Featured Translation: The Game for Real by Richard Weiner

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There were over 450 new translations published this year, and trust us, we know from experience, keeping track of them all can be a maddening exercise. Each weekday from now until the end of the year we’ll highlight a different title that you may have missed. From short story collections to epic novels, from award winning works of the highest literary caliber to trashy romantic beach reads, we’ll feature the very best, and the very worst that 2015 had to offer, one book at a time.

Game For Real by Richard Weiner / Translated from the Czech by Benjamin PaloffThere were a lot of great book covers this year, but there’s just something about this one in particular that screams awesome. Maybe it’s the title box, acting as a sort of censor bar over the eyes, maybe it’s the smooshiness of the face that reminds me of the time I put my head on a flatbed scanner as a teen with the end result looking as if I were lying dead in a coffin, or maybe it’s just the extreme way in which the man’s lower lip has been photoshopped to the point at which it begins to resemble a finger, or perhaps, let’s just say, a different part of the male body, hair and all. Zoom in and stare at the cover long enough and you’ll eventually see it. Whatever the case may be, if we’re judging a book by its cover alone, The Game for Real easily earns an A+ rating. Things only get better when we crack it open and start reading.

As University of Illinois professor Alfred Thomas plainly states on page 105 of his book, The Labyrinth of the Word: Truth and Representation in Czech Literature:

Richard Weiner (1884–1937) is generally considered to be one of the important Czech writers of the twentieth century.

Keeping that in mind, the fact that his work has never before appeared in English translation seems mind-blowing. Here’s a guy that’s often compared to Franz Kafka and was nicknamed the “man of pain” by his contemporaries (also from Thomas’s book). So what took so long? Translated by Benjamin Paloff, The Game for Real finally presents Weiner to the English speaking world by way of two excellent novella length stories.

Who are we? That seems to be the question at the heart of the two Game tales. In The Game of Quartering, a man makes the startling discovery that he has a double, but if he has one then his double must surely have one as well, and that double’s double must have a double too, no? In The Game for the Honor of Payback, a slap sets the stage for a strange tale in which a man launches an ill-fated attempt to return the dastardly favor no matter the cost.

Both are littered with complex, sometimes conflicting ideas that explore our relationship with identity and the importance that it plays in our lives:

Gifting evil to our loved ones does not spur them; it doesn’t seem clean; it smacks of denatured vengeance; but she did not, does not, love you with love.

You can read a decent sized excerpt from The Game for Real at 3:AM magazine. For more information on the importance of Weiner’s body of work you can read this interview with translator Benjamin Paloff at Vol. 1 Brooklyn.

The Game for Real was was published in May by Two Lines Press.

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About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.