According to the Visual Guide to Translated Fiction there are 33 works being published in upcoming month of May that are new in translation. If you want to check out the full list go here, and then click on May. If not, stick around, because I’m about to break down the six novels and three story collections that you don’t want to miss.
I’m officially back from a vacation that found me wasting so much time standing in lines for amusement rides that I actually managed to read an entire book while doing so (I’m looking at you, The Indian). Have you ever read an entire book while standing? It was a new experience for me, but I’m thinking maybe I should lug more books around with me so that I can fill our woefully neglected Instagram account with selfie pics of me standing in DMV and post office lines reading translated literature.
The thought didn’t make him feel any passion, only disgust. He was getting accustomed to the idea that boys could enjoy this, and though their parents would probably be angry if they caught them, the pleasure was worth the risk. But with girls … he was embarrassed by the mere idea of a girl seeing him naked.
Alexandria. Summer. 1951. A tale of two Jewish families. Ten-year-old Robby’s life changes dramatically when his parents decide to sublet rooms to the vacationing Hamdi-Alis family. Eleven-year-old Victor will introduce the boy to the forbidden pleasures of gay sex. Twenty-three-year-old David, a jockey will desperately lust after Robby’s older sister, but the girl’s continual spurning of his desires, and the sexual frustration caused as a result, may put his promising horse racing career in peril. Amongst all this familial turmoil however, a polyglot city on the edge of social upheaval manages to steal the show in breathtaking fashion.
The big one there, my brother says. On the side of the coffin are two keys. I turn one key and my brother the other. Ants crawl out of my mouth and over my face. We open the lid. The coffin’s empty. My brother lies down in the coffin, joins his hands, shuts his eyes and says, close it.
Growing up in an isolated village surrounded by the alpine mountains a nameless child narrator and his brother paint a vivid portrait of village life in Behind the Station, the second novel in Arno Camenisch’s Alp trilogy. Daily life for the pair, as well the cast of colorful locals they share space with, is presented in an honest, raw, intimate fashion as Camenisch offers a glimpse into a fascinating world that’s seldom explored in literature. What this slim story may lack in traditional narrative form it easily makes up for with its gorgeous, engrossing language.
Taking the blind man by the hand, He led him out of the village, spat in his eyes, laid His hands upon him, and asked whether he saw anything. The man looked and said, “I see people passing by like trees.” Then He laid His hands on his eyes again and told him to look again. And the man opened his eyes and saw everything clearly.
One of two books on offer from Deep Vellum this month (scroll down for more on The Indian), Mikhail Shiskin’s (Maidenhair) Calligraphy Lesson collects the Russian master’s short stories (some of which have been previously published in other formats) together in one volume for the first time. Winner of all three major Russian literary awards (Russian Bookers, Big Book Award, National Best Seller Prize), if there’s a single contemporary Russian author you don’t want to miss out on reading, it’s Shiskin. The quote above is taken from the story The Blind Musician.
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.
Who are we? That seems to be the question at the heart of the two “game” tales in this volume from Czech existentialist author Richard Weiner, his first work to ever appear in English. In the first story, 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 second, 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. These two stories are pretty much awesome and awesomer packaged together under the awesomest of book covers.
Daisy Duck is the most boring of all. She’s conceited, a bile-inducing girlfriend who’s always angry at poor Donald though he’s always trying to be kind to her. And you never really know if she’s his girlfriend or not. What is she always up to with Gladstone Gander, for example? I hope my wife won’t be like that.
Typographical favorite Lytton Smith (Children in Reindeer Woods) tackles the first volume in former Reykjavík major Jon Gnarr’s autobiographical trilogy of novels. In The Indian, Gnarr candidly recounts his childhood difficulties with anger and bullying, his feelings of isolation and loneliness, and his problems connecting with both his mother and father on an emotional level. It’s a powerful read that turns ever more frightening as pages of actual clinical notes from the doctors who attempted to apply a diagnosis to the young Gnarr in order to some how explain his “troubling” behavior are slowly revealed.
But it’s not the beginning of the beginning. It is the end of the beginning. The time has come when the little people inside the radio are soon to die, and God will also die, sitting cross-legged on top of the Heavens with his long mane and a gaucho’s poncho.
Recently we posted the first entry in our new Words of the World series which focused on authors from Argentina that you should be reading. Instantly we got feedback on Twitter asking where the female authors were, and, when pressed, all parties involved in the discussion were a bit stumped when it came to recommending a woman for inclusion on the list. Perhaps Liliana Heker is the name we were after? Please Talk to Me collects 14 stories spanning forty-five years of her literary career. In them Hecker tackles family life, the way we all attempt to forge meaningful connections with one another, and how even the smallest of seemingly inconsequential acts can have the most significant and unexpected ramifications.
Lutz Bassmann struggled to make last the mental edifice that would eventually become dust once again. His breath merged with the putrid sewers that wandered through the prison. He still tenuously held on to reality and he managed to keep together fragments. He managed to keep his voice from giving out again.
Volodine / Bassmann / Kronauer / Draeger / whatever pseudonym he comes up with next presents a tale describing a damaged future where radical writers are condemned to die in prison. Latz Bassmann, the last of these unlucky “post-exotic” authors is hovering near death, but before he passes on he will be pressed by a pair of journalists to reveal all of the secrets behind his banned literary crusade which are outlined in ten distinct parts.
Guillaume then remembered all the collections he’d had as a child, the stamps, the bird feathers, the stones with holes through them, the cherry pips, the cartoons, Tintin, Blake and Mortimer, and other book series, his favorite of which was The Black Insignia.
Hélène travels to Paris in the late 1990s in hopes of studying archaeology, but after she meets Guillaume, a man who is quite enamored with a series of young adult books written by her great-uncle, she becomes obsessed with investigating her relative’s past. While doing so she too falls in love with his books and finds herself plunged head long into an exciting adventure of her own. Secrets and lies converge with the past and present as Hélène learns more and more only to discover that she actually knows much less about the true nature of her great-uncle’s history than she could have ever imagined.
Still not satisfied? Check the Visual Guide for more translation goodness.
Which translations are you looking forward to reading in May? Are there titles missing from the Visual Guide? Let us know!