Archive for November, 2010

Fake Translations, Real Poetry

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Bear with me while I surf the old news wave for a moment, but a curious document sprang up a while back over at Open Letter Books in promotion of Bragi Ólafsson’s new book, The Ambassador. As described at the Three Percent blog:

It’s an incredibly fun book centering around the journey of Icelandic poet Sturla Jon Jonsson to [a] poetry festival in Lithuania where he loses his overcoat, steals someone else’s, is accused of plagiarism, and gets drunk a lot. While he’s there, he also receives The Season of Poetry, a small book featuring poems from the various festival participants.

In the novel, this book is referenced, and a few of the festival-goers are described, but not very many, which is what led translator Lytton Smith to come up with the fun idea of having American poets and translators recreate this poetry collection. Each of the participants invented a poet, and a poem by that poet that they then supposedly translated into English . . . In other words, this is a collection of fake poets, falsely translated, and plays off of the themes of truth, fiction, and plagiarism that run throughout the novel.

The bizarre and entertaining collection is available in .pdf, .epub, and Kindle editions and includes a “translation from the Greek” by Becka Mara McKay (Alex Epstein’s Blue Has No South and the forthcoming Lunar Savings Time, Spring 2011)  and M. Oliver, “the pseudonym of a writer and translator living in Athens” — If you say so!  Other contributers include Jason Grunebaum, Sawako Nakayasu, Ravi Shankar, Matthew Zapruder, and more.  Check it out.

(And don’t forget the reading tonight at Schoen Books:  Emily Toder, Nick Rattner, and Mart del Pozo at 7:30!)

This Tuesday at Schoen Books! Emily Toder & Dr. Pi

Monday, November 29th, 2010


On Tuesday, November 30, at 7:30 the wonderful Schoen Books in South Deerfield will be hosting an evening of new literature in translation, read by some of the Valley’s fantastic local translators. Emily Toder will read from Edgar Bayley’s The Life & Memoirs of Doctor Pi, and Nicholas Rattner and Marta del Pozo will read from Peruvian poet Yvan Yauri’s Fire Wind—forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse—and from Czar Gutierrez’s novel 80M83RD3R0. Please join us!

The Sleepwalker receives a starred review in Kirkus

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

It’s not so bad to return to the old world of laptop & email after a few days off when it brings news like this. A new review from Kirkus:

The Sleepwalker by Margarita Karapanou, translated by Karen Emmerichsleepwalkerthumbnail

On a Greek island where writers and painters gather, a new messiah sent down by a bored and bitterly disappointed God introduces mayhem to set straight the “small and ridiculous” beings who put pleasure and beauty above Law.

Originally published in 1985, but available in English only now, Karapanou’s second novel (following Kassandra and the Wolf, 1974) helped establish her as one of Greece’s most admired postmodernists. The author, who died in 2008, also established herself with these books as one of the most wicked and unsparing observers of modern life. Her artist characters are all suffering to begin with, bogged down in unfinished or unrealized works and lost in unfulfilling relationships. A painter is able to turn out only headless figures. A novelist who is too self-absorbed to enter his characters imagines “a violent death that might put me, just for a second, into the state you need to be in if you’re going to write.” His fantasy is realized. When the messiah, a cop named Manolis, takes his place among them, all charm and comfort on the surface but with devilish aims inside him, dark forces sweep through the community, leading to rape and murder and disappearances. Part crime novel, part satire, part metafiction, part phantasmagoria, the book is anything but somnambulant. Karapanou writes with a headlong intensity, maintaining a jaundiced but playful tone even when the violence is at its most shocking. There’s a kind of centrifugal force at work, pulling the large cast of characters helplessly toward a heart of darkness.

An absurdist tour de force about lost souls and a lost deity by a criminally neglected Greek novelist.

Interview with Margarita Karapanou

Monday, November 15th, 2010

This isn’t new, and isn’t in English, but is a treasure worth sharing. Below is Margarita Karapanou’s famous television interview, given a few years before her death, in which she discusses her work, her struggle with mental illness, and her mother, the novelist Margarita Liberaki. (A summary I too must rely on, not able to understand for myself.) The whole interview is up on Youtube. If you don’t speak Greek, it’s a chance just to see and hear Margarita—

More interested in the facts?

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

In the conversation about Adania Shibli’s Touch just up at Belletrista, one of the participants said, “I had a conversation yesterday with a friend who had lived for several years in Asia. She observed that Americans were more interested in the facts of an event than many other cultures, and less comfortable with fluidity or metaphor.”

In the wake of national elections, when one is forced to contemplate questions about the national character, inclinations, and habits of thought, I found this observation intriguing. Is that it? Are we too fact-bound? And is that the same tendency a soccer coach from Malawi I talked to this week lamented about children’s sports in this country: Too much concern about the score.

I do wonder what grooves are being dug in us, and what part we have in the digging.


Adania Shibli in Belletrista

Friday, November 5th, 2010

The newest issue of Belletrista features readers in conversation about Adania Shibli’s “Touch,” released this year by Clockroot. Readers discuss their various experiences of Shibli’s reference to Palestinian life, the value of “reflective work” versus “war story” and Shibli’s choice of a child’s perspective for the book.

Says one reader, “I was delighted by its poetic beauty…so much hinted at, but unsaid. To me, the best books are those that get me to think more deeply, and to create more questions. This book is certainly in that category. “

Read more from the conversation here.

Publishers Weekly on Dr. Pi: “Delightfully oblique,” “tantalizing vignettes”

Monday, November 1st, 2010

The Life & Memoirs of Dr. PiThis week Publishers Weekly reviews The Life & Memoirs of Dr. Pi:

The Life & Memoirs of Dr. Pi and Other Stories
Edgar Bayley, trans. from the Spanish by Emily Toder, Interlink/Clockroot, $13 trade paper (86p) ISBN 978-1-56656-837-1
The late Argentinean avant-gardist Bayley brings a poetic precision to the short-shorts of his first English translation. Most stories feature the urbane title character, a professor, would-be ladies’ man, and sometime foil, whose philosophy is best summed up in the 110-word story, “The Charmer,” which opens with “I say nothing, I think nothing…” and closes with “There is nothing but moments, a few small moments.” An intellectual everyman brimming with curiosity, the doctor is frequently given to pearls of wisdom, as in “The Return”: “There is no innocence where there is not love.” Stories find him under waterfalls, boarding trains with highly watchable passengers, or descending mountains on his way to a date. Observations are often delightfully oblique, and the best escapades arrive unsaddled by a tidy message or punch-line surprise. Only a few stories run longer than a page; Bayley’s fictions are tantalizing vignettes, amusing and often absurd, and readers will likely feel a pleasant nostalgia for the elegant humor of a bygone age.