28 December 2012

S.E.A. Write Award

The S.E.A. Write Award, or Southeast Asian Writers Award, is a recognition given yearly to a poet or writer in Southeast Asia since 1979. It is given to an author from each of the ten nations comprising the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It can be given to recognize a single work or an enitre oeuvre of the author. The winners in each country are chosen by their peers.

Here's the list of recipients of S.E.A. Write Award from the Philippines:

1979 Jolico Cuadra

1980 Nick Joaquín

1981 Gregorio C. Brillantes

1982 Adrian E. Cristobal

1983 Edilberto K. Tiempo

1984 Virginia R. Moreno

1985 Ricaredo Demetillo

1986 Jose Maria Sison

1987 Bienvenido N. Santos

1988 Rio Alma (Virgilio S. Almario)

1989 Lina Espina Moore

1990 Carmen Guerrero Nakpil

1991 Isagani R. Cruz

1992 Alfred A. Yuson

1993 Linda Ty-Casper

1994 Buenaventura S. Medina Jr.

1995 Teo T. Antonio

1996 Mike L. Bigornia

1997 Alejandro R. Roces

1998 Marne L. Kilates

1999 Ophelia A. Dimalanta

2000 Antonio Enriquez

2001 Felice Prudente Sta. Maria

2002 Roberto T. Añonuevo

2003 Domingo G. Landicho

2004 César Ruiz Aquino

2005 Malou Leviste Jacob

2006 Victor Emmanuel Carmelo D. Nadera Jr.

2007 Michael M. Coroza

2008 Elmer A. Ordoñez

2009 Abdon Balde Jr.

2010 Marjorie M. Evasco

2011 Romulo P. Baquiran Jr.

2012 Charlson Ong

Official site: http://seawrite.com/
List of winners

27 December 2012

Philippine National Artists for Literature

The title Pambansang Alagad ng Sining (National Artist) is the highest distinction given to a Filipino who gave a singular contribution to the enrichment of national art. It is given in various fields of art (Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Arts, Literature, Film, Broadcast Arts, at Architecture and Allied Arts).

The chosen National Artists are announced through a Presidential Proclamation. They will also be included in the Order of National Artists and will be honored with a collar and citation in a ceremony. There are many benefits that a National Artist will receive, such as a monthly pension, state funeral and burial, and acknowledgement in cultural events.

The Order of National Artists is administered by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and is awarded by the President of the Philippines after the recommendation of these two institutions following a set of criteria and guidelines.

In the category of Literature, the proclaimed National Artists since 1972 are the following. (Links go to Goodreads.)

Amado V. Hernandez

Jose Garcia Villa

Nick Joaquín

Carlos P. Romulo

Francisco Arcellana

Rolando S. Tinio*

Levi Celerio*

N. V. M. Gonzalez

Carlos Quirino*

Edith L. Tiempo

F. Sionil José

Virgilio S. Almario

Alejandro R. Roces

Bienvenido Lumbera

* Tinio is conferred the title for Theater and Literature; Celerio for Music and Literature; and Carlos Quirino for Historical Literature.


The award is not without controversy. In 2009, the awarding of National Artist to several individuals, including Lazaro Francisco for Literature (posthumous), was put on hold. The reason? Then President Gloria Arroyo included in the list four individuals (her political allies) who did not undergo deliberation by the final selection committee. It was greeted with protests by many, leading to the suspension of the awarding of National Artist.

26 December 2012

Winners of the Philippine National Book Awards

The National Book Awards is yearly awarded by the National Book Development Board and the Manila Critics' Circle (MCC). The MCC is an organization of professional critics and newspaper columnists. Started by MCC in 1982, the administration of the award was transferred to NBDB in 2008.

The following lists the winners in the Fiction category, combining the winning titles for novels and short fiction in English and Filipino (Tagalog). The category is also awarded in other Philippines languages.

Utos ng Hari at Iba Pang Kuwento by Jun Cruz Reyes

Finalities: A Novelette and Five Short Stories by Edilberto K. Tiempo
The Praying Man by Bienvenido N. Santos

Oldtimer and Other Stories by Jose Y. Dalisay Jr.

Southern Harvest: A Collection of Stories by Renato E. Madrid
Tutubi, Tutubi, 'Wag Kang Magpahuli sa Mamang Salbahe by Jun Cruz Reyes
What the Hell For You Left Your Heart in San Francisco by Bienvenido N. Santos

State of War by Ninotchka Rosca

Planet Waves by Eric Gamalinda

Herstory by Rosario Cruz Lucero
Men of the East and Other Stories by Charlson L. Ong

Laro sa Baga by Edgardo M. Reyes

Killing Time in a Warm Place by Jose Y. Dalisay Jr.
Pagsalunga: Piniling Kuwento at Sanaysay by Rogelio R. Sicat

Tales for a Rainy Night by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo

Eros, Thanatos, Cubao: Mga Piling Katha by Tony Perez

Penmanship and Other Stories by Jose Y. Dalisay Jr.

Kung Wala na ang Tag-araw / Ano Ngayon, Ricky? by Rosario de Guzman-Lingat

Bibliolepsy by Gina Apostol
Letting Go and Other Stories by Susan S. Lara

Lassitude and Other Stories by Carlos Cortes
Mens Rea and Other Stories by Lakambini Sitoy

Catch a Falling Star by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo
A Normal Life and Other Stories by Reine Arcache Melvin
White Turtle by Merlinda Bobis

Etsa-Puwera by Jun Cruz Reyes
Life Before X and Other Stories by Angelo Rodriguez Lacuesta
My Sad Republic by Eric Gamalinda

Suite Bergamasque: The Boulevard Stories by Bobby Flores-Villasis

Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan
Testament and Other Stories by Katrina Tuvera

Daisy Nueve: Stories Weird, Wonderful, Whatever by Menchu Aquino Sarmiento
Feast and Famine: Stories of Negros by Rosario Cruz Lucero
Mayong ni Abdon M. Balde Jr.
The Sky Over Dimas by Vicente Garcia Groyon

Hunyango sa Bato by Abdon M. Balde Jr.
People on Guerrero Street by Leoncio P. Deriada
Women of Tammuz by Azucena Grajo Uranza
Cadena de Amor and Other Short Stories by Wilfrido D. Nolledo
On Cursed Ground and Other Stories by Vicente Garcia Groyon

Calvary Road: Mga Kuwento sa Balighong Panahon by Abdon M. Balde Jr.
White Elephants: Stories by Angelo Lacuesta
Ang Sandali ng mga Mata by Alvin B. Yapan
Maligayang Pagdating sa Sitio Catacutan: Mga Kuwentong Kasisindakan, Aklat 1 by Tony Perez
Malagim ang Gabi sa Sitio Catacutan: Mga Kuwentong Kasisindakan, Aklat 2 by Tony Perez
Pagluwas by Zosimo Quibilan Jr.

(H)istoryador(a) by Victor Emmanuel Carmelo D. Nadera Jr.
Banyaga: A Song of War by Charlson Ong
The Jupiter Effect by Katrina Tuvera

Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street by Benjamin Pimentel

The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata by Gina Apostol

Blue Angel, White Shadow by Charlson Ong
Lumbay ng Dila by Genevieve L. Asenjo (Citation)

Better Homes and Other Fictions: Collected Prose by Connie J. Maraan
100 Kislap by Abdon M. Balde Jr.

(List Of Winners)

22 December 2012

Man Asian Literary Prize 2012 (+ novels from the Philippines)

The 15-book longlist for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize longlist is announced. Nine Asian countries are represented, headed by India (3 novels) and Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and China (2 novels each). Unless there's a new sponsor for the prize, however, it may well be the final batch of longlists as Man Group backed out of sponsoring the next year's edition of the prize.

I note that no novels from the Philippines made it to the list this year and even last year. Novels by Filipinos that had been previously considered for the prize are the following (links go to Goodreads pages):

Soledad's Sister by Jose Dalisay - shortlisted, 2007

Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco - winner, 2008

The Music Child by Alfred A. Yuson - shortlisted, 2008

Sugar Land by Ian Casocot - longlisted, 2008

Sweet Haven by Lakambini Sitoy - longlisted, 2008

The Descartes Highlands by Eric Gamalinda - shortlisted, 2009

Leche by R. Zamora Linmark - longlisted, 2009

Secrets of the Eighteen Mansions by Mario I. Miclat - longlisted, 2009

Different Countries by Clarissa V. Militante - longlisted, 2009

Eight Muses of the Fall by Edgar Calabia Samar - longlisted, 2009

Below the Crying Mountain by Criselda Yabes - longlisted, 2010

I've read the first two, am currently reading Samar's novel in original Tagalog (Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog), and am interested in several of the titles.

02 November 2012

November is José Saramago Month


At St. Orberose, Miguel opens the José Saramago Month with an introduction to the works of the Portuguese novelist.

Saramago is one of the writers that have a great personal impact to me. He is a writer to accompany one's life.

27 October 2012

12 October 2012

Aira on past tense

In the May issue of the Colombian magazine El Malpensante, Guillermo Martínez questions your idea of “diminishing returns” and its influence on cultural criticism and narrative in Argentina.

[Translator's Note: Writing about the “myth of the avant garde” in literature, Aira has said, “To go just one step beyond, as Proust did, requires an unheard of effort and an entire life’s sacrifice. The law of diminishing returns is in effect, by which the innovator covers nearly the entire field in his initial gesture, and leaves those who come after him with an increasingly smaller space, where it is difficult to move forward.”]

I didn’t know Martínez was criticizing me again. The last time I saw him, I advised him not to write his stories and novels in the present tense. Maybe he took it hard. I think almost all the prose works being published by young writers in Argentina are written with the verbs in the present tense. I don’t know why these authors don’t realize how much that detracts from their writing. The story becomes flat, it loses perspective, it takes on an oral tone, but a cheap kind of oral tone, like a witness to a car accident being interviewed by a television reporter.

- from a Two-part interview with César Aira

02 October 2012

A peek at Woes of the True Policeman

The ARC cover of RB's last unfinished novel, translated by Natasha Wimmer and available next month (click on the images to enlarge):

The editorial note, written by Carolina López, Bolaño's widow.


(Images courtesy of Michael P.)

01 October 2012

The ghost's member


"The naked men shouted louder and louder as if competing with each other. They were dirty like builders, and had the same kind of bodies: rather stocky, solid, with small feet, and rough hands. Their toes were spread widely, like wild men's toes. They were behaving like badly brought-up children. But they were adults. A builder who happenned to be passing by with a bucketful of rubble on the way to the skip stretched out his free hand and, without stopping, grasped the penis of one of the naked men and kept walking. The member stretched out to a length of two yards, then three, five, ten, all the way to the sidewalk. When he let it go, it slapped back into place with a noise whose weird harmonics went on echoing off the unplastered concrete walls and the stairs without marble paving, up and down the empty elevator shafts, like the lowest string of a Japanese harp." (from Ghosts, trans. Chris Andrews)

30 September 2012

28 September 2012

When the riots come (poem)

When the riots come the old Chilean mutineers will cry
of nostalgia and sorrow for no longer being alive
and the toilets will explode and the plumbing on the black horizon
will be a pure knot soaked with shit
When the riots come the old Chilean military-men
will dance a cuenca along the sea
and all the whales will come up to see such a marvel
and they will open their whale jaws
so that there will be thousands of Jonases
all over the world

– from "The riots" by Roberto Bolaño and Bruno Montané, in Cascadia Solidaria, poems and translations by Phil Neff; original poem in Diez poemas y once poetas infrarrealistas by Cuauhtémoc Méndez Estrada (via Cascadia Solidaria)

22 September 2012

A library is a moveable feast


Kudos to Mang Nanie Guanlao for a worthy project which had caught online attention (here, here and here). Mang Nanie is the librarian of a mobile library without rules, a worthy cause on spreading out the words on books. I don't know Mang Nanie personally but had the privilege of communicating with him online as a fellow judge in this year's inaugural Filipino Readers Choice Awards.

Reading list: Palanca Awards (Philippines)

The Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature is a prestigious literary prize in the Phiippines. Beginning in 1951, the Awards is awarded to the best short stories in English and Filipino. Its coverage has since expanded to include other genres (plays, poetry, novel, essay, etc.) and several Philippine languages. After 60 years of existence (and counting), the Palanca has become a showcase of the best Filipino writers and the vitality of Filipino writing.

Below is a list of the Grand Prize winners in the Novel category in English and Filipino which were awarded every year starting in 1980 and then every three years starting in 1984. Several years did not produce a "Grand Prize winner/s" and these were indicated.


1980 Grand Prize: Gapo by Lualhati Bautista

1981 Special Prize: Mga Tinapay sa Ibabaw ng Tubig by Reynaldo A. Duque

1982 Grand Prizes: Kulang ng Isa sa Sandosena: Ba't di pa Magkasya sa Labing-isa na Lang by Victor V. Francisco; and Tutubi! Tutubi! 'Wag Kang Magpapahuli sa Mamang Salbahe by Jun Cruz Reyes

1983 Grand Prizes: Dekada '70 by Lualhati Bautista; and Ficcion by Edel Garcellano

1984 Grand Prizes: Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa by Lualhati Bautista; and Bata, Sinaksak, Isinilid sa Baul by Tony Perez

1987 Special Mentions: Mga Aninong Hubad by Cyrus P. Borja; and Mga Limbas sa Lupa ng Muhammad by Ramon V. Lim

1990 Honorable Mentions: Gagamba by Reynaldo A. Duque; and Kwadresentinyal by Rosauro Dela Cruz

1993 Grand Prizes: Bulaklak ng Maynila by Domingo G. Landicho; and Moog by Buenaventura S. Medina Jr.

1996 Grand Prize: Malaybay by Edmund Coronel

1999 Grand Prize: Ang Kaulayaw ng Agila by Lilia Quindoza Santiago

2002 Grand Prize: Kung Paano Ko Inayos ang Buhok Ko Matapos ang Mahaba-haba Ring Paglalakbay by Norman Wilwayco

2005 Grand Prize: Unang Ulan ng Mayo by Ellen Sicat

2008 Grand Prize: Gerilya by Norman Wilwayco

2011 Grand Prize: Ang Banal na Aklat ng mga Kumag by Allan Alberto N. Derain


1980 Special Prize: Silapulapu and The Zebut Brothers by Remmie Suaco Brillo

1981 Grand Prizes: Mass by F. Sionil José and Sangria Tomorrow by Wilfrido D. Nolledo

1982 Grand Prize: Surveyors of the Liguasan Marsh by Antonio R. Enriquez

1983 Special Prize: The Standard Bearer by Edilberto K. Tiempo

1984 Grand Prize: Vaya Con Virgo by Wilfrido D. Nolledo

1987 Grand Prize: Great Philippine Jungle Energy Café by Alfred A. Yuson

1990 Grand Prize: Bamboo in the Wind by Azucena Grajo Uranza

1993 Grand Prizes: Killing Time in a Warm Place by Jose Y. Dalisay Jr.; and Subanons by Antonio R. Enriquez

1996 Grand Prize: Recuerdo by Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo

1999 Grand Prize: Smaller and Smaller Circles by Ma. Felisa H. Batacan

2002 Grand Prize: The Sky Over Dimas by Vicente Garcia Groyon

2005 Grand Prize: Salamanca by Dean Francis Alfar

2008 Grand Prize: Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

2011 Grand Prize: In the Service of Secrets by Maria Victoria Soliven Blanco

20 August 2012

The art of self-blurbing

Caravana de recuerdos reviews César Aira's 1981 "Gothic" novel Ema, la cautiva. The review includes a translation of the author's letter to the "agreeable reader" at the back of the Spanish book.

17 August 2012

A la recherche du temps perdu soundtrack

Via the 2013: The Year of Reading Proust group at Goodreads, this Spotify playlist sets the Proustian mood. The songs are taken from an article by music critic Alex Ross. For the paintings referenced in the Lost Time series, Paintings in Proust, edited by Eric Karpeles, seems to be the art book museum to visit.

The "third" book of Hopscotch

Hopscotch was the book that got me started in transla­tion, that won me that National Book Award [for Translation, now defunct], and also led me to do One Hundred Years of Solitude. García Márquez wanted me to do his book but at the moment I was tied up with Miguel Ángel Asturias’s “banana trilogy.” Cortázar told Gabo to wait, which he did, to the evident satisfaction of all con­cerned. So Hopscotch was for me what the hydrographic cliché calls a watershed moment as my life took the direction it was to follow from then on. I hadn’t read the book but I skimmed some pages and did two sample chapters, the first and one far­ther along, I can’t remember which. Editor Sara Blackburn and Julio both liked my version and I was off and away.

What drew me to the novel and to Julio were the varie­gated interests he and I had in common: jazz, humor, liberal politics, and inventive art and writing. As I have said, I read the complete novel only as I translated it. This strange and uncommon procedure somehow followed the nature of the book it­self and I do not think it hurt the translation in any way. In­deed, it may have insured its success. ...

One stiff-necked critic was outraged that he should be called upon to read the novel twice. Julio wrote me and figu­ratively shook his head over the fact that the poor boob did not know that he was being toyed with. He went on to say that it was bad enough to ask people to read his novel once, let alone twice. He would never do such a thing. When I finished the translation I remembered the instructions at the beginning and realized that I had offered a third reading of the novel by simply barging through from the first page to the last. What that obtuse critic had not realized was that hopscotch is a game, something to be played. The version that Julio had sketched out on the cover of the novel was evidently the way the game is played in Argentina, starting on a square called Earth and following the numbers to a square called Heaven. It was only natural that his intellectual friskiness should have been noticed by his countryman, Jorge Luis Borges, who was the first to publish Julio’s work. Would that their poor, trou­bled and so often solemn birthplace had been more like them in its history. Cortázar also maintained that our species was misnamed and should have been called homo ludens (nothing to do with any coughing gays).

- Translator Gregory Rabassa writing about Hopscotch, from his memoir If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents. (Excerpts here)

16 August 2012

Margaret Jull Costa

In response to a question, her admission that her pleasure in translating wasn’t out of a particular interest in Spanish or Portuguese literature so much as it was an interest in the English language elicited a palpable reaction. Even if this seemed an obvious point, I felt I’d had an epiphany: a great translator is, first and foremost, a great reader – and, following that, a great writer as well.

Seraillon reports on a great talk by translator Margaret Jull Costa in San Francisco, a lecture organized by the Center for the Art of Translation.

14 August 2012

Hopscotch soundtrack

Via one of my groups in Goodreads, all the jazz music played in Julio Cortázar's Rayuela can be listened to in Youtube (playlist 1 or playlist 2).

The music is in the 2001 album Jazzuela. Julio Cortázar y el Jazz (song list).

Enjoy! And, yeah, you can hop around the songs.

08 August 2012

Translation talk with Chris Andrews

You could almost argue that [domesticating translation] brings the languages closer together, because it makes the original language version more familiar in a way. You can immerse yourself in the story when you’re not being alarmed by syntactic unfamiliarity.

You could make an argument for a certain degree of domestication in a first translation of an author to give the author a good chance of getting out there into the reading public. And I think what happens when an author becomes famous and well-loved and had a durable appeal, is that often a retranslation will be more foreignising and this has happened recently with Dostoevsky, for example people have retranslated Dostoevsky in a more foreignising way.

And does that alienate people?

Sometimes it alienates readers who are used to the earlier version. There’s also the issue of things being retranslated more for publishing reasons rather than literary reasons. There are already good translations out there but publishers know they can turn a dollar if they say, ‘this is the new and definitive version’, people will buy it.

More at Seemed like a good idea at the time.

07 July 2012

2666 summer readalong

The Weblog is hosting a reading of 2666 by Roberto Bolaño this month and the next. It will be led by Spanish professor Patrick O'Connors.

The tentative discussion schedule is as follows:

7/12 – Part One
7/19 – Parts Two and Three
7/26 – Part Four - 1
8/2 – Part Four - 2
8/9 – Part Five - 1
8/16 – Part Five - 2

23 June 2012

Speak, memory

The ghastly conclusion is that a government might claim the right to silence an individual, much as Deza claims his right to silence himself. This safe, static silence is abhorrent to Marías. To him conversation is as natural as air; it is an essential, egalitarian activity. In the words of Wheeler, it is “what most defines and unites us ... the wheel that moves the world.” It is the one pleasure we all may enjoy in equal measure, a commonality that binds us in our shared humanity as creators of our world. As Marías writes at the beginning of his autobiographical novel Dark Back of Time, “I believe I’ve never mistaken fiction for reality, though I have mixed them together more than once, as everybody does, not only novelists or writers but everyone who has recounted anything since the time we know began, and no one in that known time has done anything but tell and tell.” In effect, Marías is arguing for the conversation’s immense importance to civilization — that we collectively breathe the fabric of reality into reality through fictions we tell as truths. Talk is fragile, can be misinterpreted, can be put to malign uses; it is subject to our moods and whims. But if we do not speak, our thoughts die with us.

From an essay on Javier Marías by Scott Esposito in Los Angeles Review of Books. (Thanks, Suze!)

21 June 2012

What to translate

2. What do you think should be the most important criteria in choosing books to translate into English?

Maybe that it be astonishing and that nobody is or could be writing anything like it in English. Sorry, that makes two.

From a short interview with translator Katherine Silver at Publishing the World.

César Aira's favorite Brazilian writers

Machado de Assis, Euclides da Cunha, Lima Barreto, Mário de Andrade, Guimarães Rosa, Dalton Trevisan, Sérgio Sant’Anna, João Gilberto Noll.

-from an interview in O Globo (in Portuguese, but try Google Translate)

Center for Japanese Studies

The Center for Japanese Studies of University of Michigan publishes works in translation from Japanese, usually under the Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies. Some titles can be ordered directly from this publisher (though some are already out of print) or from other online booksellers.

Official site

Some books are available digitally online. Here is a full list. It makes available works such as Donald Richie's Japanese Cinema: Film Style and National Character (1971) and Studies in Japanese Culture II (1969), ed. Calvin L. French, which contains uncollected stories and a play by Yukio Mishima (via LibraryThing):

  • "Three Primary Colors" (1955) - one-act play, trans. Miles K. McElrath
  • "The Monster" (1949) - short story, trans. David O. Mills
  • "The Peacocks" (1965) - short story, trans. David O. Mills 

19 June 2012

Translations are what they are

[Tyler Malone]: I recently attended the PEN World Voices Festival’s panel on translation, and I’m curious from your perspective, what goes into a good translation? It’s a precarious thing. There’s so many things a translator must attempt to carry across. So what are the criteria you use to judge a translation?

[Chad Post]: This is such a tough thing to unpack. And every attempt to explain it just leads to more and more and more questions and comments. Keeping it simple, yet enigmatic, a translation should capture the special something, the overarching “style” of an author’s prose and structure, that makes an individual book unique.

TM: Part of the panel discussion focused on whether the general public, or at least general readers, wanted to know that something was translated. This seems very important to the Open Letter project. One of the panelists suggested it was better not to highlight the translator’s name, and especially not to put it on the cover, because readers generally want to believe that what they are getting is straight from the author, not something filtered through another person. I have a hard time figuring out where I stand on this line of reasoning. I think the speaker may unfortunately be correct, in a way, that readers (and society in general) are obsessed with the idea of one man/woman, one genius, behind a text, and so from a financial standpoint, the less you highlight that “these aren’t the actual words of the writer you think you’re reading,” the more people might be apt to read. But at the same time, this sort of taboo about translation is puzzling and frustrating. Can’t we just appreciate literature in translation as literature in translation and love it in spite of whatever complications the whole practice brings to the table? What are your thoughts?

CP: We don’t live in 19th Century Germany. Let’s try applying this logic to another art form for a second: “I don’t like movies that include the name of the screenwriter and director on the DVD box. Viewers want to believe that this piece of art came straight from the actors.” That’s a dumb example, but I think it’s a dumb argument. We live in an era of overwhelming amounts of information. In most every situation we want to know more, or at least know where we can go to get to know more. In what other situation do we like having some piece of information–one that can add to, or inform, or not, our experience–withheld from us in hopes that a corporation can increase its profits? Not to make this political or anti-corporate, but I feel like that argument is based in the long-standing belief of corporate publishers that their readers are retarded. And that’s insulting. The whole argument is insulting. Sorry, but fuck that.

From an interview with Open Letter publisher Chad Post at PMc Magazine (via Three Percent). The panel referred to here, the one organized during the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, is the one we linked to before (Youtube). I'm also dismayed by the panelist's (Lorin Stein) suggestion not to put the translator's name on the book cover.

18 June 2012

Epilogue for variations: Lisa

The poem is from the 2007 collection La universidad desconocida (The Unknown University) by Roberto Bolaño. The first translation is one of the set of five that appeared in The Paris Review. The translator is not credited, but I assume it's Laura Healy whose translation of the whole collection will be brought out by New Directions. The second is a version by Mariela Griffor and B. H. Boston which appeared three years ago in Poetry International.

When Lisa Told Me
Translated by Laura Healy

When Lisa told me she’d made love
to someone else, in that old Tepeyac warehouse
phone booth, I thought my world
was over. A tall, skinny guy with
long hair and a long cock who didn’t wait
more than one date to penetrate her deep.
It’s nothing serious, she said, but it’s
the best way to get you out of my life.
Parménides García Saldaña had long hair and
could have been Lisa’s lover, but some
years later I found out he’d died in a psych ward
or killed himself. Lisa didn’t want to
sleep with losers anymore. Sometimes I dream
of her and see her happy and cold in a Mexico
drawn by Lovecraft. We listened to music
(Canned Heat, one of Parménides García Saldaña’s
favorite bands) and then we made
love three times. First, he came inside me,
then he came in my mouth, and the third time, barely
a thread of water, a short fishing line, between my breasts. And all
in two hours, said Lisa. The worst two hours of my life,
I said from the other end of the phone.

* * *

Translated by Mariela Griffor and B. H. Boston

When Lisa told me she had made love
with another, in the eternal telephone booth of life
in the market in Tepeyac, I thought the world
ended. A tall thin man with
long hair and a long cock, didn’t wait even
one night to penetrate her to the core.
It’s nothing serious, she said, but it
is the best way of getting you out of my life.
Parmenides Garcia Saldana had long hair and could
have been Lisa’s lover, but some
years later I saw he’d died in a mental hospital
or committed suicide. Lisa didn’t want
to lie any longer with losers. Sometimes I dream
of her and see her happy and cold in Mexico
designed by Lovecraft: We listen to music
(Canned Heat, one of Parmenides Garcia Saldana’s
favorite groups) and then we make
love three times. The first time he comes inside of me.
The second time inside my mouth, the third, hardly a thread
of water, a short fishing line, between my breasts. And all
of that in two hours, Lisa said. The two worst hours of my life,
I said from the other end of the line.

14 June 2012

A fascinating singularity

WH Staying on the topic of Bolaño for a little longer, what do you make of his extraordinary recent fame in the Anglophone world? I don’t think that when you started working with his writing this would have been the case. Has it got something to do with his sudden death? Or was it inevitable that he would receive the recognition that he has?

CA Back when I started in 2002, Bolaño was already very well known in the Spanish-speaking world because he had won the Rómulo Gallegos Prize for The Savage Detectives. But that didn’t mean he was bound to be well known eventually in other languages. The Germans and the Italians had picked up on him fairly quickly, and, interestingly, the first book they both translated was Nazi Literature in the Americas. When the first couple of English translations, By Night in Chile and Distant Star, came out in England, they weren’t published in America straight away. Those books didn’t go very well at all—they didn’t sell very well—although they got good reviews; there wasn’t much interest. It was only a little bit later with the first book of stories, Last Evenings on Earth, which had been commissioned by Harvill in the UK, but was published first in America by New Directions, that there was a bit of buzz around. Only then did I start to think that the others would be translated, because with the first two I really wasn’t sure there was enough interest.

His premature death also may have had something to do with the excitement around his work, but not that much. He’s a writer who invented a commanding, distinctive style, in the largest sense of the word—a way of organizing experience as well as words—which is a pretty rare achievement. That spoke to many readers, for a number of reasons—I’ve heard, for example, that he is an antidote to the North American model of the professional novelist groomed by creative writing schools. There might be something symptomatic about his success, but I think that the main reason for it is that he is a fascinating singularity.

Chris Andrews interviewed in BOMB.

30 May 2012

Books people buy

After ordering a book from The Book Depository, I watched their live streaming of what books are being bought where.

They can be addicting. Buying and watching.

29 May 2012

A panel on writing, editing, and publishing literature in the Americas

Craig Epplin: César Aira is the writer I thought of when I heard the topic for tonight’s discussion, in particular, a passage from one of my favorite novels by him, a novel that hasn’t been translated into English, called The Flyer.  And in the passage, the novel itself is a flyer, a long flyer that spins out of control and becomes a novel, and at one point the narrator tells us how he is composing this, and he is carving the blocks, he is carving his own font, and then he’s going to print it out using a mimeograph, because he can’t afford a typewriter and he can’t afford to make photocopies.  So in this little scene, writing, publishing, and editing, it was all there.  I thought we could start with this general question: How do you see these three practices reflected in your own work?  Writing, editing, and publishing.

Read the full panel on "Writing, Editing, and Publishing in the Americas" here. It features John Reed, Justin Taylor, Carlos Labbé, and Andrés Neuman. Craig Epplin moderates.

28 May 2012

Spanish Language Lit Month

Stu of Winstonsdad's Blog and Richard of Caravana de recuerdos, two of the most discriminating readers that I know, will be hosting a month-long festival of Spanish language literature.

July is the golden month of opportunities for encountering Spanish literature in the original or in translation. The line-up of reading/film viewing is as follows.

  • Week 1, 6-8 July: Group viewing of the 1976s classic film Cria Cuervos, written and directed by Carlos Saura
  • Week 2, 13-15 July: Reading of A Brief Life by Juan Carlos Onetti
  • Week 3, 20-22 July: Reading of Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas
  • Week 4: Link round-up

The Vila-Matas week is a shoo-in for me. And I'm eyeing other enticing titles as well. 

You can register for this challenge at Stu's or Richard's post.

Japanese Literature Challenge 6

Dolce Bellezza just announced the 2012 cycle of Japanese Literature Challenge (JLC). Now on its 6th year, the JLit challenge starts every June and runs for eight months till the end of January of the following year. It has become a hub of JLit readers for its showcase of critical book reviews and its enabling of blog conversations.

One of my groups in LibraryThing focuses on Japanese writing the entire year so this is a happy duplication. It's my third year of participation in JLC. I started reading translated Japanese books only in 2009. My exposure to Japanese fiction prior to that was through the work of English novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. But in the past three years I've collected and read some excellent modernist Japanese writers. My favorite writers are Natsume Sōseki, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Yasunari Kawabata, Kobo Abé, Ryū Murakami, Kōno Taeko, and Yūko Tsushima. With this challenge, I'm sure the list will be expanded.

You can join JLC6 here.

15 May 2012

Zombie story

Oscar Villalon, former book editor of The San Francisco Chronicle, reads an extract from "The Colonel's Son" by Roberto Bolaño, one of the pieces from The Secret of Evil.

Tyrannical cover

For Peter Bush's upcoming retranslation of Tyrant Banderas, a dictator novel by Ramón del Valle-Inclán (1866–1936), the NYRB (final?) cover is freakish (understatement).


13 May 2012

On why César Aira doesn't run out of fictional material

He accepts invitations.

When the Buenos Aires International Film Festival invited him to be a member of the jury, nobody seriously expected a positive answer. Much to the organizer’s surprise, however, César Aira accepted the invitation and turned out to be an extremely discerning, competent and witty juror. Afterward he disappeared as discreetly as he had appeared.

Half a year later, the festival was surprised to receive a short story by Aira entitled Festival.

Festival may not be coming out in English anytime soon. But here's another story of Aira's appropriation of a true story he heard from Kent Johnson (here--somewhere in the comments, retold here) as basis of the opening of one of his recent books (not sure which).

On reviewing translations

A panel during the recent PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature discussed the strategies and issues on criticism of translations.

Video link (via)

03 May 2012

Marías on Lampedusa's The Leopard

There is no such thing as the indispensable book or author, and the world would be exactly the same if Kafka, Proust, Faulkner, Mann, Nabokov and Borges had never existed. It might not be quite the same if none of them had existed, but the non-existence of just one of them would certainly not have affected the whole. That is why it is so tempting – an easy temptation if you like – to think that the representative twentieth-century novel must be the one that very nearly didn’t exist, the one that nobody would have missed ...

--For the 23rd issue of Five Dials, an essay by Javier Marías on an almost non-novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.
>> PDF

01 May 2012

27 April 2012

The Femicide Machine by Sergio González Rodríguez

The phenomenon of female homicides in Ciudad Juárez began to be denounced in 1993. There is evidence these crimes began years before. Why were they murdered? For the pleasure of killing women who were poor and defenseless.

How many victims have there been? Of the 400 women and girls killed for various reasons from 1993 to the present, at least 100 murders were commited in tandem with extreme sexual violence. The lack of reliable information from the authorities is part of the problem.

Who killed them? Drug traffickers, complicit with individuals who enjoy political and economic power.

Where and how did the events take place? The victims were abducted from the streets of Ciudad Juárez and taken by force into safe houses where they were raped, tortured, and murdered at stag parties or orgies.

--from Sergio González Rodríguez's The Femicide Machine (trans. Michael Parker-Stainback, Semiotext(e), 2012). Read the rest of the excerpt and interview in Bookforum.

Interview with Ōe Kenzaburo

With regard to your relationship with [Kazuo] Watanabe, what do you consider to be the “task of the translator”, as stated by Walter Benjamin? The German term that Benjamin uses is Aufgabe, which contains both the idea of giving (geben) and abandoning or renouncing (aufgeben)…

K.O.: I am unable to philologically examine what Benjamin means by the expression “the task of the translator”. But I can tell you about my “method” for reading poems translated into Japanese.

When I read T.S. Eliot’s poetry, for example, I set out the original text before me, alongside the translations by Junzaburo Nishiwaki and Motohiro Fukase. I read these three versions and learn them by heart. In doing so, I feel that what the translations give (geben) as well as renounce (aufgeben) helps me to apprehend the original poem.

--from an interview with Ōe Kenzaburo in IF VERSO where he talked about French literature and translation, with more interview links at the bottom. The French-based site IF VERSO is well worth the look too.

26 April 2012

"Revenge" by José Saramago

The boy was coming from the river. Barefoot, with his trousers rolled up above his knees, his legs covered in mud.

He was wearing a red shirt, open in front where the first hairs of puberty on his chest were beginning to blacken. He had dark hair, damp with the sweat that was trickling down his slender neck. He was bent slightly forward under the weight of the long oars, from which were hanging green strands of water-weeds still dripping. The boat kept swaying in the murky water, and nearby, as if spying, the globulous eyes of a frog suddenly appeared. Then the frog moved suddenly and disappeared. A minute later the surface of the river was smooth and tranquil and shining like the boy's eyes.

--from "Revenge", a short short story by the Portuguese novelist, excerpted from The Lives of Things (trans. Giovanni Pontiero), Saramago's only collection of short fiction.

Read it at Morning Star.

See also the story "Things" from the same collection, excerpted in two parts (Part 1, Part 2) in Guernica.

(Via Verso)

25 April 2012

Andrés Neuman interview

The Parrish Lantern has a goodly interview with Andrés Neuman whose Traveller of the Century was published last month by Pushkin Press.

You can also read a positive review of the novel's translation, by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia, at Tony's Reading List.

Related posts:
Andrés Neuman
Reading list: Translators in fiction

22 April 2012

Evil contents

The Secret of Evil, the posthumous selection of prose pieces by Roberto Bolaño, is out this month from New Directions. It's translated by Chris Andrews and Natasha Wimmer. I've yet to read it but here's the table of contents. The three pieces marked with asterisks were also published in Between Parentheses, translated by Natasha Wimmer.

0. Preliminary Note

1. Colonia Lindavista

2. The Secret of Evil

3. The Old Man of the Mountain

4. The Colonel's Son--Animated and excerpted (not online) by Granta. Most likely based on the zombie flick Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993) (via comment).

5. Scholars of Sodom--About V. S. Naipaul's critique of Argentina. Excerpted in NYRblog. See also links to Naipaul’s essays from The New York Review of Books: Argentina: The Brothels Behind the Graveyard, The Corpse at the Iron Gate, and Comprehending Borges (via Ricardo Blanco's Blog).

6. The Room Next Door

7. Labyrinth--Excerpted in The New Yorker.

8. Vagaries of the Literature of Doom*

9. Crimes

10. I Can't Read--Excerpted in Harper's.

11. Beach*--Read a background of this story here.

12. Muscles

13. The Tour--Read a translation by Venepoetics.

14. Daniela

15. Suntan

16. Death of Ulises

17. The Troublemaker

18. Sevilla Kills Me*--A short controversial and unfinished piece. I read an essay by Jorge Volpi (I think through Google Translate) criticizing Bolaño's Spanish editor Ignacio Echevarría for publishing it.

19. Days of Chaos


See related posts on The Secret of Evil here.

With thanks to Michael for the contents and cover image.

13 April 2012

Marcela Valdes on César Aira

In The Nation, Marcela Valdes situates César Aira's fiction within the political history of Argentina.

Diary of Hepatitis, a novella by César Aira, translated by Forrest Gander, is "on deck".

06 April 2012

"Scholars of Sodom"

Argentineans are not especially popular in the rest of Latin America, but I can assure you that no Latin American has written a critique as devastating as Naipaul’s. Not even a Chilean. Once, in a conversation with Rodrigo Fresán, I asked him what he thought of Naipaul’s essay. Fresán, whose knowledge of literature in English is encyclopedic, barely remembered it, even though Naipaul is one of his favorite authors. But to get back to the story: Naipaul listens and notes down his impressions but mostly he walks around Buenos Aires.

- "Scholars of Sodom", Roberto Bolaño, trans. Chris Andrews, from The Secret of Evil (2012), excerpted in NYRblog (read more)

05 April 2012

Spam attack is art

Since being posted in July the Jpeg of Monsieur Pain by Armando Andrade Tuleda has been continuously and systematically attacked by internet bot/spam, on the 924COLLECTIVE.WORDPRESS.COM webblog.  These attacks are deceptive as they promote the website while embedding spam links. PT I RAFT

Artist & Researcher Matu Croney compiles the information feeds on these attacks directed @ Monsier Pain and creates a narrative unintentionally created by internet spambots, to create a unique work of art.  Commenting on the very notions of art history within the internet, and the increasing usage and hijacking of these invisible systems.

>> Read more.

>> See also: Pictures from the Regen Projects' "Distant Star" art exhibition (here).

02 April 2012

Goodreads: Classics recommendations

One of the more interesting features of Goodreads is the "recommendations" page where the site recommends books according to an algorithm. They based their recommendations on the books I've added on my shelf (taking into account my reader ratings) and books which were enjoyed by other readers with interests similar to mine. How they do this thing was a mystery.

According to Goodreads, I'll enjoy the following 10 books in the "classics" genre. They actually named 50 titles, but it's too bothersome to list them all.

1. The Divan by Hafez, because I added Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám of Naishapur.

Unless a copy landed on my desk, I don't foresee myself buying this book.

2. Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, because I added The Ubu Plays by Alfred Jarry.

The book was edited and selected by Susan Sontag, the probable connection with Jarry. 720 pages. It's not on the reading horizon for me.

3. Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, because I added The Plague and The Stranger by Albert Camus and The Castle and The Trial by Franz Kafka.

I have a copy, so Goodreads scores this one.

4. The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil, because I added the two Kafka novels and The Loser and Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard.

I am interested.

5. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, because I added Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Maybe. Because I thoroughly loved Saint-Exupéry's book. And because of the kick-ass title.

6. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, because I added A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold.

Maybe not.

7. The Riddlemaster of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip, because I added the first three books of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle.

Not in this lifetime, no.

8. Selected Writings by Guillaume Apollinaire, because I added two books by Jorge Luis Borges.

Finally, a poetry book! I'll read it, given the chance.

9. Q by Luther Blissett, because I added Umberto Eco's The Island of the Day Before.

I think I won't enjoy it. The premise is insufferable. 

10. Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser, because I added a book each by John Williams, Kafka, Stefan Zweig, W. G. Sebald, and Bernhard.

This turned out to be a Euro-centric list of recommendations. But Walser has long been on my wish list. So, I'm good with it.

At 5 out of 10, Goodreads barely passed my unscientific bookmatching test for classics.

The other genres which the site provides recommendations for are: fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, and philosophy. They also give recommendations based on your entire "read" shelf or any shelf category you happen to create (e.g., favorites list, postmodernism, procrastination).

Marías goes Penguin

Man, they look good. Here's the context.

31 March 2012

Ghosts, the animated short

Or trailer.

Ghosts from susie kirkwood on Vimeo.

Created by Susie Kirkwood and Jill Summers. Original score by Daniel Knox. Based on Ghosts by César Aira, trans. Chris Andrews.

(via The Millions)

30 March 2012

A peeing incident

A strange thing happened (one of the many strange things that will happen in this story and carry it and perhaps turn out to be what it’s really about): when they got to the swimming pool, Lautaro asked Carolina if he could have a pee. She, of course, said yes, and then Lautaro went to the edge of the pool, pulled down his trunks a bit and peed into the water. That night, Carolina said that she’d been embarrassed, not for Lautaro, but because of what Alexandra might have thought. The fact is Lautaro had never done anything like that before. The swimming pool wasn’t really busy, but there were a few people, and my son is not some wild boy who pees wherever he feels like it.

– from "I can't read" by Roberto Bolaño, trans. Chris Andrews, Harper's Magazine

29 March 2012

Goodreads: Most read authors

I'm a member of three social reading network sites. I joined Shelfari and LibraryThing in 2008 and Goodreads in 2009.

In terms of shelving, the Goodreads shelf is my favorite. Although shelf widgets are best handled by Shelfari, Goodreads has several reader-friendly features like determining which writers you've read the most. Here's my most read writers, sans genre authors which I've excluded.

             author                   books read

72039 Roberto Bolaño 16

3354 Haruki Murakami 14

71956 Javier Marías 10

4391 Saul Bellow 7

88379 César Aira 7

4178 Cormac McCarthy 6

4128 J. M. Coetzee 6

874602 Ursula K. Le Guin 6

463 Philip Roth 5

5622662 W. G. Sebald 4

13450 Gabriel García Márquez 4

3534 Toni Morrison 4

41938 Robert Stone 4

7745 Thomas Bernhard 4

2408 Ian McEwan 4

500 Jorge Luis Borges 4

4280 Kazuo Ishiguro 4

957894 Albert Camus 4

6878 John Updike                  4

26 March 2012

Miraculous cover, 2


P.S. For the record, I finished reading Varamo and didn't like it.

Woes of the True Policeman


5. In addition to translating Bolaño, you’ve translated a lot of other great Latin American writers like Pedro Juan Gutierrez and Mario Vargas Llosa. What are your upcoming projects?
I’m working on what seems to be the final posthumous novel by Bolaño to be discovered: The Woes of the True Policeman. After that: not sure. I’ll definitely feel a little bereft after 6+ years of almost all Bolaño all the time.

– from "Interview with Natasha Wimmer", 18 May 2011, Hey Small Press!

>> Read more.

20 March 2012

'The spaghetti solitude of the giraffe'

What is one to make of ‘a solidão de esparguete da girafa’ on page one? Should I have translated that as ‘the spaghetti solitude of the giraffe’ rather than ‘the lofty, long-drawn-out solitude of the giraffe’, which was my final version? Does ‘spaghetti solitude’ mean anything in English? But then does ‘solidão de esparguete’ mean anything in Portuguese? Am I committing the translator’s cardinal sin of domesticating and explaining? Possibly, but those are the kinds of decisions I had to make all the time. Sometimes, the images slipped satisfyingly into English, for example, ’as cobras enrolavam-se em espirais moles de cagalhão’ became ‘cobras lay coiled in soft, dungy spirals’; sometimes I simply went with what was there: ‘no tanque dos hipopótamos inchava a lenta tranquilidade dos gordos’ became ‘the hippopotamus pool exuded the languid sloth of the obese’.

As a translator, you have to be endlessly alert and adaptable and also (one hopes) as endlessly inventive as the author, and in this book [The Land at the End of the World by António Lobo Antunes], you need to capture, if you can, the hypnotic quality of the prose.

– from "Interview With Margaret Jull Costa" by Sam Gordon, The White Review

>> Read more.

28 February 2012

2012 Sebald Lecture

"Making the Crossing: The Poet as Translator", the Sebald Lecture delivered by British poet Sean O'Brien in London on February 6, can now be downloaded/listened to at the site of British Centre for Literary Translation. Link.