Killing a Book

Posted in Uncategorized on 05/07/2015 by northnorthw

andrc3a9s-neuman-2Traveler of the Century (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012) is a novel set in early 19th-century Germany–a bit of a love story, a bit philosophy and politics, and a bit metaphysical. Without an introduction by way of jacket flaps or reviews, one could swear it was actually written in the 19th century. Author Andrés Neuman, however, is a relatively young Argentinian with about 20 books to his credit.

Neuman’s second book to be translated into English, Talking to Ourselves (FSG, 2014), far different from Traveler, it is a contemporary novel of illness, fidelity, parenting and death.

On the significant differences between the books, Neuman said, “Repeating a book would be killing a book.” He explained: “For me, to try to write a book the same way I did before, would in some way diminish it, and make the new book older–and somehow weaker. The reason is perhaps that the first book was done with a high degree of uncertainty, with few rules, and a permanent sense of discovery, which now, in a second book, would very probably end up being done with too many certainties and precedent, and a certain lack of freshness and self-amazement.

“Therefore, I try to have the illusion that every single book of mine is the first one (regarding the learning process) and, paradoxically, the last one (regarding the need and desperation to write it). I know that our grandpa Borges conceived his body of work as only one great book… although not all his books are actually so similar, if we compare what he wrote until the mid-40s with the rest, and even his mature work with his late efforts. And [Eduardo] Halfon is certainly a fantastic friend and writer. But, in spite of their brilliant exceptions, in most cases, I feel that we tend to mistake what we benevolently call ‘a style’ for what the literary market would like to call ‘a brand.’ What I try to do is escape as much as possible from that risk. If there are similarities among my books (and I’m sure there are plenty of them), that happens against my will.”

In correspondence with Eduardo Halfon, author of The Polish Boxer (Bellevue Literary Press, 2012) and the more recent Monastery, I mentioned the stylistic difference between his two novels and those of Neuman. Halfon responded: “I agree with Andresito. The difference–or the key, perhaps–is that, in my case, I’m only writing one book, and everything I publish along the way is just part of it. As if each book I write is a page or a chapter (rewriting is not only possible, then, but necessary). Or as if each book I write is a planet or star in some strange literary constellation, in which everything is intertwined and connected, and of which I, too, as I travel around it, am not completely aware of.”

Andrés Neuman’s forthcoming collection of 35 stories, The Things We Don’t Do (Open Letter, September 2015) is, naturally, dissimilar from his two previously translated books. Divided into five thematic sections, it moves in multiple directions–some of the stories are funny, some poignant, some absurd, some dark.

Robert Bolaño said, “The literature of the twenty-first century will belong to Neuman and to a handful of his blood brothers.” And so it does. And that is good.

All of Neuman’s work is translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia. Eduardo Halfon’s books are translated by Lisa Dillman and Daniel Hahn (with Thomas Bunstead, Ollie Brock and Anne McLean on The Polish Boxer)   — from Shelf Awareness

New Kids on the Block

Posted in Uncategorized on 04/07/2015 by northnorthw

The larger trade publishers are very selective about international authors, often missing out on some of the world’s most interesting writers. It’s as if March Madness were Kentucky playing Duke every year, over and over and over. However, this creates opportunities for brave souls who have the vision and resources to bring those authors to the marketplace.

Enter three new publishers.


In Madrid, Gregorio Doval and Ana Perez Galvan started Hispabooks with the mission to publish contemporary Spanish literature in English-language translation. It would be difficult to find two smarter, nicer people in publishing. The Hotel Life and The Faint-Hearted Bolshevik, published as print-on-demand editions, have met with critical acclaim. Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente (translated by Margaret Jull Costa) leads Hispabooks’ most recent list. The upcoming Unpaid Debts, a thriller by Antonio Jimenez Barca (translated by Benjamin Rowdon), won the Silverio Canada prize for best first noir novel in Spanish. In June, Hispabooks will move its distribution to Consortium, which keeps signing more and more innovative publishers of world literature.


If harnessing media coverage is the key to success, Will Evans is destined for fame and fortune. The launch of Deep Vellum was heralded for months in the publisher’s home base: from the Dallas Morning News to Dallas Culture MapLakewood/East Dallas Advocate and the Texas Observer–everything it seems but the Dallas Triple Nickel want ads. AsymptoteThree PercentPublishing PerspectivesBrooklyn Quarterly and Publishing the World all discussed publishing philosophy with Evans well in advance of the release of his first book. That first book immediately established Deep Vellum. Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa (translated by Samantha Schnee) has been long-listed for the 2015 PEN Translation Prize and won the Typographical Era Best Translation Award. Boullosa, a wonderful storyteller, reinforced her fandom in a recent author tour. Upcoming titles from Deep Vellum include The Indian by the Jon Gnarr, the comedian turned mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland; and Calligraphy Lesson, a collection of stories by Mikhail Shishkin, author of the must-read Maidenhair.


New Vessel Press is about to announce its third season. Complementing their ubiquitous virtual postings on social media with the concrete world, Michael Wise and Russ Ufberg created a pop-up store/table on the street in Manhattan last fall–the literary equivalent of farm-to-table. The curiously named I Called Him Necktie by Milen Michiko Flasar (translated by Sheila Dickie), a novel about a hikikomori–a 20-something shut-in who never leaves his room–is a great entry point to New Vessel’s publishing program. Its most recent release, Guys Like Me by Dominic Fabre (translated by Howard Curtis), was well reviewed in the New York Times and Le Monde.

— from Shelf Awareness, April 2015


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.