Paper Monument

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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?)

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Another Life

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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.

Another Life
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

 

A bird unbound

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Credit: M. Jakubowski

A translator reached out to me last week after my short story, “New Names for the Dead,” appeared online asking if I’d allow him to publish a translation in Tamil. I gladly said yes. It’s the first time my work has been translated and it feels kind of miraculous to have a story of mine exist now in a language as gorgeous as Tamil.

The translator, who prefers to retain some anonymity (his Twitter handle is @thackli), also gave me permission to post some of his notes on the translation.

For reference, here is my story “New Names for the Dead” as it originally appeared at (b)OINKzine. (The story is summarized in the notes that follow in case you’d rather not leave this page.) And here is இறந்தவர்களுக்கான புதிய பெயர்கள், the Tamil translation.

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translation

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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.

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Death, dreams & Dad

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Interfictions, the online journal of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, recently published its sixth issue and it includes a new piece I wrote.

It’s an experimental book review, the third one I’ve done. Part criticism, fiction, and memoir, it’s about all the things a good book shakes loose inside me, which tend to spill out in raw form and later become a short story masquerading as a book review, or vice versa.

The review focuses on Mercè Rodoreda’s new novel, War, So Much War, published in English for the first time by Open Letter Books, translated masterfully from the Catalan by Martha Tennent and Maruxa Relaño, who’ve collaborated on many books together.

Interfictions is a fantastic venue to work for. For one thing, they pay their writers. Which is nice but most of all I’m grateful I got to work with Sofia Samatar, whose editorial guidance made all the difference as this review took shape.

Thanks in advance if you get a chance to read my piece and some of the others at Interfictions–the short stories were chosen by guest editors Carmen Maria Machado and Sam J. Miller. And be sure to check out Rodoreda’s novel! It’s one of my top three books for 2015.

Rodoreda

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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.

Asymptote in Philadelphia

On March 29, I hosted the first-ever Asymptote event in Philadelphia. It was part of the journal’s worldwide celebration for its third anniversary and a large and enthusiastic crowd braved the rain on a Saturday night, making for a wonderful time at the Asian Arts Initiative.

Thanks to everyone who attended, and the four readers and musical guest who donated their time! Special thanks to Ann Tetreault of The Spiral Bookcase who did a superb job organizing books sales at the event.

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Author Hilary Plum (They Dragged Them Through the Streets) read a poem by Kym Hyesoon, “My Free Market” (trans. Don Mee Choi), and a new piece of her own fiction, “Cage.”

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Author Ken Kalfus (Equilateral, Pu-239 and Other Russian Fantasies) read in Russian and English a poem by Aleksey Porvin, “A Dark House is Quietly Collapsing” (trans. J. Kates), and from his short story, “Coup de Foudre,” which appears in the April issue of Harper’s.

Seven members of The Philadelphia Women’s Slavic Ensemble sang three songs from Bulgaria and one from Croatia. It was stunning!

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Author Katherine Hill read an excerpt from Clarice Lispector’s Agua Viva (trans. Stefan Tobler), and from her novel, The Violet Hour.

Translator Vincent Kling read a series of excerpts from his 2013 Schlegel-Tieck Prize-winning translation of the late Swiss author Aglaja Veteranyi’s novel, Why the Child is Cooking in the Polenta. (Kling’s translation of Heimito von Doderer’s Die Strudlhofstiege is forthcoming from New York Review Books.)

Ann Tetreault, right, of The Spiral Bookcase provided books by all four authors who appeared at the event.