counterculture in the 1960s and ’70s, leaving his mark not only on fiction and poetry, but also on photography, film, TV, radio, and the theater.

As it happens, Crimson Thread is thin but lovely, a gathering of very short wisps of stories that read sometimes as cracked postmodernist fables, sometimes as bemused and irreverent prose poems à la James Tate (Terayama actually started out as a tanka poet, bent on upending that most self-consciously refined of ancient aristocratic traditions). Terayama’s work thus anticipated both the rise of flash fiction and the resurgence of the fairy tale as a medium for serious writing. In his fictive world, puppets fall in love and make their owners jealous, lovers turn into birds at the wrong time, and pictures jump out of magazines to warn readers about the perils of desire. It is a world of chance and unintended consequences, where the boundaries between imagination and reality are porous, and wishes are both beautiful and dangerous.

For the rest of the review, go here.

18 May 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This Thursday, May 21st at 7pm, I’ll be moderating a conversation at Albertine Book Store (972 Fifth Ave., NYC) with Jean Findlay and Esther Allen about the life and work of two celebrated translators: C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Michael Henry Heim. You should come!

While C. K. Scott Moncrieff’s work has shaped our understanding of Proust’s seven-volume masterpiece—published as Remembrance of Things Past—he has remained hidden behind the genius of the man whose reputation he helped build. In this biography, Chasing Lost Time: The Life and Work of C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Jean Findlay—Scott Moncrieff’s great-great-niece—reveals a fascinating, tangled life.

Michael Henry Heim—one of the most respected translators of his generation—translated two-dozen works from eight different languages, including books by Milan Kundera, Dubravka Ugresic, Hugo Claus, and Anton Chekov. But Mike, as he was known to his legion of friends, was much more than that. His classes at UCLA on translation inspired a new generation of translators, and his work altering the way translation is viewed will impact the livelihood of translators for decades to come. The Man Between is both a homage to Mike and a useful book for anyone interested in translation.

The discussion is free and open to all, and no RSVP is necessary. For more information, see the event page on Albertine’s website.

15 May 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

For this week’s podcast, we invited Best Translated Book Award Fiction Chair Monica Carter on to talk about the finalists for this year’s awards. Monica graciously gave us some insight into the voting process, revealed which of the final ten was a “personal pick” of one of the judges, and managed to make us second guess who we thought would win the award.

Additionally, we talked about the differences between the UK vs. U.S. book scenes, and had some rants, raves, and sports talk.

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REMINDER: Next week, Feminist Press editor Julia Berner-Tobin will be our guest to discuss “Apocalypse Baby” by Virginie Despentes, translated from the French by Siân Reynolds, the latest book in the Three Percent Book Club. Go out and get a copy! It’s a fast, vicious read, and if you have any questions for the three of us, send them to threepercentpodcast@gmail.com by Tuesday morning.

ANOTHER REMINDER: Our 100th episode is coming up, and to celebrate, we’d like to do one that’s all about “listener appreciation.” So send any and all comments and questions to threepercentpodcast@gmail.com—we’ll answer anything you’d like . . .

This week’s music is Waste the Alphabet from the new Dick Diver album. (Dick Diver being a reference to Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night.)

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


14 May 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

In a couple weeks, the IDPF Digital Book Conference will take place in New York under the theme of “Putting Readers First.” As part of this Ed Nawokta (Publishing Perspectives founder and international publishing guru of sorts), Boris Kachka (Hothouse author and former BEA frond-waver [sorry, inside joke]), Andrew Albanese (Publishers Weekly and fan of all the teams my teams lose to, like Chelsea and the Yankees), and Kristin Nelson (Nelson Literary Agency) are scheduled to discuss whether Amazon is “good for readers,” a panel that’s sure to provoke both bookselling traditionalists and the new wave of ebook-loving Amazon loyalists.

When Ed mentioned this panel over dinner the other day, Will Evans of Deep Vellum expressed the reaction common to most all publishing people: “Amazon’s good for consumers but not readers. It’s bad for reading.”

Which, when you think about it, makes no sense. You’re not a better reader for having purchased your book at a local indie store, just as you’re not better at brushing your teeth if you refuse to buy toothpaste from Walmart. How you acquire your goods has no impact on how you actually engage with them—that’s a totally different process.

Will immediately agreed with me, backing off his instant condemnation and admitted that “if you buy a book from Amazon your eyes are just scanning over the words” is ridiculous statement, but one that you can imagine some die-hard anti-Amazonists making—and being totally serious about.

I suspect that Digital Book World is conflating the words “readers” and “book buyers,” but if not, what an odd topic for a panel. Because how can a retailer—especially of cultural goods—be responsible for making their customers “better” at using the products they buy?

All of this got me thinking though: How does one become a better reader? How do you learn this skill? And what exactly makes you a “good” reader?

Seeing that I’m based at a top notch university, and graduated with a degree in English, and work in publishing, and write about books a lot, and think about reading basically all the time, I feel like I should have some decent answers to these questions . . . but I really don’t.

If you take a sort of high school English approach to this, being a “good reader” is being able to identify themes and point of view, decipher symbols and metaphors, understand characterization, etc. Break down a piece of writing into its general components and “analyze” them in five-paragraph thesis papers.

These things are all great, but do they really help you judge whether a sentence is “well-written” or help you judge whether a book as a whole is successful? There’s so much more to a book than its organizing images and the fact that the story is an example of Man vs. Nature. I think.

In college, theories start to get worked into the mix, and being a “good reader” means that you’re good at applying Marxist/Feminist/Freudian/Post-Structural theory to a text, pulling out elements so that you can expand (still in five-paragraph, thesis-driven format) on some greater truths or observations about the world. In theory (sorry), the point of this approach is to make you a better reader of life, of all the texts—novels to film, street signs to non-verbal codes, cultural and architectural structures—connecting the work you do as a liberal arts major or professor to the “real world.”

I’m not sure that writers, or booksellers, or critics, or publishers, would necessarily agree that these are the absolute qualities of a good reader, since readers steeped in this methodology tend to ignore style in favor of content, and really only that content that supports a pre-existing paradigm, making you more of a good interpreter than a good reader.

Whatever criteria one chooses, I think it can be assumed that when a good reader reads a good book, something more than simple entertainment takes place. But maybe not. Maybe the best readers are the ones who can let a book take them over, let it guide their thoughts and emotions, instead of trying to crack it open, or utilize it as a tool in a greater theory.

Maybe good readers are the ones who are slow readers, who pay attention and notice things, and the process of noticing and making connections is what makes them “good.”

Regardless of the criteria, how does one become good at reading? On some level, this can be taught—you learn how metaphors and motifs work, you’re taught to pay attention in a certain way—but a lot of it comes from, well, simply reading a lot. You get better at pattern recognition—within a book and within books as a whole—the more books you’re exposed to, and, like some sort of textual feedback loop, the more texts you’re exposed to the more patterns you’re aware of and able to recognize.

One practical example: I’ve been reading Finnegans Wake all this year, and I really wonder what makes you a good reader of this book. What does it even mean to “read” a book that’s impossible to fully understand (another rubric for being a good reader is “understanding a book at a deep level”), because it is so coded with languages, puns, verbal jokes, misspellings, obscure references, and interior jokes? Where every sentence can be interpreted in several different ways? How do you prepare to be a good reader of this? Are you a good reader if you can explain the plot (which actually isn’t all that complicated), or do you have to be able to explain everything?

I could go on about this for a while, but the thing that keeps coming to mind is how being a good reader, to me at least, means being able to take part of ongoing literary conversations. This could take part in a classroom, or by reading, understanding, and reacting to a London Review of Books/New Yorker/New York Review of Books/Bookforum review, or through conversations with booksellers, critics, or other good readers. The conversation aspect is what really counts in my opinion. You can write as many college essays as you want, but that doesn’t mean that you can hold your own at a New Directions party.

And that’s the part that’s most fascinating to me. I’m not sure that reading a ton of books improves the quality of your life (to be honest, if you’re anything like me, it just makes you more miserable and aware of your shortcomings and impending death), but if it does, it’s not only through the books themselves and being able to see things in them and understand their craft and impact, but by being able to share that with others.

Which is something you have to create—find a community, engage with the conversation—and something that bookstores could facilitate. More on that next month. For now, let’s get to the May books!

The Indian by Jón Gnarr, translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith (Deep Vellum)

Calligraphy Lesson by Mikhail Shishkin, translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz (Deep Vellum)

Probably should’ve included The Indian last month, but I had it coded for May in our database . . . Anyway, Gnarr was here in Rochester at the end of April for a couple stellar events. I could go on and on about how great he and his family are, but instead I want to mention how much my daughter LOVED this book. Here’s a picture of her copy with marks for all the bits she either a) found funny or b) contained Icelandic words she couldn’t pronounce:

This is the first book that both of us read at the same time—and both really enjoyed. That’s a strange, fantastic sensation. She even got up at one of our events to try and convince everyone there that they needed to read The Indian. Natural born sales rep!

Shishkin you probably already know of, if not because of Maidenhair, then because of this New York Times op-ed.

Behind the Station by Arno Camenisch, translated from the German by Donal McLaughlin (Dalkey Archive)

I Saw Her That Night by Drago Jančar, translated from the Slovenian by Michael Biggins (Dalkey Archive)

First of all, as Michael Orthofer pointed out at the Literary Saloon, Dalkey Archive is moving to the University of Houston-Victoria, which I’d only heard of because it’s the home to American Book Review. ABR was also together with Dalkey at Illinois State, so in a way, this move makes some sense . . . Long way from Illinois though, in terms of location and perceived status, but at least Dalkey has a base from which to continue bringing out all their various series. And maybe Dalkey can link up with Deep Vellum to get introduced to the Texas Book scene that Will Evans has been helping create . . .

In terms of these two books, Dustin Kurtz sang the praises of Camenisch’s first book on Twitter, which caught my attention. (He said something about it being the best book of the summer of 2014, even though it’s only like 60 pages.) This is the second part of a trilogy, and since I’m planning on catching up on a number of series this summer—My Struggle, the Ferrante, that crazy new Danielewski thing—I’m moving this to the top of my pile.

And I really like Jančar’s Mocking Desire, which Northwestern brought out a million or so years ago. I haven’t read any of the newer books of his that Dalkey has been doing, but this one seems like as good a place as any to get back into him.

Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven by Antoine Volodine, translated from the French by J. T. Mahany (Open Letter)

If you listen to our podcast, or receive our newsletter, or are friends with me on Facebook, then you’re probably sick of hearing me talk about Antoine Volodine.

So instead of going on about his incredible project (“Think Faulkner, but after an apocalypse.”) and all the reasons you should read this strange book—and then go back and read everything else of his that’s available in English—I’m just going to direct you to Music & Literature where all week they’re going to be posting Volodine-related content, including a review of this title, and an except from Lutz Bassmann’s The Eagles Reek.

Divine Punishment by Sergio Ramirez, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor (McPherson & Company)

I actually ran into Nick Caistor and his wife Amanda Hopkinson at a PEN World Voices event last weekend. They are two of the best translators in the world. Not only because they’re so talented, but because they’re great, happy people who have done a lot for the world of translation, be it via the Arts Council England, British Center for Literary Translation, or by mentoring younger translators. Overall, they are just wonderful and it’s always good to be able to highlight a book that they worked on.

And what a book! Ignore that cover for a minute and just read this:

Upon its original publication, Carlos Fuentes declared Divine Punishment to be the quintessential Central American novel. In this, the greatest work of a storied literary career, Sergio Ramírez transforms the most celebrated criminal trial in Nicaraguan history—the alleged murders in 1933 of two high society women and his employer by a Casanova named Oliverio Castañeda—into an examination of the entire Nicaraguan society at the brink of the first Somosa dictatorship. Passion, money, sex, gossip, political intrigue, medical malpractice and judicial corruption all merge into a novel that reads like a courtroom drama wrapped in yellow journalism disguised as historical fiction posing as a scandal of the first order.

There is some backstory to this about how a major publisher was going to bring it out, but after the Sandinistas lost the election in 1990, the book was dropped. (This is all hearsay, but an intriguing story.) Also worth noting that this is only the sixth book from Nicaragua to be listed in the Translation Database. Sixth.

The Guilty by Juan Villoro, translated from the Spanish by Kimberly Traube (George Braziller)

I have no idea why I haven’t published Villoro at either Dalkey or Open Letter. His name has been around for years, and now that George Braziller has broken the seal, expect four or five of his books to come out to wild acclaim over the next couple years.

El Testigo is the book I would’ve like to see come out first, but whatever, I’m sure these stories are just as brilliant.

Alexandrian Summer by Yitzhak Gormezano Goren, translated from the Hebrew by Yardenne Greenspan (New Vessel Press)

The Keeper’s Daughter by Jean-Francois Caron, translated from the French by W. Donald Wilson (Talonbooks)

If you’re outside of the industry you probably haven’t noticed this at all, but over the past couple years, Consortium has taken over as the distributor of translated fiction. Sure, they no longer sell Knausgaard or Ferrante (they once did!), but in terms of sheer volume and quantity, no one can compete with them. New Vessel, Deep Vellum, Open Letter, Hispabooks are four translation-only presses Consortium represents to go along with Akashic, BOA Editions, Copper Canyon, Bellevue, Coach House, Coffee House, Talonbooks, Biblioasis . . . I could figure this out if I wanted, but I’ll bet Consortium represents a larger percentage of translations coming out in the States than any other distributor out there. That’s impressive. I like that.

One of the aspects of the book trade that doesn’t get a lot of play from those of us writing about the industry are the sales reps. Granted, they’re honored by Publishers Weekly every year, but online, in blogs like this, we rarely discuss the valuable role they play in getting books from the publisher into the stores. For more than a decade, I did this myself, visiting Sessalee at B&N and calling on over a hundred independent stores. It was thankless and difficult. Since switching to Consortium, our sales are up over 40%, thanks mostly to the sales reps. That’s remarkable. And these reps are such great book people. They see everything, they dip into all of the books, they love bookstores and the whole process. I think it would be interesting to have a rep write something for a place like Publishing Perspectives about the process of being a rep. How it works, how many books you end up fronting, how many stores you visit, what the future of repping is in our digitally-obsessed world. I’d personally read that. Man, if I ever get out of publishing, I think this would be the job for me. Read all the books and talk to all the best booksellers!

The Game for Real by Richard Weiner, translated from the Czech by Benjamin Paloff (Two Lines Press)

Innocence; Or, Murder on Steep Street by Heda Margolius Kovaly, translated from the Czech by Alex Zucker (Soho Press)

All the Czech literature! Both of these books look really interesting, although Two Lines wins in terms of the most eye-catching cover. Although I must say, that guy’s face seems pretty disconnected from the fact that Richard Weiner, who died in 1937, was praised by Hrabal, was a member of the French surrealists, and was one of the Czech Republic’s greatest existential writers. There’s something about that cover that seems so now to me. Which is good for Two Lines. Bust out of the stodgy, traditional sort of cover that one would expect for a Serious Practitioner of Existential Art and get fans of Fight Club to pick it up.

I was initially interested in featuring Innocence because of all the great work Alex Zucker has been doing of late, and because I love all the Soho Press employees and their tiki bar obsession, but once reading the description, I just simply want to read this book.

In 1985, Czech Holocaust memoirist, literary translator, and political exile Heda Margolius Kovály turned her pen to fiction. Inspired by the stories of Raymond Chandler, Kovály knit her own terrifying experiences in early 1950s Socialist Prague—her husband’s imprisonment and wrongful execution, her own persecution at his disgrace—into a gorgeous psychological thriller-cum-detective novel.

Set in and around a cinema where a murder was recently committed, Innocence follows the unfolding of the investigation while telling the stories of the women who work there as ushers, each of whom is forced to support herself in difficult circumstances. As the novel brings this group alive, it tells their various life stories that have brought them to this job, the secrets they share with one another, and the secrets they keep. When the detective trying to solve the first murder is found slain by the cinema, all of their secrets come into the light.

Death and Socialism—perfect combo for a summer read!

Confessions by Jaume Cabré, translated from the Catalan by Mara Faye Lethem (Arcadia)

I’m curious to see what happens to the Arcadia list over the next few years, now that the founder and principle editors are all gone . . . I suspect that by 2017, this will be a very different sort of house. Which sucks, since they have a great track record of doing interesting literature in translation . . .

Anyway, like all of Cabré’s books, this sounds really fascinating. But man, does this guy write long. 751 pages?! Who does he think he is, Knausgaard? (Kidding, kidding.) As one-sentence descriptions of books go, this one is pretty killer: “At 60 and with a diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s, Adria Ardevol re-examines his life before his memory is systematically deleted.” Daaaammmn. Stylistically, there’s a lot that could be done with that.

Random note: I’m actually writing this from Torino, where later this afternoon I’m going to be giving a presentation on Italian literature in translation (and the lack thereof). Last time I was here was in 2010, when I first met Maya Faye Lethem’s brother in person and he took me to a place called “Seven Dwarfs” for farinata, which is one of the most delicious things in the universe. Oh, and a literal dwarf served us. I’m not making this up. It was an experience. This is exactly why I like to travel. Books and odd dining experiences.

13 May 15 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Christopher Iacono on Life Embitters by Josep Pla, translated by Peter Bush and published by Archipelago Books.

Here’s the beginning of Chris’s review:

Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when he was a young law student and aspiring writer. Readers got to meet many of the colorful characters who inhabited both the town of Palafrugell (where he was from) and the city of Barcelona (where he went to school). While Pla socialized with many of them, he preferred to spend time alone, especially along the Rambla in Barcelona. Even though Pla could be both ironic and pessimistic, he would write about humdrum moments in his life in such amazing detail that the reader couldn’t help but want to follow him along his journey.

Now, fans of that book can continue the journey with Life Embitters, the second of Pla’s works to be translated into English. Like the first book, Life was translated by Peter Bush, who has not only captured the spirit of Pla but has maintained a consistent quality over more than 1,200 pages. Life contains many of the hallmarks mentioned above, but it has some noticeable differences, too.

For the rest of the review, go here.

11 May 15 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Izidora Angel on The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel and out last month from Open Letter Books.

This book—and call it a shameless plug all you want—is by far one of the best books I’ve read in the last year, and has been on my personal Best Books of 2015 list since I first read it over a year ago. I can’t say enough or put the proper words to what the reading experience was like, but this is a phenomenal work, and if you’re not able to fit the entire book into your schedules, you should at least read one of the many excerpts posted across several online journals, including Little Star Weekly, which ran a three-part excerpt of Physics over the course of March and April. Really, really, truly, I can not get enough of this book.

Izidora Angel is a Bulgarian-born writer and translator living in Chicago. She is at work on translating the multi-award winning “The Same Night Await Us All: Diary of a Novel,” by Hristo Karastoyanov, from Bulgarian into English. She was just recently in Rochester as part of a three-week residency for Bulgarian translators, sponsored by the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation. Here’s a snippet of her review:

Georgi Gospodinov’s The Physics of Sorrow was an immediate best-seller when it was published in his native Bulgaria in 2011, which is no small feat considering best-seller lists in the country are almost always dominated not by indigenous literature, but by a slightly schizophrenic gathering of translated literature of varying merit. To give an example, fellow best-selling books in fiction that year included The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Şafak (2010), and The Bastard of Istanbul (2007) by the same author, as well as, perhaps, the inevitable: Fifty Shades of Grey (2011). This points to the Bulgarian reader’s eclectic taste: the Dumas, Dostoevsky, and Remarque of her childhood paving the way for an enduring historical and intellectual thirst followed by mired fascination with an exotic, far-away America via its spiritual junk food.

As a writer, Gospodinov travels freely—physically and metaphysically—attempting to grasp the national fascination with chujbina or “foreign country,” along with the necessity of revisiting another quite foreign thing: your own childhood. The metaphor he utilizes in The Physics of Sorrow for doing the latter is a child Minotaur, necessary perhaps only for the natural resistance of Bulgarians for self-introspection.

In his native country, Gospodinov (whose last name essentially means “Sir,” giving him an innately superior status) is a literary star, celebrated for many reasons, one of which is his translation into over twenty languages. This kind of success doesn’t come without detractors. He has received death threats for essays he’s written and many decry what they perceive to be the contrived mass-hysteria that follows the release of his books in Bulgaria. But Gospodinov’s writing speaks for itself; it is effortlessly relatable and that, in turn, translates.

For the rest of the review, go here.

11 May 15 | Monica Carter | Comments


Calling all Indie Booksellers! ‪Feel like you have a knack for making customers stop and gather around your dazzling book displays? Send in your pics of the BTBA fiction and poetry finalists on display, get as creative as possible, and you and your bookstore could become the official bookstore of the Best Translated Book Award until we claim a new winner next year. It’s like being Miss America without the sexism! The winning bookseller(s) and bookstore will be announced at BEA at the BTBA ceremony on May 27th and will be the official indie bookstore of the BTBA which includes placement on our blog and featured mentions in promos throughout the year. Show your world lit pride! Submit pictures of displays via twitter @BTBA_.

6 May 15 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Vincent Francone on Vano and Niko by Erlom Akhvlediani, translated by Mikheil Kakabadze and published by Dalkey Archive earlier this year.

I know everyone is still reeling from not being able to correctly guess all the finalists for the 2015 BTBA fiction and poetry shortlists before yesterday’s official announcement, so we’ll just cut right to Vince’s review:

What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that these short pieces (what contemporary writers would call flash fiction) resemble fables and that Akhvlediani’s characters sound a bit like Vladimir and Estragon, Clov and Hamm, and any number of Beckett creations. Which is not to say that Akhvlediani is a Beckett imitator or that his work is really all that Beckettian. The two share a tendency to explore philosophical questions through seemingly simple characters and their exchanges, but the dialectical approach is about where it ends. Which is not to say that Akhvlediani is not an absurdist. That rigid title might not fit perfectly, but it is through such a lens that I was able to find joy in Vano and Niko.

Full disclosure: I read Akhvlediani’s book, translated by Mikheil Kakabadze, immediately after finishing a short story collection by an American writer who clearly took notes during her MFA workshops. Subsequently, I enjoyed the sparseness of Vano and Niko, the immediacy of the prose, the lack of character development, and total abandonment of unnecessary description. If Hemingway’s old adage is correct, that prose is architecture not interior design, then Vano and Niko is a set of beams and girders without walls.

For the rest of the review, go here.

Morse, My Deaf Friend
Morse, My Deaf Friend by Miloš Djurdjević
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

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. . .

Read More >

The Crimson Thread of Abandon
The Crimson Thread of Abandon by Terayama Shūji
Reviewed by Robert Anthony Siegel

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. . .

Read More >

Life Embitters
Life Embitters by Josep Pla
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .

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The Physics of Sorrow
The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov
Reviewed by Izidora Angel

“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .

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Vano and Niko
Vano and Niko by Erlom Akhvlediani
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .

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The Indian
The Indian by Jón Gnarr
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The opening of Jón Gnarr’s novel/memoir The Indian is a playful bit of extravagant ego, telling the traditional story of creation, where the “Let there be light!” moment is also the moment of his birth on January 2nd, 1967. Then. . .

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Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories
Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories by Mahasweta Devi
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Mahasweta Devi is not only one of the most prolific Bengali authors, but she’s also an important activist. In fact, for Devi, the two seem to go together. As you can probably tell from the titles, she writes about women. . .

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Tristana
Tristana by Benito Pérez Galdós
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

The prolific Spanish author Benito Pérez Galdós wrote his short novel, Tristana, during the closing years of the nineteenth century, a time when very few options were available to women of limited financial means who did not want a husband.. . .

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The History of Silence
The History of Silence by Pedro Zarraluki
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .

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Flesh-Coloured Dominoes
Flesh-Coloured Dominoes by Zigmunds Skujiņš
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .

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