New Quarterly Conversation Out Now

The Winter 2009 issue of the Quarterly Conversation went up on Monday, as usual it has a great mix of features and reviews. Some of the things that caught my eye were

Translate This Book!

We’ve talked to some of the top translators into English working today; we’ve talked to publishers big and small; we’ve talked to agents, journalists, and foreign-language authors. We’ve asked them all for the best books that still aren’t in English. And have they responded. They’ve told us TRANSLATE THIS BOOK!, and now we pass that on to you.
By Scott Esposito and Annie Janusch

Tracing Mahmoud Darwish’s Map

Mahmoud Darwish was a poet essential to Palestinian concepts of identity an nationhood. Here, George Fragopoulos looks at four recently published book by the prolific writer, tracing an outline of the map Darwish left for his readers to follow.
By George Fragopoulos

Blogging to Gorbachev: Stanislaw Borokowski’s Letters to a Latter Day Cold War Hero

Blog, farce, open letters, or all? Austrian-Polish author Stanislaw Borokowski has been writing a blog to the Soviet Union’s final General Secretary, touching on everything from glasnost to the former world leader’s romantic songs. [more]
By Chris Michalski

False Truths: How Fact Is Fiction in Machado de Assis

Widely considered Brazil’s greatest writer, Machado de Assis was a unique writer. Like a Laurence Stern across the Atlantic, this freed slave wrote postmodern literature long before the 20th century.
By Michael Moreci

Only Poems Can Translate Poems: On the Impossibility and Necessity of Translation

Robert Frost famously said, “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” But what if it’s really not so black and white?

By Ellen Welcker

From The Mezzanine by Nikos Kachtitsis

Read this chapter from The Mezzanine by Nikos Kachtitsis, the first time it’s ever been published in English.

By George Fragopoulos and Lyssi Athanasiou Krikeli

Nikos Kachtitsis’s Dark Night of the Soul and The Mezzanine

George Fragopoulos explains why he wanted to translate The Mezzanine, a book that brings to mind Kafka, Conrad, Dostoevsky, Joyce, and even Proust.

By George Fragopoulos

From Jerzy Pilch’s A Thousand Peaceful Cities

An excerpt from Polish author Jerzy Pilch’s next novel, available next year.
By Jerzy Pilch (translated by David Frick)

Notes on Jerzy Pilch’s A Thousand Peaceful Cities

Matt Jakubowski introduced Jerzy Pilch’s latest novel, available next year.
By Matt Jakubowski

Horacio Castellanos Moya and the Political Novel at the Quarterly Conversation

Tirana MemoriaScott at the Quarterly Conversation has written an excellent article about Horacio Castellanos Moya and the new political novel. It is a good introduction to his work and is worth a read in part because it charts not only an interesting history of the development of the political novel, but of Latin American political novels. The nexus of his argument is here

As with Senselessness, the shape of She-Devil’s political conspiracy never becomes very distinct. Trapped within the narrator’s paranoid consciousness we can only guess at its actual dimensions, and any objective reality of an actual conspiracy is never confirmed. Part of this is simply the fragmented distribution of political power in a modern society—the fact that even a president can’t have full information on everything being done by a government. This fragmentation of power is something that Moya elegantly fuses with the development of his plot and his character as he marches his protagonists down each alley one at a time, closing certain threads of investigation even as new ones are introduced.

Yet the more significant part of this is due to the protagonist’s mind, which changes subtly but powerfully throughout both of these novels. What Senselessness and The She-Devil in the Mirror are doing is bringing the unreliable first-person novel to a modern Latin American context. What for Ford Madox Ford was primarily a story of infidelity in inter-war England, and for Kobo Abe was about existentialist malaise in mid-century Japan, and for Walker Percy was about the alienation of the individual in a radically mediated society, and for Kazuo Ishiguro was a story of classism in contemporary England, becomes for Moya a story of the great political subconsciousness that seethes through life in 21st-century Latin America. Each of these writers shares an interest in portraying the space between objective reality and human subjectivity. Fundamentally, they are interested in what happens as the human mind attempts to piece together a reality, though it lacks the necessary information to do so. As the diversity of these writers’ output shows, the dramatization of this gap is a very malleable tool: an individual’s quest for objective truth can interrogate realities about the cultures that range from a bottom-rung operative in a Latin American state on the verge of failure to a wealthy, privileged gentleman in a European nation at the height of empire. What is most characteristic about these novels is that vital facts about the culture each is set in are bound up at the deepest levels with the narrators’ own gradual realization that there is no such a thing as an objective reality. The process of self-discovery is contingent on comprehending one’s cultural context.

I would also add that having read Tirana Memoria I know that he doesn’t always approach reality in such dark terms, even when he is writing about a coup. He is also willing to inject humor and play games with the perception of reality only in the most oblique terms. Tirana Memoria uses one of the most straightforward sounding narrators, who scarcely hints at the deep rejections of a verifiable truth. If the book is ever translated into English, perhaps we will have a more complete picture of his work.