Translation Database: Day Three

We have reached the third day of my picks from the wonderful Translation Database (view it here).  I have chosen all of these books at random, but have tried to ensure that there is a real diversity between picks, both in terms of subject matter, and the original written languages the books were published in.

 

1. The Sea by Blai Bonet (translated from the Catalan by Cathy Sweeney; Dalkey Archive 16284823Press)
A profoundly touching contribution to the tradition of the metaphysical novel as exemplified by Dostoyevsky and Bernanos, and likewise a worthy counterpart to the vibrant and polyphonic work of fellow Iberians Camilo Jose Cela and Juan Goytisolo, The Sea is a cornerstone of postwar Catalan literature. Set in a tubercular sanatorium in Mallorca after the Spanish Civil War, it tells the story of three children sharing a gruesome secret who are brought together again by chance and illness–two patients and one nurse. A love triangle, a story of retribution, and an exploration of evil, The Sea is “a profound and radical descent into the depths of the human soul.” (Gerard de Cortanze).

 

363344402. Tomas Jonsson, Bestseller by Gudberger Bergsson (translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith; Open Letter)
‘A retired, senile bank clerk confined to his basement apartment, Tómas Jónsson decides that, since memoirs are all the rage, he’s going to write his own—a sure bestseller—that will also right the wrongs of contemporary Icelandic society. Egoistic, cranky, and digressive, Tómas blasts away while relating pick-up techniques, meditations on chamber pot use, ways to assign monetary value to noise pollution, and much more. His rants parody and subvert the idea of the memoir—something that’s as relevant today in our memoir-obsessed society as it was when the novel was first published.  Considered by many to be the ‘Icelandic Ulysses‘ for its wordplay, neologisms, structural upheaval, and reinvention of what’s possible in Icelandic writing, Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller was a bestseller, heralding a new age of Icelandic literature.’

 

3. Zoo in Winter by Polina Barskova  (translated from the Russian by Boris Dralyuk; 10051654Melville House)
Opulent, playful, and sensual, Polina Barskova’s poems have earned her a reputation as the finest Russian poet under forty. While steeped in Russian and classical culture, Barskova’s work remains unmistakably contemporary, at once classic and edgy–always fresh, new and even startling. A major English-language event, The Zoo in Winter collects poems from seven earlier books as well as from her more recent work. It is a remarkable menagerie of poems, of a strange and intoxicating beauty.

 

271808124. I Stared at the Night of the City by Bakhtiyar Ali (translated from the Kurdish by Kareem Abdulrahman; Garnet Publishing)
Iraqi Kurdistan at the turn of the twenty-first century is a territory ruled by strongmen, revolutionaries, fixers, bureaucrats, and the “Barons” who control everything from livestock and land to Kurdish cultural life.  Defying the absolute power wielded by the Barons, a band of friends led by an enigmatic poet embark on an odyssey to find the bodies of two lovers killed unjustly by the authorities. The Barons respond by attempting to crush these would-be avengers—but their real war is waged against the imagination itself, a prized, elusive commodity to which intellectuals, merchants, political elites, and humble workers all seek access in one way or another.  I Stared at the Night of the City is a tale of extraordinary people travelling great distances, in their minds or with their feet. It is a lyrical interpretation of contemporary Kurdistan, so much in the news, but so little understood. Told by several unreliable narrators in a kaleidoscope of fragments that all eventually cohere, the novel immerses readers in the fantastic just long enough, before wrenching them back to hard, cold “real life.”

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5. Martha, Jack & Shanco by Caryl Lewis (translated from the Welsh by Gwen Davies; Parthian Books)
Bound together by blood ties, Martha, Jack, and Shanco live on a farm in Wales, where their lives unfold in the eerie half-presence of their dead parents.

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