[AUDIO] Edward Gauvin and Michael Holtmann in Conversation on The Deep Sea Diver's Syndrome by Serge Brussolo


We were very pleased to collaborate with our friends at The Booksmith to offer a night of translation conversation between translator extraordinaire Edward Gauvin and The Center for the Art of Translation’s Executive Director, Michael Holtmann. The occasion of their conversation was the English publication of Edward’s translation of
The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome Hardcover by Serge Brussolo from Melville House Publishing. Praised by NPR as “visually rich and deliciously unsettling . . . a science fiction fever dream that will leave you in no hurry to wake up” this unabashedly sci-fi tale has won comparisons to Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick.

Below you’ll find audio of that conversation, as well as a table of contents of the evening’s main discussion points.


0:00 Introductions

3:23 The world of The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome

8:40 A reading from The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome

13:25 How dreaming functions as a “gift” or a “work of art” in The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome

18:00 What is the deep sea diver’s syndrome

21:00 Translation challenges in The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome

28:20 How Gauvin discovered this book

35:15 Serge Brussolo as he fits in to the speculative fiction genre

40:50 Gauvin’s thoughts on the art of translation, and the idea that machines can translate as well as humans

46:15 Gauvin’s work with translating graphic novels

52:50 Audience Q & A

Salon Preview: The Artist as Stalker


This post comes to us from the Center for the Art of Translation’s Sarah Coolidge. In addition to assisting with editorial tasks at Two Lines, Sarah works for the Center’s Poetry Inside Out program.

Next week, Thursday, February 11th, is our first Two Voices Salon of 2016. Valerie Miles will be joining us via Skype to discuss her career as an editor, writer and translator, as well as her recent translation Because She Never Asked by Enrique Vila-Matas.

While in no way obscure, Vila-Matas has not enjoyed the same degree of fame in the United States as that of his contemporary Roberto Bolaño. And yet Vila-Matas is undoubtedly a towering force in Spanish literature. A Barcelona native, he has written more than twenty novels over the course of his career. He is known for creating strange worlds in his aptly named “auto-fiction,” where fiction and reality are fused into an indistinguishable and singular entity.

Vila-Matas first turned heads with the publication of Historia abreviada de la literatura portátil (A Brief History of Portable Literature came out last June from New Directions, translated by Thomas Bunstead and Anne McLean), a slim novel of less than 100 pages. The story revolves around a secret literary society of so-called “Shandies,” a name contrived from Laurence Sterne’s groundbreaking 1759 novel Tristram Shandy. The Shandies are well-known artists and writers turned fictional characters: Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Georgia O’Keefe, Witold Gombrowicz, Federico García Lorca, and others. The result, as you can imagine, is bordering on absurdity. Vila-Matas continues in this vein with Because She Never Asked, although this time his subject is the French artist Sophie Calle.

Who is Sophie Calle? She’s a photographer, a stalker, a detective, a character in a novel. And she may very well be the perfect counterpart to Vila-Matas. She dives into her projects, persistently, violently, like a detective in search of evidence. Her relationship with her subject transforms into that of pursuer and pursued, and nothing and no one is off-limits. In fact, Calle once arranged for a private investigator to follow her, leading the unsuspecting man around Paris and inverting the typical relationship between artist and subject.

Another project sprung from an address book Calle found by chance. She photocopied the pages before sending it back to the owner and preceded to contact the people recorded in its pages in order to piece together a portrait of the address book’s owner. All of this, of course, without the owner’s permission or knowledge. Naturally there was a bit of a scandal.

You have to wonder about the relationship between an author and his equally mischievous protagonist. Is it Vila-Matas who is dragging Calle into his auto-fictive universe? Or is Calle once again leading the ruse? Let’s ask the translator.

  • February 11, 2016
  • Center for the Art of Translation office
  • 582 Market St. (at 2nd), Suite 700, San Francisco
  • FREE food and drinks
  • Doors: 5:30 pm, event 6:00-7:00 pm

2/11: Two Voices Salon with Valerie Miles on Enrique Vila-Matas


Join us on Thursday, February 11 for the first Two Voices Salon of 2016, as we welcome powerhouse editor and translator Valerie Miles, who will be in conversation with Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito via Skype.

Miles will be discussing her newly translated novella Because She Never Asked by the Spanish writer Enrique Vila-Matas. Called “Spain’s most significant contemporary literary figure” by The New Yorker, Vila-Matas excels in creating witty fictions out of his real life that deconstruct the act of writing and make us reconsider many of the key figures of literature and cinema of the 20th century.

In Because She Never Asked, Vila-Matas plays with both his own life and the life of the famous artist Sophie Calle. As Vila-Matas writes, “Something strange happened along the way. Normally, writers try to pass a work of fiction off as being real. But in Because She Never Asked, the opposite occurred: in order to give meaning to the story of my life, I found that I needed to present it as fiction.”

We’ll also talk with Valerie about her distinguished career as an editor, working with a who’s-who of the greatest writing in the Spanish language of the last 30 years.

  • Thursday, February 11
  • Doors open at 5:30, event start at 6:00
  • Two Lines Press offices, 582 Market St., Suite 700
  • Free snacks and alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages

Toni Sala 2016 The Boys Tour!


We are very happy to be bringing the acclaimed Catalan author Toni Sala back to the U.S. to tour for his novel The Boys. Centering around the sudden deaths of two young men in the Catalan village of Vidreres, The Boys is a powerful meditation on the centrality of death to our existence, the Spanish economic crash of the 2010s, and the loneliness of Internet culture. With its many philosophical digressions, Sala’s prose is reminiscent of Javier Marías, and its tautness is indebted to the prose of Roberto Bolaño. It is brought to English in Mara Faye Lethem’s beautiful translation.

Below you can see some of the things being said about The Boys. Here are the tour dates:

2/18: Brazos Books, Houston, TX
2/19: Malvern Books, Austin, TX
2/23: Seminary Co-op Bookstore, Chicago, IL
2/24: Penn Book Center, Philadelphia, PA
2/25: Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY (with translator Mara Faye Lethem)

We hope you will come out and see one of Catalonia’s most prominent and powerful authors. For a preview of what to expect, here’s an interview Toni gave to BOMB magazine, with Community Bookstore bookseller Hal Hlavinka.

And here are some of the things being said about The Boys:

“Translation-savvy readers might hear a little Rodoreda and Monzó in Sala’s prose, but the most significant comparison could be to Bolaño’s more Iberian-inflected work—light-footed, death-haunted sentences that tumble along at the shuddering speed of a car crash.” — BOMB magazine

“The Boys is a stark tale of confused people trapped in a wrinkle in time, rendered with painful sensitivity and gut-wrenching bleakness. No surprise that Toni Sala has been praised as one of Catalan’s most important writers.” — Counterpunch

“A compelling existential mystery . . . a sort of Catalan answer to Russell Banks’ The Sweet Hereafter, with a closing as haunting as a tale by Poe. Altogether brilliant.” — Kirkus, starred review

“Sala is a master of meditation, and the excitement and intrigue are never sacrificed despite digressive passages on Internet alienation, art, violence, phrases of grief, the Spanish recession, and love. One hopes this tremendous novel, already an award-winner overseas, will receive the attention it deserves here.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Beautifully composed, The Boys (winner of Catalonia’s highest literary award) heralds a stirring, unique new voice in English translation. Sala’s novel, set in an age of increasing detachment and anxiety, espies unflinchingly the tenuous connections and moral ambiguities of modern life. With vivid characters, confident prose, and a heady mix of style and substance, The Boys deserves major attention from devotees of international literature (and especially fans of António Lobo Antunes, Javier Marías, Gonçalo Tavares, and Roberto Bolaño).” — Jeremy Garber, Powell’s Books

[AUDIO] Two Voices Salon with Will Vanderhyden and Carlos Labbé


We were very pleased to welcome translator Will Vanderhyden (in person) and author Carlos Labbé (via Skype) into the Two Lines Press offices to discuss Carlos’s novels Loquela and Navidad & Matanza, which Will has translated for Open Letter Books. They were interviewed by Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito.

Loquela, which publishes this month, takes its title from a quote from Roland Barthes, and the novel’s innovative structure ceaselessly re-positions the reader to give a feel of what Barthes speaks of: “a word that designates the flux of language through which the subject tirelessly rehashes the effects of a wound or the consequences of an action: an emphatic form of the lover’s discourse.”

In addition, Will and Carlos discussed how Will first discovered Carlos’s works, the importance of the political in his novels, the influence of Bolaño and Cortázar on Carlos and his generation of Latin American writers, how is books may mimic serialist music, and many other things. Scroll down for the full audio of the event.


0:00 Introductions

1:50 How Navidad & Matanza and Loquela function as books and the interactions of the various “levels of reality”

7:35 The thickness of the voices in Labbé’s work and the feeling of enclosure and labyrinth created by these voices

13:00 The convergences and overlappings of the voices in Loquela, and why the book is made this way

16:04 The meaning of the word “loquela” and how (and why) Carlos chose to use it as a name for the book

22:45 How Vanderhyden first discovered Labbé’s books and why he wanted to translate him, and his early relationship with Labbé

25:50 Labbé’s feelings on seeing the English translation of Navidad & Matanza, and the importance of understanding Chilean politics to the translation of that book

29:07 Labbé’s feelings on the relationship of his work to Bolaño’s writing, and Bolaño’s influence/importance for the next generation of writers

35:00 The concept of “Neutria” from Loquela and how it relates to the ideological angles in Labbé’s work

39:53 Labbé’s books as “the story of their rules”

41:43 Labbé’s most recent book, Piezas secretas contra el mundo, which uses elements from the Choose Your Own Adventure books

47:25 Labbé’s relationship with Cortázar’s books and influence

53:50 Schizophrenia and Labbé’s work

57:20 Blanchot’s idea of loneliness, contradicted in Loquela

1:00:05 Which book of Labbé’s would Vanderhyden most like to translate next?

1:04:00 Creating a book along the lines of serialist music

[Audio] Two Voices Salon with Don Mee Choi on Kim Hyesoon


We were very honored to host poet and translator Don Mee Choi in the Two Lines Press offices to discuss her work with Korean poet Kim Hysoon in a conversation with Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito. The conversation centered around Choi’s latest translation of Kim’s work, Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream, which was published in 2014 by Action Books, although it spanned the length of Choi’s involvement with Kim, which goes back to the early 2000s and the many translations they have collaborated on. The conversation included discussions of Action Books’ ideas of translation (epitomized in publisher Johannes Göransson and Joyelle McSweeney’s Deformation Zone), the aesthetic of the “gurlesque,” Kim as a feminist writer, and Kim’s overall stance vis a vis K Pop, the history of Korean literature, and international culture. Below you will find audio of this event and a table of contents.


0:00 Introductions

2:25 Where did you first discover Kim Hyesoon’s poetry?

4:35 The chellenges of first finding a publisher for Kim Hyesoon’s writing

6:25 Why was Action Books so interested in Kim Hyesoon based off of just two poems in Circumference?

8:10 The translation philosophy of Action Books, as represented by Johannes Göransson and Joyelle McSweeney

11:05 Kim Hyesoon as a poet that crosses national and generic boundaries

13:30 Kim Hyesoon compared to the Korean traditions of poetry, especially compared to the masculine traditions, and how contemporary issues creep in to her work, with reference to “I’m OK, I’m Pig”

16:30 Poems of Kim Hyesoon’s that have personally affected Don Mee Choi

19:25 Kim Hyesoon’s influence on Don Mee Choi’s poetry

21:25 The complexity of Kim Hyesoon’s poetry and the difficulty of interpreting it

24:30 How does Don Mee Choi translate when she doesn’t understand exactly what Kim Hyesoon means?

27:00 Does the poetry mutate as you translate it? (With bilingual example)

35:45 The “gurlesque” as it applies to Kim Hyesoon’s poetry

39:20 Kim Hyesoon as a feminist writer

41:30 Kim Hyesoon as contrasted against Korean culture at large, and the sorts of Korean literature that gets promoted by the government

46:50 audience Q & A

Let’s Hear It for The Boys: Q and A with Toni Sala and Mara Faye Lethem


In this interview, Catalan writer Toni Sala and his translator Mara Faye Lethem discuss the latest book from Two Lines Press: The Boys. Among other things, they explore translation, death and sex, and the divide between generations in modern day Catalonia. If you weren’t able to attend our book release earlier this month, you can listen to the audio on the Two Lines website. This interview was conducted by the Center for the Art of Translation’s Sarah Coolidge.

Sarah Coolidge: Mara, how did you discover The Boys and the work of Toni Sala? What were your first impressions?

Mara Faye Lethem: I first remember being aware of Toni because of a book he wrote in the early naughts about Floquet de neu [Snowflake], the albino gorilla. I was also working on a photo essay about this somewhat tragic Barcelona figure. Later I was asked to translate some of his work, which you can see here.

The Catalan original of The Boys was the debut title of a new publishing house called L’Altra, run by a very talented, brave editor named Eugènia Broggi; we were at the party for the Herralde Prize when she told me—almost in a whisper—that she was leaving the big publishing group and starting her own house. I remember thinking what a bold move that was in the midst of Spain’s worst recession ever, and what good news for Catalan literature.

Both that book and his previous one, Provisionalitat, were chosen by the Institute Ramon Llull to feature in their New Catalan Fiction catalogue, which I write for them, so now that you ask it seems like I was hearing about Toni’s work from all sides.

What I’ve always found most striking about Toni’s prose is how his often turbid meditations—on situations that most likely don’t coincide with yours—still end up feeling like the voice inside your head.

SC: Toni, The Boys takes place within a very narrow timeframe. How long did it take you to write the book and what was going on during that time?

Toni Sala: The writing of The Boys was strange. I was stuck for about year in the first chapter, which was initially a short story, thinking that it was over. Then, in the summer of 2013, in three months I wrote the three other chapters. It was very intense. I don’t know if I would have endured many more months at that rhythm. I remember thinking about the book while underwater, while I snorkeled and watched the fishes.

SC: What was it like having your novel translated? Have you read the English translation?

TS: I have not read the whole translation because I get nervous, and I don’t know enough English to draw any conclusion. Just know that if the book works, if a competent reader finds it acceptable, it is thanks to the translation of Mara Faye Lethem. When a book is translated, its benefits are both to the author and the translator. I think it’s interesting that a translation can cross the bridge across languages: literature works like a universal language, a language as accessible to the human condition as music or mathematics.

SC: Mara, you’ve said that you’ve never been to some of the countries of books you’ve translated. You have, however, lived in Catalonia for the past twelve years. Do you think that a deep familiarity with the country of origin produces a better translation?

MFL: I’m of two minds about this question, which is a very interesting one because it addresses both the linguistic and the cultural aspects of working in translation. On one hand, the answer to both aspects is: of course. It certainly can save you a lot of research, and give you a confidence in your interpretation, and more speed, which can help the rhythm of your prose. However, literary language and everyday language do not always have that direct of a relationship. You can be a good translator without having speaking fluency; those are two different skillsets.

I also feel that it is important not to conflate reading literature in translation with some sort of anthropological journey of cultural discovery. A Catalan writer has every right to set his or her book on Jupiter in the 12th century or on Guam in the 25th, thus virtually negating any possible benefits of one’s own personal life experience. Translation always involves research.

SC: In the book, Iona, the fiancée of one of the deceased, is the only main character that knew the dead boys well. Toni, why did you choose to tell this story focusing on those characters on the periphery of the tragedy?

TS: Because the novel is not about the boys, but the traces left by their death. Dying, they shape the personalities of those who remain.

SC: The novel begins with a beautiful image of the highway to Vidreres, where the book is set, littered by prostitutes awaiting customers. What role does sex have in the novel and what is its relationship to death?

MFL: I see sex in The Boys as being closely tied to power, as a means of exchange of capital. This is evident in the case of the prostitutes and also in the ideas of marriage and inheritance that are so central to the book.

TS: Sex can be understood as the culmination of life—reproduction—but clearly, without life death would not exist . . . I’m more interested in the moral side of sex, in what affects the relationship between two people. This is what interested me about the story between the banker and the truck driver with prostitutes, and also about the pursuit of the girlfriend of one of the dead boys by the last character of the book. Sex turns a relationship into something physical. It’s a converter of the soul, a translator. It allows us to see things that otherwise we could not even suspect.

SC: Some of the characters suggest a division between the older and younger generations. For example, Miqui, the truck driver, is annoyed by the old man who recounts his memories of the war. What does history mean to the various characters? Have the traumas of World War II and the Spanish Civil War been, as Miqui suggests, replaced by the trauma of the recession?

TS: Each generation has its traumas. Even the happiest childhood contains traumas. Sometimes I think there is a quota of suffering that everyone must pay, with or without war. This, from someone who has not experienced a war, may be a frivolous opinion. But how can you know, honestly, if you have never experienced a war? One idea that’s very strong in my country in recent years—I do not know if in America, too—is that today’s young generation will be the first generation in many decades that will live worse than their parents—and without a war between the generations.

MFL: The Boys is so evocative of our particular moment in history: overpopulation, poor management of resources, alienation, all of those long overdue bills we’ve been bequeathed by our parents and grandparents. Frankly, I think Spain is better equipped to confront the trauma of the recession than the trauma of their Civil War, but I feel the same way about America.

SC: What’s next for both of you? What are you working on now?

MFL: I’m revising a translation of Eduard Marquez’s La decisió de Brandes (to be published in 2016 by Hispabooks as Brandes’s Decision), translating an Argentine children’s book for Enchanted Lion, and a non-fiction book about the science of sex.

TS: I’m writing a love story, right now.

Toni Sala is the author of over a dozen novels and words of nonfiction. In 2005 he was awarded the National Literature Prize by the Catalan government, and in 2014 he received the Premis de la Crítica, Catalonia’s most prestigious literary award, for The Boys.

Mara Faye Lethem’s translations have appeared in The Best American Non-Required Reading, Granta, The Paris Review, Words Without Borders, and McSweeney’s. She is the translator of Papers in the Wind by Eduardo Sacheri, Wonderful World by Javier Calvo, and others.

[AUDIO] Launch of The Boys with Toni Sala, Mara Faye Lethem, and CJ Evans


We were very pleased to host Catalan author Toni Sala and his translator Mara Faye Lethem for the launch of his novel The Boys from Two Lines Press, the first of Sala’s books to ever appear in English. Winer of Catalonia’s most prestigious literary award in 2014, and called “altogether brilliant” by Kirkus, The Boys is the dark tale of a small Catalonian village reeling frmo the sudden deaths of two young men. The conversation between Toni and mara was moderated by Two Lines Press Editorial Director CJ Evans.


0:00 Introductions

4:25 Bilingual reading from The Boys

15:40 Why did Toni Sala structure the book as a series of four perspectives

17:35 How are the different characters attached to the book’s central deaths?

20:15 Mara Faye Lethem’s approach to translating the book

24:40 Themes related to death in The Boys, and economic issues in Spain and Catalonia today

30:20 The economic collapse driving a breakdown in morals in Spain

34:00 How Toni chose the town that The Boys takes place in

43:05 Feelings in Catalonia about the independence movement

48:15 How the history and politics of Catalonia emerges in The Boys

52:05 Social media and the Internet in The Boys

56:10 Mara’s process of working with Toni

1:01:07 The philosophical digressions in The Boys

1:04:09 Audience Q & A

Two Lines + Music and Literature SUBSCRIPTION OFFER


It goes without saying that we at Two Lines are huge fans of our peer journal Music & Literature. Not only is Music & Literature extremely international in its focus (covering authors like László Krasznahorkai, Dubravka Ugrešić, Alejandra Pizarnik, and Clarice Lispector, just to name a few), it also offers hugely in-depth critical writing on these authors, as well as original texts from them and interviews with them that cannot be found anywhere else.

Each issue of Music & Literature is dedicated to three artists, each artist getting a critical portfolio of well over 100 pages. It’s like getting three monographs in each issue.

Since Two Lines is also all about international writing, and since we focus more on the source texts than on commentary, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to collaborate with Music & Literature on a subscriber offer. For a limited time you can now subscribe to both Two Lines and Music & Literature at one discounted price. Get one for yourself, or give it to a friend as a fantastic gift!

United States residents can get a full year of Two Lines and Music & Literature for only $40.00. That’s four issues amounting to over 600 pages of international writing you will not get anywhere else. And if you pick up a two-year dual subscription for $65.00, the savings are even more.

Subscribe 1-year for $40
Subscribe 2-year for $65

International customers can also get in on this deal. Due to the costs of shipping worldwide, your prices will be $80.00 for the combined one-year subscription and $155.00 for the two-year.

Subscribe 1-year international for $80
Subscribe 2-year international for $155

At checkout, please be sure to specify if you’d like your subscription of M&L to start with Issue 6 (latest) or 7 (upcoming), and of Two Lines with Issue 23 (latest) or 24 (upcoming).

Music & Literature is truly a remarkable publication that we are very pleased to be working with. Have a look at all of the amazing things to be found in the Alejandra Pizarnik portfolio, just one of three portfolios from Issue 6:

A Few Essential Words / Alberto Manguel

An Introduction to Alejandra Pizarnik’s Diaries / Ana Becciú, trans. Cecilia Rossi

A Selection from Diaries / Alejandra Pizarnik, trans. Cecilia Rossi

A Selection of Prose / Alejandra Pizarnik, trans. Cecilia Rossi

An Introduction to “The Lady Buccaneer of Pernambuco or Hilda the Polygraph” / Ana Becciú, trans. Cecilia Rossi

The Lady Buccaneer of Pernambuco or Hilda the Polygraph / Alejandra Pizarnik, trans. Suzanne Jill Levine

Correspondence with León Ostrov / Alejandra Pizarnik, trans. Emily Cooke

Some Keys to Alejandra Pizarnik: An Interview / Martha Isabel Moia, trans. Emily Cooke

Come Here Alejandra / Julio Cortázar, trans. Stephen Kessler

Pavane for a Dead Princess / Olga Orozco, trans. Stephen Kessler

An Overdose of Seconal / Enrique Vila-Matas, trans. Rosalind Harvey

Alejandra Pizarnik / César Aira, trans. Katherine Silver

Demystifying Pizarnik: On Editing the Complete Works / Isabella Checcaglini, trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman

“The Shadow of the Typist”: The Perturbed among Lilacs / Étienne Dobenesque, trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman

The Woman in Red / Jacques Ancet, trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman

11/20: Two Lines Press at Pegasus Books On Solano


Executive Director Michael Holtmann, Production Editor Jessica Sevey, and Associate Editor Marthine Satris will talk about publishing literature from around the world as a small press, and will read selections from recent Two Lines Press publications.

Join us at Pegasus Books Solano Avenue location in Berkeley!

  • November 20, 2015
  • Pegasus Books
  • 1855 Solano Ave., Berkeley
  • 7:30 pm
  • FREE