By Dedi Felman
Snow flurries have finally graced the gray skies of New York City, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center has been lit, and thick woolen bodywrappings are now de rigeur at Greenmarket—winter has settled in at last.
So a final farewell to the warmth of Miami, and our last set of recommendations from the agent buzz panel. For those of you who missed the prelude, please check out Miami, Part One and Part Two, The Agent Buzz Panel.
We begin this time with a few stellar contemporary South African writers:
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM ISOBEL DIXON, BLAKE FRIEDMANN AGENCY
DEON MEYER is a crime writer whose Cape Town-based crime thrillers have won him fans around the world. Crime really does seem to be a genre where foreign books can travel to a broad readership, as crime readers are eager to read suspenseful titles, in exotic settings, where there is something to learn in addition to the mystery that is unravelled. As the Literary Review said: “This is one of those entertainment fictions that teaches one more than any textbook or documentary…..a fascinating portrayal of one aspect of life in post-apartheid South Africa .....winding up the tension to a gripping, shocking climax. Highly recommended.”
“Intricately-written and minutely-plotted. KL Seegers’s [Isobel’s sister!] translation makes a fine job of keeping the cadences of the Afrikaans speaking cops. Meyer’s books are outstanding when it comes to characterisation, and Benny is one of his finest creations; a book that should not be missed.” reviewingtheevidence.com
“Deon Meyer is one of the sharpest and most perceptive thriller writers around.” Peter Miller, The Times
“If you want a glimpse of the soul of the new South Africa in all its glory, and with all the gory details of its problems and corruption, Meyer is your man.” Matthew Lewin, The Guardian
MARLENE VAN NIEKERK is one of South Africa’s finest writers. Her first novel, the darkly funny TRIOMF, about a poor white family on the eve of the country’s first democratic elections, won the Noma Award for the best book in Africa, and was a New York Times Notable Book in 2004.
Her second novel, AGAAT - just published in the UK as THE WAY OF THE WOMEN - was published in Afrikaans ten years after her debut. The powerful unfolding story of the relationship between a now-paralysed white woman and her coloured servant caused a sensation, not just in South Africa, but also in Holland, the first translation market. The novel has been long-listed for the IMPAC. [US Rights still available, all you editors out there!]
“With her second novel, van Niekerk has produced, if anything, a more startlingly profound result. In its exploration of truth, reconciliation and the dynamics of power in post-apartheid South Africa, this novel has been compared to J M Coetzee’s DISGRACE.” Charlie Hill, New Statesman
‘Voluminous, detailed and momentous. Spanning five decades of South African history and with the important dates in the characters’ lives, 1948, 1960, 1996, for example, made coincident with key moments in public life, it is an allegory of colonial exploitation, apartheid, and the precarious steps towards reconciliation.” Shirley Chew, Independent
ETIENNE VAN HEERDEN is an acclaimed Afrikaans writer whose latest novel, IN THE PLACE OF LOVE, has just been translated into English. The Dutch edition prompted a reviewer to proclaim van Heerden “one of the greatest storytellers in contemporary world literature.” (Book of the Week, Knack). Etienne’s THE LONG SILENCE OF MARIO SALVIATI (HarperCollins) was chosen as one of Borders Original Voices and a Book Sense 76.
“As writers like Marquez gave a rich artistic depth to South America, and Alasdair Gray defined the imaginative landscape of Scotland in Lanark, so van Heerden has created an ‘artistic map’ of South Africa.” Mark Stanton, The Scotsman.
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM CAROL FREDERICK, SANFORD GREENBURGER AGENCY
A diverse list of goodies from Carol Frederick:
From ASCHEHOUG FORLAG, NORWAY
FATSO by Lars Ramslie [This was a favorite in Miami—ed.]
A wonderfully funny and politically incorrect story about a fat and lonely young man who struggles with his self-esteem, who masturbates constantly and never goes out. Luckily, things change when one of the rooms in his apartment is sublet to a young girl.
(Check out the movie in 2009!)
THE LIVES OF MY MOTHER AND FATHER by Edvard Hoem
Nominated to the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize in 2005, it has sold more than 75,000 copies in Norway. A story of a young girl who in 1943 falls in love with a German soldier while Norway was occupied. When the Germans withdraw their troops, she is heartbroken, and soon after she finds out she’s pregnant. A passing missionary then offers to marry her, and what starts out as a marriage of convenience, develops into the most beautiful and unlikely love story.
LOVE by Hanne Ørstavik
Ørstavik, who’s received an array of prizes here at home, is widely recognized as one of Norway’s finest young female novelist, and this book provoked a lot of strong feelings when it came out. We follow a selfish and career-driven mother and her heartbreakingly loving 8 year old son through one fatal night in the winter in the north of Norway.
Distribuidora Record, Brazil
THE ETERNAL SON by Cristovao Tezza
“The authenticity of the narrator’s voice in Cristovão Tezza’s The eternal son lies not only in the truth behind the experience of the author, a linguistics professor, award-winning novelist and father of Felipe, a 26 year-old man with Downs syndrome. The sober voice takes the reader through a host of anxieties, guilt, hopes, but finds that balance is possible by way of a merciless self-evaluation.” — Jornal Folha de S. Paulo
In The Eternal Son, Tezza exposes the countless hardships and the delightful small victories involved in raising a son with Downs syndrome. The author uses the issues that come up along the way, throughout the 26 years of his son Felipe’s life, to remember and reorganize his own life: the experience of living in a commune, the time spent in Germany as an illegal immigrant, the difficult aspects of being a writer in his early thirties with a handful of published books, the supposed stability of being a professor in a state university.
ROWOHLT VERLAG, Germany
http://www.rowohlt.de/foreign_detail?id=2381265”>HAUS DER KLEINEN FORSCHER by Joachim Hecker
A wonderfully illustrated experiment book for kids from 4 years up with things you have at home - the book makes kids and adults cleverer!
14.000 copies have been sold since pub at the end of September!
MEIN KLEINES GROSSES LEBEN by Holly-Jane Rahlens
The story of 13-year old Susie who grows up in a New York suburb in the 60s of the 20th century. Girl-friends, hairstyle, music and ONE BOY, the football player Mark, are her world! But then Kennedy is shot and her life changes as she notices that there is much more in the world than her own little universe. Her first love, the relation to her father, the assassination of Kennedy as well as Jews and the 2nd World War are topics the author is dealing with and which reflect parts of her own biography.
THE GIRL WITH THE NINE FINGERS by Laia Fabregas
íI’m Laura. I have nine fingers. I was born that way, Life with nine fingers is not bad at all. People with nine fingers simply live their lives among all other people, as if they have all ten fingers. Sometimes they keep their maimed hand in a trouser pocket, or clenched in a fist, to hide it from strangers.ë Lai Fabregas, born in Barcelona and living in the Netherlands for ten years, has written a story about two Catalonian sisters: Laura and Moira grew up during the latter years of General Franco’s dictoatorship. Their parents bring the girls up in ítotal honestyë and freedomë. They raise their daughters without taking photographs of them. Instead they teach their children to make photos in their head. By the time Laura turns 34 her head is starting to becomefull and she fears memory loss.
Editor Elsa den Boer called the book a balance between story and visuals, around an idea at once catchy and profound.
NEITHER FORGOTTEN NOR FORGIVEN by Danny Baz
Aribert Heim is the last Nazi war criminal still actively sought throughout the worl. He is the number one target of the Nazi-hunting organization founded by Simon Wiesenthal. But in fact it is too late: Aribert Heim is dead. Danny Baz was at the heart of the operation that led to his execution in 1982. This is the thrilling tale of that pursuit.
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM DAVID DRAPER CLARK, EDITOR-IN CHIEF, WORLD LITERATURE TODAY
And finally, a comprehensive list of must-reads to add to your international fiction holiday reading and translation list, courtesy of David Draper Clark.
[Note from DDC: Not knowing until moments before our panel convened that we would be asked to recommend authors who have not been or need to be more widely translated into English, I spontaneously came up with a random list that included:]
Juan Villoro (Mexico)
Jose Agustin (Mexico)
Jose Kozer (Cuba)
Patrick Chamoiseau (Martinique) [Ed note, see my mini-review—do not miss Chamoiseau!]
Sergio Kokis (Brazil/Canada)
Nelida Pinon (Brazil)
Augusto “Tito” Monterroso (Guatemala)
William Ospina (Colombia)
Fernando Vallejo (Colombia)
Milton Hatoum (Brazil)
Paulo Lins (Brazil)
Christine Montalbetti (France)
Amelie Nothomb (Belgium)
Andree Chedid (Egypt/France)
Nawal El Saadawi (Egypt)
Merce Rodoreda (Spain [Catalonia])
Carme Riera (Spain [Catalonia])
Pere Gimferrer (Spain [Catalonia])
Manuel Rivas (Spain [Galicia])
Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke (Greece)
Aldo Busi (Italy)
Cees Nooteboom (Netherlands)
Saadi Youssef (Iraq)
Adam Michnik (Poland)
Otto Orban (Hungary)
Bo Carpelan (Finland Swedish)
Tomas Transtromer (Sweden)
Huang Xiang (China)
Duong Thu Huong (Vietnam)
Thanks for joining in, please pass this link on, and
Next year—in Miami!
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