Today sees the release of an important work out of the contemporary Oulipo school, One Hundred Twenty-One Days, by Michèle Audin (translated by Christiana Hills), marking only the second novel by a female Oulipo member to appear in English. At Reading in Translation, I take a closer look at this debut, "a story in numbers." Recalling that Oulipo writers are mathematicians using linguistic puzzles (palindromes, anagrams, etc.) as "constraints" to compel creativity, a meditation on this book as a translation compels a deeper appreciation for the role of the translator as "the ultimate mathematician." Explore with me the intimate connection between language and figures in my review of this poignant "riddle" of a novel.
At The Literary Review, I examine a "distinctive voice in contemporary fiction" with 101 Detectives, an ambitious story collection from South-African writer Ivan Vladislavić. The eleven, decidedly postmodern stories contained in this volume show a "technical dexterity" that is well-suited for the author's perennial themes: identity, otherness, and the commodification of art amidst globalization. Yet running through these complex conceits is the hidden vein of the interpersonal - those quotidian accounts of individuals reaching out to a vast, confounding world, desperate for a toe-hold, some connection - that resonates long after the multi-layered structure of the stories has been mined of its sociopolitical implications, thereby bringing the universal home.
My translation "Navarin," from contemporary French poet, translator and award-winning short-story writer Magali Duru, appears in The Cossack Review's Fall 2015 issue, now available in print and .pdf formats. An engrossing tale spanning three generations, "Navarin" unearths a family secret from the darkest depths of French history. It is a secret which can only be unlocked by the most surprising of keys: the Alexandrine couplet.
Come October, when readers' eyes turn toward the chilling and macabre, bookstores pull from the shelves their copies of Poe, Shelley, Stoker and Stevenson, to entice with plots, images and characters long identified with Halloween. But if your copy of Dracula is so well-worn you'd like to retire it for a year, consider starting with one of the titles below.
The Summer 2015 issue of MAYDAY Magazine is now live and includes my translation of Artur Azevedo's story, "Top-Down." Brisk, yet comical, this piece from Brazil's master of the comedy of manners comes alive by satirizing those power structures which prop up societies of every age. "Top-Down" appears in the company of award-winning fiction and poetry, as well as globe-spanning translations and reviews, all packed into this visually appealing, much-anticipated issue from New American Press.
Contemporary readers are fortunate that New Directions recently re-released this overlooked classic of the Black Arts Movement. At The Literary Review, I take a look at Fran Ross's Oreo: the book's literary context and its modern-day resonance, in particular its picaresque heroine's role as embodiment of America's diverse cultural identity. The novel interrogates a wealth of sociological themes such as race, ethnicity and feminism, all with a delightfully irreverent tone that mixes high and low culture and will have readers of all tastes laughing out loud. Keenly satirical, linguistically innovative and unabashedly erudite, Oreo has long been ripe for rediscovery.
The latest issue of Schoolcraft College's long-running magazine The MacGuffin is now available, featuring the winners of the 19th annual National Poet Hunt with commentary. I am thrilled to have my short story "Patron Saint of Flappers" included among such talent. A limited number of issues are available for online ordering via the NewPages website, while mail orders of single issues or full subscriptions are accepted directly through Schoolcraft College. An eclectic mix of styles and voices, illuminated with beautiful photos and prints, this issue proves once more Schoolcraft's devotion to the literary and fine arts.
My latest review looks at finalist for this year's Best Translated Book Award, Valeria Luiselli's Faces in the Crowd (translated by Christina MacSweeney). This "haunting, intelligent masterpiece" introduces English readers to a boldly original voice in world literature. Not only does MacSweeney's deft handling of the narrative's braided voices, metafictional layering and inventive use of language signal that this translation is more than deserving of the award. Readers will also find themselves under the spell of the novel's shifting sands, pitching back and forth in time and place, in a narrative which steadily builds to a breathtaking conclusion.
Meet Erasmo Aragón, the anxious, self-deluding and extremely unreliable narrator of Horacio Castellanos Moya's The Dream of My Return (translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver), which I reviewed recently at The Mookse and the Gripes. Erasmo's torturous attempts to remember his past, all while planning a possibly foolhardy return to his native El Salvador, will leave the reader reeling. A "maddening yet provocative whirlwind" of a psychological novel which unsettles with its explorations into questions of memory, trauma and identity, The Dream of My Return is worth returning to again and again.
My latest review at Reading in Translation looks at a picaresque masterpiece from Georgian author Mikheil Javakhishvili, Kvachi. In its exploration of themes from personal legacy to the stain of twentieth-century history to the ambivalence of Georgian identity, Kvachi proves "both epic and intimate." Thanks to Donald Rayfield's painstaking translation, modern Anglophone readers can enjoy this "devilishly provocative, heartfelt and ironic" novel in its most complete version to date (in any language), making it a literary event not to be missed.
Publication announcements, bookish items of note and the occasional literary musing.