Readers interested in introducing themselves to the rich heritage that is Indian literature would do well to begin with Saadat Hasan Manto, a master of the short-story form and one of the most celebrated Urdu-language writers, influential to such luminaries as Salman Rushdie. Nevertheless, as I point out in my review of a recently released Manto collection, Bombay Stories (translated by Matt Reeck and Aftab Ahmad) featured on Reading in Translation, while these stories are imbued with a vivid sense of place, the genre-bending originality of Manto's narrative style and themes transcends the stories' specific setting, "playfully treading that fine line between traditional and modern, individual and collective, to alight upon an enduring universality."
I managed to get my hands on an advance copy of famed (yet notoriously prickly) critic GLB Pym's latest piece of literary scholarship, and it appears in the Winter 2015 issue of FLAPPERHOUSE, out today. Here Pym introduces us to the life and work of eccentric poet, writer and translator, Sylvain Dubois - while settling a few scores along the way. The piece appears in impressive company, surrounded by wildly provocative, utterly beguiling, fiction and poetry.
A group of alligators is a congregation. Camels, a caravan. Lions, a pride. Moles, a labor. Eagles, a convocation. But what might be the collective noun for a group of literary translators? Given the variety of attributes one might associate with literary translators – the arduous puzzling over minute shades of meaning prolonged through years of work on a single text, the pleasure they take in introducing far-flung writers to a new readership, and, often, their globe-crossing trade in precious, literary commodities – any of these words might be apt. But in the spirit of that vast store of linguistic creativity contained within their ranks, I will invent a new term: a babel of literary translators.
While a writer is often admired for the worlds he or she creates, few consider the world which created the writer. That is to say, before ever setting pen to paper, the writer is immersed in an environment, a culture, a social milieu that seeps into the work and continues to impact the authorial consciousness, running like a stream through the lifelong landscape of that oeuvre.
I am honored that Asymptote selected one of my translations to appear on their blog's weekly "Translation Tuesday" feature. The piece is titled "The Stops," from fin-de-siècle Brazilian writer Artur Azevedo's "As Paradas." Author, dramatist and translator, Azevedo, a specialist in the comedy of manners, here gives us a story that, although brief, packs an emotional punch: Endearing and humorous, "The Stops" affords us a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Brazil.
As the world reflects upon the outbreak of the First World War a century ago, I recommend viewing one of the standout films set during the war years and immediately following. My review of A Very Long Engagement (Un Long dimanche de finançailles, 2004), the film adaptation of Sébastien Japrisot's novel of the same name, joins other reviews of World War I works at The Mookse and the Gripes. Besides being a favorite film from a favorite director, A Very Long Engagement is remarkable for its scope, its cinematographic style, its performances and, particularly now, as we draw parallels between our present world and the complexities of 1914 Europe, its ability to make the past stirringly real. In short, even if you have already seen the film, it is worth another watch for its continued relevance. Yet it is so much more than a war film: it is, in fact, a timeless account of the battle between hope and despair.
I believe it is safe to say that Flann O'Brien's novels, in particular At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman, had a profound influence upon me and my writing. Therefore, I was thrilled to learn that Dalkey Archive had released further O'Brien fare, a collection of short fiction and the unfinished novel Slattery's Sago Saga, published under the title The Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien (ed. by Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper, with translations by Jack Fennell). Hallmarks of O'Brien's singular wit, his trenchant sociopolitical satire and wildly imaginative metafictional layering abound, comprising a poignant and hilarious "postmodern labyrinth" sure to appeal to both die-hard "Flanneurs" and newcomers alike.
Cigale Literary Magazine has included my review of Mina Loy's Insel (recently re-released by Melville House Books) in the Summer 2014 issue. This "surrealist satire of surrealism" seduces and confounds, luring readers into labyrinths of sublime prose where controversial themes are irreverently explored. A book not to be missed for its importance among the canonical works of modernism.
My story "Sitting on Avalon" is included in the 2014 issue of Emrys Journal, available now. I am proud to find it in the company of some excellent writing and to be a part of Emrys Foundation's mission to widen the reach of the literary arts.
My latest review over at Reading in Translation is With My Dog-Eyes, by Brazilian vanguard Hilda Hilst, now available for the first time in English. Adam Morris' "bold and beguiling" translation "skates the boundaries of language," exploring profoundly unsettling existential terrain. A book not to be missed!
Publication announcements, bookish items of note and the occasional literary musing.