The blog Eterna Cadencia had an interesting post over two collections of short stories from Sobre Modo linterna, de Sergio Chejfec, y Relatos reunidos, de César Aira.
En Modo linterna, Sergio Chejfec continúa construyendo y ensanchando ese territorio que encuentra en nociones como experiencia, representación, narración y discurso, sus coordenadas fundamentales. Chejfec es consciente de aquello que hace no mucho explicó Luis Chitarroni: que la literatura ha perdido la confianza en la ficción (esa misma confianza que retiene el cine y, más acá, las series de tv). Por lo tanto, el acto de narrar, en estos albores de la era digital, implica conquistar o re-conquistar esa confianza. ¿Pero cuál es la estrategia? ¿Cómo se podría, sin golpes bajos, conjurar la magia perdida? Paradójicamente, la respuesta habría que empezar a buscarla en lo siguiente: no sin pruebas, no sin documentos. Hoy, la mejor ficción surge menos de los artificios y pliegues de una trama o de la singularidad o conflictos de los personajes, que de la desnudez y testimonio de la escritura; de una escritura que produzca ficción fatalmente, acaso como las arañas producen por instinto una hermosa tela. Y para eso, es en el narrador, en la construcción del narrador y su sensibilidad, donde se libra la batalla. No casualmente, autores como Sebald, Magris, Bernhard (pero también, más cerca, Levrero) deben administrar la autobiografía, los diarios, la crónica y fundirlos en la ficción.
The Quarterly Conversation Summer 2013 issue is out now with some interesting pieces. These in particular caught my eye:
By Sergio Chejfec, translated by Jessica Gordon-Burroughs
By Madeleine LaRue
Interview by Christopher Schaefer
Interview by Prithvi Varatharajan
Review by Tim Smyth
Heather Cleary, Sergio Chejfec’s translator, has a fascinating take on his approach to language. She notes that he has a way of distancing the reader at the same time he brings the reader in.
Reading Sergio Chejfec, I’m always struck by the way his prose both deflects and draws the reader in, never allowing complete immersion in the narrative: whether explicitly or implicitly, the medium in which the story is told is under constant scrutiny. In other words, I’m struck by the way Chejfec’s language is never “natural.” He discusses this aspect of his work in a beautiful essay titled “Simple Language, Name,” which hinges on the capaciousness of the word “nombre” (both “name” and, grammatically, “noun”). The piece begins with a reflection on the necessary illusion of linguistic transparency, and then delves into the particular kind of access to personal histories and collective traditions that surnames allow.
The full article is worth reading for this Argentine author. (via)
The Argentina Independent has a list of five new Argentine novels that have come out in English recently. I have heard of two of the authors, Sergio Chejfec and César Aira and I am currently reading Andrés Neuman’s Viajero del siglo (Traveler of the Century). Hopefully, Ill finish it soon. It is enjoyable if a little long. A Full review will be forth coming. I trust the list will get peek your interests. (via)
Friends of Mine by Ángela Pradelli
For loyal readers of this series, Ángela Pradelli needs no introduction. An excerpt from her novel ‘Amigas Mías’, translated expertly by Andrea G. Labinger, helped us launch as our first installment a year ago. Now, after much anticipation, the full-length novel from which that excerpt was taken will be released in English from the Latin American Literary Review Press. Called ‘Friends of Mine’, and also translated by Labinger, the novel tells the story of a group of women living in the Buenos Aires province, who meet once a year on 30th December to eat dinner, celebrate the New Year, and reflect on the strange, difficult and wonderful passage of time. Structured in short, lucid fragments, the novel reads like a coming-of-age tale for a group of friends, a neighborhood, and an era of life in middle-class Argentina that has as much resonance today (and outside of Spanish) as it did when it was first published in 2002 and was awarded the Premio Emecé. Re-read our interview with Pradelli for more context, or peruse the sample we published last year. Then head over to the LALRP website to buy a copy for all your friends — after all, that’s what the novel is about.
The Islands by Carlos Gamerro
When we spoke to Carlos Gamerro last year, two of his acclaimed novels were in the process of being translated into English, both by his friend Ian Barnett (who also translated ‘The Peronist Princess’ by Marcelo Pitrola). Last year, the first of those books, ‘An Open Secret’ (Pushkin Press), was released to a critical consensus: The Economist — a publication not known for effluvient rhetoric — declared that Gamerro’s novel had “the makings of a classic,” and the Independent called it “haunting and disturbing.” This isn’t news to us; we’ve been enjoying Gamerro’s brand of darkly comic prose since we published his story ‘Bad Burgers’ in August. Now English-reading fans of his fiction will have another reason to cheer: this May, And Other Stories, a new British publishing concern, will release a translation of Gamerro’s first novel, ‘The Islands’. Like the spiralling narrator of ‘Bad Burgers,’ the protagonist of ‘The Islands’ chases his own trauma down a rabbit hole when he discovers that, despite the passage of ten years, the Falklands/Malvinas War is still raging — a reality he’s not quite ready to confront. Written with Gamerro’s trademark muscularity, we’re certain this new addition to the English-language cannon will only swell his growing fanbase. Head over to the And Other Stories site to pre-order a copy.
Open Letter has released its Spring Summer 2012 Catalog and there are some interesting books in it. But most exciting of them all are works from young Latin American writers. The only one I have read a fair amount of is Samanta Schweblin, who I like quite a bit. You can read the whole catalog here (pdf).
The Future Is Not Ours: New Latin American Fiction brings together twenty-three Latin American writers who were born between 1970 and 1980. The anthology offers an exciting overview of contemporarySpanish-language literature and introduces a generationof writers who came of age in the time of military dictatorships, witnessed the fall of theBerlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, the birth of the Internet, the murders of Ciudad Juárez,Mexico, and the September 11th attacks in New York City.The anthology features: Oliverio Coelho, Federico Falco, and Samanta Schweblin (Argentina);Giovanna Rivero (Bolivia); Santiago Nazarian (Brazil); Juan Gabriel Vásquez and AntonioUngar (Colombia); Ena Lucía Portela (Cuba); Lina Meruane, Andrea Jeftanovic, and AlejandroZambra (Chile); Ronald Flores (Guatemala); Tryno Maldonado and Antonio Ortuño (México);María del Carmen Pérez Cuadra (Nicaragua); Carlos Wynter Melo (Panama); Daniel Alarcónand Santiago Roncagliolo (Peru); Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro (Puerto Rico); Ariadna Vásquez (DominicanRepublic); Ignacio Alcuri and Inés Bortagaray (Uruguay); and Slavko Zupcic (Venezuela).
There’s a great interview at Conversational Reading with Margaret B. Carson the translator of Sergio Chejfec’s My Two Worlds. It is a book that the more I hear about the more I want to take it off my shelves and read. This in particular caught my eye (once I was accused of writing German sentences because they were so long):
On the whole, I tried to stick quite close to the original, not just in word choice but also in preserving the length and density of the sentences. I had to search for models in English to give me an idea of how to structure and balance the clauses and sub-clauses that, as Enrique Vila-Matas points out in his introduction to My Two Worlds, seem to test the elasticity of the sentence itself. I was happy to discover that the long literary sentence en English is not a relic from 19th-century, and that many contemporary writers—among them Lynne Tillman, William Gaddis, and David Foster Wallace—provided excellent models that helped me carry over this essential part of Chejfec’s style.
Guernica has an interview with Sergio Chejfec about his new book My Two Worlds. This is his first book to be translated in English and I’ve heard some good thing about it. I’m intrigued also because Scott at Conversational Reading has said it is “is a fairly difficult book to find one’s way into”. He has some interesting things to say about literature and I’m curious if they work in practice.
Guernica: Something else I noted in the text, something that interested me, was the narrator’s experience with nonhuman things, and things that are untraceable. You mention well-trodden paths that have been walked countless times by other human beings. And at one point you say “the ground of the world speaks different, near-incomprehensible languages.” Could you talk about instances like this, instances your narrator experiences that don’t belong to the realm of human experience?
Sergio Chejfec: Yes, for me, this speaks to the stuff of life, the unnatural stuff of life, which is quite distinct from the life of nature. One must distance oneself from the idea of strict realism. It seems to me that real nature doesn’t exist anymore, this idea of “the wild.” This is why I love parks, and why I chose to use them in my work—they are beyond nature. I see nature as a resource. We can speak of politics, ethics, and in this way, speak about the world. But at the same time, it’s always in a way that is totally nebulous and abstracted, this way of thinking about reality. And that’s why I write the way I do—it’s an almost immortal way to show dependence on the biological, the political, the moral parts of us. I say immortal because we now have to find new formats, new eloquences, and resolve within ourselves this “constructed” life, a life that is incomplete, imperfect. I find that, for me, it is this concept of borrowed or built life, life on loan, that gets me writing. It’s similar to speaking about literature. I like it, and then I don’t like it. It has such an inherent vein of pretention, because you’re not speaking about real things. There’s a literary pretentiousness made of speaking and spending so much time on unreal persons. And it seems, now, impossible to create an unpretentious, totally organic character.
I just got the Spring Open Letter catalog and was happy to see that a collection of short stories from Quim Monzo are going to be published in July and the following month My Two Worlds from Sergio Chejfec. I am especially looking forward to the Quim Monzo because I’ve heard so much about his short stories. I didn’t much like his book Gasoline, but am willing to give the stories a chance since this blog is turning into all things short story from Spain. I’m not familiar with Sergio Chejfec, but am looking forward to reading his book. You can read an excerpt of Monzo’s new book at Open Letter (as well as other books in the upcoming catalog). You can also read a story that Open Letter recently published called Books.