According to the Visual Guide to Translated Fiction there are 47 works being published in April that are new in translation. If you want to check out the full list go here, and then click on April.
Today we’ll take a closer look at the 8 books that have caught our attention. Okay fine, technically 9 books, because Per Petterson has both a short story collection and a novel being published in April, both of which have been translated by Don Bartlett. We’ll lump those 2 together so some other worthy titles can also be highlighted…you know, like that OTHER Don Bartlett translation that everyone is so excited about finally reading.
You can’t start a fire without a spark, or find love sitting ’round here crying over a broken heart, or something along those general lines, so let’s get to it, shall we?
Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes / I Refuse
by Per Petterson
Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
…Uncle Rolf liked his job, even though he was always reading the Reader’s Digest and that sort of magazine and telling them how he was going to start his own business: patents, imports and rubbish like that. He liked talking, there was nothing he loved more than the sound of his own voice when he was speaking about all the things he was going to do. And though Arvid was so small that no one thought he understood a thing, he did understand that Uncle Rolf would be making toothbrushes for the rest of his life.
Ashes is a short story collection, the one that kick started Petterson’s (I Curse the River of Time, It’s Fine By Me) career back in 1987 and introduced readers to the young Arvid Jansen, a character that would dominate the bulk of the rest of his work. It’s been available in the UK in translation since the tail end of 2013 and now finally makes its long overdue US debut.
At the other end of the spectrum, I Refuse is his latest novel from 2012, one that finds him treading the familiar ground of his massive breakthrough Out Stealing Horses, as he explores the themes of lost friends reunited, time, destiny, and anguish.
Well that didn’t take long, did it? Just 12 short paragraphs into this one Knausgaard (My Struggle: Books 1, 2 and 3) succinctly states what his work is all about (as if we didn’t already know by this point).
If you’ve been living under a rock however (or dancing in the dark perhaps?), My Struggle is a series of six volumes of autobiographical novels about Knausgaard’s life. This one, the fourth to be translated to English (duh!), finds him reflecting on the period of time when he had just graduated high school and moved away to a fisherman’s village to assume the role of a local school teacher. He’s not really interested in the job, in fact he only took it so he could save some money and then go chase after his real dream:
writing about himself for a living becoming a journalist. It should be an easy task, but shit does not go well for him. His drinking escalates to the point that he’s blacking out frequently, he can’t lose his virginity, and—creep alert—he finds he’s developed feelings for one of his young students.
He’d become a right pain with his illness, no time for anyone but himself. He’d been like that when he was little, snivelling at the slightest bump. Yolande had never been ill, ever. Let him get on and die, and that would be an end to it. She didn’t know what he wanted, to be sure. He could always hang himself if it was taking too long.
The A26 focuses on two highly dysfunctional male-female siblings named Bernard and Yolande who live together in a house in Picardy near where the A26 highway is being built. As you can gather from the quote above, Bernard has recently learned that he’s acquired a terminal illness. This news leads him to commit extreme acts of violence and murder against women. Yolande, well, she hasn’t left the house in years and only views the world through a peep hole that she affectionately refers to as bellybutton on good days and something far, far worse on the bad ones.
He advances into the fading daylight; he loves the contemplation of countryside, woods, and forests. He could almost live there but, rather anxious to return to sea, he prefers to visit other people’s homes to perform the following operation.
Prix Goncourt Prize winning author Echenoz (I’m Gone, Lightning) returns with a slim 116 page volume containing seven new short stories collected together and presented in English translation for the very first time. The quote above is taken from Nelson, a piece about Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, a hero of the Battle of Trafalgar.
With one hand she thrust her breast into my mouth, and with the other she grabbed my penis as though it were a piece of dough. She started feeling and squeezing it as though to measure and weigh it. I started moaning, and that led to her to interpret things in her own debauched and perverted fashion.
Uh, you go girl? Celebrated author Bensalem Himmich (A Muslim Suicide, The Polymath) has previously won both the Naguib Mahfouz Prize and the Sharjah-UNESCO Prize. My Torturess, a grueling book about a young Morroccan bookseller who finds himself wrongly set to a prison camp after being falsely accused of partaking in jihadist actions, was nominated for the 2011 International Arabic Fiction Prize.
…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 the tale Between Generals, in which a Hungarian general winds up spending the bulk of his finest hours in life with the Russian who defeated him.
After reading the following praise in Sergio Pitol’s recently translated work The Art of Flight, how could I not give a mention to Antonio Tabucchi’s new short story collection in this month’s New in Translation segment?!?:
Misunderstandings, ambiguities, grey areas, false evidence, imagined realities, and dreams mottled by a terrible reality, the search for what we already know is lost, backward games, voices from the gates of hell—these are elements that we often find in Antonio Tabucchi’s world. Another one: a perfect elegance born of simplicity. Tabucchi’s elegance is like melancholy, always clinging to the shadow of the story, or buried in the subsoil of language.
If that ain’t some high praise my friends, I don’t know what is.
The rain falls, lays siege to the entire world, as if it has been falling that way for years. The rain will fall even after the death of time. Roof half falling down. Windows broken. Kitchen dripping rainwater. Porch covered in filth. Creaky stairs covered in cats’ paw prints. Dead ragdoll, straw insides poking out. And, above all the gruesome things, our frigid relationship.
In Suah’s short, fragmented, and raw novel, a nameless, poverty stricken young woman searches for greater meaning and purpose in her life, all while working a mindless, low paying office job in order to provide for her rather unsupportive, and at times highly abusive, family.
Life had taken a turn, she had been forgotten, gotten over, everything worked out as it should . . . A long-deferred tear trickles from her eye and gets lost in the endless labyrinth of wrinkles on her palm.
Gospodinov’s experimental novel is semi-autobiographical in nature and features a protagonist bearing his name, but it’s much more than that. It explores the gift of storytelling, the powers and magics of youth that disappear as we age, and the unique ability that a rich family history possesses to shape our present day lives. It’s won just about every Bulgarian literary award out there, and it’s been nominated for several in translation to other languages as well. Now it finally arrives in English thanks to the impressive skills of translator Angela Rodel (18% Gray, A Short Tale of Shame).
Still not satisfied? Check the Visual Guide for more translation goodness.
Which translations are you looking forward to reading in April? Are there titles missing from the Visual Guide? Let us know!