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Two Origin Stories

A look at how we came to publish these two early Two Lines Press titles from Marie NDiaye and Jonathan Littell.

All My Friends by Marie NDiaye, translated by Jordan Stump

*Now only $3.75 (75% off) for a limited time only!

Marie NDiaye was the second author that Two Lines Press ever published. That book was All My Friends, a remarkable grouping of five bracing pieces that both felt very familiar but also completely new. It introduced me to NDiaye’s incredible psychological depth, as well as her ability to carefully pace a story and draw out each revelation bit . . . by . . . bit . . . for maximum impact. In these stories I could see an author working on the levels of allegory and realism all at once, a surreal sort of logic that seemed to talk about subjects like xenophobia, racism, and class differences, yet without ever coming right out and saying anything.

I can still remember the day we first read the sample from All My Friends. It had come through NDiaye’s translator, Jordan Stump, a name quite familiar to me from all of the legendary French writers whose work I’d read in his gorgeous English renderings. Jordan hadn’t been able to find anyone to take NDiaye on, and now here we were, flabbergasted at the quality of this writing. It was an obvious yes, but also much more than that—it wasn’t simply that we wanted to do the book, it was that we felt privileged to be entrusted with the publication of such masterful writing.

— Veronica Scott Esposito

The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell, translated by Charlotte Mandell

*Now only $3.75 (75% off) for a limited time only!

In early 2012, I was asked by Two Lines Press to render my opinion on a few novellas written in French by the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell, with an eye to publishing them. Were they any good?, they wanted to know.

Most reader’s reports are pretty easy to write; you summarize the plot, convey a sense of the writer’s style, the manuscript’s strong and weak points, you make a recommendation, and that’s it. But as I read, I found these stories weren’t so easily digested. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what they were up to. Inscrutable, yet compelling, they kept reminding me of things I had read before—Georges Perec’s The Winter Journey, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas, some vaguely recalled slim French novels, and of course of those ready-at-hand masters of alienation and ambiguity, Kafka and David Lynch. The novellas struck me as Proustian in their vocabulary, and in the precision of their images. Haunted by houses and art and mysterious girls who appear and reappear, the work was tender and evocative and uncomfortable and strange, even if I wasn’t entirely sure—I assumed because I was reading it in French—exactly what was going on. Reading in a language you weren’t raised in, there’s always going to be a little something in the way, like a windshield you can’t quite get clean.

But on second and third reading I understood that the novellas were deliberately unclear, that if something was eluding me, it wasn’t the fault of my French. They were doing something all on their own, moving around on the page, real slippery-like. I wrote back to my friend. You should definitely publish these.

— Lauren Elkin from The Quarterly Conversation

Other select titles currently 75% off:

The Game for Real by Richard Weiner, translated by Benjamin Paloff
A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska, translated by Christina Kramer
Hi, This Is Conchita by Santiago Roncaglio, translated by Edith Grossman
Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano, translated by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis