24 October 2013

Winners of 32nd (Philippine) National Book Award


Sa Kasunod ng 909, by Edgar Calabia Samar, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House
Margosatubig: The Story of Salagunting, by Ma. Cecilia Locsin-Nava, translated from Margosatubig (1946), by Ramon L. Muzones, Ateneo de Manila University Press
After the Body Displaces Water, by Daryll Delgado, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House
Hour Before Dawn: The Fall and Uncertain Rise of the Philippine Supreme Court, by Marites Dañguilan Vitug, Cleverheads Publishing
Mga Angst ng Isang Di-mahapayang Gatang, by Resty Mendoza Ceña, Visprint

Hoard of Thunder: Philippine Short Stories in English, 1990 to 2008, 2 volumes, edited by Gémino H. Abad, University of the Philippines Press
Pictures as Poems & Other (Re)Visions, by Marne Kilates, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House
Isa Lang ang Pangalan: Mga Tula, by Rebecca T. Añonuevo, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House 

Halos Isang Buhay: Ang Manananggal sa Pagsusulat ng Nobela, by Edgar Calabia Samar, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House

Trese 5: Midnight Tribunal, by Ferdinand Benedict G. Tan and Jonathan A. Baldisimo,  Visprint

Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila #1, by Carlo Vergara, Visprint

Sacrificial Bodies: The Oblation and the Political Aesthetics of Masculine Representations in Philippine Visual Cultures, by Reuben Ramas Cañete, University of the Philippines Press

Walking through Philippine Theater, 3 volumes, by Basilio Esteban S. Villaruz, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House

Complete list of winners here. The list of finalists are here.

I've read four titles from this list: Margosatubig (review), Halos Isang Buhay, Trese 5, and Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila #1.

28 June 2013

Nobel Prize for Lit nominees

Who were ever considered for the big literary prize in the first place?

The nomination database (link) for Nobel Prize for Lit, up to 1950 only, throws some light on the "insularity" of the award. (Warning: database NOT user-friendly.)

The nominees per country here.

The winners.

06 June 2013

Sebald's ideal translator

Admittedly, he did not say too much. He was not always listening, often dozing during the papers and discussions that were so revealing to a greenhorn like me. Sebald’s appreciation of literary translation was, it has to be said, rather grudging. The highest praise I heard all weekend from Sebald was in a discussion of – what else? – the challenge of translating long German sentences into English. Sebald was adamant that these long sentences can be translated. What really annoyed him was when the beginnings of clauses used ‘that’ rather than ‘which’ as a conjunction, a failing he found in the new collected translations of Borges. Yet as proof that translators can find the right mechanisms to delay the end of the sentence’s flow he cited the translations of Heinrich von Kleist into English, saying they were “sehr ordentlich” (“as they should be”).

– "Among Translators: W.G. Sebald and Translation" by Anthony Vivis, Christine Wilson and Stefan Tobler, introduced by Jo Catling, in In Other Words, Issue 38 [download link (pdf), via]

02 June 2013

Anticipated reading events

Dolce Bellezza's The Japanese Literature Challenge 7
1 June 2013 to 30 January 2014

Winstonsdad's Thomas Bernhard Reading Week
1-7 July 2013

Caravana de recuerdos's 2013 Russian Reading

27 May 2013

State of translation

We exist in a constant state of translation. We just don’t like it. We don’t like to be reminded that we are translating this experience. Translators remind us of our relationship with language the way not everyone is comfortable with.

—Junot Díaz talks about the translations of his books in various languages (in The Buenos Aires Review)

24 April 2013

"The First Night of Interrogation" (poem)

J., a friend of mine who runs a printing press published this collection of poems by the activist Axel Pinpin. Tugmaang Matatabil (Tactless Verses) is a powerful piece of prison literature. The exclamations of Pinpin’s poems lit and ignite one’s perception of the systemic and systematic abuses of power by those in power. It takes guts to convert this personal detestation of corruption into subversion and to fashion from it an indictment of human rights violation committed by the government. The poems renew the tradition of resistance and protest in the writings of National Artist Amado V. Hernandez. Here's an English translation of a key poem in the book. It's a revised version of the one I posted in my other blog.

The First Night of Interrogation*
by Axel Pinpin (translated from the Filipino)

Black. pale uncertain ash and dark.
Black. Black and dark the blindfold enfolding.
Leaked as mucus in the inky stink smell
of cover news smothering my head
just as the oily python crushed tight
the insomniac night's remnant light.

Cold. The coldness brought by the muzzle of armalite.
Thick sweat on my forehead. Cold in the skin
And so much sticky the plastic chair
rubbed my elbows in sweaty shudders.
I sensed dread from crooked voices and gazes
piercing the peasant’s unyielding fight.

Who are you who kidnapped and thieved freedom?
Who between us is the savior, who the victim?
Are you my fellow victims victimizer
of the saviors of the victim?
Why aren't we both injured by the gunshot
and truth spiked in my tactless verses?

And if we are injured, then to forgive each other.
But one need not forget if forgiven,
because the handcuffs bequeath an ugly mark on my forearms,
because the gun muzzle bequeaths madness on my temples,
because the cowed cover on my eyes bequeaths darkness
because Victim shall exact vengeance from the Savior!

Ah, then you are indeed the faithful Redeemer!
And you shall suffer our Forgiveness!
Oh, death! Oh, so sweet death!
Lay us in the arms of our fallen comrades,
in the rhymes and songs of loud reports,
in the anguish for revenge of my tactless verses!

* This poem was extemporaneously recited by the author at the end of his interrogation on the night of April 28, 2006, in an unidentified place in Metro Manila (near the airport and railroad tracks). The writer was challenged by unknown armed men to recite a poem when they learned he was a poet. He recited this while blindfolded, handcuffed at the back, and with a gun pointed at his head. The poet tried to recall the poem since that time and he first wrote it on the 9 November 2006 when he was already in prison.

22 April 2013

Sebald extract

If he nevertheless persevered with writing, then only, as Jean Starobinski notes, in order to hasten the moment when the pen would fall from his hand and the essential things would be said in the silent embrace of reconciliation and return. Less heroically, but certainly no less correctly, one could also see writing as a continually self-perpetuating compulsive act, evidence that, of all individuals afflicted by the disease of thought, the writer is perhaps the most incurable.

- Max Sebald on Jean-Jacques Rousseau

02 April 2013

César Aira's forward march

"I don't read very much contemporary literature. There is so much to read. In the past, I remember that one lady told Borges that she read him, that she admired him so, and Borges asked her: But how come? Are you already done with all the good writers? (laughs) I march to that drum."

César Aira: My ideal is the fairy tale

The librarian's last interview


The Paris Review interview
Three conversations: "I remember what I've read better than what has happened to me. Clearly one of the most important things that can happen to a man is to read one or another page that moves him. It's a very intense experience, no less intense than others."
Profile of a Writer: Borges (1983): 80 mins. "The film consists of interviews in English with Borges, as well as short dramatizations in Spanish of several of his stories."

La villa

15 March 2013

Group read: Grande Sertão: Veredas

Coming in May is a group reading of a Latin American masterpiece from Brazil: Grande Sertao: Veredas by João Guimarães Rosa (translated into English as The Devil to Pay in the Backlands). We invite readers to join us in reading this novel, in any language, and posting on and discussing it on the last week of May.

The event is hosted by Richard of Caravana de recuerdos, Scott of seraillon, Miguel of St. Orberose, and me. Miguel will read the original Portuguese, Richard the Spanish translation, Scott the French translation, and I the English translation.

Grande Sertao: Veredas (1956) is a notoriously difficult novel, employing puns, word inventions and archaic words from the Portuguese. The writer João Guimarães Rosa (1908-1967) was a diplomat, fluent in many languages, and had a wide experience as a doctor in the countryside of Brazil. The novel is about bandit wars in Brazil, about making a pact with the devil, about leadership politics, about the celebration of the flora and fauna of the land, about things not seeming what they are.

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands (1963), as translated by James L. Taylor and Harriet de Onís, is generally regarded as a flawed translation. However, this translation is important for giving us the scope of the writer's importance. Unfortunately, this translation is long out of print. A used copy in the Amazon (the bookseller jungle) costs 300 bucks. Only libraries may be the reliable source of a copy.

Here's a rare interview with the Brazilian writer from the Guimarães Rosa specialist blog A Missing Book (On the Devil to Pay in the Backlands).

21 February 2013

Reino de Redonda reading list (2014)


Less than eleven months from now, the Redonda group read, hosted by Richard of Shea's Zibaldone, is in full swing. Redonda is of course the island kingdom of Rey Xavier I.

The reading (and watch) list is pretty solid. It includes book and film masterpieces from the Duke of Deshonra, the late Duke of Vértigo, Duke of Miraflores, Duke of Colores, Duke of Megalópolis, etc., and from the king himself.

Plenty of time to decide which royalty to read.

06 February 2013

Links to online interviews with Bolaño translators & editors (updated)

Below are web links to profiles-interviews with Bolaño translators, editors, and publishers in English.

(updated Feb. 6, 2013)

CHRIS ANDREWS: Translator of, among others, By Night in Chile and Last Evenings on Earth.

"The Chris Andrews Interview", The Quarterly Conversation

"RTW 2007, E-Panel: Literary Translators", Emerging Writers Network, 18 July 2007

"Interview with Chris Andrews", The Mookse and the Gripes, 16 July 2009

"Found in translation", The Australian, 20 March 2010

"This Week in Fiction: Roberto Bolaño", The Book Bench (The New Yorker), 14 April 2010

"Chris Andrews", Bombsite, June 2012

"Out and About: A Panel Discussion with Bolaño Translators Chris Andrews and Natasha Wimmer", Now That It's Now, 15 November 2012

NATASHA WIMMER: Translator of, among others, The Savage Detectives and Between Parentheses.

"Nine Questions for Natasha Wimmer on The Third Reich by Roberto Bolaño", Conversational Reading

"Interview with Natasha Wimmer", hey small press!

"The Natasha Wimmer Interview", The Quarterly Conversation

"Questions for Translator Natasha Wimmer", The Savage Detectives Amazon page

"Stray Questions for: Natasha Wimmer", Paper Cuts, 21 December 2007

"Natasha Wimmer on Roberto Bolaño’s “2666”", Words Without Borders, 2008 [essay]

See also: "Roberto Bolaño and The Savage Detectives" [pdf, essay]

"Natasha Wimmer on Translating Bolaño’s 2666", Vulture, 14 November 2008

"Interview: Natasha Wimmer, Translator of Roberto Bolaño's 2666", Sound of the City (Village Voice), 25 November 2008

Excerpted in: "Lit Seen: Joshua Ferris at Housing Works, n+1, Bolaño's Hit Translator", Village Voice, 26 November 2008

"Exclusive: Natasha Wimmer Tells Us About Translating the Next Great Latin American Author", Flavorwire, 2 December 2008

"Conversation: Roberto Bolano's '2666'", PBS NewsHour [audio], 23 January 2009

"Natasha Wimmer on Roberto Bolaño and the Translator's Task", Powells.com, undated

"A translator's task – to disappear", Christian Science Monitor, 16 January 2009

"Natasha Wimmer", Publishers Weekly, 12 June 2009

"Natasha Wimmer on Forthcoming Bolano Books", Center for the Art of Translation Blog, 21 September 2009

"TWO VOICES: Translator Natasha Wimmer in Conversation with Daniel Alarcón"

"Lit&Lunch with Translator Natasha Wimmer on Roberto Bolano" [audio], Center for the Art of Translation Blog, 10 October 2009

"Translating Sex", Granta (online only), 17 May 2010

"Editors' Week: Interview with Natasha Wimmer", Center for the Art of Translation Blog, 4 October 2010

"Translating Bolaño: An Interview with Natasha Wimmer", Sampsonia Way, 17 January 2013

LAURA HEALY: Translator of 3 poetry books by Bolaño: The Romantic Dogs, Tres, and The Unknown University.

"Interview with Laura Healy, translator of Roberto Bolaño’s “The Romantic Dogs”", Words Without Borders, 12 March 2010

ERICA MENA: Translator of the poems in Tres, an excerpt of which appeared in Words Without Borders.

"Making the Translator Visible: Erica Mena", Three Percent, 15 December 2009

See also.


"A Writer Whose Posthumous Novel Crowns an Illustrious Career", NYTimes.com, 9 August 2005

"A Writer Crosses Over", The Washington Post, 8 April 2007

"Poets and Gangsters: Discovering Roberto Bolano", NPR, 28 April 2007

"Andrew Wylie Puts Roberto Bolaño On the Market", The New York Observer, 21 October 2008

"Editor Lorin Stein Discusses Roberto Bolano's '2666'" [audio], NPR, 27 January 2009

"Agents & Editors: A Q&A With Jonathan Galassi", Poets & Writers, 1 July 2009

"Chris Faatz Interviews Barbara Epler of New Directions", PowellsBooks.Blog, 5 September 2009

"Q&A with Lorin Stein", Las obras de Roberto Bolaño, 28 January 2010

"Interview – Lorin Stein on Literature", Notes from the Underground, 9 March 2010

"Roberto Bolaño: Literary Lion, Cash Cow?", The Q: GQ, 14 May 2010

"Barbara Epler" [audio], Bookworm on KCRW, 25 March 2010

"This Week in Fiction: The True Bolaño", The New Yorker, 16 January 2012

31 January 2013

The Guardian 100 greatest non-fiction books

The Guardian came up with the 100 best nonfiction books in 2011.

 They introduced the list, thus: "After keen debate at the Guardian's books desk, this is our list of the very best factual writing ... "

Under the category "Travel" they included The Rings of Saturn by W. G Sebald. Which is really odd since the book is fiction. In several instances the novel is hardly factual at all.

Max Sebald's grave


29 January 2013

Last-evenings-on-earth-inspired art

Slide show of: Rockslide Sky (via The Millions), curated by Carleen Sheehan, at The Center Gallery and the Lipani Gallery, Fordham University at Lincoln Center, 1 October - 5 November 2012

"The artists in this exhibition all touch on aspects of the narrative in compelling ways, bringing visual impact and tangential experience to the space evoked by the written word. In a sense this exhibition is a visual collaboration with Roberto Bolaño, conjuring and collaging visual accomplices to his words."


Walking books

Two reading lists featuring walking:

Walking While Reading

Ten Outstanding Books That Combine Walking and Thinking

25 January 2013

10 most viewed

On New Year's Day, Bifurcata bifurcata turned two years old. It's been a great two years of irregular blogging. I've never regretted the decision to open a second blog. This site here is my Twitter feed.

I checked the most viewed posts of the site and share them here with you.

1. The 2011 Roberto Bolaño Reading Challenge - The one that started it all. I guess introductory posts are usually the most often viewed.

2. A reader's guide to 2666 - Proof of a continuing interest in the novel.

3. Woes of the True Policeman - The latest Bolaño translation will always generate a lot of buzz.

4. The Savage Detectives Group Read - The invitation post to one of the seminal events in blogging history in recent memory. No exaggeration intended. LOL. The wrap up post is here.

5. Carlos Fuentes's best Latin American novels of the past and present centuries - Also proof of continuing interest in listing exercises on the best of Latin American novels.

6. Celebrating José Saramago - Glad to see the Senhor racking up some stats. His posthumous popularity is well deserved.

7. The construction of the Bolaño backlash - An influential critical essay by Castellanos Moya on the most talked about post-Boom Latin American novelist.

8. Sneak preview of Tres - Happy to see some poetry loving here.

9. "Your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint...." - Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian has always had a cult following.

10. A Bolaño walking tour, Blanes, Spain - Some tourists found their way here?!

13 January 2013

The Hare reissued

In March 2012, in my review of Varamo, I wrote in in lieu of a field guide:

If the critic Ignacio Echevarría (via Caravana de recuerdos) was asked, the single most essential Aira was La liebre, which fortunately has already been translated. A good choice, I must say. The Hare, at a fair novel length, has the heft and substance of a long sojourn. Its adventures hover perilously between high and low entertainments, hanging as if at an angle of repose, at any moment at risk from falling off a cliff.... A lightning charge striking with all its pent-up electrical energy.... A short circuit of brain synapse.... A numinous moment in time.... And I will have to say that the prose of translator Nick Caistor, which was slightly inelegant and unpolished and neutral and wry, lent a certain understatement to the statement. It was Aira without the airbrush of beautiful writing, not the superhero but his alter-ego. In other words, this reader was not after exercises of perfection or near-perfection in a novelita. Let's face it. The long novel was the true test of a writer's métier. Arguable point, of course. But the form of the long novel, where anything can go wrong and the trappings of didacticism were ever present, where the temptation to over-deliver was stronger, where the writer struggles much harder to avoid false moves than make the right ones, the long form could provide a breath of fresher Aira. Publishers, take note. Go for the longer Aira, they were bound to be more spontaneous and more driven. And go for the critics' favorites. It would not hurt to consider "translating" the opinions of Spanish writers and critics.

In June 2013, New Directions is reissuing The Hare and publishing it for the first time in the US. How cool is that?