Last spring we organized our first ever virtual bookclub! Each month we discussed two books in translation, covering titles translated from Danish, Spanish, Japanese, French, Hebrew, and Arabic.
This season we’re bringing the book club back by popular demand. We’ve chosen titles translated from Chinese, Spanish, Polish, Korean, French, Russian, and German, including recent winners of the Man Booker International Prize in fiction and the Prix Goncourt. As you may remember from last season, we will be hosting events that coincide with some of our book club picks, so be sure to follow along by checking our blog regularly or else by following #TheCATBookClub on Twitter.
Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin, translated from Chinese by Bonnie Huie (NYRB Classics)
Qiu Miaojin’s novel about queer university students is the first book of our spring book club, and if you haven’t read it we hope you’ll read along with us! Set in Taiwan nearly thirty years ago, this novel feels both extremely current and at the same time worthy of NYRB’s “Classic” designation.
About the book: Set in the post-martial-law era of late-1980s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile is a coming-of-age story of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan’s most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, this cult classic is a postmodern pastiche of diaries, vignettes, mash notes, aphorisms, exegesis, and satire by an incisive prose stylist and major countercultural figure.
After the Winter by Guadalupe Nettel, translated from Spanish by Rosalind Harvey (Coffee House Press)
Guadalupe Nettel is the celebrated Mexican author of Natural Histories and The Body Where I Was Born, and After the Winter is her latest title to be translated into English. Nettel won the Herralde Prize in 2014 for After the Winter, a prize that has been awarded to Javier Marías, Sergio Pitol, Roberto Bolaño, and Enrique Vila-Matas, among other great Spanish-language authors. We can’t wait to read it!
About the book: Claudio is Cuban, lives in New York, and works at a publishing house. Cecilia is Mexican, lives in Paris, and is a student. He holds onto memories of his past in Havana and the loss of his first girlfriend, as well as his complicated relationship with a woman named Ruth. She remembers her tough teenage years, and now her friend Haydée encourages her to get rid of those fears and start enjoying her life. During a trip to Paris, Claudio and Cecilia’s destinies collide.
Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from Polish by Jennifer Croft (Riverhead Books)
Winner of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize, Flights is a must-read this fall. Unless you live in the UK (or ordered it from the lovely UK press Fitzcarraldo Editions), you were only able to get your hands on a copy of this book as of this month, published by Riverhead Books.
About the book: A seventeenth-century Dutch anatomist discovers the Achilles tendon by dissecting his own amputated leg. Chopin’s heart is carried back to Warsaw in secret by his adoring sister. A woman must return to her native Poland in order to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart, and a young man slowly descends into madness when his wife and child mysteriously vanish during a vacation and just as suddenly reappear. Through these brilliantly imagined characters and stories, interwoven with haunting, playful, and revelatory meditations, Flights explores what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion not only through space but through time.
Mina by Kim Sagwa, translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton (Two Lines Press)
Published by our very own Two Lines Press, Mina is Kim Sagwa’s English language debut. In the words of Han Yujoo, author of The Impossible Fairy Tale, “Mina gets to the core of Korean teenagers. Kim Sagwa’s fragmented rhetoric stands for a generation that has no choice but to set imitation as its standard.”
About the book: Crystal toils day and night to earn top grades at her cram school. She’s also endlessly texting, shopping, drinking, vexing her boyfriends, cranking up her mp3s, and fantasizing about her next slice of cheesecake. Her non-stop frenzy never quite manages the one thing that might calm her down: opening up about the pressures that are driving her to the edge. She certainly hasn’t talked with her best friend, Mina, nor Mina’s brother, whom she’s developing a serious crush on. And Crystal’s starting to lose her grip.
In this shocking English debut, award-winning Korean author Kim Sagwa delivers an astonishingly complex portrait of modern-day adolescence. With pitch-perfect dialogue and a precise eye for detail, Kim creates a piercingly real teen protagonist—at once powerful, vulnerable, and utterly confused. As one bad decision leads to another, this promising life spirals to a devastating climax.
False Calm by María Sonia Cristoff, translated from Spanish by Katherine Silver (Transit Books)
Our friends across the bay at Transit Books are set to publish this breakout work by Argentinian author María Sonia Cristoff on October 3. Described as part reportage, part personal essay, part travelogue, we’re intrigued to discover just what this book is all about. What we know for sure is that, with Katherine Silver as the translator, this book is bound to be a beautiful reading experience.
About the book: Writing against romantic portrayals of Patagonia, Cristoff returns home to chronicle the ghost towns left behind by the oil boom. In prose that showcases her sharp powers of observation, Cristoff explores Patagonia’s complicated legacy through the lost stories of its people and the desolate places they inhabit.
The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard, translated from French by Mark Polizzotti (Other Press)
“‘Don’t believe for a minute that this all belongs to some distant past,’ Vuillard writes, and this poetic, unconventional history compels the reader to agree.”
Winner of the 2017 Prix Goncourt, The Order of the Day takes a behind-the-scenes look at the events leading to the annexation of Austria in the years before World War II. With all the conversations these days about the rise of extremism worldwide, this book feels particularly important. In a statement, Other Press’s publisher Judith Gurewich said the book “feels like a retroactive replay of how power gets stolen when blackmailers and thugs are in the running.”
About the book: An account of the manipulation, hubris, and greed that together led to Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria brilliantly dismantles the myth of an effortless victory and offers a dire warning for our current political crisis.
Horsemen of the Sands by Leonid Yuzefovich, translated from Russian by Marian Schwartz (Archipelago Books)
Last month, Marian Schwartz won the Banff Centre’s 2018 Linda Gaboriau Award for Translation. She has spent over four decades translating Russian literature, including works by Tolstoy, Nina Berberova, and Mikhail Shishkin. A better translator couldn’t be chosen to bring Leonid Yuzefovich’s novel into English. And Leonid Yuzefovich is a big deal in contemporary Russian literature. You may remember that we touched on Yuzefovich and his numerous prize winnings in this 2017 interview with Lisa Hayden.
About the book: Horsemen of the Sands gathers two novellas by Leonid Yuzefovich, one of contemporary Russia’s most acclaimed writers. The eponymous “Horsemen of the Sands” tells the story of R.F. Ungern-Shternberg, a military adventurer who, driven by an intense fascination with the East, seizes control of Mongolia during the Russian Civil War. Told through the eyes of a young Soviet officer and Mongolian herder, the story plunges the reader into the last days of the man known as the “Mad Baltic Baron.” The second novella, “The Storm,” centers on an unexpected emotional crisis that grips a Russian elementary school on an otherwise regular day, unveiling the emotional bonds and shared history that weave together its community of students, teachers, parents, and staff.
The Females by Wolfgang Hilbig, translated from German by Isabel Fargo Cole (Two Lines Press)
“Out of the ugliness of history and the wasted landscape of his home, [Hilbig] has created stories of disconsolate beauty.” — Wall Street Journal
The final 2018 title from Two Lines Press is another book by Wolfgang Hilbig. The East German writer has gained notoriety over the past few years with Isabel Fargo Cole’s English translations of The Sleep of the Righteous, Old Rendering Plant, and, earlier this year, The Tidings of the Trees.
About the book: What can an irascible East German tell us about how society shapes relations between the sexes? A lot it turns out. Acclaimed as one of Wolfgang Hilbig’s major works, The Females finds the lauded author focusing his labyrinthine, mercurial mind on how unequal societies can pervert sexuality and destroy a healthy, productive understanding of gender. It begins with a factory laborer who ogles women in secret on the job. When those same women mysteriously vanish from their small town, the worker sets out on a uniquely Hilbiggian, hallucinatory journey to find them. Powerful and at times disturbing, The Females leaves us with some of the most challenging, radical, and enduring insights of any novel from the GDR.