Monthly Archives: May 2012
I am a fan of translated fiction, my reading having been dominated for so long by English and American writers; and I believe that there are so many interesting voices out there, so brilliantly translated and so enthusiastically championed by certain publishers that it’s the least I can do to try a few of them with little or no knowledge beforehand. Having said all that it was something of a surprise to receive a book from one of those publishers, MacLehose Press, that had been translated from Welsh. A surprise because it is so easy to forget that there are, or used to be, other languages spoken within the British Isles. The Wales Book of the Year Award is one that in part celebrates works written in Welsh. It is one previous winner of the main award, Lloyd Jones, who translated this novel into English after its success in the original Welsh. One thing curiously changed is the title, having been “O! Tyn y Gorchudd” in Welsh, or “O! pull aside the veil” the name of a hymn written by Hugh Jones who came from the area in which this novel is set, the Maesglasau valley. Angharad Price’s family this year celebrate a thousand years living and farming in that valley and this novel is her testament to them. It is a curious mixture of fiction and family history and given that the bulk of what we read is actually true there is a real question as to whether it is really fiction at all. A literary twist at the end is what helps it make its claim as such but for me, as a reading experience, it is far closer to memoir than fiction.
Great piece by William Rycroft about Angharad Price’s stunning The Life of Rebecca Jones. Read it all over at Just William’s Luck…
The shortlist for the 2012 Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger was announced on Friday at Bristol’s CrimeFest, and two of the books on the list — one third of them, that is — were MacLehose Press books.
Åsa Larsson, who was present at the announcement, has been shortlisted for the second time for Until Thy Wrath Be Past (trans. Laurie Thompson) (The Savage Altar was one of the six in 2007), which Valerio Varesi has made it two years in a row with The Dark Valley (trans. Joseph Farrell), the second of his Commissario Soneri novels to be published in English. His first, River of Shadows, was shortlisted for the 2011 award. The full list reads as follow:
The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri, translated by Stephen Sartarelli
I will have Vengeance by Maurizio de Giovanni, translated by Anne Milano Appel
Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Åsa Larsson, translated by Laurie Thompson
Trackers by Deon Meyer, translated by T K L Seegers
Phantom by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett
The Dark Valley by Valerio Varesi, translated by Joseph Farrell
There have been some excellent reviews over the last weekend for two MacLehose non-fiction titles — we will never publish a great deal of non-fiction, here, but you count on our titles always being distinctive. And perhaps none more so than Jean-Paul Kauffmann’s A Journey to Nowhere, which was pounced on by Eileen Battersby in the Irish Times:
In common with Claudio Magris and, particularly, the late WG Sebald, Kauffmann has an imagination that thrives on history, literary references, anecdote, lives retrieved and footsteps retraced; he is a natural investigator possessed of equal amounts of patience and tenacity.
Physically this is a beautiful book: it draws the reader towards it and rewards on many levels. Kauffmann is informed and sophisticated but always kindly, never knowing, and his polite engagement is brilliantly rendered by Euan Cameron’s graceful translation. Jean-Paul Kauffman is a thinker and a marvellous companion. This singular little odyssey of a book is both profound meditation and erudite joy.
Kauffmann gazes into the heart of times past; he is also a terrific storyteller.
Read the full review.
Meanwhile, Stieg Larsson’s non-fiction, collected in The Expo Files, was picked up in the Guardian on Saturday, and, not surprising, was roundly lauded:
With the rise of populist parties across Europe, and one gaining traction in Hungary, Stieg Larsson’s anxieties as a journalist seem more pressing than ever. This is no cynical exercise, a gathering of Larsson’s journalism in order to milk the cash cow of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the other two books in the Millienium trilogy. Rather, the selection is both a memorial to a dead friend and colleague’s passions, and a political opportunity, its aim being to inform readers and, to quote Tariq Ali’s introduction, “even push them in the direction of political activism”. Certainly Larsson’s admirers will find much of the ardour that animates his crime novels – in particular, in a long piece on “Swedish and Un-Swedish Violence Towards Women”, which makes clear his disgust at sexist oppression.
Inevitably perhaps I found myself comparing him with George Orwell, and quickly realising that the comparison was unfair. Even Orwell’s most ephemeral pieces summon up an authorial presence and possess a literary subtlety that Larsson was not even attempting to emulate. Rather these are practical, lucid, well-researched articles intended to educate the reader, and little more. And they are valuable pieces that merit attention. The book’s title evokes Mulder and Scully and “the truth that’s out there”, but mercifully Larsson shows little interest in conspiracy theories – in fact, belief in them appears part of the anti-democratic, rightwing culture that he loathes. Instead there is admirably clear journalism, the patient accumulation of devastating facts.
Read the full review.
There was a splendid short review of Three Strong Women in The Times last weekend, from Kate Saunders, who contributes the fiction round-ups:
“This beautiful novel tells the linked stories of three women caught between Dakar and France . . . NDiaye’s writing is extraordinarily powerful, and she is very well served by John Fletcher’s elegant, economical translation”
It’s worth mentioning that NDiaye’s novel has won literary awards in three countries so far. In addition to the Prix Goncourt, NDiaye and her German translator, Claudia Kalscheuer, were in 2010 awarded the International Literature Prize by Berlin’s House of World Cultures; and in 2011, along with her Dutch translator, she won the inaugural European Literature Prize, a new Dutch answer to the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
It deserves all the accolades, because it really is a wonderful novel — NDiaye has an astounding grasp on her characters’ mindsets and psychology, it is beautifully thought and felt as well as beautifully written. It has taken a little time to publish in English, but you will find it well worth the wait.
As, Haruki Murakami once said, “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking”. Wednesday’s European Night was the perfect antidote to literary group-thinking — eight distinct and diverse authors from the continent speaking about and reading from work that you are unlikely to have found in last year’s Summer Reading 3-4-2. Amongst others, a Polish crime writer, a German poet, a Danish crime-genre subverter and two MacLehose authors — the sharp and laconic Paulus Hochgatterer and the effervescent Anne Swärd. And we have photos . . .