At Reading in Translation, I review the first novel of Turkish modernist Yusuf Atilgan to appear in English, Motherland Hotel, translated by Fred Stark. In this psychological thriller, Atilgan bends and shapes language, testing its mettle in the fire of his disturbed protagonist's mind. The result is "a shape-shifting tour de force, a stumble through a noirish house of mirrors," which seeps into the "shadowy recesses of consciousness," thereby pushing literature into the realm of cinema. A wildly experimental novel which boldly treads new existential territory, Motherland Hotel announces the arrival of a voice who should have long ago climbed to a place within the canon of "the world's most daring modernists."
My review of Catalan modernist Mercè Rodoreda's War, So Much War was selected for publication in the summer issue of The Puritan. The novel, which I call "literary quicksilver" for its defiance of conventional literary forms, was published only three years before the prolific writer's death in 1983 and now appears, courtesy of Open Letter Books, in a "hypnotic" and "incandescent" English translation by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent. Tensely psychological, Rodoreda's deft manipulation of voice serves as a perfect vehicle of expression for the novel's existential themes, foregrounded in this nameless, place-less war which suggests an interior, rather than a geographical, landscape. Yet despite the vague setting, Rodoreda devotees will recognize the author's recurrent pastoral imagery, simultaneously violent and bucolic, and her provocative stream-of-conscious narration peopled with fascinating characters. Explore the enigmatic territory of the self with my review of a welcome addition to the Rodoreda corpus in English.
Today sees the English-language release of Mexican novelist Juan Pablo Villalobos' I'll Sell You a Dog (translated by Rosalind Harvey), which I reviewed for The Literary Review. Featuring a curmudgeonly narrator, Teo, who repeatedly disavows writing the novel you are reading, I'll Sell You a Dog is at once an uproarious satire and a poignant meditation upon art, frustrated ambition, aging, and the human need for meaning-making. Surrender to this "riotous ouroboros" of a novel, as Teo, heading a cast of quirky characters, flings you haphazardly through his life story.
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.
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.
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.
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."
Publication announcements, bookish items of note and the occasional literary musing.