In Translation

The Day the Sun Died by Yan Lianke

Waking Up: Yan Lianke’s The Day The Sun Died

'Although the year in which the novel is set is not specified, it is tempting to view the work’s thematization of dreams in the context of the popular political slogan, ‘the Chinese Dream,’ which Chinese President Xi Jinping first proposed in late 2012, declaring that ‘everybody has their own ideal, pursuit, and dream. Today everybody is talking about the Chinese Dream. I believe the greatest dream of the Chinese nation in modern history is the great renewal of the Chinese nation.’ In The Day the Sun Died, Yan Lianke focuses on what may be seen as the nightmarish underbelly of this emphasis on progress. In his novel, dreams are not equated with an optimistic faith in future development, but rather symbolize the way the individual and collective past continues to haunt the present.'

Writing in Dark Times: Imre Kertész’s Difficult Legacy

Imre Kertész is Hungary’s sole winner of the Nobel Prize for literature

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Talking to the Dog: The Years, Months, Days by Yan Lianke

'We may approach Yan Lianke’s 1997 novella The Years, Months, Days through another, perhaps rather unexpected, work — Richard Matheson’s iconic 1954 novel, I Am Legend. The protagonist of the latter work, Robert Neville, finds himself in a post-apocalyptic world in which humanity has been ravaged by a virulent bacillus.  Lianke’s novella is set against a similarly apocalyptic landscape. Following a devastating drought, the entire population of a remote Henan village flees, leaving behind only an old man and a stray dog.' 

The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet

Semiologists Beware:
The 7th Function of Language

'It would be wrong to regard Binet’s novel as not much more than a sophisticated and hugely entertaining send-up. He sees, certainly, the absurd aspects of semiotics and the other ‘sciences’ his characters profess. But he also registers their allure and fascination. The clue to discovering what that allure and fascination might be has to do with the particular source of his preoccupations. When Theory crossed the English Channel, the Atlantic and then travelled to the Antipodes, it left behind its French playfulness.'

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“53 Days” by Georges Perec: ‘C’est l’Australie qui m’a foutu mal!’

''At the end of August 1981, Georges Perec, basking in the extraordinary success of his award-winning novel Life A Users Manual, touched down at Brisbane’s Eagle Farm airport. The French writer, filmmaker, OULIPO member and literary prankster was to spend one month as writer-in-residence in the French Department at the University of Queensland, followed by a three-week tour of the rest of Australia including Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.' '

Illegitimate Son: On Patrick Modiano

There is a doomed quality to the relationships in Modiano’s fiction.

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Cruelty and Resilience: The Notebook Trilogy by Ágota Kristóf

After learning spoken and then written French, Kristóf began writing poems, then plays for the radio and theater, before arriving, at last, at the novel. Kristóf’s trilogy, The Notebook, The Proof, and The Third Lie —published this month for the first time in Australia and New Zealand by Text—is her masterpiece.

The Hotel Years by Joseph Roth

Writing About Elsewhere: The Hotel Years by Joseph Roth

‘Now that Joseph Roth has been thoroughly absorbed into English, it seems right to ask whether there is a more joyously unbridled – and a more appealing – writer of narrative fiction in the literary tradition.’ Luke Slattery on a new translation of Joseph Roth’s non-fiction.

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

In This Fruitful Darkness: Signs Preceding the End of the World

‘Yuri Herrera’s novella Señales que precederán al fin del mundo is a special case: a work for which translation is a logical extension of its rationale. What I mean is this: when a work is so concerned with arduous journeys, borders, transculturalism and the underworld, reading a version of that work rebirthed in a new form after it has undergone its own transformation is quite fitting.’ Elizabeth Bryer on Signs Preceding the End of the World.

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In Suspicion of Beauty: On Eka Kurniawan

The English translations of Eka Kurniawan’s novels have been hailed for their beauty and situated within a global frame of reference – but when they were first published, critics were fascinated by Eka’s deviance and his willingness to flout contemporary Indonesian literary norms.

Dirty Realism’s Other Face

‘Here, nothing is sacred; everything is corruptible.’ The term ‘dirty realism’ was coined by critic Bill Buford in 1983, in reference to the short fiction of what he thought of as ‘a new generation of American authors.’ The dirty realist canon, now encompasses a diverse range of cultures and languages, including the Hispanophone world. Alice Whitmore on Guillermo Fadanelli and the rise of realismo sucio.

The View From Nowhere: Forget English! & Born Translated

‘The idea of world literature, taken as a whole rather than divided into many national or linguistically based literatures, is a paradoxical one. How can we speak of a “literature” that encompasses far too many languages to master in a single lifetime? Does the term refer to the totality of all the literature in the world, or does it imply a project of canonisation—and if so, who gets to decide which works are included? For the purposes of the study of literature, what constitutes the “world”? The last question might seem the easiest to answer: the world is where we live, the ground beneath our feet. But it's a more slippery concept than that.’

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An Insatiable Thief in his Soul: Mayakovsky A Biography
by Bengt Jangfeldt

‘Mayakovsky was not, of course, the first poet or the last to desire a revolution of the spirit, a re-evaluation of all values. For all that he believed that he believed in Communism, it is not hard to imagine Mayakovsky in the clothes of one of the Romantics, or of the Fascists, or of the Beats, replacing the word Soviet with Love or Fatherland or Peace. The difficulty for Mayakovsky, however, was that his desired revolution had happened, the State for which he had cheered actually emerged.’

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She Thinks She Is The Boss:
The Story of the Lost Child

It’s worth wondering why readers respond to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels the way they do. Which is to say that these four books haven’t just been read, enjoyed and praised: they have been devoured, adored, rhapsodised about, eagerly awaited – and now there will be no more of them, mourned. Well might we talk of ‘Ferrante Fever’, for there has hardened a core set of symptoms: neglect of responsibilities, reduced productivity, sleep disturbance, difficulty rising from a seated position.

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The Rings of Saturn: A Lasting Chronicle of Mourning

‘Rings of Saturn is not a novel in the standard form; it is part travelogue, part memoir, part essay-meditation and part fiction. It's a riff and an improvisation on found and obsessed-over material, and a close reading of place, territories, time, texts and history.’ Shannon Burns on reading W.G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn – twenty years on.