This Saturday Celebrate Independent Bookstore Day!

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The second annual national Independent Bookstore Day is coming up this Saturday, April 30, so you all should go out to an indie in your community and buy some great literature! (We hope you make it a Two Lines title, but we understand if you want to get some of the wares from our great colleagues in the book biz.)

In order to help our Bay Area friends make the most of this day, we’ve put together a handy guide to some of the things happening around Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco. Just download this baby, print it out, and you’ll be all set!

Enjoy Independent Bookstore Day! And hug a bookseller!

AUDIO: Chris Clarke in Conversation with Scott Esposito on Patrick Modiano


Last week we were very pleased to host French translator Chris Clarke before a capacity audience for our Two Voices Salon on French Nobel Prize-winning author Patrick Modiano. Chris was in conversation with Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito on his translation of Modiano’s 2007 novel In the Café of Lost Youth, recently published by NYRB Classics. This wide-ranging conversation included translation challenges Chris faced, Modiano’s roots and influences, the appearance of Guy Debord in this novel, Modiano’s particular use of French grammar, his reputation in France, and much more.

To listen, use the audio player at the bottom of this post. A full table of contents is below.


0:00 Introductions

1:40 Strange 19th-century, madmen French texts that Chris has been reading recently

2:41 How Chris discovered Modiano and came to translate him, including his weird, Modiano-esque dream

10:00 Modiano’s reputation in France before the Nobel Prize

13:10 As Modiano’s first book ever with multiple narrators, how it functions differently from his other books and what challenges it presents to a translator

18:45 What is the texture of Modiano’s particular method of thinking about the past (including Modiano’s own past and family history)?

22:35 Modiano as a writer of postwar France and why he portrays a time of economic success in such a futile, shady way, and how his portrayal of the past has changed over his career

27:11 Modiano’s use of Guy Debord in In the Café of Last Youth, and his relationship to the Situationists

31:45: Futility and eternal return in the work of Modiano, and how he reflects this in his grammar

36:30 The “intentionally vague” sense of place in Modiano’s work, particularly in how he creates Paris

40:00 Modiano on Paris

41:55 Chris’s experiences with NYRB Classics Edwin Frank and the team at NYRB Classics

48:30 Chris’s impressions of the other Modiano translators, and how to craft Modiano’s English voice, his tone and rhythms

53:45 The response to Modiano in New York

55:45 Audicne Q & A

5/5: Two Voices Salon with Doug Slaymaker on Hideo Furukawa


Hideo Furukawa has built a name for himself as one of the titans of contemporary Japanese literature. His book Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure is a groundbreaking work of creative nonfiction that deeply entwines his own life and the disaster the occurred at Fukushima, Japan, as it was devastated by an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown.

To better understand this powerful, moving story, we’ll talk with Doug Slaymaker, who brought it from Japanese into English for Columbia University Press. We’ll talk about how he dealt with the various strands of fiction, history, and memoir in this book, as well as touching on some authors whose work this book resembles, including W.G. Sebald. We’ll also discuss the unique aspects of the Japanese language and culture that make this such and interesting book to translate.

It all takes place at the Two Lines Press offices on Thursday, May 5, 2016! This will be our last Salon until the fall, so please do join us for a wonderful night of literature, friends, snacks, and drinks.

The details:

  • Thursday, May 5
  • Doug Slaymaker in conversation with Scott Esposito on Hideo Furukawa’s Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure
  • Doors 5:30, event 6:00
  • Two Lines Press offices: 582 Market St., Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94104
  • Free alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and snacks for all

Discovering Modiano’s Literature of Lost Youth


Before winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014, Patrick Modiano was a nobody in the English-speaking world. We’ve since seen the urgent attempt at playing catch-up. Translations of his works have been released, re-released, and consumed by readers hungry to know who this Modiano character is and why they had never heard of him before.

A few weeks ago, I decided to give Patrick Modiano a try in preparation for this week’s Salon with Modiano translator Chris Clarke. And so I read Young Once (tr. Damion Searls) and In the Café of Lost Youth. The truth is I devoured them; I read each novel in a single day, becoming one of those zombies who tries to read while walking, in the car before driving, in the car after driving, at the dinner table, etc. They are slim, easy reads, and yet brevity does not always guarantee binge-like consumption. I’ll readily admit that I’ve struggled to get through 70-page novels merely because I feel distractible, uninvested, my eyes on the page, my attention elsewhere.

But Modiano’s prose rises up like a city around you. Though I’ve never been to Paris, I found myself inundated by its unremarkable landmarks–garages, benches, innumerable arrondissements, and dingy, hole-in-the-wall cafés. Because in these novels geography exists, first and foremost, as a series of monuments to the past. Characters avoid streets, even entire neighborhoods, in an effort to skirt the painful memories from their childhoods. Others return compulsively to their old neighborhoods, drawn there unconsciously, as if the city itself were guiding them. In this way Paris becomes a graveyard of moments lost to time, and Modiano treats them with their due precision and reverence.

It’s clear from the titles that Modiano wrote with a predilection for looking back at young adulthood. The main characters in these novels are in their early twenties, living in Paris, and, in one way or another, directionless. It would be wrong to call Modiano nostalgic, however. Instead, his “lost youth” are neither pure nor idealistic. They’re unproductive. They cavort with questionable, at times pathetic, characters. Though they discuss books and ideas among the smoke clouds of dingy Parisian cafés, Modiano manages to subtly bypass those easy clichés. None of the characters embody the self-aware, self-pitying Hamlet type you might expect. Rather, they carry the burdens of their upbringings—poverty, hunger, absent parents, crime—in a city that seems designed to mass-produce directionless youth. In this self-contained world, what else is there to do but wander the arrondissements and stay up drinking in all-night cafés?

Join us on Thursday as we transform our offices into a café of lost youth! We’ll be Skyping with Chris Clarke, drinking wine, and talking about the latest in translated literature, all at the Two Lines Press offices in downtown San Francisco.

The details:

  • Thursday, April 21
  • Chris Clarke in conversation with Scott Esposito on In the Café of Lost Youth
  • Doors 5:30, event 6:00
  • Two Lines Press offices: 582 Market St., Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94104
  • Free alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and snacks for all

What Are We Reading for Poetry Month?


In celebration of National Poetry Month, we wanted to share with you the poets we’ve recently been reading and enjoying. We all know how difficult it is to choose a book–especially when there are so many incredible ones piling up around us–so here’s a nice short list of recommendations–both in translation and not–for you to pick from this month:

Kim Yideum’s Cheer Up, Femme Fataletranslated from the Korean by Ji Yoon Li, Don Mee Choi, and Johannes Görensson: “Very much in the tradition of Kim Hyesoon: rangy, with almost a polyphonic quality, incorporating both high and low registers.” — CJ Evans, Two Lines Press Editorial Director

Olena Kalytiak Davis’s The Poem She Didn’t Write and Other Poems

Christopher Logue’s War MusicWyatt Mason wrote a great letter of recommendation in The New York Times about this creative translation of Homer’s Iliad

Tomasz Rozycki’s Coloniestranslated from the Polish by Mira Rosenthal

Jorge Esquinca’s Description of a Flash of Cobalt Blue, expertly translated from the Spanish by Dan Bellm

Beloved Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik’s Extracting the Stone of Madness will soon come out from New Directions, translated from the Spanish by Yvette Siegert

The Mansion of Happiness by Robin Ekiss: “Vaguely inspired by old board games, curiosity cabinets, and automatons (as well as the poet’s personal history).” — Erin Branagan, Communications Director

And of course, this year’s PEN Award for Poetry in Translation winner The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa, translated from the Japanese by Sawako Nakayasu

So get dust off your bookshelves, hit the book stores, and get reading!

Toni Sala’s Notes from the Road


In case you missed it on Friday, Toni Sala wrote a bold and entertaining account of his U.S. tour for Lit Hub. The playful yet frank tone of the author shouldn’t be too surprising to those of you who caught our launch event for The Boys in San Francisco last fall. His novel, translated by Mara Faye Lethem, begins with a description of a highway through rural Catalonia, and later on in the story we hear from a frustrated truck driver, struggling to find work. So I was intrigued to see what Toni would think of the open road here in the United States, thousands of miles from his novel’s setting.

“When I’m flying over Texas, I do the math. Fifteen planes, nine hotels, 45,700 kilometers… Something doesn’t fit. I am a Catalan writer. We Catalans know what precariousness is, and we know that the literature is a weed that grows well in these conditions: in times of moral drought, in places of communicative drought, in periods of economic drought, in circumstances of loving drought, of self-satisfaction drought… It’s at these times when literature is distilled.”

These kinds of musings are typical of the writer. Toni amasses little details that we, as Americans, might otherwise miss, into an incredibly entertaining snapshot of life on the road. From a discussion with a cab driver in Texas to an encounter with a heavy metal band in Portland, he manages to transform the hardly-worth-mentioning into vignettes that produce a sketch, however strange, of a vast and cumbersome country.

4/21: Two Voices Salon with Chris Clarke [EVENT]


Modiano, Modiano, Modiano! Ever since receiving the Nobel Prize in 2014, Patrick Modiano, the French author of intense, short noir-like novels, has seen his profile in English grow explosively, with over a dozen new translations since October 2014.

On Thursday, April 21, we’ll welcome Chris Clarke, one of the translators responsible for these new Modianos appearing in the English language. Chris has translated In the Cafe of Lost Youth, one of Modiano’s best-regarded works, for NYRB Classics, and he will be in conversation via Skype with Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito. We’ll talk with Chris about the challenge of translating Modiano’s incredibly spare, enigmatic prose, as well as what it’s like to work on the prose of a recent Nobel-winner.

It all happens in the Two Lines Press offices on Thursday, April 21. Please join us for a wonderful, translation-centric conversation!

  • Thursday, April 21
  • Door 5:30, event 6:00
  • 582 Market St., Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94104
  • Free alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and snacks for all

Wolfgang Hilbig, Beyond East and West


Ever since I first read Wolfgang Hilbig’s The Sleep of the Righteous, I’ve tended to talk, write, and think about him in terms of East and West. It’s hard not to. Despite living in East Germany, Hilbig developed an avid readership in the West. And once he was finally given permission to leave the oppressive East, he continued to write with a kind of tortured yearning for it.

As an American, I find this East/West dichotomy appealing. Perhaps it’s because, even after the end of the Cold War, we still hold on to the illusion of the Iron Curtain, dividing “us” from “them.” We still think in terms of “containment,” as if an ideology were landbound, physical. Even Hilbig’s translator, Isabel Fargo Cole, who has lived in Berlin for quite a long time, finds this dichotomy a compelling way to think of him: in an event we did last fall, she talked about her own fascination with East Germany. But this East-West view can be somewhat limiting. It simplifies our understanding of Hilbig, whose dexterity with language revealed elements of his life while at the same time concealing himself beneath it.

That’s just one of the reasons why I’m very pleased to share this Hilbig essay that Tyler Curtis has written for the Boston Review. In his essay, Curtis beautifully reframes the conversation. He reveals Hilbig’s true nature as a nimble troublemaker who eluded the traps set up for him, both in the East and the West. Here, Curtis draws on some excellent research of the historical context to show Hilbig’s role in—and escape from—the GDR political machine, which tried diligently to develop and shape a national, proletarian literature. They threw everything they could at him, censoring him, preparing reviews intended to undermine him, and generally monitoring his movements:

For Hilbig, the state is a game. The Soviet Project is a game. So is the factory, the tenets of Socialist Realism, the dance one does to protect those most private corners of self from Stasi—even fiction, for that matter. Hilbig’s oeuvre is one of defiant play, and the organizing principles of life in the GDR were just that, fictions.

In the late 1970s and early ’80s Hilbig published poems and collected stories almost exclusively in West Germany—without permission from GDR officials—largely avoiding the publications of the East. He was fined and served time in jail (though the imprisonment was, ostensibly, for incidents of violent behavior). A persecuted East German writer adored in the West, he was awarded the Brothers Grimm Prize in 1983, which he agreed to accept in person in Hanau—again, without state approval. This defiance of strict regulations for authors drew the ire of then Deputy Cultural Minister Klaus Höpcke. Not wanting to stir controversy or showcase the author’s repression to the world, the ministry granted him leave to accept the prize, with the caveat that he go accompanied, and observed, by his publisher, and that he was not to level any criticism against GDR in his speech.

And yet these games spread beyond just Germany—they are rooted in society itself. For me, Curtis’s analogy likening Hilbig to an overwhelmed Charlie Chaplin struggling to keep up with the conveyor belt explains why leaving the GDR was not enough to placate the preoccupied, even paranoid author. And this rings very true with the excellent reception Hilbig has received thus far: if it were merely a case of geography or political regime, Hilbig’s writing from the West (which includes The Sleep of the Righteous) wouldn’t have remained so frenzied, as if the author were continuing to dodge the confines of an elaborate, inescapable game.

Try Out Marie NDiaye!


One of the cool things about being a small press that specializes in translation is that you get the opportunity to make discoveries. The world of literary translation makes it so that even a tiny press like us can find a world-class author and turn her into one of our mainstays.

So it is with Marie NDiaye. When we first encountered her a few years ago, we were floored, and we immediately said yes to the amazing story collection All My Friends. When we later found Self-Portrait in Green, we knew that it would be a challenge to publish for a number of reasons, but we also knew that we had to find a way. It’s an utterly unclassifiable memoir that belongs on the shelf somewhere near Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, and Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red.

We like NDiaye so much that we currently have another book of hers scheduled, a really huge one that’s going to knock a lot of socks off. It’s a pretty major statement when a press that has only published 9 books to date does 3 books with the same author.

But NDiaye deserves that kind of treatment, and we all want you to know why. So, we figured this was the best time to show you. NDiaye currently has a major book coming out with Knopf: Ladivine, which in Jordan Stump’s fantastic translation is going to be a great book (Jordan also does all of our NDiayes, and we’d have it no other way).

So, up until that book’s release date—April 26, 2016—we are offering Self-Portrait in Green as an introduction to NDiaye for the astonishing price of $5.95 (+ $1.00 for shipping). There’s really no better chance to discover an author that is going to quickly become one of your favorites.

Just click the link, Paypal us a little more than what you’d spend on the morning coffee, and you’ll get an unforgettable literary delight.

But don’t take our words for it. Take the words of the CLMP, which gave the book its Firecracker award for literary nonfiction. Take the words of the TLS, which compared Self-Portrait in Green to “a Francis Bacon triptych, there is nothing fixed, comforting or coherent about the narrator’s identity or idea of herself, but the image she projects is incredibly vivid.” Take the words of Flavorwire, which named it one of 2014’s best novels.

Do not deny yourself the delight of Marie NDiaye—it’s just $5.95, and it’s waiting for you.

The Two Lines 2016 Catalog


If you want to see what Two Lines Press has got cooking for the rest of the year, we direct you to our 2016 catalog. In addition to seeing the rest of this year’s list, you’ll also be able to read excerpts from each of the books. And of course there’s info on all our backlist titles and the journal Two Lines.

So do take a minute to download it, and share it with all your book-loving friends!