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March, 2010

For Bread Alone

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I first read Mohamed Choukri’s memoir For Bread Alone when I was working on A Basket of Leaves. I considered using it as one of the books I discussed for Morocco, but before I had read very far I stopped considering it. Recently I thought I would take another look at For Bread Alone and think about…...

February, 2010

God’s Bits of Wood

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Though better known in his later years as a film director, Sembène Ousmane (1923-2007) staked an early claim as one of Africa’s finest novelists. God’s Bits of Wood, first published in 1960 and translated from the French by Francis Price, is not only one of the best novels to have…...

Roberto Bolaño, Bounty Hunter

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Bolaño’s preliminary note to Monsieur Pain, a short novel was first published in 1999 and appeared last month from New Directions, alludes to the author’s early desperation and tenacity.  He wrote the book in the early ’80s, and it was awarded a prize by the Toledo City…...

A New Venture

And Other Stories is a fledgling independent publisher of fiction in translation with a new, community-based approach. Editorial selection decisions will emerge from a consensus of readers, writers, and translators. Stefan Tobler and Jamie Searle are developing two reading forums at LibraryThing. The…...

The Family, in Ballpoint Ink: Blutch’s “That Was Happiness”

As Christian Hincker (a.k.a. Blutch) says in the video accompanying his contribution to the February Graphic Lit edition of Words Without Borders, an excerpt from the graphic novel That Was Happiness translated by Edward Gauvin, there are no ornaments in his work. The rough ballpoint-sketched characters…...

A poem from Madagascar

Around Valentine's Day, the go-to book for romantic African literature in translation has to be Bending the Bow: An Anthology of African Love Poetry. One of its many gems is this poem by Flavien Ranaivo of Madagascar, first published in The Negritude Poets: An Anthology of Translations from the French…...

film icon$9.99, A Film Based on the Short Stories of Etgar Keret

I taught my son a simple rule when he, at the age of four or so, began to see the barrage of books that are part of the marketing effort behind movies. If the book came out first, the book is better, if the movie came out first, the movie is better. These are tough waters to navigate with a kid and of…...

What Does the Future Hold for Books in Translation?

A friend invited me to go a panel with the title “What Does the Future Hold for Books in Translation?” at Melville House in Brooklyn. I had never been to Melville House. To be honest, I wasn’t aware of the existence of a publishing house called Melville House, which says much about…...

film iconEvery Unhappy Family Is Funny in Its Own Way

As a lagniappe, we’re complementing our extract from Blutch’s That Was Happiness—in which a divorcing couple has The Talk with their young son—with a brief video of the artist discussing his book. With a plangent sax in the background, Blutch acknowledges the autobiographical…...

Algerian White

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Assia Djebar is a fiction writer, filmmaker, professor -- currently at NYU -- and a regular contender for the Nobel Prize in literature. She is known in the US for her novel So Vast the Prison and the story collection Women of Algiers in Their Apartment. Another collection, published in French as Oran,…...

Fear of Kubin is the End of Wisdom

Wolfgang Kubin, Bonn University Professor of Chinese Studies, is a critic in every sense of the word. Every time he speaks about Chinese literature, he makes waves among observers. He has become famous for “trashing” Chinese literature in general, Chinese novels in particular, and even more…...

January, 2010

film iconSearching for rue Simon-Crubellier

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 "Play with all your mind, play" I think, echoing here the epigraph to Life A Users Manual with my own substitution, that Georges Perec would have liked the "Searching for rue Simon-Crubellier" project where two artists search in Paris for the fictional street where the novel takes place.…...

Editing Georges Perec

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(Godine is publishing a new, corrected edition of Life A User's Manual and the first-ever English edition of Perec's essays collected in Thoughts of Sorts. I recently spoke with Susan Barba, an editor at Godine who worked on both of these books.) Scott Esposito: My first question has to do with…...

Op Oloop

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 In the spirit of our PerecFest, I recommend Juan Filloy’s Op Oloop, published last summer by Dalkey Archive in Lisa Dillman’s ingenious translation. The title chimes with upending as well as with Oulipo, both appropriate cognates for Filloy’s ludic acrobatics. Filloy spoke…...

4 Gentle Persuasions: An Annotated List of 4 Quotations from the Works of Georges Perec (4)

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4) “Grifalconi shook his head.  In one of the attics in Château de la Muette he had found the remains of a table.  Its oval top, wonderfully inlaid with mother-of-pearl, was exceptionally well preserved; but its base, a massive, spindle-shaped column of grained wood, turned out…...

On Horia Gârbea’s “Father’s Return from War. Topics”

"Father's Return from War. Topics," by Horia Gârbea This string of eight vignettes, "Father's Return from War," translated from the Romanian by Mihaela Mudure, does not follow the conventions of flash fiction, which makes it interesting to look at alongside the other stories in this month's…...

4 Gentle Persuasions: An Annotated List of 4 Quotations from the Works of Georges Perec (3)

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3) For years I put off telling the tale of my voyage to W. (Opening of W or The Memory of Childhood)   When near the end of his statement of intent Perec addresses the motivation behind so much apparent literary shape shifting, his tone changes. After suggesting, without much force, that we can…...

Work and Play: A Conversation with Warren Motte

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Warren Motte is among the most vibrant and resourceful critics of French contemporary fiction in the world today. Professor of French and Italian at the University of Colorado, Boulder, he received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981 with a dissertation on Georges Perec, which eventually…...

Kleist and the Confusion of Affects: New Translations

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Goethe, a literary father-figure to Heinrich von Kleist, may have sensed an Oedipal bloodlust in the emerging poet and playwright: "With the best will in the world towards this poet," he wrote, in a review of The Broken Jug, "I have always been moved to horror and disgust by something in his works, as…...

4 Gentle Persuasions: An Annotated List of 4 Quotations from the Works of Georges Perec (2)

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2) We should learn to live more on staircases. But how? (species of spaces 38)   Perec’s actual and hypothetical leaping up and down, forward and backward, and diagonally and sidewise, etc. —sometimes all at once— between projects, as if his field of operations was an enormous…...

“The Patience Stone” by Atiq Rahimi

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In Afghanistan—where, eight years after the toppling of the Taliban by US and allied troops, women are still routinely arrested and jailed for “running away” or for adultery, where current law does not recognize the crime of rape, and where 70 to 80 per cent of marriages are forced—any…...

Reading “Life A User’s Manual”

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In The Pattern in the Carpet, her recent memoir cum history of the jigsaw puzzle, Margaret Drabble pays tribute to Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec, an enormous experimental novel also concerned with jigsaw puzzles. Long experimental French novels don’t usually attract me, and Drabble…...

4 Gentle Persuasions: An Annotated List of 4 Quotations from the Works of Georges Perec (1)

 1)  I write…               I write: I write…               I write: “I write…”              …...

From the Magazine: Quim Monzó

Quim Monzó's "The Fork" and "Thirty Lines" Quim Monzó's contribution of two stories to January's International Flash Fiction issue have been translated from Catalan by Lisa M. Dillman. Monzó's shorter narrative fiction was compiled for 2004's Eighty-six Stories,…...

Today in International Lit: Early Murakami, Idlewild Books, and late Guy de Maupassant

Murakami Bootlegs No More Haruki Murakami's major works have long been available in the United States, but the author has refused too allow distribution of his first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973, both of which are narrative precursors to A Wild Sheep Chase, well-known to readers…...

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