Nota Benes, July 2018
Waiting for Tomorrow
Trans. Geoffrey Strachan
While Anita waits for her husband to get out of prison, she reexamines the idyllic marriage they used to lead in southwestern France. With a slow, deliberate style, Nathacha Appanah details the rise and fall of a marriage and all its effects.
Víctor del Árbol
A Million Drops
Trans. Lisa Dillman
Bringing Spanish author Víctor del Árbol’s international crime fiction to the United States, A Million Drops follows the timelines of a son, Gonzalo Gil, who seeks to uncover the truth about his sister’s death, and his father, Elías Gil, who was a leader of the resistance against fascism during the Spanish Civil War. The writing is tense and gripping as del Árbol delivers this noir thriller.
Trans. Margaret Jull Costa
Basque writer Bernardo Atxaga shows the contemporary American West in a new light as he spins this autofictional tale about his time spent in Reno while serving as a visiting writer at the University of Nevada. Told in short, bite-size bursts of prose, Nevada Days manages the difficult task of being a convincing thriller where the plot is unfolding one door away from the presumed protagonist.
The Great Plan B
Trans. Maria Jastrzębska
Collected here in English for the first time, the work of prizewinning Polish poet Justyna Bargielska is casual and intelligent, blunt and obliquely suggestive. Bargielska’s imagery pops with a vocabulary that seems to abide no boundaries, transforming a dazzling array of subjects into half-ironic poetic collages that dance on the edge of the cheeky and the moribund.
In Koli Jean Bofane
Congo Inc.: Bismarck’s Testament
Trans. Marjolijn de Jager
Indiana University Press
Isookanga, a Congolese Pygmy, is determined to become rich, a dream formed by a video game named Raging Trade, in which he achieves his goals by any means necessary. In pursuit of this dream, he moves to Kinshasa, which sets off a journey into crime, corruption, and the gray areas of capitalism. Satirical in a way that magnifies the pain, In Koli Jean Bofane’s writing is scathing and powerful.
Trans. Emily Boyce
Not only does this novel chronicle famed privateer Henry Morgan’s life, it also explores the lives of rural cane growers in twentieth-century Venezuela. Simply written, Miguel Bonnefoy’s story almost reads like a fable, weaving themes of greed and corruption into a pirate drama.
My German Brother
Trans. Alison Entrekin
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Brazilian singer, songwriter, and novelist Chico Buarque’s most recent work, My German Brother, follows a teenager in São Paulo named Ciccio, who becomes convinced that his father had an affair with a woman from Germany during World War II, due to a mysterious letter. He becomes obsessed with finding the half-brother whom he believes resulted from the affair, whether the brother is real or not. The ensuing journey is one of playful prose and a desperate searching.
The Name of Death
Trans. Nick Caistor
Seven Stories Press
Investigative reporter Klester Cavalcanti’s work, translated from the Brazilian Portuguese, profiles Júlio Santana, a professional hit man who killed 492 people in thirty-five years. In their seven years of interviews, Cavalcanti came to see Santana’s multifaceted nature. As he presents both sides of Santana, the equally descriptive and provocative prose forces the reader to confront the surprising juxtaposition of a morally driven contract killer.
Migrant Brothers: A Poet’s Declaration of Human Dignity
Trans. Matthew Amos &
Yale University Press
Migrant Brothers is a thick lyric critique of the immigration crisis in southern and eastern Europe, a book of deliberate poetic activism spurred by vicarious encounters with brutality in the heart of France. In wandering prose poems translated from the French, Caribbean writer Patrick Chamoiseau pleads “for a global politics of hospitality” stretching beyond Europe and into all places humanity is found.
Slave Old Man
Trans. Linda Coverdale
In Martinique, a plantation slave makes his escape into the rain forest, only to be followed relentlessly by his oppressor. As the chase proceeds through the thick wilderness, the nature surrounding them begins to exert an ethereal power over the men, and their lives are radically changed. With surreal prose, Patrick Chamoiseau depicts the cruelty of slavery and the beauty of Creole culture.
Trans. Christiana Hills
Although Tristan does not want to kill anything on a hunting trip, he accidentally hurts a rabbit and decides to nurse it back to health in secret, all while discovering the dark history of his new, tight-knit community. French author Agnès Desarthe tells Tristan’s story with urgency and passion, delving deep into the psyches of her characters.
Jennifer Kwon Dobbs
White Pine Press
Couplets, prose poems, letters, a series of imagined postcards: these are a few of the shapes in which Korean-born professor and poet Jennifer Kwon Dobbs embeds the fragmentary images of her verse. Pacing the Korean peninsula with a vigorous restlessness, Kwon Dobbs interrogates decades of hidden history, drawing on the dreams and memories of those gone before and driving toward her own form of understanding.
In the Distance with You
Trans. John Cullen
Chilean author Carla Guelfenbein’s In the Distance with You is centered on a mysterious writer named Vera Sigall and the powerful influence she exerts on the lives of those around her. As those close to her recount their own life stories, Vera’s enigmatic past unravels before the reader’s eyes in this novel about passion and craft.
Trans. Lisa Dillman & Daniel Hahn
Bellevue Literary Press
Eduardo Halfon’s protagonist explores Poland, Italy, the US, and Guatemala searching for answers to questions about the drowning of his uncle, Salomón. Halfon crafts a careful, precise story that explores the many facets of loss and healing.
Trans. Christina MacSweeney
Mexican author Julián Herbert finds himself at his mother’s side as she is dying of leukemia, and he can’t help but relive his childhood as the son of a prostitute, surrounded by half-siblings and constantly in motion. Tomb Song modulates between different kinds of prose in a story that is chaotic, absurd, and painfully poignant.
Refuge is the remarkable memoir of a young woman who has put herself in harm’s way time and again to lend much-needed aid to refugees in Africa, Syria, and Asia. Holden exhibits a laudable self-awareness of how her privilege as a white westerner gives her access to resources that might otherwise be unavailable to those she serves and delivers her message of universal humanism with style and grace.
Trans. Sora Kim-Russell
Renowned Korean author Hwang Sok-yong blends the biting hardships of Korea’s political and economic landscape with elements of the fantastic when a boy living on a landfill island discovers ancient spirits. Hwang’s writing is rich with symbolism, cautionary lessons, and the potential for redemption in a society that has forgotten how to cherish both things and people.
We, Day by Day
Trans. Daniel Parker & YoungShil Ji
White Pine Press
Korean poet Jin Eun-young returns for her fourth volume of verse as she stakes out territory that is both surreal and evocative. With poems that mine philosophical as well as emotional veins, We, Day by Day will dazzle readers with its rapid-fire patter of images, ideas, and inventive forms.
Land of Three Rivers: The Poetry of North-East England
Ed. Neil Astley
The wingspan of Land of Three Rivers touches Bede in the eighth century as well as Sting in the twentieth, grouping their legacies by region and subregion as it seeks to offer “modern perspectives on historical subjects.” Well-known names like Auden, Larkin, and Swinburne join with dozens of others along Hadrian’s Wall or over a Newcastle pint in this celebration of English poetry.
Trans. Owen F. Witesman
Seven women find themselves together in a white, undefined space after their deaths. With no idea of why or where they are, they bring their stories together in an attempt to parse out the strange nature of their current state. Reflective and full of depth, Finnish author Laura Lindstedt blends in elements of other genres such as poetry and essay to wrestle with some of life’s most difficult questions.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
Wrestling with the Devil: A Prison Memoir
In December 1977 Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was arrested and imprisoned without charge in Kenya’s Kamĩtĩ Maximum Security Prison. While quarantined with other political prisoners and spending time in solitary confinement, Ngũgĩ wrote a novel, Devil on the Cross, on the only paper available: toilet paper. This revised edition of the memoir, now published in America for the first time, details the pain and defiance that birthed his classic novel.
We Kiss Them with Rain
In her North American debut, Futhi Ntshingila tells the story of Mvelo, a fourteen-year-old South African girl whose mother is dying of AIDS as Mvelo herself is wrestling with something painful that happened to her. In a series of coincidences and opportunities, Mvelo finds herself presented with the chance to rise above suffering in a story equal parts comedic and tragic.
Welcome to Lagos
Nigerian author Chibundu Onuzo envelops the reader in a riveting story of a band of characters who strike out on a new path to chase dreams of freedom and escape the nightmares of their pasts. Onuzo’s sharp sense of humor and intimate prose tether the reader to the nuances of the city of Lagos and the people within it.
Shahad Al Rawi
The Baghdad Clock
Trans. Luke Leafgren
Shahad Al Rawi brings us into the city of Baghdad in the middle of the Gulf War, where people continue to go about their lives despite the war that is eroding their homes. The story centers on two girls in an air raid shelter and the friendship that blossoms around the stories they tell each other in this book filled with resilience and life.
In the Restaurant: Society in Four Courses
Trans. Jamie Searle Romanelli
This translation from the German journeys into the history of the restaurant as an institutional force in society, where it has been backdrop, inspiration, and even actor. Christoph Ribbat takes the reader through a delicious and enticing exploration of the “temples of gastronomy” and their secrets of many eras.
The Diamond Setter
Trans. Jessica Cohen
The lives of three men in Tel Aviv intersect and intertwine: the jeweler narrator, his Israeli soldier boyfriend, and Fareed, a man from Damascus who crosses over to Tel Aviv illegally with a piece of a famous blue diamond and falls in love with the two. The Diamond Setter is a story of forbidden love and difficult histories that twists and turns through the vibrant city of Tel Aviv.
Trans. Nada Grošelj
Dalkey Archive Press
Mere Chances is a collection of short stories by Slovenian author Veronika Simoniti that consists of an eclectic array of characters. With crowded dialogue and rich descriptions, she paints a complex picture of her characters’ identities and explores the nuances of Slovenian culture.
Colonial Tales: The Confines of the Shadow, Vol II
Trans. André Naffis-Sahely
Alessandro Spina continues his Libyan epic with Colonial Tales, composed of short stories covering the period from the late 1920s through the end of the Second World War. While Spina’s perspective ends up revealing more about the Italian military officers than the people over which they are presumed to rule, his attention to detail offers a tantalizing window onto the development of Libyan national identity and the fault lines along which it has disintegrated in the modern era.
Accomplished Australian writer Elizabeth Tan interweaves reality and imaginative speculation in a universe dominated by technology, through the eyes of a network of quirky characters on a mission to uncover a dark scheme. Tan’s punchy dialogue, satirical tone, and startling insight push the narrative toward a discovery of how the human experience interacts with technology.
Saul Indian Horse is kidnapped from his Ojibwe family by US authorities who place him in a boarding school filled with cruelty. Despite the horrors of the school, he finds some sort of solace in the form of hockey, which he quickly becomes skilled at. Richard Wagamese tells a powerful coming-of-age story of a boy thrust into an oppressive system and an unwelcoming culture.
Trans. Lucy Greaves & Jennifer Adcock
This collection of provocative essays by Spanish writer Gabriela Wiener fearlessly explores the landscape of female desire, from the initiation of seduction to the expectations placed upon new mothers. Hilarious, thoughtful, and daring in equal measures, Sexographies is the perfect map for the shifting terrains of gender, agency, and identity that define this time in history.
Meditative, clear, and refreshing, Eye Level is the award-winning debut of New York–based poet Jenny Xie. Xie’s aptitude for unlikely metaphors leaves everything open to swift transformation in this collection, the vivid world of her poems becoming as elastic as her own marvelous lyricism as she pries tangibly and intelligently into different ways of seeing and being.