Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Top 10 Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

I read a lot of translated fiction, which is sadly underrepresented in the American market. With a couple of exceptions, most of this list is foreign authors who need more love in this monolingual country.

10. Ara 13 (American)
"To argue inside any theistic construct is likely a futile effort, and perhaps unnecessary. Ayn Rand is right in declaring existence axiomatic. We must acknowledge existence as revealed by our senses to construct proofs. . . We can academically challenge the credence of reality – claim we are in a dream state and will wake instead of dying – but in the end, we likely come down from our scholastic theorizing and eat and not play in traffic. We assume reality in order to function in this existence; that is what sensible means, after all – as verified by the senses. Hence to act contrary to a common acknowledgement or common sense is nonsense."
9. Suzane Adam (Israel)
I feel almost like an archaeologist, chipping away at a widening pit, descending into it, into another room, a maze. I don't understand anything. I didn't know any of it, violating the oath of years of silence. In my family we always screamed the truth in each other's faces. This did not make me any happier, though at least we knew each other's sore points; her family is partitioned, everyone nursing his own pain.
8. Ingrid Winterbach (South Africa)
"Any icy northerly wind blew for days on end. . . The sky was dull and overcast. The wind whistled and gusted. It was March - almost exactly a year ago. Winter was on its way. The tent was so low that one could stand up straight only in the middle. The grass was nearly flattened by the wind. In the distance the veld was greyish yellow and a muted blue where it met the heavy clouds on the horizon. If our circumstances had been different, one might have called it a scene of picturesque beauty. But I was too down-hearted, and the rain too unceasing - a fine, misty, mournful rain. Every day I yearned intensely for the end of the day, for at least night brought oblivion."
7. Mathias Énard (France)
. . . I thought about Harmen Gerbens the Dutchman and about his apartment, about the Jews of Cairo and Alexandria who came through Spain in 1967, about all those movements in the Zone, ebb, flow, exiles chasing other exiles, according to the victories and defeats, the power of weapons and the outline of frontiers, a bloody dance, an eternal interminable vendetta, always, whether they're Republicans in Spain fascists in France Palestinians in Israel they all dream of the fate of Aeneas the Trojan son of Aphrodite, the conquered with their destroyed cities want to destroy other cities in turn, rewrite their history, change it into victory, in other places, later on, . . .
(All 500 pages are one big sentence!)

6. Mercè Rodoreda (Spain/Catalan)
She told me she knew many things: far away the river was flowing; the dead were asleep; trees that held a dead person likewise died a bit; cement inside a dead person took a long time to dry. She said we knew many things about the light, about everything that transpires as it goes round, returning to us – neither too fast nor too slowly, like our shadows on the sundial hours. The same, always the same, no beginning, no ending, never tiring.
5. Robert W. Chambers (American)
Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
                    Lost Carcosa.
4. Esther Tusquets (Spain)

Grrrr. . . No quote! (I read the book for my publishing internship in college and don't own it.) But trust me: if you love Woolf, you'll love Tusquets.

3. Jáchym Topol (Czech Republic)
…my loved one was a bee and a butterfly and knew how to cut with her claws and her tongue, and I tried too … we learned from each other what was good for the other, and that made both of us stronger … running, and the earth turned beneath us, running by graves and leaping across them, avoiding the bones and glassy stares and empty eyesockets … of wolf skulls … and steering clear of traps and snares, we had experience … with falling stakes and poisoned meat … we made it without harm through the red pack's territory … and met the last of the white wolves, they were wracked with disease … and the big black wolves chased us, but we escaped … we, the gray wolves of the Carpathians, had an age-old war with them, they were surprised we fled, their jaws snapping shut on empty air, they had a hunch it was their turn next, the helicopters were on the way … we ran side by side, our bodies touching … running over the earth as it turned, with the wind whistling in our ears like a lament for every dead pack … and the clicking of our claws made the earth's motion accelerate … we ran over the earth, a mass grave, running away …
(One of my all-time favorite passages anywhere. Imagine what the original Czech must have sounded like!)

2. Michal Ajvaz (Czech Republic)
"Until just a few years ago the scientific community, with the rare exception, was of the view that the great battle in the depths of bedroom could not be regarded as a historic event. It was maintained that the records in the reference books were not reliable and were the result of the historicization of certain rituals connected with underground celebrations of expulsions of dragons from savings banks. It was also pointed out that there was no reference to the battle in the famed Lion's Chronicle, which was found, as you all know, on a rainy night in a plastic wrapper on a seat in an unlit compartment, just as the train stopped on the track and the compartment was just beneath the lighted window of an Art Nouveau villa at Všenory, the light of which was reflected in the wet leaves of the darkened garden. It is truly astonishing that the scholars who were hypercritical about the source material should not have found it odd that the chronicle was found precisely outside a villa in whose window could be seen dimly lit on the wall part of a picture on which could be discerned the figure of fauns dancing in a meadow. It would seem that one of the historians noticed that the small object painted in the grass below the birch tree bore a striking resemblance to the scrubbing brush used in the spa-temple, where, one evening, the priest said into the clouds of steam rolling over the baths: 'In the buffet of a distant town, on a blackboard with the names and prices of the meals, is written in chalk the last message of the Lord of the Outskirts - a warning that the blackened interiors of vases exhale into our spaces. This breath, declares the Lord of the Outskirts, corrodes the old constellations. Nor must you forget the impatient and nimble pincers of machines lurking behind the long walls in the streets of Smíchov. . .'"
1. Macedonio Fernández (Argentina)
Humans, breathers, those innumerable incessantly stirring the world's air, relentlessly ordering it into your chests, elevating your eternally open mouths to an eternal heaven, beings of the heartbeat and the voice that either brightens or breaks, which perhaps every day demands alternately an end or an eternity, there's beauty to give us all understanding of the Mystery, and to stop all pain. But where is it? Is it in Art, in Conduct, in Understanding, in Passion? In Cervantes, or Beethoven, or Wagner, or in some great delirium: in adoring intonation, dazzled by Walt Whitman's Man?

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list complete with one of our bloggers' answers. Everyone is welcome to join. If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Don't worry if you can't come up with ten every time . . . just post what you can!


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Definitely need more love: I haven't heard of any of them! ...not that I'm the best at multicultural reading, however, but I appreciate the heads-up. That passage by Topol - wow! I need to get that book and find out what that's about!

Geosi Reads said...

I would agree with you on your thoughts on translated fiction. Thanks.

pwb said...

I do read quite a lot of transalted work but I'm starting to need recommendations on the translators as well as the authors. There's nothing worse than having an otherwise beautiful story ruined by something not quite right in the tone of the translation.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! What an amazing list. I say so because you've included Merce Rodoreda. I discovered her works last and I absolutely adore her. I've reviewed The Time of the Doves and Death in Spring. I also have Jachym Topol's City Sister Silver on my TBR. And I have Enard on my wishlist. Ara 13 sent me a book to review. I will be looking up the rest. Thanks.

Dani said...

Whoa, impressive variety! I love that you focused on translated literature, which really does get the short end of the stick in this country. The French and Czech examples look great, so thanks for sharing them!

LBC said...

Thanks for sharing the quotes. I've never heard of any of these writers, but I am fully aware of my lack of World Lit exposure.

Check out my post here: http://hawthornescarlet.blogspot.com/2011/03/top-ten-tuesday-check-um-out.html

Mrs. C said...
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