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.
I just saw that Elizabeth Harris’s translation of Antonio Tabucchi’s novel Tristano Dies is finally out next month from Archipelago Books which reminded me that earlier this year I had a chance to read a collection of his short stories. There’s one in particular, somewhere near the middle of the book I think, that stuck with me for months. It’s about a small girl on a beach having what seems to be a pretty ordinary conversation with an older male who is a stranger to her. He’s a retired soldier if I remember correctly. The two push on one another for answers to all types of questions, he being somewhat reluctant to divulge information, her not able to fully process the pieces he does let slip. How do you explain to a child that should be wary of ideals? How do you scientifically explain the predictive power that you feel clouds possess? The clash of innocence meets battle scarred experience left me feeling a little on edge. After all, there are some details about our lives we don’t want to pass down or inflict upon others. Yet we still try to find some common ground with one another, to make meaningful connections to shield ourselves from the damage time has wrought. These relationships don’t have to be difficult, but for some reason we often label them as such. I mean, if you caught wind of a strange man talking to your kid on the beach how long would you let that conversation continue? That’s where my head was initially at when I started reading. I was expecting the worst possible outcome. I was wrong.
All of the stories in Time Ages in a Hurry deal with our never-ending attempts to reverse or stop the flow of time, to feel relevant, to recapture that which we’ve lost:
…for László’s heart was also beating for a great love, and his lamented great love was a pretty country girl to whom, after an afternoon in a cornfield in his youth, he’d sworn eternal fidelity, and she in her father’s large house protected by a line of trees would have assured him a line of descent.
The quote above comes from Between Generals, in which a Hungarian general winds up spending the bulk of his life with the Russian who defeated him. What does it say about you if you wind up spending the best days of your life with the very person who bested you?
Antonio Tabucchi passed away in 2012, but he left behind quite an impressive body of work. For more information about his life and the process of translating his stories check out this wonderful interview with translator Martha Cooley in Village of Crickets.
Time Ages in a Hurry was translated from the Italian by Antonio Romani and Martha Cooley and was published in April by Archipelago Books.
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