Since the release of Old Rendering Plant last month, we’ve been delighted by the outpouring of love for this slim novel by German author Wolfgang Hilbig. (For those of you already eager for more, we’ve got two more Hilbig titles coming your way in 2018!)
Critic extraordinaire Joseph Schreiber interviewed translator Isabel Fargo Cole about this latest translation, what sparked her to translate Hilbig in the first place, and what she thinks makes a successful “marriage” between a translator and an author.
Isabel Fargo Cole says of Hilbig:
“He describes dark things, places, states of mind with a sensual immediacy that compels even when it repels; ordinary or squalid things are charged with an almost mythic significance. He’s writing very much about his time and place, but he ruptures the surface reality to delve far beneath it, and ends up in a place that seems timeless.”
Schreiber also reviewed the novel for The Quarterly Conversation, remarking, “Reading Hilbig, I often find myself stopping to reread a section before moving on. I revel in losing myself in his long, winding sentences and paragraphs that can stretch on for pages.”
Nathan Scott McNamara compared Old Rendering Plant to Proust’s Swann Way in a review cleverly titled “The Olfactory Factory”:
“But whereas Proust uses a teacake to evoke a French village, Hilbig uses dissolving animal corpses to evoke postwar East Germany. Old Rendering Plant, translated by Isabel Fargo Cole and published by Two Lines Press, is about a man’s experience of a decaying slaughterhouse and a river full of toxic sludge. Like Proust’s, Hilbig’s writing has a beautiful and dream-like quality. But Old Rendering Plant is about tarnished ground. Entombed in the visceral smells of the sickly landscape, the unnamed narrator floats through it in paralyzed fashion.” Read more.
Mark Haber of Brazos Bookstore put Old Rendering Plant at the top of his Best Books of 2017 list and had some great things to say about it: “I’ll admit it, this book has almost no plot and yet it’s my favorite book of the year because it’s so beautifully written, so transportive. It begs to be read aloud.”
And Kai Maristed had some very astute things to say about the novel in this review: “These 118 pages reach far beyond any metaphor of twentieth century history. Hilbig rages and presses against the limits of language.”
Join us tomorrow evening for drinks and readings from the novel. Stop by the Goethe-Institut San Francisco for our final event of 2017 and raise a glass with us in celebration of Old Rendering Plant.