Witold Szabłowski is now working on a book about people who saved each other’s lives in Volhynia during the Second World War. Then part of Nazi-occupied eastern Poland (and now in western Ukraine), Volhynia was the scene of some of the bloodiest events in the entire course of the war. The report featured here was published in Gazeta Wyborcza‘s “Duży Format” reportage supplement on June 18, 2013, and will feature in the book.
Climate change, one of the most pressing issues concerning humanity’s future, is rarely the subject of literary fiction. But in his latest novel, EisTau (“IceMelt”), Bulgarian-German author Ilija Trojanow addresses the problem head-on. In the text featured here, which Trojanow delivered at the 2012 Van der Leeuw Lecture held annually in the Netherlands, the author explains what brought him to his subject.
The Crime of a Soldier outlines the complicated relationship between a war criminal and his daughter. He is a man who feels perpetually hounded, followed and spied on. He believes that he is innocent, that he was just obeying orders, and that his only crime is to be a defeated soldier. His daughter disagrees–her father’s guilt has been established, without appeal. Theirs is a thwarted bond, which seems to take a turn when the father discovers the Cabala, where letters may also stand for numbers and hint at the future. De Luca depicts his characters with a sustained intensity. In this captivating plot, the rhythm of the narration acutely reflects the daughter’s inner disquiet.
Note on “Bret Easton Ellis: It’s Actually Shakespeare”:
Laurent Binet, whose novel HHhH was translated into twenty languages, is cultishly devoted to the author of American Psycho. His tribute to the author he calls BEE is both sexy and precise, with the added bonus of a few literary scoops on his greatest books. This article appeared in the August 2012 issue of Vanity Fair (France).
Note on “Glossary of Literary Received Ideas”:
This article appeared in Le Nouvel Observateur in 2011. There are no entries under the letters “E” or “T” in the English translation.
Jáchym Topol is the leading Czech author of his generation. Famous in his youth as an underground poet and songwriter, today he is recognized as the writer whose work most successfully and imaginatively captures the jarring changes in society since the end of communism in 1989. The title of Anděl (“Angel Station”) refers to the bustling Prague Metro stop located in Smíchov, which was until its recent gentrification a rough, working-class neighborhood. With a cast of characters reflecting the area’s diverse residents, including Roma and Vietnamese, Topol’s novel, employing sparse, at times near-telegraphic language, weaves together the brutal and disturbing fates of an addict, a shopkeeper, and a religious fanatic as they each follow the path they hope will lead them to serenity: drugs, money, and faith. In the excerpt featured here, Butch, the addict, tries to escape his troubles in Prague by relocating to Paris with a new girlfriend.
“The Man” is a short autobiographical sketch set in Paris, in 1896, during Zabel Yesayan’s second year of study at the Sorbonne. It was published in 1905 in the Armenian literary magazine Masis as a response to a text examining the phenomenon of terror from an aesthetic point of view. The sketch explores the psychological effects of alienation and isolation of women as foreigners in a Parisian dormitory.
Once he crosses the hospital’s iron doorway, the narrator is trapped. And thus begins Ahmed Bouanani’s novella, The Hospital, wherein an unnamed guide navigates the labyrinthine world of a hospital on the outskirts of Casablanca. Despite scant details about the institution or the narrator’s illness, we understand that his stay is less than voluntary.
What emerges is a story of Casablanca’s beggars and madmen. As the narrator struggles to differentiate between reality and imagination, and maintain his sanity, he records the minutiae of the wards of one wing of the hospital. Through a series of short vignettes, the narrator describes events in wing C that transpire over a period of weeks, months, or even years. The portraits that emerge reveal his fellow patients’ simplicity, depravity, and naiveté without ever verging into pity or caricature. Relying heavily on colloquial dialogue, Bouanani creates a contained universe where God, sex, and family are equally lauded, condemned, and mocked.
The narrator himself alternates between remarkable lucidity, offering his observations with grim irony and detachment, and vivid hallucinations. Bouanani uses vibrant imagery to its best effect when describing the narrator’s descent into a dizzying fantasy world–one where his younger self and the incarnation of death both have speaking parts. Modeled after the author’s own stint in a tuberculosis sanatorium, The Hospital offers the reader a focused, almost claustrophobic look at the patients of wing C–some (the sexual predators and parricidal killers) abhorrent but nonetheless compelling. In short, Bouanani’s novella is a story of contrasts: health/disease, pureness/perversion, control/chaos, and lastly, resignation/rebellion. But more than a portrait of a single man’s odyssey through madness, the work offers a larger glimpse into one of Morocco’s darkest periods. Reflecting Bouanani’s experiences as a writer living in a climate of political unrest and harsh government repression, The Hospital is an allegory of the position of the artist and the conditions of the production of art in Morocco in the second half of the 20th century.
Since Bouanani’s death in 2011, artists in Morocco have been trying to revive interest in his works. So far, their efforts have resulted in a re-edition of The Hospital in both Morocco and France, and an upcoming Arabic translation of the novella. Bouanani’s writings should be framed within a broader, post-colonial aesthetic movement that sought to valorize Moroccan literature and film. The Hospital is an undeniably important work within that corpus. Beyond its historical significance, however, the novella stands out as a compelling and unique narrative characterized by Bouanani’s acerbic, engrossing, and magical prose.
Toni Sala (b. 1969, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Girona) is an author of fiction and nonfiction as well as a secondary school teacher of Catalan literature. His books include the short story collections Entomologia (1997) and Bones notícies (2001); the novels Pere Marín (1998), Goril·la blanc (2002), Rodalies (2004, Sant Joan Prize and the National Prize for Catalan Literature), and Quatre dies a l’Àfrica (2005); and the book-length essay Petita crònica d’un professor a secundària (2001), a controversial bestseller in which the author exposed the frustration prevalent among educators with disarming sincerity and raw candor.
Like most of Sándor Jászberényi’s fiction, “How Ahmed Salem Abandoned God” is a story steeped in a violent reality. Drawing on his experiences as a journalist in Middle East conflict zones, Jászberényi’s stories read like dispatches from the human side of war. It is the kind of writing that keeps good company with great journalist-observers of wars past, such as John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway, and Graham Greene. His settings range from Libya to Syria, Egypt to Sudan, but his writing is always rooted in universal questions of faith, fidelity, and personal responsibility.
Patricia Esteban Erlés (b. 1972 in Zaragoza, Spain) completed her studies in Hispanic Philology at the University of Zaragoza and specializes in chivalric literature. Her own literary production, in contrast, is firmly rooted in contemporary society, as she represents the age in which she lives, with all the technological innovations and personal uncertainties of our postmodern world. Her work has been described as gothic, with a marked influence from film, featuring a disarming sense of the mysterious as she explores the points of contact between reality and fantasy. The story featured here, “Cantalobos,” comes from Manderley en venta (Tropos, 2010), which won the 2007 University of Zaragoza literary award for short fiction and was named one of the top ten books of short stories of 2008.
The Brooklyn Rail welcomes you to our web-exclusive section InTranslation, where we feature unpublished translations of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic writing. Launched in April 2007, InTranslation is a venue for outstanding work in translation and a resource for translators, authors, editors, and publishers seeking to collaborate.
We seek exceptional unpublished English translations from all languages.
Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry: Manuscripts of no longer than 20 pages (double-spaced).
Plays: Manuscripts of no longer than 30 pages (in left-justified format).