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The Watchlist: April 2020

By Tobias Carroll


Each month, Tobias Carroll shares a handful of recently released or forthcoming titles in translation that he’s especially excited about. 

 

From Seven Stories Press | No-Signal Area by Robert Perišić, translated from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursać | Fiction | 480 pages | ISBN 9781609809706 | US$22.95

What the publisher says: “At once a savage send-up of our current political moment and a rueful elegy for what might have been, this sprawling novel blends tragedy and comedy in its portrayal of ordinary people wondering where it all went wrong, and whether it could have gone any other way.”

What Publishers Weekly says: “Impressively blending the absurd, dire, and comic, Perišić relates often tragic events, but his characters somehow manage to persevere. This clever, ambitious take on the influences of capitalism on Eastern Europe will be perfect for fans of Umberto Eco.”

What I say: Over the course of his novel No-Signal Area, Robert Perišić covers a lot of ground, from the historical traumas lurking in the recent past of Eastern Europe to the ways certain elements of society can be commodified in a myriad number of ways. The resulting novel is sometimes digressive but never uninteresting, and it memorably conveys a sense of a handful of characters converging on the same space, each with their own agenda.

 

From Liveright | Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo, translated from the Korean by Jamie Chang | Fiction | 176 pages | ISBN 9781631496707 | US$20.00

What the publisher says: “A fierce international bestseller that launched Korea’s new feminist movement, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 follows one woman’s psychic deterioration in the face of rigid misogyny.”

What The Guardian says: “Cho’s formal excision of any sense of imaginative possibility is highly effective in creating an airless, unbearably dull world in which Jiyoung’s madness makes complete sense. Her derangement is the only way out of the cramped paradox of gender-based roles.”

What I say: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is a dizzying book in its construction, moving from a narrative of one woman’s break from society to an unnervingly dry section that occupies much of the novel. The contrast between the two is deeply felt, and the gulf between the almost supernatural quality of the opening pages with what follows makes for a memorably disconcerting read.

 

From And Other Stories | Made in Saturn by Rita Indiana, translated from the Spanish by Sydney Hutchinson | Fiction | 176 pages | ISBN 9781911508601 | US$15.95

What the publisher says: “Mesmerizing and visionary, Made in Saturn is a hangover from a riotous funeral, a rapid-fire elegy for the revolutionary spirit, and a glimpse of hope for all who feel eclipsed by those who came before them.”

What Kirkus Reviews says: “Argenis hates his negligent and philandering father and is filled with contempt for him. At the same time, he’s grateful to be in Havana, especially after meeting comely Susana. Recovery, however, is never seamless, and as memories of childhood flood back, Argenis has to confront both the love and deprivation that marked his coming-of-age.”

What I say: In Made in Saturn, Rita Indiana grapples with big questions—the legacies of revolutions and the nature of creativity and privilege among them. In telling the story of a haunted artist struggling with addiction and the question of whether or not he’ll ever be inspired to create new work, Indiana shapes a narrative that’s both specific to its setting and applicable in a host of contexts. Readers of Indiana’s Tentacle will also find some interesting areas of overlap between the two.

 

From New Directions | Our Riches by Kaouther Adimi, translated from the French by Chris Andrews | Fiction | 160 pages | ISBN 9780811228152 | US$19.95

What the publisher says: “Our Riches celebrates quixotic devotion and the love of books in the person of Edmond Charlot, who at the age of twenty founded Les Vraies Richesses (Our True Wealth), the famous Algerian bookstore/publishing house/lending library.” 

What Publishers Weekly says: “Adimi’s confident prose displays Ryad and Charlot’s emotional depth while nimbly shuttling the reader through nearly a century of history. This is a moving tribute to the enduring power of literature.”

What I say: What happens when history and literature converge? In telling the story of a famed Algerian bookstore, Kaouther Adimi explores Algeria’s colonial history and its ever-shifting relationship with France. In juxtaposing the story of the bookstore’s founding with a contemporary narrative, Adimi offers two distinct time periods, each with their own appeal and their own flaws.

 

From Two Lines Press | Lake Like a Mirror by Ho Sok Fong, translated from the Chinese by Natascha Bruce | Fiction | 240 pages | ISBN 9781931883986 | US$16.95

What the publisher says: “In precise and disquieting prose, Ho Sok Fong draws her readers into a richly atmospheric world of naked sleepwalkers in a rehabilitation center for wayward Muslims, mysterious wooden boxes, gossip in unlicensed hairdressers, hotels with amnesiac guests, and poetry classes with accidentally charged politics—a world that is peopled with the ghosts of unsaid words, unmanaged desires, and uncertain statuses, surreal and utterly true.”

What Asian Review of Books says: “Ho writes free from the censorship that prevails in mainland China but also behind a linguistic veil that must to at least some extent shield her from the petty tyrannies that can sometimes be imposed by English and the internationalism that comes with it, a veil that is only drawn back for us readers by the efforts of her able translator Natascha Bruce.”

What I say: Some short fiction exists in a space where the past exists only as a memory; other stories occupy a place where the ghosts of the past take literal form. The characters and scenarios in Ho Sok Fong’s Lake Like a Mirror occupy a liminal space between the two; along the way, the book offers a stunning sense of place and a powerful consideration of identity.

 

From World Editions | The Helios Disaster by Linda Boström Knausgård, translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles | Fiction | 112 pages | ISBN 9781642860689 | US$15.99

What the publisher says: “This modern spin on the myth of Athena plunges us deep inside the mind of an unlikely twelve-year-old goddess confined to a small Swedish town. Separated from her father just moments after bursting from his skull in full armor, Anna is packed off into foster care, where she learns to ski, speaks in tongues, and negotiates the needs of a quirky cast of relatives.”

What The Independent says: “The emotional intensity created by Boström Knausgård—who has previously published stories and a collection of poems—recalls Sylvia Plath, but her spare, accelerating modern myth owes something to the poet/classicist Anne Carson's novels in verse.”

What I say: Blending psychological realism with a hallucinatory dose of the mythological, Linda Boström Knausgård’s The Helios Disaster eludes easy classification. It’s a slim novel that moves from trauma to revelation and back again; it’s also a disconcerting reworking of some memorable myths and legends. Running throughout the novel is a measured consideration of belief and humanity’s relationship to the divine—both metaphorically and literally.

 

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Published Apr 22, 2020   Copyright 2020 Tobias Carroll

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