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January 2008

The Seven Deadly Sins

Vice and virtue clash daily round the world, and while the definition of sin may vary, its literary allure is universal. Perhaps that’s because no matter how easy we think moral failings are to finger, in actuality their elusiveness on the page is what makes for the stuff of great literature. “It’s so easy to forget . . . ” says a former student of an envious teacher; yet do moral failings arise because it’s easy to forget, or because it’s even easier to harbor and remember? Maya Arad, Roberto Bolaño, Lars Saabye Christensen, Doris Kareva, Danilo Kiš, Mathieu Lindon, Sérgio Rodrigues, Kjell Westo, and Yan Lianke put envy, greed, pride, sloth, gluttony, anger, and lust to thought-provoking ends for the New Year.

Twelve knots are losing patience around the eyebrows of the year to come. No one knows if he will live until December 31. It's barely August. But the brown light of March feels like intensely running…
Translated from Spanish
from “Agaat”
By Marlene van Niekerk
The first time you slept with Jak was the day after he came to declare his intentions to your parents. He was eager to get away that morning after the engagement, eager to get away from under your mother's…
Translated from Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns
The Last Farm Novel?: An Interview with Michiel Heyns
I met Michiel Heyns—author, translator, and professor of English at Stellenbosch University from 1987 until 2003—last year when he was here in the U.S. as a visiting professor at the University…
“Idleness Is Often Empowering . . . “
Idleness is often empowering, recreating oneself— just as the moon gradually grows full once again, a battery surely and steadily recharges, so everything, everyone must have time for the self—…
Translated from Estonian
from “Seven Moral Failings”
By Maya Arad
Now was the time to ask for a recommendation from David. In fact, he had already intended to raise the subject at their morning meeting, but then that student had appeared, whose name, he discovered,…
Translated from Hebrew by Jeffrey M. Green
The Robot
By Danilo Kiš
No one was surprised by his arrival. There was nothing miraculous about seeing a robot walk in through the door, choose a table, push away chairs, and study the menu. He did all of it as adroitly and…
Translated from Serbian by John K. Cox
The Trial of Jean-Marie Le Pen
By Mathieu Lindon
By the time it starts the Blistier trial has already been known for months as “the trial of Jean-Marie Le Pen.” Civil rights groups were the first to call it that, but by now the phrase, borne…
Translated from French by Ann Smock
The Pig
By Lars Saabye Christensen
Asbjørn Hall was admitted to an Oslo hospital on December 4th, 2003, for an intestinal operation, a rather unpleasant business no one would look forward to. But Asbjørn Hall was seventy-eight and had…
Translated from Norwegian by Kenneth Steven
The Man Who Killed the Writer
By Sérgio Rodrigues
First things first: I didn’t write the book everyone thinks I wrote, the one that has been showering me with fame and riches since its publication, just over one year go. Although many people might…
Translated from Portuguese by Fernanda Abreu
The Many Masks of Max Mirebelais
By Roberto Bolaño
Roberto Bolaño’s Nazi Literature in the Americas presents itself as a biographical dictionary of American writers who flirted with or espoused extreme right-wing ideologies in the twentieth and…
Translated from Spanish by Chris Andrews
from “Serve the People!”
By Yan Lianke
The novel is the only place for a great many of life’s truths. Because it is only in fiction that certain facts can be held up to the light.The novel it is, then, for this particular truth. The…
Translated from Chinese by Julia Lovell
The Referee
By Kjell Westö
Fernström would remember later that he had been thinking back to his own playing career while driving through the city that morning. He had felt restless all autumn, but without understanding why.…
Translated from Finland-Swedish by Roy Hodson