Happy Bastille Day, mes amis! It's been a sad July for French letters, as earlier this month, legendary poet Yves Bonnefoy died at the age of 93. Bonnefoy, who won the Goncourt prize for poetry in 1987, was part of a generation of writers that included the world-renowned writers Pierre Chappuis and Jacques Réda, both of whom you can read online in our Two Lines journal archives.
If you're looking for even more French literature to gorge yourself on, we've got you covered. Let poet Claire Malroux lead you down into the grottoes, or else float into the clouds with Vénus Khoury-Ghata in poems translated by the award-winning poet Marilyn Hacker. Then sneak off to Switzerland for a rendezvous with Swiss poet Vahé Godel and hop over to Quebec to read Chilean-born Marilú Mallet's story about refugees, translated by J.T. Townley.
If you're looking for something you can bring to the beach...
(Read the rest of this celebratory post on the Two Lines Press blog!)
The book marks the English-language debut of Brazilian author João Gilberto Noll, considered one of Brazil's literary legends and ranked alongside leading Latin American writers like Cesar Aira and Mario Bellatin.
In a translation by Adam Morris, an unemployed poet finds himself thrown in jail after inexplicably raping his neighbor, but his time in prison is mysteriously cut short when he’s abruptly taken to a new home—a countryside manor where his every need seen to. All that’s required of him is to write poetry.
Written during Brazil’s transition from military dictatorship to democracy in the late 1980s—and capturing the disjointed feel of that rapidly changing world—Quiet Creature on the Corner is mysterious and abrupt, pivoting on choices that feel both arbitrary and inevitable.
The book has received some fantastic reviews, some of which we've pulled together here:
Publisher's Weekly writes that "readers will be delighted that his 1991 mid-career work has now been translated into English."
The Chicago Review of Books called Quiet Creature "as urgently relevant as any contemporary novel...[it] augurs a notable English-language career for João Gilberto Noll." It's "oddly accessible yet encourages multiple readings."
3:AM magazine objects to comparisons to David Lynch and Franz Kafka: "There is something else going on in Quiet Creature, something that locates its existential terror not in the apprehension of dream—or at least not exclusively—but rather in the intensification of the mundane, the cruelty that lurks beneath banal reality."
Electric Literature compares the narrator's detachment to Albert Camus's The Stranger.
Numéro Cinq magazine calls the book "an absorbing introduction to this esteemed Brazilian author."
Reading in Translation says "Quiet Creature on the Corner confounds our expectations of what literature should be by denying us the opportunity to see ourselves more clearly through a character, but it is that refusal which enriches the experience all the more."
Guernica magazine featured an interview with translator Adam Morris last month which touched on Noll’s place in Latin American letters, his influences, and the relevance of the novel in light of the current political upheaval in Brazil.
Read an excerpt of the book, or buy it alone or as part of our "East European Beach Read" Set (owing to Noll's Eastern European spirit, if not nationality), along with a short story collection from East German author Wolfgang Hilbig and novel by Czech modernist Richard Weiner.
Make the beach a slightly darker, more insidiously frightening place, just don't forget the sunscreen!
We've had an eventful (and exhausting) start to summer already, so just in time for relaxation we've put together suggestions for translation titles to check out. No weighty political tomes on this list!
If you enjoyed Danish author Naja Marie Aidt's Baboon (translated by 2015 PEN Translation Award winner Denise Newman), you'll be excited to read fellow Dane Dorthe Nors's newest release, So Much For That Winter (translated by Misha Hoekstra). It's on the July IndieNext list and has gotten raves in multiple media outlets.
We hosted some amazing writers and translators at the Bay Area Book Festival at the beginning of June, and their books are great additions to any summer reading list.
French writer Jean-Philippe Blondel's The 6:41 to Paris (translated by Alison Anderson) is "a touching portrayal of how any of us might feel when unexpectedly confronted by the detritus of young love" (from a New York Times review).
Chilean-Norwegian writer Pedro Carmona-Alvarez has just released The Weather Changed, Summer Came and So On, "a haunting novel about love, loss, and identity" translated from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley.
Swedish actor and author Jonas Karlsson's, The Room (translated by Neil Smith), is the Kafka-esque tale of a government clerk who discovers a secret room that no one else will acknowledge. Read an interview with the author about his writing process.
Algerian-Italian Amara Lakhous's newest book, The Prank of the Good Little Virgin of Via Ormea (translated by Antony Shugaar) is a "fun and farcical" examination of identity in today's multicultural society. And check out his earlier titles, including award-winning Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio (translated by Ann Goldstein, who also translated Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan Novels--another excellent summer read).
Deborah Smith, translator and recent Man Booker International Prize winner for her translation of Han Kang's The Vegetarian, includes some choice summer reading options in her Five Book Plan on the Verso Books website. She highlights Marie NDiaye's Ladivine as her top choice. (If you like that book, be sure to read her titles from Two Lines Press, All My Friends and Self-Portrait in Green--all translated by Jordan Stump).
Also on Smith's list: Vaseline Buddha by Jung Young Moon (translated from Korean by Jung Yewon), Second-Hand Time by Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich (translated from Russian by Bela Shayevich), Load Poems Like Guns: Women's Poetry From Herat, Afghanistan (translated from Persian Dari by Farzana Marie), and Fever by Samaresh Basu (translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha). You can find more Verso summer reading choices on their website.
For those for whom summer is not complete with at least one good detective novel, Melville House Press has an entire International Crime imprint.