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Congratulations to Jill Schoolman for winning the Premi J. B. Cendrós!

Join us in congratulating Chad W. Post of Open Letter Press and our publisher, Jill Schoolman, for winning this year’s Premi Internacional J. B. Cendrós!

The Premi J. B. Cendrós is awarded every year by the Òmnium Cultural in Barcelona for the international publication or broadcast in any language of works originally published in Catalan. Òmnium Cultural is a Catalan association based in Barcelona, Spain, founded in 1961 with the goal of promoting the Catalan language and culture in Spain and abroad.

Jordi Cuixart, the president of Òmnium Cultural, writes in the award memorandum that “to strengthen the universal dimension of Catalan literature is not only a way of normalizing it, but also a step towards repairing the persecution that it has suffered… Schoolman and Post have contributed towards a world that is more critical, more sensible, and more free.”

 

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Donald Nicholson-Smith reflects on translating Jean-Patrick Manchette in CrimeReads

Donald Nicholson-Smith, translator of Serge Pey‘s Treasure of the Spanish Civil War, Abdellatif Laâbi‘s In Praise of Defeat, and much more, writes about translating Jean-Patrick Manchette in CrimeReads this month. He reflects on the relationship between “genre” and “literary” fiction, the market for crime writing in translation, Manchette’s influences and legacy, and more. Read the piece here.

Jean-Patrick Manchette (1942–1995) was a genre-redefining French crime novelist, screenwriter, critic, and translator. Born in Marseille to a family of relatively modest means, Manchette grew up in a southwestern suburb of Paris, where he wrote from an early age. As Nicholson-Smith writes: “Today Jean-Patrick Manchette is widely thought by the French not only to have transformed (and radicalized) the crime novel but also to have considerably blurred the dividing line between genre and properly “literary” fiction. Just recently, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of his untimely death from cancer in 1995, the publication of a sturdy volume of his correspondence has unleashed a storm of new attention to his achievement.”

Donald Nicholson-Smith was born in Manchester, England and is a longtime resident of New York City. His translations, ranging from psychoanalysis and social criticism to crime fiction, include works by Thierry Jonquet, Guy Debord, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Henri Lefebvre, Raoul Vaneigem, Antonin Artaud, Jean Laplanche, and J.B. Pontalis. His translation of Apollinaire’s Letters to Madeleine was shortlisted for the 2012 French-American Foundation Prize for Nonfiction and in 2014 he won the Foundation’s Fiction Prize for his translation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s The Mad and the Bad. His translation of In Praise of Defeat by Abdellatif Laâbi was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2017.

Jean-Patrick Manchette: Inside the Decades-Long Effort to Bring a Master of French Crime Fiction to American Readers

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Julian Lucas interviews Scholastique Mukasonga for The White Review

In an interview with Julian Lucas for The White Review, Scholastique Mukasonga discusses – among other things – her movement from autobiography to fiction, and the historical and cultural contexts of colonialism, gender roles, and the Catholic Church in her writing about the Rwandan genocide. She also dwells on what it means to write Rwandan history in French, and the linguistic futures of emerging writers in her country. You can read the interview here, and an excerpt below:

“But I believe that I will never stop writing about Rwanda: there is so much more to write about this lost, murdered, recovering, reborn country. There are few Rwandan writers, and among them, even fewer women. I know my books are needed. It’s as though I receive orders from young Rwandans who thirst to rediscover a culture so long obscured and despised. Writing to meet their expectations has become a duty, but also a pleasure. All I have to do is dig into the trunk of my mother’s tales.”

 

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Dreams Are Instruments of Liberation: José Eduardo Agualusa interviewed in Bomb Magazine

This week, Bomb Magazine published an interview of José Eduardo Agualusa by Bibi Deitz. They talk about Agualusa’s novel, The Society of Reluctant Dreamers, and how dreams, social movements, and photography all affect his writing. As Deitz notes in her introduction to the interview: “To read José Eduardo Agualusa is less like being transported to another world and more like getting thrown into the very real world in which we live: The colors are brighter, the sun beats a bit hotter, and people let their dreams affect them more acutely.”

You can read the interview on Bomb’s website, here.

José Eduardo Agualusa was born in Huambo, Angola in 1960. He studied agronomy and forestry in Lisbon before he began his work as a writer. His novel Creole was awarded the Portuguese Grand Prize for Literature, and he received the U.K.’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for The Book of Chameleons in 2007. He and his translator, Daniel Hahn, won the 2017 Dublin Literary Award for A General Theory of Oblivion and in 2019, he won Angola’s most prestigious literary prize, the National Prize for Culture and Arts.

Bibi Deitz lives and writes in Brooklyn, and recently finished her first novel; more at bibideitz.com.

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Karthika Naïr’s Until the Lions in the New York Review of Books

A purpley maroon book cover with a black and white photo of ruins centered on the front

A purpley maroon book cover with a black and white photo of ruins centered on the frontDavid Shulman has written a thoughtful and engrossing paean to Karthika Naïr’s Until the Lions in the September 24th issue of the New York Review of Books.  Shulman’s piece situates Naïr’s work in the long and intricate history of the Mahabharata, praising Until the Lions for its nimble play of poetic forms and deep emotional register, as well as Naïr’s inventive reconstruction  of the Mahabharata’s less-sung stories. You can find the review here, and read an excerpt below:

The most lyrical of all such attempts to see the Mahabharata through the eyes of its characters is the remarkable dramatic poem Until the Lions by the Kerala-born, Paris-based poet, dance producer, and librettist Karthika Naïr. She has given her book an appropriate subtitle: “Echoes from the Mahabharata.” The thirty haunting, heartrending chapters, in a wide range of forms and styles, resonate powerfully with one another…

Nearly all the chapters are first-person dramatic monologues uttered by female characters known from the Mahabharata (with the exception of one newly invented voice, that of the clairvoyant canine Shunaka, who reembodies the speaking dog Sarama mentioned at the very beginning, or one of the beginnings, of the epic). The female voices are, almost without exception, tormented, ravaged, grief-stricken, bitterly lamenting the irrevocable, unthinkable losses that their fathers, husbands, brothers, brothers-in-law, lovers, and sons have inflicted on them. I don’t think I have ever seen a description of rape as unflinching as Sauvali’s rage at King Dhritarashtra and the configuration of sycophantic politicians and courtiers who force her to submit to him. Sauvali exemplifies a prominent pattern in these chapters: women whose names are known from the Sanskrit epic but whose character and inner experience are muted there suddenly come to life as full-blooded people caught up in the destruction endemic to a male world (well, maybe to any human world)…

Karthika, in the voice of Uttaraa, has articulated something I remember all too well from my own wartime service in Lebanon. Among the soldiers in my unit, only one, I think—our gung-ho commanding officer—identified with the specious rhetoric coming at us from the politicians back home in Jerusalem. Karthika’s Mahabharata is, among other things, a passionate antiwar manifesto; she and her characters are sensitive to the perversion of language that is always needed to generate more dead heroes, and to the cost borne by those who survive…

This is a Mahabharata for our generation. It includes stories that have attached themselves to the classical epic via local, regional traditions…Her poems share the kaleidoscopic quality of the epic text, its persistent, dizzying perspectivism as it moves from one episode to the next, one ardent speaker to another.

One could also see the Mahabharata, as the anthropologist Don Handelman has suggested, as a vast laboratory for existential experiment, in which the great themes and above all the ethical quandaries of a civilization can be brought to light, played out, and examined. Such themes are not abstract entities but lived human realities, mostly agonizing and opaque, eluding any simple or, indeed, possible resolution. From a point somewhere deep within this laboratory, Karthika Naïr has captured in words the tonality of this mammoth text.

The Widows’ Laments

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Brave Girls From Rwanda: Interview with Scholastique Mukasonga

Scholastique Mukasonga was interviewed by the Institute Français at the Beyond Words French Literature Festival in May. You can watch her discuss her first novel, Our Lady of the Nile at the link below, along with two readings from the book, in both French and English.

Set in a small, prestigious Catholic boarding school for the wealthy and well-connected, Our Lady of the Nile weaves together stories of girlhood with the particular history of Rwanda. Mukasonga transforms the lycée into a microcosm of the country’s mounting racial tensions and violence leading up to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Watch here.

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Elias Khoury’s “This Is Not Beirut” in The Paris Review

Elias Khoury, author of Gate of the Sun, White Masks, and As Though She Were Sleeping, responds in The Paris Review Daily to the recent explosion in Beirut that has killed over 150 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Read “This Is Not Beirut,” translated from Arabic by Humphrey Davies, here.

 

This Is Not Beirut

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The Farm is longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award!

Hector Abad’s The Farm, translated by Anne McLean, has been longlisted for the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award!

Héctor Abad is one of Colombia’s leading writers. Born in 1958, he grew up in Medellín, where he studied medicine, philosophy and journalism. In 1987, his father was murdered by Colombian paramilitaries, an event he reflected on 20 years later in Oblivion: A Memoir (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012), which earned widespread critical acclaim as well as the WOLA-Duke Book Award. Abad has worked as a lecturer in Spanish at the University of Verona and as a translator of Italian literature.  Abad writes a weekly column for Colombia’s national newspaper El Espectador. The Farm won the 2015 Cálamo Prize in Spain and was shortlisted for the Mario Vargas Llosa Prize.

Anne McLean has translated works by Javier Cercas, Evelio Rosero, Juan Gabriel Vázquez, Ignacio Martinez de Pisón, Carmen Martín Gaite, Enrique Vila-Matas, and Héctor Abad, as well as Autonauts of the CosmorouteDiary of Andrés Fava and From the Observatory by Julio Cortázar. Twice-winner of both the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Premio Valle-Inclán, McLean won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Awards in 2014 with Juan Gabriel Vázquez.

See more details on the award here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Donald Nicholson-Smith and Caleb Crain converse about Treasure of the Spanish Civil War

Donald Nicholson-Smith, translator of Serge Pey’s Treasure of the Spanish Civil War, read from his translation and conversed with Caleb Crain about genre, immigration, magical realism, anarchism, and more at a recent Zoom talk hosted by Community Bookstore. Watch a recording of the conversation below.

Donald Nicholson-Smith has translated works by Antonin Artaud, Jean Laplanche, and J. B. Pontalis, among other writers. His translation of In Praise of Defeat by Abdellatif Laâbi was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2017.

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Scholastique Mukasonga in The New Yorker

Igifu, translated by Jordan Stump, available now

“How can you mourn your loved ones when they have no graves? How can you mourn without allowing them to sink into oblivion—a second death, for which you are then responsible?” These are the questions that drive Scholastique Mukasonga’s short story, Grief, an excerpt from Igifu appearing in The New Yorker this weekMukasonga discusses Grief and more in an interview with Deborah Treisman.

“On TV, on the radio, they never called it genocide. As if that word were reserved. Too serious. Too serious for Africa. Yes, there were massacres, but there were always massacres in Africa. And these massacres were happening in a country that no one had ever heard of. A country that no one could find on a map. Tribal hatred, primitive, atavistic hatred: nothing to understand there. ‘Weird stuff goes on where you come from,’ people would tell her.”

Read more of Grief at this link, and Mukasonga’s interview, here.