Posts Tagged ‘Margarita Karapanou’

Karapanou in Australia, San Francisco, and beyond

Friday, January 13th, 2012

This week brought the lovely news that Margarita Karapanou’s The Sleepwalker is currently featured on the readers’ blog of Pages & Pages, an independent bookstore in… Mosman, Australia. “The Sleepwalker would make a terrific Book Club read,” the review notes, “I thoroughly enjoyed this highly imaginative novel with its blend of farce and tragedy and I highly recommend it to you.” Read the review in full here. And here’s to good distribution!

This is also a good time to note that Karapanou’s Rien ne va plus is currently a staff pick at the great indy Green Apple Books in San Francisco. Thank you to independent bookstores worldwide!

And The Sleepwalker also appeared on Scott Esposito’s list of “Favorite Reads of 2011“: “[A]n amazing little book, certainly one of the leanest, most interesting pieces of writing you will have the pleasure of reading.”

“Karapanou was a major force whose books demand to be read”

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Warm thanks to Scott Esposito for his review of The Sleepwalker in the Review of Contemporary Fiction. In full below, and link here:

This novel, or anti-novel, or collection of linked tours de force, opens with a bored and adolescent God vomiting a new savior onto an unnamed Greek island. Although in due time we discover that this new Christ is a bizarrely murderous, androgynous, sexually rabid police officer, this is only after Margarita Karapanou has abandoned her strange opening to introduce us to an assortment of blocked artists, homosexuals, and numerous other island dwellers. These characters resemble protagonists, but are more like fellow observers, albeit ones caught up in an increasingly lurid pageant that draws in everyone with the fascination of catastrophe. Karapanou’s book feels like a naïve form of modernism, each of the text’s short, storylike chapters a work of bricolage built from the diverse materials circulating in her cluttered mind. Like the best art, her plots unfold without self-consciousness or apparent purpose, yet they resist simple interpretations and have an impressive structural solidity. Her extremely muscular, tight prose makes a fine medium for the book’s relentlessly surreal, breathtakingly complex happenings, reminiscent of a Latin-inflected Pynchon. Though the book thus described may sound like a mess, The Sleepwalker in fact exudes a sense of strong thematic unity in its slow, relentless progress toward apocalypse—which, when it does arrive, is just as rich, satisfying, and inevitable as everything that has led up to it. If The Sleepwalker is any indication, Karapanou was a major voice whose books demand to be read.

And thank you as well to the RCF!

On Karapanou

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

This week brings two excellent online features on Margarita Karapanou and the newly released The Sleepwalker. First, a wonderful, in-depth review in the new issue of Words Without Borders:

“Originally published in 1985 after her harrowing fictional debut Kassandra and the Wolf, Karapanou’s second novel The Sleepwalker confirmed her reputation as one of Greece’s most talented postmodern writers and one of her most imaginative chroniclers of human alienation. Part dystopia part satire, this surreal tale of lost souls, and a dethroned deity, is not so much a murder mystery as it is a murderer’s mystery: the reader knows who is killing the islanders, but is left to wonder about the killer’s motives and real identity.”

Read the rest here.

And just up at the Quarterly Conversation: an online roundtable discussing Karapanou and her work. Writers, translators, and scholars Nick Germanacos, Karen Emmerich, Amanda Michalopoulou, Karen Van Dyck, and Angela Dimitrakaki talk about Karapanou’s ouevre in Greek and in English translation, her critical reception and place in Greek literature, her biography, and more, in a fascinating, wide-ranging, profoundly thought-provoking conversation. Some excerpts:

Amanda Michalopoulou: There are writers who make you want to go back into writing. Karapanou makes you want to go back into living your life. She also belongs to this rare community of writers who work beyond influence; they are on their own. When I was in my twenties I tried to imitate my favorite writers, but with Karapanou it never worked. Her voice was so unique and what I wished for was just to listen to her voice. Her atmosphere influenced some of my stories but at that young age I always felt that I failed to create an atmosphere as extraordinary and magical as hers. As she doesn’t belong to a group of writers, her influence within Greek literature is difficult to be measured. I am afraid Greek literature looks always for ethnic characteristics, for more “Greekness” and Karapanou goes beyond Greekness. She is not at all interested in that stuff. Her Hydra is primarily a psychological landscape.
*
Karen Van Dyck: I first understood the depth of Karapanou’s knowledge of English when I spent a week in Hydra with both her and her mother going over my translation of her mother’s novel The Straw Hats (which eventually came out under the English title Three Summers in 1995). Karapanou by this point was suffering much more obviously from the manic depression that had plagued her all her life. The drugs she was taking made her bloated and listless. I remember she would lie on the couch reading murder mysteries in the breezy open room overlooking the port while Liberaki and I argued over the meaning of words. But what repeatedly saved my translation were not so much these discussions, but the trenchant one-liners that Karapanou would interject every once and awhile with just the right American translation for the word we were hunting for. I emphasize American because if Karapanou wrote in English she would be an American writer not an English writer. Her short staccato sentences and the visual fireworks they set off are post Hemingway, pre Kurt Cobain.

Read in full here

Women & publishing, women & translation, publishing women in translation

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

VIDA has just released a much-discussed report on the ratios of male and female contributors in prominent publications, including, for book reviews, percentages of books by men and women reviewed. At Slate Meghan O’Rourke has a good summary discussion; see also Percival Everett’s thoughts here. I was particularly interested to find that the New York Review of Books, which I read almost cover to cover every issue, publishes male to female contributors at a distressing rate of 5.9 to 1, and only about 20% of the books they review are by women—all this distressing in itself & distressing because, despite my idea of myself as someone deeply attuned to these issues, I never noticed.

At the Literary Saloon, Michael Orthofer has done a quick tally of translations published in 2010, according to Three Percent’s highly useful translation database (for which we should all thank Chad Post, yet again!). Orthofer notes that: “in 2010 slightly less than 20 per cent of the books listed there are by women: i.e. there’s a huge sex-imbalance in terms of what gets translated.” This is something I’ve wondered about, but unfortunately only idly. Belletrista—”a site promoting women-authored literature from around the world”— had once written Clockroot, after reviewing several of our titles, to inquire about the translation rates of women writers vs. men writers, and I was able to say nothing more informative than that I too would be interested to see some figures. A rough scan of the 2009 titles—not scientifically done, I’m sorry—comes out with about the same ratio as Orthofer’s for 2010, somewhere around 20%. This surprises me in that most translations are published by smaller presses—indies and university presses—whom I would have thought particularly attentive to such issues. Perhaps gender often gets relegated to more mainstream publishing discussions (?), and we as small, internationally focused presses can become more concerned about aesthetic and linguistic/cultural diversity, putting gender issues to the side? I’m not sure.

When Clockroot first got going, behind scenes we often joked about how without meaning to we seemed to be only publishing women writers: early on we had signed only works by Ersi Sotiropoulos, Margarita Karapanou, Adania Shibli, Uzma Aslam Khan. I suppose that, all things being equal, we seem to gravitate toward women writers (should I note for the record that both Pam and I are in fact women?). I believe that Interlink has done a fine job publishing women writers through its twenty years—though I don’t have any figures on hand, and it would take some time to gather them (but I think of the involvement of Salma Khadra Jayyusi, and Interlink’s devotion to prominent writers such as Sahar Khalifeh and Sefi Atta). As it is, of the thirteen books on Clockroot’s list, eight are by women, five by men (two of these were originally written in English, both by women). This includes of course multiple works by repeat authors. It’s a small sample, but it is nice to feel ahead of the game.

I’d be interested in hearing from translators and editors of presses that publish translations about this issue. I suspect—without any data—that most of the submissions we receive at Interlink & Clockroot are works by men. But how many more? What role do agencies, grants, and foreign cultural ministries play in promoting men vs. women writers? How do translators interact with this issue? I myself have often wondered if there may be more women translating men than men translating women—I have no basis for thinking this other than again, a vague impression. What have reviewers noticed, both at larger and smaller venues? What role do sales play, or perceptions of which books sell? Note, for instance, this Guardian article (which mentions Uzma Aslam Khan) on “Pakistan’s literary boy’s club,” which wonders why

the media portrayal of Pakistan’s “new crop of literary stars” has disturbingly begun to focus its attention on what western reviewers are calling “the top four”: Daniyal Mueenuddin, Mohsin Hamid, Nadeem Aslam and Mohammed Hanif. Pakistani women have been writing for just as long and just as much as the men, so why is the “new crop” being portrayed by the western media as a boys’ club?

Notes for a future discussion, then? Many thanks to all those who have done the good work of gathering the figures mentioned.

—Hilary

BOMBLOG discusses The Sleepwalker

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Elsbeth Pancrazi has interviewed Karen Emmerich for the BOMBlog—excerpt below:

EP What particular difficulties did you encounter, translating Sleepwalker?

sleepwalkerforwebKE Well, in a book that’s in English it’s very difficult for me to mark what’s in English in the original. When it’s French, I leave it in French. When it’s German, I leave it in German. Usually I say, “He said in English,” or—well, there are a few different approaches, but because of the typographical difference between the Greek alphabet and the Roman, this is much more striking in the original text. You can’t really reproduce that.

There’s just so much English. And people are speaking bad Greek and bad English. And at times even when you know they’re speaking English in the book, it’s written in Greek. It speaks to what one of the characters, Placido, calls “the problem of languages,” which is central to the book. So, that’s one of the things that I wish there was a better solution for.

EP Are there other things that are in that category? Things you never figured out?

KE Sometimes it’s hard to know until you hear what someone else thinks. My brother and I read one another’s stuff all the time and often I’ll tell him, “Michael, that is not English.” And he’ll be like, “Wait, we don’t say that?” Because you know what it means, you have it in your head as something that makes sense.

Sometimes going too close to the literal can be really productive. But you have to know that you’re doing it. There’s this phrase, siga siga, that literally means, “slowly, slowly.” As in, take your time, don’t worry about it, one step at a time. And I have translated that in poetry as “slowly, slowly,” because I think it’s really lovely. And people who know Greek will be like, “Oh, that is a bad translation.”

Read in full here.

Karapanou “basically perfect”

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

On HTMLGIANT, M Kitchell calls Karapanou’s Kassandra and the Wolf  “basically perfect” in his round-up of 2010 reading here. Happy Holidays from Clockroot, and — if you’re looking — a Karapanou collection makes a great New Year’s Gift!

Salonica’s holiday book guide, and notes for a future discussion

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

I was hesitant to blog about this for the embarrassing reason that I can’t even wrap my mind around the upcoming holidays.  But once I do, surely I will want resources such as Salonica’s Holiday Guide, recommending new international literature for gift giving. Interlink’s The Calligrapher’s Secret, by German-speaking Syrian-born author Rafik Schami, translated by Anthea Bell, is here under epics (“exquisite storytelling,” “a novel to be savored,” PW has just reported).  And Karapanou’s The Sleepwalker, translated by Karen Emmerich, is recommended under dark comedies, as a “holiday winner.”  Many thanks to Monica (for all her work year-round).

If we were to have a discussion in our comments some day (other than the usual blackjack casino tips and Cialis discounts, which I delete, after appreciating), I’d like it to be of whether The Sleepwalker is a comedy.  The Library of Congress categorized it as “Humorous Fiction,” at which Karen, Pam, and I all marveled.  It has passages that are truly profoundly funny.  But over all I find just devastating—hard even to keep looking at, as Pam says.  Dark comedy seems indeed closer, but still… I feel it just slays me.  Are there levels of comedy, tragedy, comedy, tragedy, and a book may be named by the reader’s ability to move finally, with great difficulty, to an ultimately comedic darkness?  Hmmm.  (Discuss?)

“The handsome, slim-hipped, tortured & violent son of God”

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Publishers Weekly reviews The Sleepwalker:

Reading the late Karapanou’s (1946–2008) dizzying novel, which won the French prize for best foreign novel, is like sleepwalking, as the title suggests. The story takes place on a small, unnamed Greek island steeped in intrigue, sexuality, deception, mysticism, and crawling with cheeky expatriate artists. Manolis is the police officer who governs the town but more than that, he is the handsome, slim-hipped, tortured, and violent son of God. Each chapter, told from the perspective of Manolis and the various ex-pats, is a short story of its own, ranging in style from magic realism to horror. The sum of these parts is an engrossing novel that entrances readers, enabling them to understand its cast of motley characters’ incomprehensible actions–many played out in dreams. The tenor of Karapanou’s (Kassandra and the Wolf) final novel is best summed up by Manolis himself, as he observes the group of characters who come and go from his island: “The others just drank and cried and used art to disguise their hopelessness; for them art was the last stop, their final excuse to live a little longer.”

*(Her second novel, not her final, but that’s fine—)

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—