Posts tagged lit
The WNOR First Half of 2013 Book Preview (January-July)
With no aspirations to completeness or claims about this being the only book preview you’ll need to consult, we present a selection of books we’re excited to see published in the first half of 2013. Our reading tastes dictated the list: included are a lot of translations, works published by small presses, and reprints of out-of-print books. We’re undoubtedly missing some gems and have deliberately skipped over titles you’ll see previewed elsewhere, but hope our offering points you in the right direction nonetheless. A second half preview will follow in July.
Happy new year and happy reading. — Eds.
- Ludwig Hohl (trans. Donna Stonecipher), Ascent (Black Square Editions). A short gem about two mountaineers and two bad decisions, from an overlooked Swiss writer.
- Alejandro Zambra (trans. Megan McDowell), Ways of Going Home (FSG). The darling of Latin American literature returns with this, his third playful and tender novel to be translated into English.
- Scott Esposito and Lauren Elkin, The End of Oulipo? (Zero Books). A critical examination of the role and future of the Oulipo.
- William Gaddis (ed. Steven Moore), The Letters of William Gaddis (Dalkey Archive). This promises to be an illuminating collection of letters from the spotlight-wary Gaddis. Including correspondence with notable figures like William Gass, Saul Bellow, Robert Coover, and others.
- Georges Perec (trans. Daniel Levin Becker), La Boutique Obscure (Melville House). Will answer the burning question: did Perec’s dreams operate under constraints?
- William Gerhardie, The Polyglots (Melville House). A reprint of a novel called by William Boyd “the most influential English novel of the twentieth century.” A welcome addition to Melville House’s excellent Neversink Library.
- Arnon Grunberg (trans. Sam Garrett), Tirza (Open Letter). The latest novel by Grunberg, who has also published fiction under the pseudonym Marek van der Jagt, to be translated into English is perhaps his darkest yet.
- Christa Wolf (trans. Damion Searls), City of Angels or, The Overcoat of Dr. Freud (FSG). Christa Wolf’s last novel, set in Los Angeles.
- Jacob Slauerhoff (trans. Paul Vincent), The Forbidden Kingdom (Pushkin). The early 20th century Dutch classic, included on the list of “1001 Novels You Must Read Before You Die,” finally available in English.
- William Gass, Middle C (Knopf). The prolific Gass’ third novel and first since his legendary Tunnel.
- Daniel Spoerri, At the Museum of Natural History: An Incompetent Dialogue? (Kerber). Spoerri, a visual artist and writer (see our earlier post) embarks on a project comparing his work with the collection of the Vienna Museum of Natural History.
- Anne Carson, Red Doc> (Knopf). A sequel of sorts to Carson’s long poem/novel Autobiography of Red.
- Robert Desnos (trans. Terry Hale), Liberty or Love! and Morning for Mourning (Atlas). Two novellas by Surrealist poet Desnos, now available in the U.S.
- Severo Sarduy (trans. Mark Fried), Firefly (Archipelago). A richly lyrical coming of age tale of a boy with a head too big and a sense of direction too poor to do anything but get him into trouble in pre-Castro Cuba.
- Nathalie Sarraute (trans. Barbara Wright), Childhood (Univ. of Chicago). A reprint of Sarraute’s memoir, with a new forward by Alice Kaplan.
- Renata Adler, Speedboat and Pitch Dark (NYRB). Two eagerly anticipated reprints of books that have been inexplicably languishing out-of-print for years.
- E.M. Cioran (trans. Richard Howard), The New Gods (Univ. of Chicago). Reprint of a collection of brooding essays and aphorisms by the inimitable Cioran.
- Jean-Marie Blas de Robles (trans. Mike Mitchell), Where Tigers Are At Home (Other Press). A massive tale of intrigue spanning centuries, with 17th century scholar and man of dubious science Athanasius Kircher at its heart. Winner of the Prix Medicis.
- Italo Calvino (trans. Martin McLaughlin), Letters 1941-1985 (Princeton). Will hopefully reveal all sorts of dirt on Raymond Queneau.
- Carlos Rojas (trans. Edith Grossman), The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico Garcia Lorca Ascends to Hell (Yale). A fantastical tale about the death and afterlife of poet Garcia Lorca, translated by Edith Grossman.
- Luis Chitarroni (trans. Rhett McNeil), The No Variations (Dalkey Archive). A classic of Latin American metafiction compared to the work of David Markson and Cesar Aira.
- Elfriede Jelinek (trans. Damion Searls), Her Not All Her (Sylph Editions). Jelinek takes on Robert Walser in this play about the writer’s life and work.
- Stig Dagerman (trans. Steven Hartman), To Kill a Child (Godine). A collection of stories by one of the most famous forgotten Swedish writers.
- Agnieszka Kuciak, Distant Lands: An Anthology of Poets Who Don’t Exist (White Pines Press). The title says it all.
- Ulf Peter Hallberg (trans. Anderson & Cassady), European Trash (Sixteen Ways to Remember a Father) (Dzanc). The first title in Dzanc’s Disquiet imprint, which will bring more translated literature to English-language readers.
- Danielle Collobert (trans. Nathanael), Murder (Litmus Press). Collobert’s first novel, published by Editions Gallimard in 1964, captures the zeitgeist of the period of the Algerian War.
- Santiago Roncagliolo (trans. Edith Grossman), Hi, This is Conchita (Two Lines Press). Two Lines expands its publishing venture with this comic novella—told entirely in dialogue—from Premio Alfaguara de Novela winner Roncagliolo (Red April).
- Jorge Luis Borges (trans. Katherine Silver), Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature (New Directions). A previously untranslated collection of Borges’ lectures on English literature.
- Adam Bodor (trans. Paul Olchvary), The Sinistra Zone (New Directions). A black comedy about a man who’s job it is to guard blueberries at a bear preserve in Eastern Europe.
- Kenneth Cook, Wake in Fright (Text Classics). This 1961 novel has been called “the greatest outback horror story” and is here reprinted by Text Classics.
- Imre Kertesz (trans. Tim Wilkinson), Dossier K (Melville House). A self-interview that blends memoir and fiction written by the oddly neglected Nobel laureate.
- Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo (trans. Levine & Campbell), Where There’s Love, There’s Hate (Melville House). Husband and wife team and collaborators with Borges brought back into print.
- Franz Fuhmann (trans. Isabel Fargo Cole), The Jew Car (Seagull). A collection of searing stories examining a life lived under the shadow of National Socialism.
- Marie NDiaye (trans. Jordan Stump), All My Friends (Two Lines). This collection of stories follows the publication of Prix Goncourt winner NDiaye’s acclaimed novel Three Strong Women.
- Guy Davenport (ed. Eric Reese), Guy Davenport Reader (Counterpoint). A collection of essays and stories by the lamentably overlooked Davenport that will hopefully remind people of his greatness.
- Mario Santiago Papasquiaro (trans. C. Heinowitz & A. Graman), Advice from 1 Disciple of Marx to 1 Heidegger Fanatic (Wave Books). A translation of the book length poem by the co-founder of infrarealism. Readers of The Savage Detectives will recognize Santiago as the Ulises Lima of the novel.
- Laszlo Krasznahorkai, Seiobo There Below (New Directions). An introduction to a strand of Krasznahorkai’s oeuvre that might surprise some readers.
- Ror Wolf (trans. Jennifer Marquart), Two or Three Years Later: Forty-Nine Digressions (Open Letter). An “anti-book” of short stories by a writer who mines a similar vein as two Roberts: Walser and Pinget.
- Samuel Beckett, Echo’s Bones (Grove). Eighty years after it was written, this little known story by Samuel Beckett will come as a welcome addition to the libraries of completists.
- Curzio Malaparte, Coup D’Etat (Enigma Books). Subtitled “The Technique of Revolution,” this is a translation of the book that earned Malaparte a jail sentence in Mussolini’s Italy. Malaparte’s novel The Skin will be reprinted by NYRB Classics this spring.
- Jules Supervielle (trans. Terry & Kline), Poems of Jules Supervielle (Black Widow). During his lifetime, Supervielle was praised highly by T.S. Eliot; perhaps this new translation will help resuscitate his posthumous reputation.
- Simon Leys, The Hall of Uselessness (NYRB). At long last, the great Australian essayist’s work is gathered in a selection ranging from topics as diverse as Chinese history (of which Leys is a scholar) and “the Quixotism of the sea.”
- Sibylle Lewitscharoff (trans. Katy Derbyshire), Apostoloff (Seagull). A novel of bitterness and reckoning by an award-winning German writer.
- Stephen Romer (ed.), French Decadent Tales (Oxford). Translator Stephen Romer collects thirty-six dark and darkly humorous tales from 1880-1900, including short stories by Maupassant, Leon Bloy, and Georges Rodenbach.
- Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone (FSG). A whopping 2600-page collection of the Italian poet’s notebooks. This is the first time the notebooks have been made available in their entirety in English.
- Marguerite Duras (trans. Ali & Murphy), L’Amour (Open Letter). A previously untranslated novel by Marguerite Duras.
- Almantas Samalavicius, The Dedalus Book of Lithuanian Literature (Dedalus). A century-spanning collection of Lithuanian literature, reflecting the culture’s changing political and artistic position.
- Alexander Kluge (trans. Martin Chalmers), Air Raid (Seagull Books). Kluge’s book about the near total destruction of his German hometown during World War II, finally published in English. With an appreciation by W.G. Sebald.
Forthcoming (no publication date listed)
- Emil Hakl (trans. Marek Tomin), The Witch’s Flight (Twisted Spoon). A dark chronicle of the consequences of an inexplicable crime.
- Bruno Jasienski, (trans. Gauger & Torr) The Legs of Izolda Morgan (Twisted Spoon). A classic of Polish Futurism, published along with Jasienski’s manifestos and later pieces.
- Pierre Mac Orlean (trans. Napolean Jeffries), A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer (Wakefield). A tongue-in-cheek guide for the armchair adventurer.
- Jean Ferry (trans. Edward Gauvin), The Conductor & Other Tales (Wakefield). A collection of humorous stories by noted screenwriter and member of the College of Pataphysics.
- Miklos Szentkuthy, Towards the One and Only Metaphor (Contra Mundum). The second book in the eight-volume St. Orpheus Breviary, written by an author who was praised as “out-Prousting Proust.”
Over at Tin House, Stephen offers a reading list for fans of Laszlo Krasznahorkai.
In March of last year, English-language readers were finally presented with Satantango, the first novel by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, the writer Susan Sontag once called “the contemporary Hungarian master of the apocalypse.” The novel, considered a masterpiece in the author’s native country since its original publication in 1985, adds to his work now available in English, revealing in the process one of the most singular oeuvres in contemporary literature. And, though the time between translations of Krasznahorkai’s novels appears to be shortening (New Directions will publish his Seiobo There Below this spring), readers suffering withdrawal from his bleak, absurdist universe have much to explore. Below is a short, non-exhaustive list of writers, all Mittel-European, who share affinities with Krasznahorkai.
The Castle, Franz Kafka
Looming behind Krasznahorkai is the hulking edifice of Kafka’s Castle, a novel perhaps all the more imposing because of its incompleteness. Krasznahorkai shares with Kafka a sense of metaphysical darkness and confusion coupled with a suitably dark sense of humor, rendering a world in which context is at best guesswork. Unanchored, Krasznahorkai’s characters drift through a gloomy landscape that mirrors their own uncertain morality, unable, as Kafka so relentlessly exposed, to make informed decisions—and, as we’ve come to expect, doomed to be punished for what they do not know.
The Adventures of Sindbad, Gyula Krudy
Kafka isn’t the only of Krasznahorkai’s forerunners to have his name turned into an adjective. According to translator George Szirtes, “Krudyesque” is a term that in Hungarian extends beyond a merely literary descriptor to encompass “experience comprised of the nostalgic, the fantastic and the ironic.” Krudy’s Sindbad Stories—collected as The Adventures of Sindbad (NYRB)—take place in a world that will strike readers of Krasznahorkai as familiar, if less unrelentingly bleak. These tales of amorous conquests unfurl mistily, though they ring with an achingly melancholic erotic tension. Modernist, prefiguring “magical realism,” and amoral: the stories are not cautionary in any sense, despite the constant refrain that desire causes nothing but trouble—and leads to a landscape strewn with suicides.(Zoltan Huszarik adapted Krudy’s stories in his 1971 film Szindbad.)
Kornel Esti, Dezso Kosztolanyi
Perhaps one need look no further than Krasznahorkai’s (typically lengthy) praise on the jacket of Kornel Esti to understand the importance of this novel not only to Krasznahorkai, but generations of Hungarian writers:
If anyone truly wanted to write the history of the Hungarian people, the author would certainly take the Dantean first sentence of Kosztolanyi’s Kornel Esti as the work’s epigraph: in a word, the most wondrous first sentence ever written in the Hungarian language.
Kornel Esti is the shadow self we all dream we have, a figure who arises at that moment when we first become aware that making one decision excludes all others. He’s the one who thereafter says ‘yes’ when we say ‘no,’ who lights fires and causes trouble. While the writer—Kosztolanyi and his stand-in narrator—sits at home, Esti is out gathering experiences in a world in which the following logic applies: “If a girl jumps into a well, she loves somebody” (in Bernard Adams’ translation). Like Sindbad before him and like Krasznahorkai’s characters after, Esti is a ravenous scamp, always moving and scheming, even if he has no particular destination or goal in mind.
George Szirtes famously characterized Krasznahorkai’s prose as a “slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type.” This often earns him comparisons to Samuel Beckett and Thomas Bernhard, the vitriolic Austrian. Beckett’s influence on modern literature is obvious; Bernhard’s less so. And while at the sentence level the comparison between Krasznahorkai and Bernhard is slightly superficial, the two writers do share similar, almost gnostic worldviews.
One gets the impression from reading Bernhard that middle Europe (i.e., the whole world) is full of raving lunatics doing their best to refrain from contact with the idiocy of other people. What in the U.S. we refer to quaintly or claustrophobically, depending on our temperament, as “small town life” is in Bernhard—and Krasznahorkai—a cesspit of malice, intrigue, and decay. His landscapes, like nearly all of those mentioned so far, are strewn with suicides. His narrators are hyper-aware of their own incipient madness and the fine line wavering between sanity and insanity. Despite (or possibly because of) this, Bernhard’s angst-ridden fiction is unsettlingly funny: laughter echoing out of the abyss. This, in the end, might be the best way to characterize Krasznahorkai’s work as well.
The only non-novelist included in the list is the Romanian ex-patriot E.M. Cioran, whose aphorisms are collected in volumes with titles such as On the Heights of Despair, All Gall is Divided, The Trouble with Being Born, and A Short History of Decay. Cioran’s pithiness may stand in contrast to Krasznahorkai’s abhorrence of the full-stop, but the two men share a sensibility and sensitivity that transcends its articulation. A sampling of Cioran’s aphorisms (in Richard Howard’s translations) should suffice to prove the point:
“Man secretes disaster.”
“The proof that man loathes man? Enough to be in a crowd, in order to feel that you side with all the dead planets.”
“He who has not suffered is not a being: at most, a creature.”
“If death were not a kind of solution, the living would certainly have found some means of avoiding it.”
Tranquility, Attila Bartis
Attila Bartis is a contemporary of Krasznahorkai. His novel Tranquility, published in Hungary in 2001 and in an English translation by Imre Goldstein in 2009 (which won the first Best Translated Book Award), has been called “one of the bleakest books ever,” an assessment that holds even if the novel is compared to the Krasznahorkai’s fiction. Bartis’ novel is an unforgettable portrayal of madness, incest, violence, and that species of hatred that boils over in the cauldron of an Oedipal relationship. It convincingly depicts a world in which “pleasure [is] but ennobled pain,” a scathing allegorical representation of an era scarred by disastrous, inhumane politics. Of the books on this list, it stands the closest to the psychological depths plumbed by Krasznahorkai.