September 26, 2020
This week we celebrate works in translation with recent novels and nonfiction that show a wonderful diversity of voices coming from afar— Poland, France, Japan, Israel, Columbia and Mexico. How fortunate we are, in this isolated time, to have these notable works of literature to read.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing
By Maryla Szymiczkowa
Published by Mariner Books
Translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Agatha Christie fans rejoice, this is a delicious mystery that has all the elements of a traditional cozy plus an Eastern European sensibility that adds a little dark wit. A dowager who spends most of her time doing charity work finds herself becoming an aging Nancy Drew when a nursing home resident turns up dead. A completely delightful character, the terrific atmosphere of 1890s Kraków, and a smart, twisty plot combine to make this unexpected mystery a treat.
That Time of Year
By Marie Ndiaye
Published by Two Lines Press
Translated from the French by Jordan Stump
This slim novel is darkly comic, yet extremely creepy. A Parisian couple vacations annually in a village in Southern France but all of the temporary residents always depart at the first of September when the weather goes from glorious to sodden and cold. When Herman’s wife and child don’t return from an errand, he goes down a rabbit hole trying to find his missing family—a bit of horror mixed with a quietly unsettling thriller..
By Sayaka Murata
Published by Grove Press
Translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Hotly anticipated by fans of Murata’s Convenience Store Woman, this new novel follows Natsuki, a misfit child who receives alien messages from a stuffed hedgehog. Natsuki’s rich imagination is her salvation, but also aids in her disassociation from the world when she is betrayed by the adults in her life. Even as she grows up, she clings firmly to her belief of the alien world of Popinpobopia. Haunting and wonderfully weird, Earthlings delivers a strong message for any outsider.
The Memory Monster
By Yishai Sarid
Published by Restless Books
Translated from the Hebrew by Yardenne Greenspan
A young historian tries to make sense of the Holocaust when he is tasked with writing a report to the chairman of Vad Vashem (Israel’s memorial to victims of the Holocaust) after his dreams of becoming a diplomat are quashed. This is a moving and important addition to the literature of the period, alongside writers like Primo Levi, confirming that the horrors of war extend to the next generation who are so deeply and ineluctably affected by the events of the past..
Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country
By Cristina Rivera Garza
Published by Feminist Press
Translated from the Spanish by Sarah Booker
Both eloquent and urgent, Grieving calls attention to the violent turmoil of Mexico’s recent history. This collection of vital essays reveals the current ‘wars’ (on drugs, on women, on the climate) for what they actually are and shows us a contemporary Mexico in desperate need of collective action. Garza urges us to keep writing “because writing, by nature, invites us to consider the possibility that the world can, in fact, be different.”
Solitude & Company
By Silvana Paternostro
Published by Seven Stories Press
Translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman
A spirited oral history of the makings of the great writer Gabriel García Márquez from his early beginnings. Best described by its colorful subtitle: ‘The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez Told with Help from His Friends, Family, Fans, Arguers, Fellow Pranksters, Drunks, and a Few Respectable Souls’—the brilliant translation from Edith Grossman should send you back to reread her great translations of his work..