Nota Benes, Winter 2019

100 Great Indian Poems

Ed. Abhay K.

Bloomsbury

Abhay K., a poet whose work has been published and translated into over thirty different languages, curates a literary tour of cultural values and elevated thinking through this collection of poetry that spans across centuries. The rich imagery and thought-provoking content showcase the blending of cultures within the subcontinent and provide readers with a selective yet refreshing and enlightening taste of what Indian poetry has to offer.

 

David Albahari

Checkpoint

Trans. Ellen Elias-Bursać

Restless Books

Award-winning writer and translator David Albahari was born in Serbia but has resided in Canada since 1994. His newest novel, published ten years after his last, is daringly written in one consecutive paragraph. Style aside, the mystery of the novel centers on soldiers on a hilltop checkpoint, with no idea of whom or what they are guarding. Albahari’s violent and brutal portrayal of the military drags the reader into a story that leaves no time to take a breath. 

 

Moniza Alvi

Blackbird, Bye Bye

Bloodaxe Books

After being shortlisted multiple times for the T. S. Eliot Prize, the Whitbread Poetry Award, and many others, Moniza Alvi returns with this surreal, whimsical collection of poetry inspired by her parents, and particularly by her father’s emigration from Pakistan. A succession of elegant shape poems imitating the wings and branches associated with their avian subjects, these poems pay homage to Alvi’s formative figures through the eyes of both child and adult.

 

Ben Berman

Then Again

Vine Leaves Press

This fascinating set of tryptic prose sketches by US author and poet Ben Berman is barely the size of a pamphlet, yet it contains worlds. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to walk through the succession of portals so many children’s cartoons present into a multitude of lives, each lasting merely a surveyed minute, this pocket book is for you. Crossing the world both geographically and personally, the title belies itself—no two are the same.

 

Eduardo Berti

The Imagined Land

Trans. Charlotte Coombe

Deep Vellum

Lauded Argentine writer Eduardo Berti turns his talent for enchanted settings and light but meaningful social commentary to the setting of prerevolutionary China. The Imagined Land is the story of a girl and her brother, both of whose loves and longings set them at odds with their family. Reminiscently sweet, Berti portrays young love in all its enchantment.

 

Maïssa Bey

Do You Hear in the Mountains . . .and Other Stories

Trans. Erin Lamm

University of Virginia Press

A new note in the rising tide of feminist voices from North Africa, this collection by Algerian author Maïssa Bey brings together a dozen of her rightly awarded short stories to create a picture of the historical moment from which she comes (see WLT, Nov. 2007, 27). Foregrounding her personal history as a refugee, Bey presents the stories of postcolonial women quickly but unforgettably, like the strangers one glimpses through the windows of a passing train car.

 

A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry

Ed. Naomi Foyle

Smokestack Books

Published in mirrored English and Arabic, this new collection brings together voices as diverse as the experiences of the Palestinians who created them. Whether the poetry comes from the pen of those who are currently imprisoned for their artistic resistance or those who have found themselves far from their roots through the Palestinian diaspora, the starting point of identity serves to launch each individual author in a unique direction in terms of both form and content.

 

Inger Christensen

The Condition of Secrecy

Trans. Susanna Nied

New Directions

From Danish author and poet (as well as winner of the Nordic Author’s Prize) Inger Christensen comes this collection of essays spanning topics from the autobiographical to the universal. Fans of Christensen’s formalist style will be intrigued by her explanations of her creative process and inspirations, but even those who have never heard of her will find much to glean from her stories of schooling under Nazism and coming of age with the Cold War.

 

Sandrine Collette

Nothing But Dust

Trans. Alison Anderson

Europa Editions

Nothing But Dust is both the winner of the Landerneau Prize for crime fiction and Parisian author Sandrine Collette’s English-language debut. Strengthened by the hybrid tonality of a tragically poignant noir western, Nothing But Dust paints a bitterly beautiful picture of an almost-mythic hero with infectious reverence for the barren majesty of the narrative’s Patagonian terrain.

 

Carlo Coppola

Urdu Poetry, 1935–1970: The Progressive Episode

Oxford University Press

Carlo Coppola has made groundbreaking progress in the study and translation of South Asian, and particularly Urdu, literature over the past fifty years. Such dedication comes to a head in this combination study and anthology of Urdu poetry, researched not only through academic sources but through interviews and personal experience. Full of nuanced yet accessible detail, this tome has something to offer the studied poetry lover and the eager novice alike.

 

Mircea Dinescu

The Barbarians’ Return 

Trans. Adam J. Sorkin & Lidia Vianu

Bloodaxe Books

This collection of poems written by contemporary Romanian poet Mircea Dinescu explores the existential ramifications for individuals living in a politically troubled and consumer-driven society. The Barbarians’ Return is imbued with Dinescu’s characteristic musicality and wit, which packs a punch emphasized by his sly critiques and musings on human introspection.

 

Evan Fallenberg

The Parting Gift

Other Press

Wrapped in a beautifully embossed envelope-imitation cover, author and PEN Translation Prize winner Evan Fallenberg delivers a story of lust, longing, and the extremes found by those who experience such extreme emotions. A suspenseful page-turner of personal entanglement, it takes the form of the final letter of a man who became obsessed with a famous spice merchant after fleeing his grad program to a small town north of Tel Aviv.

 

Jasmin B. Frelih

In/Half

Trans. Jason Blake

Oneworld 

This dystopian debut from Slovenian author Jasmin B. Frelih received the EU Prize for Literature upon its 2013 release. A topical narrative with delightfully experimental stylization, In/Half offers a powerful look into a perilous future with profound human connection and somber remembrance at its core. While it remains his only published novel, In/Half has established Frelih as one of Slovenia’s rising literary stars.

 

Gao Xingjian

Wandering Mind and Metaphysical Thoughts

Trans. Gilbert C. F. Fong

Chinese University Press

This first and only poetry collection from Chinese Nobel Prize winner Gao Xingjian will give readers more than they asked for, no matter what they expected. This bilingual edition contains not only “snippets of his reflective moods” but also reproductions of Gao’s art to accompany his words. Poems of fragmentation and collision, they reflect the current crises of art, politics, and the psyche in China as well as abroad.

 

Oliverio Girondo

Decals

Trans. Rachel Galvin & Harris Feinsod

Open Letter

Including Argentine poet Oliverio Girondo’s own watercolor illustrations, Decals brings together for the first time in English two of Girondo’s earlier collections. Lyrical and surreal, these poems travel across Europe and the Americas and reinvigorate Spain with new glamour.

 

Friedrich Gorenstein

Redemption

Trans. Andrew Bromfield

Columbia University Press

Kiev-born Jewish author Friedrich Gorenstein first wrote this telling portrait of Soviet anti-Semitism in 1967, but it was unpublished for many years due to the oppressions of the Stalinist regime. Told honestly but philosophically, this is the story of two young people’s love in the aftermath of World War II, as some traumas were healing and others were only beginning, laying bare the underacknowledged Holocaust in the USSR.

 

Claire Hajaj

The Water Thief

Oneworld 

From seasoned UN international aid worker and Palestinian/Jewish writer Claire Hajaj comes the story of a Londoner turned philanthropist who takes his engineering skills to a remote African village to help build a hospital. Like so many westerners with an urge to help, he takes matters into his own hands by constructing a well to help stave off the deadly drought that threatens his new home but quickly finds that water scarcity is not the biggest threat.

 

Theodor Kallifatides

Another Life

Trans. Marlaine Delargy

Other Press

Throughout a career of more than fifty years and forty books, Theodor Kallifatides has acted as a literary ambassador between Greece (his birthplace) and Sweden (his residual homeland). In this poetic and philosophical memoir, he muses on the state of Europe throughout his life, the shortcomings of language, and the overwhelming urge to write when it seems like all has been written. Traveling in his mind, Kallifatides produces a restless and thought-provoking read.

 

Esther Kinsky

River

Trans. Iain Galbraith

Transit Books

Showing the power of a walk by the waterside, this longlist candidate for the German Book Prize finally appears in English from one of Germany’s most fluid prose writers. As the narrator walks along the river to which she has moved under mysterious circumstances, she reminisces about the other rivers that she has drifted down in life. From its haunting first-page dedication, this novel will stay with you long after the last drop.

 

Brice Matthieussent

Revenge of the Translator

Trans. Emma Ramadan

Deep Vellum

Brice Matthieussent is an award-winning translator of over two hundred novels from English to French; Revenge of the Translator is his debut novel. An intensely thrilling tale of intrigue and translation with a comedic undercurrent, the novel explores the transcendent power of obsessive dedication and the blurred lines between reality and text.

 

Simon Mawer

Prague Spring

Other Press

It’s 1968, and Oxford students hitchhiking across Europe visit Czechoslovakia on a whim. Against the backdrop of the Soviet Union’s invasion, their story intersects with that of a British diplomat and a Czech student in this latest historical spy novel from Simon Mawer.

 

Daniel Mella

Older Brother

Trans. Megan McDowell

Charco Press

Based on the personal experiences of Uruguayan cult favorite Daniel Mella, this is a book that defies time and psychology to take the reader through the mind of both Mella and his protagonist. Using a careful mix of memoir and social critique, Mella builds on his reputation of directly addressing social problems and the violence of modernity, this time through the lens of reality-bending grief. Older Brother is the first of his works to appear in English.

 

Patrick Modiano

Sleep of Memory

Trans. Mark Polizzotti

Yale University Press

French novelist Patrick Modiano returns with his first book since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014, in which he reflects on love and life lost in semi-autobiographical fashion, accentuating the fleeting fragility of human life. Modiano’s signature voice evokes people and place masterfully, stirring readers to reflect on their own experiences and relationships, inviting them to search deep within themselves for similar existential revelations upon conclusion of the novel.

 

Leanne O’Sullivan 

A Quarter of an Hour

Bloodaxe Books

Leanne O’Sullivan hails from the Beara Peninsula in Cork, Ireland. Inspired by the harrowing experience of her husband’s brain infection diagnosis and subsequent coma and memory loss, O’Sullivan’s fourth collection of poetry allows a glimpse into the world from the perspective of one cut off from all previous knowledge of it.

 

 

Christine Otten

The Last Poets

Trans. Jonathan Reeder

World Editions

From Dutch writer and journalist Christine Otten comes a compelling, accessible portrait of hip-hop pioneers the Last Poets. Capturing the dogma of “hope and change” fostered by the book’s extraordinary subjects, this fluidly biographical story traverses every facet of the artists’ lives while artfully traversing the politically and emotionally charged terrain of the Black Power movement.

 

Abdulla Pashew

Dictionary of Midnight

Trans. Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse

Phoneme Media

Rooted in the recent history of the poet’s homeland, Dictionary of Midnight is the first collection from iconic Kurdish poet Abdulla Pashew translated for English-speaking audiences (see WLT, July 2018, 43). The timely vitality of the poetry effortlessly transcends the half-century of verse included in the collection; both beautifully intimate and seamlessly extensive, Pashew’s most essential work charts the cartography of personal exile and reflects on Kurdistan’s struggle for independence.

 

Hye-Young Pyun 

City of Ash and Red

Trans. Sora Kim-Russell

Arcade

A darling of contemporary Korean literature, Hye-Young Pyun is an award-winning novelist and short-story writer who currently lives in Seoul. This haunting novel boasts an original approach to the popular vehicle of the apocalyptic hellscape fed by mass paranoia, but the narrative is driven primarily by the visceral introspection of the nameless main character, whose struggles in unforgiving isolation to hold a disquieting mirror to all of humanity.

 

Charles Quimper 

In Every Wave

Trans. Guil Lefebvre

QC Fiction

A Quebec City native and longtime magazine contributor, Charles Quimper is flexing his narrative muscles in his first novella. The story follows a father crippled by guilt after losing his daughter at sea and trapped in constant reimaginings of the day she died, looking for traces of her across the ocean. In Every Wave is a picture of tenderness and a true-to-life image of the gaping hole left in the heart by loss. 

 

Yasmina Reza

Babylon

Trans. Linda Asher

Seven Stories Press 

From the mind of French playwright and novelist Yasmina Reza, Babylon offers a reflective view of one woman’s role in covering up a long-buried murder. On the strength of Reza’s intriguing plot and masterful execution, Babylon offers a grimly evocative exploration of the past’s power to compel the present while delving into the complexities of human emotion from within the vehicle of a literary police procedural.

 

Cristina Rivera Garza

The Taiga Syndrome

Trans. Suzanne Jill Levine & Aviva Kana Dorothy

Latin American literary savant and past Neustadt juror Cristina Rivera Garza has long been underrated and largely unknown to an English-speaking audience. In this short but sweet haunted fairy tale, however, Rivera Garza finds her second success after the recent publication of The Illiac Crest just last year. The Taiga Syndrome combines mystery with myth, leading the reader down forest paths and across the world to uncover truths both narrative and internal.

 

Jaap Robben

You Have Me to Love

Trans. David Doherty

World Editions

This debut novel from a much-anticipated Dutch voice has a difficult tale to tell. A story of isolation and connection, the characters in this book are secluded on an island and rocked by tragedy. Suddenly left stranded when the father of a small family is swept out to sea, their trauma fills the mother with grief and the son with guilt. The question becomes, What will Mikael do to make his mother feel whole again?

 

Rebecca Solnit

Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays)

Haymarket Books

“Naming is the first step in the process of liberation,” Rebecca Solnit says in the preface to her most recent collection. From voter suppression to Confederate statues to climate change, she writes incisive essays about our most pressing issues. And though she pulls no punches, Solnit doesn’t leave us without hope.

 

Masako Togawa

The Lady Killer

Trans. Simon Grove

Pushkin Vertigo

Masako Towaga, one of Japan’s greatest mystery writers, has led many lives as a writer, singer, actress, nightclub owner, feminist, and gay icon. Her latest novel, The Lady Killer, draws from aspects of her own rich personal experience to add colorful realism to the extraordinarily eerie mystery of a man’s double life and the dizzying consequences of his role in the underbelly of Tokyo’s nightclubs.

 

David Turgeon

The Supreme Orchestra

Trans. Pablo Strauss

Coach House Books

The Supreme Orchestra is novelist, essayist, and comics writer David Turgeon’s first appearance in English. Part parody, part thriller, this book centers on a woman, easily charmed and generally frustrated, who is swept into one of the art world’s greatest intrigues by her fourth marriage. Witty without being self-involved, this novel is a charm to read for lovers of art history and spy-based mystery alike.

 

Chris Womersley

City of Crows

Europa Editions

Inspired by actual historical events, Australian novelist Chris Womersley delves into the darkest parts of life in seventeenth-century France and measures the lengths to which a mother is willing to go to reunite with her son. Hauntingly macabre and underscoring humanity’s deepest desires, Womersley conjures the chilling yet historically factual occult and superstitious practices that dominated plague-ridden France.

 

Leonid Yuzefovich

Horsemen of the Sands

Trans. Marian Schwartz

Archipelago Books

Weaving together two novellas from an esteemed, award-winning Russian literary mind, Horsemen of the Sands aims to challenge previously held notions about the turbulent history of Leonid Yuzefovich’s motherland. Through intricately written prose and deeply evocative imagery, Yuzefovich first draws readers in stylistically and then provides a guiding light that illuminates the uniquely romanticized Russian life of his creation.

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