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The Watchlist: July 2016

By M. Bartley Seigel

Every month, from the reviews desk to you, Words without Borders shares a handful of new titles they are excited about and think you should be excited about, too. This month’s list was compiled by Stephanie Hubble, a student at Michigan Technological University, with the help of our reviews editor, M. Bartley Seigel. Let us all now sally forth into a few new titles worth our good attentions:

From Wakefield Press, Sweating Blood by Léon Bloy, translated from the French by Erik Butler; ISBN 978-1-939663-17-7; US $17.95

Says the publisher: “Writing with blood, sweat, tears, and moral outrage, Bloy drew from anecdotes, news reports, and his own experiences as a franc-tireur to compose a fragmented depiction of the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, told with equal measures of hatred and pathos, and alternating between cutting detail and muted anguish. From heaps of corpses, monstrous butchers, cowardly bourgeois, bloody massacres, seas of mud, drunken desperation, frightful disfigurement, grotesque hallucinations, and ghoulish means of personal revenge, a generalized portrait of suffering is revealed that ultimately requires a religious lens: for through Bloy’s maniacal nationalism and frenetic Catholicism, it is a hell that emerges here, a nineteenth-century apocalypse that tore a country apart and set the stage for a century of atrocities that were yet to come.”

Said Ernst Jünger, a novelist: “Bloy is a twin crystal of diamond and dung.”


From Columbia University Press, A Book to Burn and a Book to Keep (Hidden): Selected Writings by Li Zhi, translated from the Chinese by Rivi Handler-Spitz, Pauline Lee, and Haun Saussy; ISBN 9780231166133; US $30.00

Says the publisher: “Translated for the first time into English, Li Zhi’s bold challenge to established doctrines will captivate anyone curious about the origins of such subtly transgressive works as the sixteenth-century play The Peony Pavilion or the eighteenth-century novel Dream of the Red Chamber. In A Book to Burn and a Book to Keep (Hidden), Li Zhi confronts accepted ideas about gender, questions the true identity of history’s heroes and villains, and offers his own readings of Confucius, Laozi, and the Buddha. Fond of vivid sentiment and sharp expression, Li Zhi made no distinction between high and low literary genres in his literary analysis. He refused to support sanctioned ideas about morality and wrote stinging social critiques. Li Zhi praised scholars who risked everything to expose extortion and misrule. In this sophisticated translation, English-speaking readers encounter the best of this heterodox intellectual’s vital contribution to Chinese thought and culture.”

Says Kang-I Sun Chang of Yale University: “The editors and translators of this volume have masterfully rendered into English the works of the fascinating—and highly controversial—Li Zhi, who significantly impacted late Ming thought. We will never look at the diversity of Chinese culture the same way again.”


From Phoneme Media: The End of the Dark Era by Tseveendorjin Oidov, translated from the Mongolian by Simon Wickhamsmith; ISBN 978-1-939419-80-4; US $16.00

Says the publisher: “The End of the Dark Era is the first book of Mongolian poetry to be published in the United States, and one of the few avant-garde collections to have come from the vast steppes of Mongolia. Poet Tseveendorjin Oidov, who is also one of Mongolia’s most renowned painters, traverses the Mongolian dreamscape in poems populated by horses, eagles, and a recurring darkness that the poet dissipates with his startling descriptions and abiding empathy.”

Says Stephanie: “I’ve been waiting for this book ever since I learned about Tuvan throat singing. I just didn’t know it yet.”


From Biblioasis, Black Bread by Emili Teixidor, translated from the Catalan by Peter Bush; ISBN 978-1-77196-090-8; US $19.95

Says the publisher: “Confronted on all sides by the need to define himself, Andreu must make a difficult decision. One of the major novels of contemporary Spain, and the inspiration for the first film in the Catalan language to be nominated by Spain for an Academy Award, Black Bread brings to life a rural world of mythical force as it traces with piercing psychological insight, in gorgeous prose, the movements of a boy’s psyche as he contemplates growing into an adult.”

Says Publishers Weekly: “Teixidor’s rich writing style adds to the lush rural feel of the novel, evoking a setting like that of Marcel Pagnol’s novels while incorporating a great deal of complex political nuance.”

Read Biblioasis editor Stephen Henighan’s interview with translator Peter Bush on Words Without Borders.


From Restless Books: The Year 200 by Agustín de Rojas, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Hebe Powell; ISBN 1632060515; US $18.99

Says the publisher: “The cult classic from the godfather of Cuban science fiction, Agustín de Roja’s The Year 200 is both a visionary sci-fi masterwork and a bold political parable about the perils of state power.”

Says Electric Literature: “A subdued psychological drama enhanced by speculative elements about human psychology (fans of Joss Whedon’s TV show Dollhouse will find a couple of points of resonance) topped off with an overwhelming awareness of mortality . . . It’s a novel that, together with A Planet for Rent, shows the dizzying range of fantastical situations that can emerge from a ground-level view of ideological conflict’s aftereffects.”


From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: The Castle of Kings by Oliver Pötzsch, translated from the German by Anthea Bell; ISBN 9780544319516; US $15.99

Says the publisher: “An epic standalone novel of historical fiction tinged with mystery, set against the backdrop of medieval Germany’s Peasant War. From the best-selling author of the Hangman’s Daughter series and The Ludwig Conspiracy.”

Says Kirkus Reviews: “Combine Princess Bride with Germanic history circa 1500, add a dash of Lord of the Rings, and there’s a week of good fun.”



From Deep Vellum Publishing: Vaseline Buddha by Jung Young Moon, translated from the Korean by Yewon Jung; ISBN 9781941920343; US $14.95

Says the publisher: “The funeral of a goldfish named Kierkegaard, the sleepless narrator thwarting a would-be thief outside his moonlit window, a night spent with rats in a Paris hotel—Jung Young Moon, often described as Korea’s answer to Kafka and Beckett, lets his mind wander in this masterpiece of automatic writing, delving into the subconscious and the imagination to explore the very nature of reality.”

Says Pak Mingyu, a novelist: “If someone in the future asks in frustration, ‘What has Korean literature been up to?’ We can quietly hand them Vaseline Buddha.”

Says you: “Hmm, what has Korean literature been up to?”

Published Jul 14, 2016   Copyright 2016 M. Bartley Seigel

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