My, oh my, how the months fly by. Last I posted it was winter and now it’s fall again. Three seasons later, I have three things to share.
I’m very pleased to have published two new story-reviews this year. These are my experimental book reviews, or critifictions, as I call them sometimes. (A friend of mine said he thinks I might have invented this form/genre? Hard to say. Who knows?)
My latest experimental book review is now online at Full Stop. (It originally appeared last year in the Full Stop Quarterly.) It’s part four in an ongoing series of experimental reviews I’m writing about literature in translation. I’ve been publishing them pretty slowly, about once a year. They’re a bit hard to place, being so different from traditional reviews, but I enjoy writing them. Many thanks to Helen Stuhr-Rommereim for believing in this piece and making it happen.
On Recitation by Bae Suah, translated by Deborah Smith.
The critic read Suah’s novel, Recitation, on the train to and from a writers conference. At a panel about the art of criticism featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Margo Jefferson the discussion turned to writing, the personal process of coming to terms with bias against different sorts of texts, the ways critics develop an approach for each piece. In the audience the critic listened as Jefferson described the nature of critical writing as “giving real coherence to ambiguity,” saying that not unlike a fiction writer a critic must also, “play different parts, very much adjusting your voice,” when interpreting a book’s potential meanings.
Continue reading at Full Stop.
Three Percent announced the poetry and fiction longlists for the 2016 Best Translated Book Awards last week and while I know that two of my last four posts on this blog have been about Mercè Rodoreda, I still have to say it–hooray, Rodoreda made the longlist! It’s her novel, War, So Much War (Quanta, quanta guerra) translated by Martha Tennent and Maruxa Relaño. (My experimental review). If you haven’t already seen the full list of books, click on over to see who else made it (fiction longlist | poetry longlist) and be sure to follow the BTBA blog for guest posts by a fine array of people arguing why their favorite books should win.
Last week I finished reading Mercè Rodoreda’s novel La plaça del diamant and I’m pretty much over the moon about it. She’s quickly jumped up to my list of all-time favorite writers, up there with the likes of Tove Jansson. I may end up writing at length about Rodoreda later this year but that’s an iffy proposition, for various reasons, when I really enjoy an author’s work. For now I’m just in all kinds of crazy love with her work and letting it sink into what I’ve read, appreciating what she represents artistically and historically.
The novel was translated by David H. Rosenthal in 1981 and published by Graywolf under the title, “The Time of the Doves.” A new translation by Peter Bush called “In Diamond Square” was published in 2013 in the UK from Virago. I highly recommend Rodoreda’s selected stories, published by Open Letter in 2011, in superb translation by Martha Tennent. The stories got me hooked on Rodoreda. I held off reading the novel for weeks after I finished the stories. I was afraid the novel wouldn’t be as good. It was. I’m going to start it again this week.
Here’s a quote I liked from near the end of the novel, about the subject of time.
And I got a strong feeling of the passage of time. Not the time of clouds and sun and rain and the moving stars that adorn the night, not spring when its time comes or fall, not the time that makes leaves bud on branches and then tears them off or folds and unfolds and colors the flowers, but the time inside me, the time you can’t see but it molds us. The time that rolls on and on in people’s hearts and makes them roll along with it and gradually changes us inside and out and makes us what we’ll be on our dying day.