New in Translation: March 2015


According to the Visual Guide to Translated Fiction there are 35 works being published in March that are new in translation. If you want to check out the full list go here, and then click on March. Today I’ll point out the 7 that have caught my eye and I’ll do this live (barely) from underneath 84 inches of pure white snow.

Please, allow me to be your informer. A licky boom-boom down.

Art of Flight by Sergio Pitol / Translated from the Spanish by George HensonThe Art of Flight
by Sergio Pitol
Translated from the Spanish by George Henson
Deep Vellum

Translating allows one to enter fully into a work, to know its bones, its structure, its silences.

Introduced by Enrique Vila-Matas, The Art of Flight is Cervantes Prize winning author Sergio Pitol’s first “novel” to make its way into English translation. I use quotes around that word because Pitol’s volume is not a standard piece of fiction by any stretch and categorizing it is a most difficult endeavor. It’s the first book in his Trilogy of Memory series, a project which seeks to show us the power of literature, and its contents as such are quite reflective in nature. My best description? It’s a historicaltraveldiaryessaybiography of sorts, one which seems to take on many different voices over the course of its 425 pages. Regardless of how you choose to classify it though, it certainly feels like quite a volume for literature lovers to get lost in.

Dirty Dust by Máirtín Ó Cadhain / Translated from the Irish by Alan TitleyThe Dirty Dust
by Máirtín Ó Cadhain
Translated from the Irish by Alan Titley
Yale University Press

—The heart, may God help us! The heart was weak, Caitriona. I had a dodgy heart . . .
—Fuck you and your heart! You have to forget about that shite here . . .

Even though it’s widely considered a masterpiece of Irish fiction, Ó Cadhain’s 1949 novel The Dirty Dust (Cré na Cille) has never before been published in English translation. Told completely in dialog exchanged between a community of characters which are lying dead in their graves, this comical tale shines with the light of life—a life brimming with jealousy, petty bickering, and gossiping corpses desperate for news of the living from the more recently deceased among them. Another words, not much changes regardless of which side of the ground your resting on. Dead or alive, people never seem to know when to shut up.

The Discreet HeroDiscreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa / Translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman
by Mario Vargas Llosa
Translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

“I know it’s wrong, I know it’s a lot of dough,” she agreed. “But after all, what difference does money make, right? Your health is more important, your piece of mind, your work, your family, your little girlfriend in Castilla.”

Remaining on the best seller list for months, Nobel Prize winning author Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Discreet Hero caused quite a stir in his native Peru when it was first published back in 2013. This tale of corruption and urbanization follows two very different individuals—one a small businessman who suddenly finds himself being blackmailed, the other an insurance man seeking revenge against the two sons that want him dead—as they both try to rise above the cruel hand that fate has dealt them.

Four Books by Yan Lianke / Translated from the Chinese by Carlos RojasThe Four Books
by Yan Lianke
Translated from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas
Grove Press

It seemed remarkable that even after having my five stars burned up, having been savagely beaten, having four men piss on my head, and one of them repeatedly slap my face with his penis until the final drops of urine ran down my cheek, I still didn’t feel at all resentful.

Franz Kafka prize winning novelist Yan Lianke presents a grueling tale of psychological and physical pain from the inside of a reeducation compound for accused rightists during Mao’s Great Leap Forward. This camp is overseen by a young boy known as The Child, a cruel dictator who relishes in doling out extreme punishments for disobedience and establishing juvenile reward systems for informing on others.

Musical Brain: And Other Stories by César Aira / Translated from the Spanish by Chris AndrewsThe Musical Brain: And Other Stories
by César Aira
Translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews
New Directions

The Musical Brain had appeared in town some time before, and an informal association of residents had taken charge of it. The original plan had been to lend it out to private homes, for short periods, following a procedure that had been used with various miraculous images of the Virgin.

The Musical Brain is a collection of 20 short stories from the mind of ever busy Argentine writer César Aira (The Hare, Conversations). Only nine of his eighty odd novels(!) have been translated to English thus far, but the brilliance of each is undeniable. You can read the title story from this new collection, in its entirety, in The New Yorker.

Dead Mountaineer's Inn by Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky / Translated from the Russian by Josh BillingsThe Dead Mountaineer’s Inn
by Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky
Translated from the Russian by Josh Billings
Melville House

Brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky were among Russia’s most widely praised science fiction writers and with the long overdue translation of The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn they present a country-house murder mystery with a twist: was the victim even human?

Details on this one beyond the publisher’s description, which mentions a quirky cast of characters including a teenager of indeterminate gender, a famous hypnotist and a gymnastics loving physicist are scarce, but what I can gather from those that have read this one is that it’s a wildly inventive story with one heck of a final plot twist.

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera / Translated from the Spanish by Lisa DillmanSigns Preceding the End of the World
by Yuri Herrera
Translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman
And Other Stories Publishing

These things always happen to someone else, until they happen to you, she thought. She had a quick peek over the precipice, empathized with the poor soul on his way to hell. Happy trails, she said without irony, and then muttered Best be on with my errand.

In Herrera’s stunning Signs Preceding the End of the World, a young female named Makina finds herself fleeing Mexico. She’s being smuggled into the United States so that she can deliver a set of secret messages to her brother—one is from their mother, the other is from the Mexican underworld. It’s not the story itself, but Herrera’s brilliant telling of it, his ability to capture his subject’s thoughts, fears, and desires and so eloquently convey all that she’s experiencing, that will leave you spellbound, aching for more.

Still not satisfied? Check the Visual Guide for more translation goodness.

Which translations are you looking forward to reading in March? Are there titles missing from the Visual Guide? Let us know!

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.