Summer Reads: Scott Esposito on João Gilberto Noll and Henry Green

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We’re having a July Summer Sale, with up to 50% off all Two Lines Press titles and back issues of our journal for as low as $2.

Here, Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito discusses one of his favorite TLP titles, plus one of his best summer reads.

I’ve gotten fond of telling people that I read João Gilberto Noll’s Quiet Creature on the Corner at least three times before I felt I was beginning to get a handle on what was going on in the book. Which is a strange thing, because the book is barely 100 pages, and sentence-by-sentence the syntax isn’t too exotic, so I didn’t expect it to have quite such an easy time dislocating me.

I finally figured out that there are a few things going on here: first of all, although each individual sentence in Quiet Creature isn’t terribly challenging, the leaps that Noll makes from sentence to sentence can be huge. This is a book with a completely bizarre plot, strange time dilation effects, key moments hidden in innocuous clauses, and generally a lot of drama subsumed beneath placid surfaces. I had to read it once really fast just to get a sense of the shape of it, then a couple more times to add detail onto that framework.

By the time I’d gotten through it that third time, I knew this was a really remarkable little book. As I read it I kept thinking of César Aira, who has praised Noll as one of his favorite Brazilian authors. It definitely partakes in the exuberance and caprice and poeticism of Aira, but it’s also very distinct in its own way: particularly, Noll hits emotional notes you tend not to see in Aira (I frequently call him a “darker Aira”), and it’s clear that he’s after different results than the Argentine. Just what results Noll wants is something I’m not quite clear on yet. But right now I’m working through drafts of our upcoming Noll (Spring 2017), Atlantic Hotel, which is perhaps even stranger than Quiet Creature, and I’m trying to figure this out.

In addition to enjoying Noll, this summer I’ve been immersing myself in the glorious writing of Henry Green, which the good people at NYRB Classics will begin re-issuing this fall. Although Green’s name had long been familiar to me in the vague sort of way reserved for authors-I-mean-to-get-to like Patrick White or Muriel Spark, nothing ever made him seem like a must-read until I came across Tim Parks’s praise of him in his recent book, Where I’m Writing From. Parks has impeccable taste, and what he said about the strangeness of Green’s language completely sold me. Having now experienced Green for myself, I can say this he is truly a great and necessary writer. Start with Caught—about a British, World War II fire-fighter—I doubt it will be your last.

You can get Quiet Creature on the Corner, plus 9 other Two Lines Press titles, for up to 50% off in our July Summer Sale. See all the details here.

Summer Reads: Michael Holtmann on Wolfgang Hilbig and Zbigniew Herbert

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We’re having a July Summer Sale, with up to 50% off all Two Lines Press titles and back issues of our journal for as low as $2.

Here, Two Lines Press’s Michael Holtmann discusses one of his favorite TLP titles, plus one of his best summer reads.

2016 has been a hell of year, hasn’t it? Between deeply upsetting accounts of discrimination and violence in the U.S., chilling rhetoric emboldened by the presidential campaign, deaths of exemplary musicians and writers, and the seeming precariousness of the European Union, where does one turn for a touch of summertime cheer?

Sure, you can purchase it as part of our cheekily titled “East European Beach Read Set,” but Wolfgang Hilbig’s The Sleep of the Righteous is unlikely to be the first book to come to mind. And yet I find it consoling. There is something instructive about reading a collection of stories rooted in (or, in the spirit of Hilbig, mired in) the postwar past: The Sleep of the Righteous provides evidence of what everyday life is like in a place cut off from the world. In the first few stories, Hilbig, in Isabel Fargo Cole’s glittering translation, captures the point of view of a boy growing up in East Germany after the end of World War II with gentle unflinchingness. Summer is very much present in “The Place of Storms,” where you can almost breathe in the oppressive heat, and “The Bottles in the Cellar,” where a fruitful bounty has turned overripe. As the book catches up in time to the German reunification, Hilbig’s thinly veiled narrator, morally flawed and knowingly broken, writes with great clarity about the effect of his upbringing:

[My wife] regarded us both, my mother and me, as people who were devoid of independence, eternally anxious to do everything right, and who for that very reason—because they were constantly trying to hide, to avoid reproaches . . . because they had no desires and no questions . . . because they skulked about the house as though under some tyranny from which a devastating verdict might come at any moment—for that very reason did every possible thing wrong.

Even with dark contours, Hilbig’s book inspires in me a sense of forgiveness.

For true uplift this summer, I’ve returned to Zbigniew Herbert’s Mr. Cogito, the masterful if also hard-to-find collection of poems translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter. If you’re seeking a dash of charm to balance out some of this era’s pervasive woe, I don’t think you can go wrong with poems such as “Mr. Cogito Looks at His Face in the Mirror,” “Mr. Cogito Considers the Difference Between the Human Voice and the Voice of Nature,” and “Mr. Cogito Laments the Pettiness of Dreams.” Mr. Cogito also happens to conclude with one of the greatest poems in any language, “The Envoy of Mr. Cogito,” which reminds us, in spite of everything the world throws at us, to:

Be faithful Go

You can get The Sleep of the Righteous, plus 9 other Two Lines Press titles, for up to 50% off in our July Summer Sale. See all the details here.

Vive la France!

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Happy Bastille Day, mes amis! It’s been a sad July for French letters, as earlier this month, legendary poet Yves Bonnefoy died at the age of 93. Bonnefoy, who won the Goncourt prize for poetry in 1987, was part of a generation of writers that included the world-renowned writers Pierre Chappuis and Jacques Réda, both of whom you can read online in our Two Lines journal archives.

If you’re looking for even more French literature to gorge yourself on, we’ve got you covered. Let poet Claire Malroux lead you down into the grottoes, or else float into the clouds with Vénus Khoury-Ghata in poems translated by the award-winning poet Marilyn Hacker. Then sneak off to Switzerland for a rendezvous with Swiss poet Vahé Godel and hop over to Quebec to read Chilean-born Marilú Mallet‘s story about refugees, translated by J.T. Townley.

If you’re looking for something you can bring to the beach, we’re selling our three French titles for 50% OFF this month! That’s TWO books by the incredible Marie NDiaye AND Jonathan Littell‘s The Fata Morgana Books in what we’re calling the “French Riviera Set.” You can buy all three books for $20 here! And read more about our Bastille-storming-worthy July sale!

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Don’t forget to take a moment to reflect on days gone by with Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano. We’ve got audio from our salon with one of Modiano‘s translators, Chris Clarke. Among other things, Clarke touches on Guy Debord, French grammar, and the streets of Paris.

If you’re in the Bay Area this month, escape into the world of French cinema at the Berkeley Pacific Film Archive. They’ll be showing films by François Truffaut this month, including Day for Night, Jules and Jim, and Shoot the Piano Player.

Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center is screening films by young French filmmakers all month. Be young! Be French!

If you’re in sweltering New York tonight, head to Brooklyn’s Community Bookstore for a celebratory French Poetry Party!

Two Lines Back Issues As Low As $2

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JULY ONLY!!!
SALE ON TWO LINES BACK ISSUES!!!

Summer’s the perfect time to connect with your inner nomad and explore the world. Let us help you by stocking up on hard-to-find issues of Two Lines. We’re selling issues 1 through 20 for just $2 (stock permitting), and Issues 21 through 24 are half off!

$$$ SIX DOLLARS !!!

ISSUE 24 — FEATURING Jeffrey Yang, Medardo Fraile, Margaret Jull Costa, Rabee Jaber, Kareem James Abu-Zeid | Buy Now!

ISSUE 23 — FEATURING Yoko Tawada, Alissa Valles, Katherine Silver, Heather Cleary, Prabda Yoon | Buy Now!

ISSUE 22 — FEATURING Lydia Davis, Yuri Herrera, Daniel Levin Becker, Wayne Miller, Jeffrey Angles | Buy Now!

ISSUE 21 — FEATURING Johannes Göransson, Antonio Tabucchi, Marcos Giralt Torrente, Natasha Wimmer, and Edward Gauvin | Buy Now!

$$$ TWO DOLLARS !!!

ISSUE 20 — FEATURING Scholastique Mukasonga, Wolfgang Hilbig, Jeffrey Yang, Sergio Chejfec, Susan Bernofsky, and Christopher Merrill | Buy Now!

ISSUE 19 — FEATURING Naja Marie Aidt, Lydia Davis, Katrina Dodson, Daniel Hahn, and Camille T. Dungy | Buy Now!

ISSUE 18 — FEATURING Alejandra Pizarnik, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, César Aira, Marilyn Hacker, Albert Cossery, Luc Sante, and Rosanna Warren | Buy Now!

ISSUE 17 — FEATURING Inger Christensen, Lydia Davis, Oliverio Girondo, Mikhail Shishkin, Mikhail Shishkin, Natasha Wimmer, and Jeffrey Yang | Buy Now!

ISSUE 16 — FEATURING José Manuel Prieto, Anna Szabó, Yoko Tawada, Mahmoud Darwish, George Szirtes, Margaret Jull Costa, and Marilyn Hacker | Buy Now!

ISSUE 15 — FEATURING Antonio Muñoz Molina, Margaret Jull Costa, Rodrigo Rey Rosa, John Biguenet, and Sidney Wade | Buy Now!

ISSUE 14 — FEATURING Tomas Tranströmer, Robert Hass, Vicente Huidobro, Mercè Rodoreda, and Forrest Gander | Buy Now!

ISSUE 13 — FEATURING Jorge Volpi, Suzanne Jill Levine, Dahlia Ravikovitch, Charlotte Mandell, César Vallejo, and Rosmarie Waldrop | Buy Now!

ISSUE 12 — FEATURING Ingeborg Bachmann, John Felstiner, Brother Anthony of Taizé, and Yehuda Amichai | Buy Now!

ISSUE 11 — FEATURING Don Mee Choi, Donald A. Yates, Eunice Odio, and Marilyn Hacker | Buy Now!

ISSUE 10 — FEATURING Pablo Picasso, Suzanne Jill Levine, Marian Schwartz, and Aleksandr Anashevich | Buy Now!

SOLD OUT! ISSUE 9 FEATURING Ko Un, Enrique Anderson-Imbert, Giovanni Giudici, and Félix Morisseau-Leroy

ISSUE 8 — FEATURING Yoko Tawada, Cesare Pavese, Umberto Saba, Amélie Nothomb, X-504, and Richard Plantagenet, Coeur-de-Lion | Buy Now!

ISSUE 7 — FEATURING Karel Čapek, Luis Cernuda, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Pura López Colomé, and Forrest Gander | Buy Now!

ISSUE 6 — FEATURING Henri Michaux, Charles Baudelaire, Beatriz Escalante, Parents & Teachers of Tierra y Libertad, Chiapas, and Saigyo | Buy Now!

ISSUE 5 — FEATURING César Vallejo, Peter Handke, Daimon Searls, Jayadeva, and Ryuichi Tamura | Buy Now!

ISSUE 4 — FEATURING Juan Goytisolo, Peter Bush, Stephane Mallarmé, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Marian Schwartz, Jack Hirschman, and Alexander Pushkin | Buy Now!

ISSUE 3 — FEATURING Julio Cortázar, Eugenio Montale, Natsume Soseki, Dante Alighieri, and King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain | Buy Now!

Summer Reads: Emily Wolahan on Kim Kyung Ju and Xu Zechen

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We’re having a July Summer Sale, with up to 50% off all Two Lines Press titles and back issues of our journal for as low as $2.

Here, Two Lines Press’s Emily Wolahan discusses one of her favorite TLP titles, plus one of her best summer reads.

Since only part of any summer is spent on vacation, it’s great to read books that transport me when I’m still at home. Kim Kyung Ju’s book of poems, I Am a Season that Does Not Exist in the World (Black Ocean 2015) is a different cosmic trip on each page. Translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, Kim’s poems pile surrealist imagery and linguistic turns one on the other. There’s a quickness to Kim’s writing; his energy circles in one lyrical, strange place. In “My Sorrow Suddenly Began Like a Love for Mom that Never Existed,” he writes:

Mom sitting on a flower bed blowing a soap bubble. Dad riding my wooden horse. Not returning home. Playing with a bottle cap. We have black shit in our stomach and sleep. Sprinkle a little ramen powder on our palm. Let’s eat. Older brother, the floor inside my outer world, that is the thing that I want to be. Sisters at night secretly draw Korean Barbies with big eyes on the white backs of calendars.

Each poem in I Am a Season immersed me in Kim’s world. It was easy to linger over Kim’s book. I could put it down and know that when I opened up to my spot (or any point of the book), I’d walk straight back into a totally unique vision of reality.

The other book of transformation and transportation that consumed me was Xu Zechen’s Running through Beijing. Where Kim Kung Ju creates an architecture of strange imagination, Xu Zechen speeds us through an other worldly Beijing of hustlers and wishful young people. Running through Beijing was one of the books I couldn’t stop until I finished it. Xu manages to convey in his writing the pace that his main character, Dunhuang, must maintain to get by in Beijing. Dunhuang is a hustler of the first order, a young man briefly in prison for selling fake IDs. Upon his release, he gets into selling pirated DVDs and making terrible, romantic choices. Every encounter he has is on the fly, every relationship casual.

The plot is great in Running and Dunhuang’s voice comes through as sharp and real as I remember Raskolnikov’s did—you either were that kid or you knew that kid. Despite the specificity of his surroundings and choices, Dunhuang himself is universal. And Xu’s descriptions of Dunhuang and Beijing are crucial to that feeling of “being there”:

Another trip to Changhong Bridge, another stack of DVDs. He’d have to go restock that afternoon. Kuang Shan was shocked at how often he was coming back to Cosmic, and how well he was doing selling on his own. Dunhuang said, “I’ve just got one rule: it’s life or death. Or if you want to be pretentious about it: professionalism.”

Translated by Eric Abrahamsen from the Chinese, Xu’s prose creates an incredible landscape of a dusty, fast-paced Beijing without much to offer anyone on the margin.

You can get Running Through Beijing, plus 9 other Two Lines Press titles, for up to 50% off in our July Summer Sale. See all the details here.

Summer Reads: Sarah Coolidge on Elena Ferrante and Marie NDiaye

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We’re having a July Summer Sale, with up to 50% off all Two Lines Press titles and back issues of our journal for as low as $2.

Here, Two Lines Press’s Sarah Coolidge discusses one of her favorite TLP titles, plus one of her best summer reads.

If you haven’t yet read Elena Ferrante, this summer is the perfect time to dive in, headfirst. Her four Neapolitan novels—My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child—are not only beautifully written, they are extraordinarily personal testaments to the female experience. Don’t be misled by blurbs that reduce them to a series about female friendship. True, the books center on the ever-evolving, contentious relationship between Lenu and Lila, two girls growing up in 1950s Naples. But the books could just as easily be described as a series about enemies. Or envy. Or coming to terms with womanhood in its full range—beautiful, repulsive, empowering, and self-effacing. But the book is not just for women. You’ll find that Elena Ferrante has an unprecedented talent for picking up on the ways that all of us maneuver through the world. And you’ll find yourself underlying lines that manage to put in words ideas that are so simple, so true, and yet have always eluded capture. Who is Elena Ferrante? Where does the fiction end and the autobiography begin? Not even her translator, Ann Goldstein, knows.

Just as elusive is Marie NDiaye. Anyone who hasn’t read this French writer of Senegalese descent is missing out on some of the best prose that’s out there today. Seductively restrained, poetically arranged, even a small book like Self-Portrait in Green, translated by Jordan Stump, will linger in your mind for months. The reclusive writer from France avoids autobiographical concreteness in her “self-portrait” by highlighting particular women she has known, who all distinguish themselves by inexplicably, eerily, always appearing dressed in green. We observe these women—friends, family members, and strangers—together with NDiaye, trying to piece together some sort of logic, but it always dissolves before we find clarity. Similar to Nabokov’s approach in his autobiography Speak, Memory, NDiaye picks and chooses so as to create patterns replete with literary symbolism from a reality that is always threatening to slip into fictional freefall. And after all, summer demands the blurring of life and fantasy. Lie in the sun with a book propped on your stomach and let these writers consume you.

You can get Self-Portrait in Green, plus 9 other Two Lines Press titles, for up to 50% off in our July Summer Sale. See all the details here.

Introducing the Two Lines Press July SALE!!! Up to 50% Off All Two Lines Press Titles!

We’re having a yuuuuge July sale. YUUUUGE!! See below for all the incredible deals, and stock up!


BUNDLES: MAXIMIZE YOUR SAVINGS

Buy a bundle and you’ll get our limited-edition set of beautiful literary postcards!
Plus, our bundles are 50% off the cover price—you just can’t beat that price!


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The “Can’t Put It Down” Set

$23 — BUY NOW

Summer reading is all about riveting plots and incredible characters: these three books are our flat-out most blistering page-turners. Whether it’s Naja Marie Aidt’s surreal Nordic relationships, Xu Zechen’s amazing true-to-life stories of a young Chinese hustler, or Toni Sala’s state-of-the-nation report from Catalonia, these are astonishing glimpses of lives you’ve never seen before. You’ll read them fast, but at 50% off the cover price you’ll have enough money to buy that next summer read!


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The French Riviera Set

$20 — BUY NOW

Every American secretly knows that France is just what we want out of the summer: gorgeous weather, even more gorgeous people, mystery, romance, glamor, world-class espresso. If you can’t quite get to France, you can at least bring France to you with these three books. Intrigue, enchantment, and a dash of trauma make these genre-defying titles unparalleled—find out why these books from Jonathan Littell and Marie NDiaye have been praised from The New Republic to The New Yorker, and everywhere in between. And at 50% off you’ll save enough to read them alongside that glass of red Rhône blend.


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The East European Beach Read Set

$20 — BUY NOW

Nothing says “fun in the sun” like books about madness, runaway paranoia, and smothering coal grime. For the Two Lines Press reader who dares to declare “I resolutely pursue the modernist aesthetic of cruelty, even at the beach!” the East European Beach Read Set is just what you need. Featuring a never-before-translated author from interwar Czechoslovakia (compared to Kafka), an East German declared an “artist of immense stature” by László Krasznahorkai (and compared to Kafka), and a Brazilian master who is surely Eastern European in spirit if not nationality (and compared to Kafka), these three books can be yours at an amazing 50% off the cover price. Make the beach a slightly darker, more insidiously frightening place, just don’t forget the sunscreen!


 

ALL OUR TITLES 40% OFF

For the entire month of July we’re are offering all Two Lines Press titles at an extraordinary 40% off!
Catch up on titles you’ve missed, or be a hero and give the gift of Two Lines to your friends!

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QUIET CREATURE ON THE CORNER BY JOAO GILBERTO NOLL (TR ADAM MORRIS)

$6 — BUY NOW

“One of the most celebrated writers in contemporary Brazilian literature.” — Guernica magazine

“As much as the novel deserves its comparisons with the work of some of the modernist giants, Quiet Creature on the Corner . . . shows Noll blazing past them into his own territory with a story for a different age.” — Cultured Vultures

“As urgently relevant as any contemporary novel. . . . Quiet Creature on the Corner augurs a notable English-language career for João Gilberto Noll.” — Chicago Review of Books

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THE SLEEP OF THE RIGHTEOUS BY WOLFGANG HILBIG (TR ISABEL FARGO COLE)

$9 — BUY NOW

“Wolfgang Hilbig is an artist of immense stature,” — László Krasznahorkai

“­Evokes the luminous prose of W.G. Sebald. . . . Hilbig’s masterly work captures the angst of a man unable to escape the wreckage of his past.” — The New York Times

“Out of the ugliness of history and the wasted landscape of his home, he has created stories of disconsolate beauty.” — The Wall Street Journal

“[Hilbig writes as] Edgar Allan Poe could have written if he had been born in Communist East Germany.” — Los Angeles Review of Books

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THE BOYS BY TONI SALA (TR MARA FAYE LETHEM)

$9 — BUY NOW

An IndieBound Indie Next List selection for December 2015

“[Like] 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

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THE GAME FOR REAL BY RICHARD WEINER (TR BENJAMIN PALOFF)

$9 — BUY NOW

“For me, the pinnacles of prose are Hašek, Kafka, Weiner, Klima.” — Bohumil Hrabal, author of Harlequin’s Millions

“These novellas are intense, funny, and vivid explorations of selfhood and identity. Their publication was long overdue.” — Electric Literature

“Weiner’s strength lies in his exceptional turns of phrase.” — Times Literary Supplement

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SELF-PORTRAIT IN GREEN BY MARIE NDIAYE (TR JORDAN STUMP)

$6 — BUY NOW

Winner of the CLMP Firecracker Award

“NDiaye’s two early books, All My Friends and Self-Portrait in Green . . . are so extraordinarily vivid and controlled” — The New Republic

“Marie NDiaye’s Self-Portrait in Green is phenomenal.” — Idra Novey, author of Ways of Disappearing

“[W]ades through feminine fear, power, and insecurity like no other book I’ve encountered.” — Flavorwire

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BABOON BY NAJA MARIE AIDT (TR DENISE NEWMAN)

$9 — BUY NOW

“I salute thee, Naja Marie Aidt.” — Daniel Handler

“An explosive collection.” — Los Angeles Times

“[A] violent, beautiful, breathlessly paced collection.” — Los Angels Review of Books

“Naja Marie Aidt is the writer of dark secrets.” — Sarah Gerard, author of Binary Star

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RUNNING THROUGH BEIJING BY XU ZECHEN (TR ERIC ABRAHAMSEN)

$9 – BUY NOW

“The novel captures the taste and tension of Beijing better than any I’ve ever read.” — Los Angeles Review of Books

“A window onto Beijing’s seamy, crime-ridden underbelly . . . a vibrant story by one of China’s rising young writers. I’d check it out if I were you.” — Book Riot

“Uplifting, thrilling. . . . The novel itself, with its sharp, detailed prose and vivid storytelling, creates an exhilaration, a giddy hope in the reader . . .” — Numéro Cinq

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THE FATA MORGANA BOOKS BY JONATHAN LITTELL (TR CHARLOTTE MANDELL)

$9 – BUY NOW

“Four nightmarish novellas . . . The writing is sinuous and propulsive; disturbing images are rendered with icy, swift precision.” — The New Yorker

“Littell is fearless in his descriptions of sex, masculinity, and femininity. . . . There is no gendered body in Littell’s work, everything is fluid.” — The Collagist

“These stories lead the reader on a race through the abyss . . .” — Paul La Farge, author of Luminous Airplanes

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ALL MY FRIENDS BY MARIE NDIAYE (TR JORDAN STUMP)

$9 — BUY NOW

“Brings to life an electrifying rogue’s gallery of social outcasts, disgruntled wives, and loony strivers.” — Publishers Weekly

“A superb short story collection.” — Rain Taxi Review of Books

“This book is a world.” — SF Weekly

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HI, THIS IS CONCHITA BY SANTIAGO RONCAGLIOLO (TR EDITH GROSSMAN)

$9 — BUY NOW

“There’s a lot to like—and laugh at—here.” — Publishers Weekly

“Satisfying and unpredictable.” — PopMatters

“Roncagliolo quite cleverly and nicely spins a tale of crossed lives.” — Michael Orthofer, author of The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction


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TWO LINES BACK ISSUES

Summer’s the perfect time to connect with your inner nomad and explore the world. Let us help you by stocking up on hard-to-find issues of Two Lines. We’re selling issues 1 through 20 for just $2 (stock permitting), and Issues 21 through 24 are half off!

$6 ISSUE 24 — FEATURING Jeffrey Yang, Medardo Fraile, Margaret Jull Costa, Rabee Jaber, Kareem James Abu-Zeid

$6 ISSUE 23 — FEATURING Yoko Tawada, Alissa Valles, Katherine Silver, Heather Cleary, Prabda Yoon

$6 ISSUE 22 — FEATURING Lydia Davis, Yuri Herrera, Daniel Levin Becker, Wayne Miller, Jeffrey Angles

$6 ISSUE 21 — FEATURING Johannes Göransson, Antonio Tabucchi, Marcos Giralt Torrente, Natasha Wimmer, and Edward Gauvin

$2 ISSUE 20 — FEATURING Scholastique Mukasonga, Wolfgang Hilbig, Jeffrey Yang, Sergio Chejfec, Susan Bernofsky, and Christopher Merrill

$2 ISSUE 19 — FEATURING Naja Marie Aidt, Lydia Davis, Katrina Dodson, Daniel Hahn, and Camille T. Dungy

$2 ISSUE 18 — FEATURING Alejandra Pizarnik, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, César Aira, Marilyn Hacker, Albert Cossery, Luc Sante, and Rosanna Warren

$2 ISSUE 17 — FEATURING Inger Christensen, Lydia Davis, Oliverio Girondo, Mikhail Shishkin, Mikhail Shishkin, Natasha Wimmer, and Jeffrey Yang

$2 ISSUE 16 — FEATURING José Manuel Prieto, Anna Szabó, Yoko Tawada, Mahmoud Darwish, George Szirtes, Margaret Jull Costa, and Marilyn Hacker

$2 ISSUE 15 — FEATURING Antonio Muñoz Molina, Margaret Jull Costa, Rodrigo Rey Rosa, John Biguenet, and Sidney Wade

$2 ISSUE 14 — FEATURING Tomas Tranströmer, Robert Hass, Vicente Huidobro, Mercè Rodoreda, and Forrest Gander

$2 ISSUE 13 — FEATURING Jorge Volpi, Suzanne Jill Levine, Dahlia Ravikovitch, Charlotte Mandell, César Vallejo, and Rosmarie Waldrop

$2 ISSUE 12 — FEATURING Ingeborg Bachmann, John Felstiner, Brother Anthony of Taizé, and Yehuda Amichai

$2 ISSUE 11 — FEATURING Don Mee Choi, Donald A. Yates, Eunice Odio, and Marilyn Hacker

$2 ISSUE 10 — FEATURING Pablo Picasso, Suzanne Jill Levine, Marian Schwartz, and Aleksandr Anashevich

SOLD OUT! ISSUE 9  FEATURING Ko Un, Enrique Anderson-Imbert, Giovanni Giudici, and Félix Morisseau-Leroy

$2 ISSUE 8 — FEATURING Yoko Tawada, Cesare Pavese, Umberto Saba, Amélie Nothomb, X-504, and Richard Plantagenet, Coeur-de-Lion

$2 ISSUE 7 — FEATURING Karel Čapek, Luis Cernuda, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Pura López Colomé, and Forrest Gander

$2 ISSUE 6 — FEATURING Henri Michaux, Charles Baudelaire, Beatriz Escalante, Parents & Teachers of Tierra y Libertad, Chiapas, and Saigyo

$2 ISSUE 5 — FEATURING César Vallejo, Peter Handke, Daimon Searls, Jayadeva, and Ryuichi Tamura

$2 ISSUE 4 — FEATURING Juan Goytisolo, Peter Bush, Stephane Mallarmé, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Marian Schwartz, Jack Hirschman, and Alexander Pushkin

$2 ISSUE 3 — FEATURING Julio Cortázar, Eugenio Montale, Natsume Soseki, Dante Alighieri, and King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain

Doug Slaymaker and Akiko Takenaka on Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure by Hideo Furukawa

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We were very pleased to be joined by Doug Slaymaker and Akiko Takenaka before an enthusiastic crowd to discuss the Japanese, post-Fukushima novel Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure by Hideo Furukawa. Although Furukawa is little-known in the United States, in Japan he is celebrated an a prolific and expansive author, someone who has vaulted onto the Japanese scene with a ferocity and who has quickly taken on a leading position.

Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure deals directly with the disastrous earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, that began on March 11, 2011, and that continues (by some counts) to this day. It is also a response of sorts to September 11, 2001 in the United States and the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Slaymaker and Takenaka discuss these enormous historical events, as well as Furukawa’s unique evocation of his experiences in Fukushima after the meltdown, the challenges of translating his Japanese prose, his other literary works, and what Japanese literature they are looking forward to experiencing.

Audio of this event plus a table of contents if available below.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

0:00 Introductions

1:20 Origins of the translation of Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure and background on author Hideo Furukawa

4:45 How uncommon was it for a book to come together and be published as rapidly as Horses, Horses was, just four months after the 3/11 disaster?

6:25 Overview of the 3/11 disaster, and Doug’s and Akiko’s experiences in Japan during and immediately after the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown

11:35 Furukawa’s experiences of the earthquake, feelings of guilt and “spirited away” because he was away from Tokyo when the earthquake struck

15:30 Furukawa’s decision to go to Fukushima directly after the disaster

18:00 Furukawa’s integration of his mammoth novel The Holy Family into Horses, Horses, and what exactly Furukawa is doing when he puts a character from that book into Horses, Horses

21:30 Integration of taboo elements of Japanese history into Horses, Horses

29:30 Furukawa’s arrival in New York City right after the assassination of Osama bin Laden and integration of that event into Horses, Horses, as well as 9/11/2001 and the broader history between the U.S. and Japan

34:30 Furukawa’s level of involvement in the translation of Horses, Horses, and translation challenges of the book

47:30 Furukawa’s decision to abandon the writing he does on any day in which an aftershock strikes

48:30 Furukawa’s invocation of Fukushima and Japanese politics and society in books after Horses, Horses

50:45 Doug’s and Akiko’s favorites of Furukawa’s books

54:15 Audience Q & A

5/19: Iranian Author Yaghoub Yadali Presents Rituals of Restlessness [EVENT]

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Next Thursday, May 19, we proudly partner with Diesel, a Bookstore and Phoneme Media to present Iranian author Yaghoub Yadali as his discusses his book Rituals of Restlessness.

Engineer Kamran Khosravi wants to die in a car accident. His professional life in the Iranian hinterlands is full of bureaucratic drudgery, protecting dams, for example, from looters. His wife Fariba can no longer stand it, and has left him to rejoin her family in Isfahan. She is anxious for him to choose a life with her, or to let her go and persist with things as they are, but Kamran’s issues run deeper than anybody imagines. He has lost all feeling for his wife, and his plans for a car accident are escapist, not suicidal. He is having an affair with a married country girl, and thoughts of her lead him to foolish distraction. Most recently, he has found a day laborer who matches his approximate build and hair color, and his intentions grow increasingly dark, along with his nihilistic outlook.

Rituals of Restlessness won the 2004 Golshiri Foundation Award for the best novel of the year and was named one of the ten best novels of the decade by the Press Critics Award in Iran. However, in 2007 Yaghoub Yadali was sentenced to one year in prison for having depicted an adulterous affair in the novel. Rituals of Restlessness and his short story collection Sketches in the Garden have been banned from publication and reprint in Iran.

Yaghoub Yadali, a fiction writer from Iran, has directed for television and worked for Roshd Magazine as the editor of the film section. In addition to Rituals of Restlessness and Sketches in the Garden, he is the author of the short story collection Probablitiy of Merriment and Mooning. His short stories, articles, and essays are published in Iran, Turkey, and the U.S. He has been writer-in-residence at the University of Iowa, Harvard University, and City of Asylum in Pittsburgh, PA.

  • Yaghoub Yadali discussing and signing Rituals of Restlessness
  • Thursday, May 19, 2016
  • 7:00pm
  • DIESEL, A Bookstore
  • 5433 College Avenue, Oakland, CA 94618-1502

Quiet Creature on the Corner: An Interview with the Translator

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Brazilian novelist João Gilberto Noll’s Quiet Creature on the Corner is out today from Two Lines Press! If you want to order it at 30% off (just $6.95), click this link to get started.

Below we present an in-depth interview between PEN Translation Award–winning translator of Clarice Lispector’s complete stories Katrina Dodson and Quiet Creature translator Adam Morris.

Quiet Creature is a slim book that sinks its claws into you, gently at first, then implacably. Like a film by David Lynch, Michael Haneke, or David Cronenberg, its hypnotic momentum pulls you along, even when the disturbing events make you cringe and want to turn away. The 1991 novel opens with a nineteen-year-old poet who’s just lost his factory job. He is one of countless Brazilians out of work in the late 1980s, when the novel is set, after the end of Brazil’s twenty-year military regime, a period marked simultaneously by hope for a new democratic order and uncertainty in the face of raging inflation and economic stagnation. The young narrator and his mother live as squatters in a semi-abandoned apartment complex in a rough neighborhood of Porto Alegre, capital of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, where Noll is from.

Early on, the boy recounts his rape of a neighbor girl in the same flat tone and bare language in which he describes washing his hands. The events that follow—his arrest, transfer to a mental health clinic, and surreal transition to a rural property where he becomes the charge of a German-Brazilian couple of mystifying motives—veer between the mundane, grotesque, and ominous. An undercurrent of social and political unrest occasionally pierces the narrator’s disorienting stream of consciousness, with allusions to the country’s first direct presidential election after the dictatorship (and Lula’s first run for president). As we drift through this novel without chapter breaks to arrive at its final image, the young man bobbing in a lake, we are left unsure whether he deserves pity or disgust.

The publication of Quiet Creature on the Corner this May by Two Lines Press, in a translation by Adam Morris, will make it João Gilberto Noll’s only novel currently available in English. Noll is one of Brazil’s most esteemed living authors; of his sixteen novels and short story collections since 1980, five have won the Brazilian equivalent of the National Book Award (Prêmio Jabuti). Yet the only prior book-length English translation of his work is an out-of-print 1997 UK volume of his novellas Harmada (1993) and Hotel Atlântico (1986). Next spring, Two Lines will also publish Morris’s translation of Hotel Atlântico as Atlantic Hotel. In a written conversation over the course of two days, I spoke with Morris about his translations, how to understand the more inflammatory scenes of sex and violence in Quiet Creature, and what Noll’s work means for the present cultural and political moment in Brazil and beyond. We discussed Dilma, Lula, the Brazilian landless workers’ movement (MST), as well as the perverse pleasures of Hilda Hilst, Clarice Lispector’s Nietzschean morality, and when to ignore English grammar and just let those Brazilian run-on sentences ride.

— Katrina Dodson


 

Katrina Dodson: What drew you to João Gilberto Noll and why this book in particular, out of the thirteen novels he’s published?

Adam Morris: I discovered Noll as part of my academic research in twentieth- and twenty-first century Latin American literature. I studied the Argentine writer César Aira, as well as the Mexican author Mario Bellatin, and have written about them both. My teachers recommended Noll when I began to study contemporary Brazilian literature. As for why I selected this novel, the novel selected me: the experience of shopping in a Brazilian sebo, or used bookstore, as the narrator of Quiet Creature does, can be quite hit or miss. I was looking for novels by Noll, and this was the first I managed to find. I read it and was captivated by Noll much in the same way I was by Aira and Bellatin, and for the reason I decided to study contemporary Latin American literature in the first place: it’s totally different from the North American fiction I was reading. Noll’s voice is unique and astonishing.

Katrina Dodson: Given Noll’s stature in Brazilian letters, why do you think he hasn’t already been translated more into English?

Adam Morris: Translated literature comprises a very small minority of the American publishing industry’s output, a problem that Two Lines and many other independent presses have made it their business to address. So that is the most obvious reason. Beyond that, Portuguese is a minor language in comparison to French or Spanish, and in comparison to, say, German, it’s underrepresented in publisher lists most likely because Brazil was not until recently considered a very important country, geopolitically speaking, and in the U.S., Brazilian culture was chiefly consumed through music. Finally, Brazilian literature and the Portuguese language are not widely taught in universities. So there you have the structural obstacles to the translation of many or most Brazilian writers, not just Noll.

Katrina Dodson: Is this a more ideal time to introduce readers in English to Noll?

Adam Morris: I do think that this is a good time to think seriously about Noll and his work. Given the present political turmoil in Brazil, and the broader debates surrounding neoliberalism in Brazil, Latin America, and Europe, Noll’s work will perhaps speak to the many people, even here in the U.S., who have experienced the detachment of his narrators, and the hollowing of their communities by what many refer to as neoliberalism or, alternately, austerity.

Katrina Dodson: I’d like to return to the broader question of politics later, but for now, let’s talk about this sense of alienation in his first-person narrators. One Brazilian interviewer wrote of Noll, “He says that he’s always written the story of the same character, a drifter, who’s constantly clashing with everything, always searching for something, he’s not sure what.” To this I’d add that the character in this novel, a poet, has something of the poète maudit and the flâneur about him, that writer on the margins of society who doesn’t give a damn about its rules of behavior. There’s also a resonance with Camus’s The Stranger in his sense of disaffectedness and his casual violence. How do this book and its protagonist fit in with Noll’s body of work as a whole?

Adam Morris: I think the comparison to Camus is a very good one, particularly with respect to this novel. There is also the relation to Kafka, especially in The Trial, Amerika, or The Castle, for reasons the critic mentions—that searching after something and not understanding what it is. And yes, the protagonist of Quiet Creature is a poet, but I would not call him a flâneur. The flâneur opts out of the regimented life of modernity. In this context, it’s the withdrawal of these opportunities from the subject, without giving him a say in the matter, something that interests Noll very much.

Katrina Dodson: The parts in which he wanders the city aimlessly, leafing through whatever he finds at bookstores, made me think of the flâneur.

Adam Morris: Yes. But I think the flâneur associates himself with irony and with a detached but ironic stance that is not available to Noll’s protagonists. The idea of joblessness recurs in other novels of this period, including Atlantic Hotel, but always in a context of frustration and even desperation.

Katrina Dodson: So you’re saying that Noll’s protagonists are sincerer in their detachment, or more unconscious of the reasons for it. Noll manages to make his protagonist in this novel both predatory and naive at the same time. He commits some pretty heinous acts of aggression and yet seems like such a kid, totally unaware that he’s an aggressor. I keep thinking about how he smears his forehead with the foundation of a woman he’s just violated and may have killed just to cover up a zit.

Adam Morris: That’s right: not the flâneur’s jolly wandering or the Situationist derive. But—and this is open to interpretation—I believe he also becomes a victim later, and demonstrates the same naiveté when that occurs. He is at once eager to please and insensitive to the effects of his actions. He remarks on this repeatedly in the novel. For example, when he sees Kurt smile, and tries to determine what he has done to have caused it.

Katrina Dodson: I think there’s a lot of moral ambiguity in the book, in the way that the protagonist is also a victim of some pretty abysmal conditions—poverty, lack of family support, lack of control over what happens to his person in certain ways—and aware of the way he breeds disgust and disdain in the people around him, whether imagined or real. So it was a book that repelled me in certain places but that kept drawing me in because I couldn’t quite figure out how to think about this character and his actions.

Adam Morris: Yes, I think this is where a productive comparison to Camus might continue.

Katrina Dodson: One of the most compelling aspects of the book, and your translation, was the dreamlike narration. We never quite know what’s happening in the action of the novel and what the character is imagining. In its surreal and ominous shifts between scenes and locations, I can see the basis for the comparison to the films of David Lynch. Can you say more about this aspect of Noll’s style and what it was like to translate it?

Adam Morris: It’s funny you mention Lynch. I think that is an excellent comparison. Think of the dream structure of Mulholland Drive.

Katrina Dodson: Well, it’s on the jacket copy: “Reminiscent of the films of David Lynch.”

Adam Morris: Well I am delighted by it nevertheless! I do not have my copies yet. I did not supply that description. But I agree with whoever said so. I think Cronenberg is another good comparison, and Buñuel. I would reluctantly add Murakami, though I think Noll is much better. That milky realization that we are in a dream: Noll achieves this without so-called magic realism. He shifts in verb tenses, and sudden changes in location.

Katrina Dodson: I also think of Blue Velvet.

Adam Morris: Yes, excellent. But unlike Lynch, whose psychodramas appear to have a deep subconscious current, in the psychoanalytic sense, Noll’s dreamscapes are brittle.

Katrina Dodson: What do you mean by brittle?

Adam Morris: I would even say superficial, but I mean that in the sense that surface opacity is the aspect of dreams that works for the political scenario he is describing. The lack of depth is manifest in the character’s lack of a name, his very spotty history, his somewhat impulsive and reactionary psychology.

Katrina Dodson: Noll has cited Clarice Lispector as one of his major influences, and there’s something reminiscent of her novel The Apple in the Dark in how the main character commits a crime and then absconds to a rural setting in a surreal turn of events. We’ve also mentioned Camus and Kafka. Can you speak further about some of the ways that Noll’s work resonates with that of other writers or artists, both in a Brazilian and in an international context?

Adam Morris: In the Brazilian context it would be difficult for any writer not to be influenced by Clarice Lispector as she is so widely read and respected. I like the parallel to The Apple in the Dark, though I had not considered it before. I have written about the somewhat neglected Nietzschean aspects of Lispector’s work, particularly with respect to that novel. I think the strange barnyard scenes also find their parallel in Quiet Creature, in Amália’s shed. There is also the similarity of uncertain morality, or rather, of an unmoored and deeply personal morality that is related to Nietzsche’s philosophy.

Katrina Dodson: Are there other Brazilian or international writers whose work resonates with Noll’s?

Adam Morris: Noll is in dialogue with a lineage of writers who document daily realities in Brazil, particularly as it regards a tone of violence that is sometimes portrayed as mundane. I am thinking of Rubem Fonseca’s famous book Feliz Ano Novo (Happy New Year). That collection is remarkable for the way it presents violence as both shocking and matter-of-course or as a daily reality that results from prevailing social conditions. Noll offers an updated reflection on these conditions for a post-dictatorship context, where the long-sought freedom has not led to emancipation. I think this is a crucial thing to remember when reading Noll: he is thinking through the difference between freedom, or in the American parlance, liberty, and emancipation. The narrator of Quiet Creature has his freedom. Too much of it. But we cannot say that he is emancipated.

Katrina Dodson: Yes, I see a connection to Fonseca’s hardboiled style. Like Fonseca, Noll inhabits the worlds of the so-called “marginais,” a group that includes criminals and vagrants, and both writers narrate these worlds in a matter-of-fact way—unperturbed by the darker fringes of society.

The first book you translated was Hilda Hilst’s With My Dog-Eyes (Melville House, 2014). Both Hilst and Noll have a way of dwelling in certain aggressively visceral, sexual, and violent spaces that breed fascination and disgust, as if they want to slap readers out of a complacent bourgeois morality but also perhaps because they are genuinely interested in what is unsettling to most people. Do you see a kinship between the two Brazilian authors you’ve chosen to translate?

Adam Morris: Yes, I do. Hilst was also in conversation with Camus, among many others. She quite infamously was very interested in the obscene. But she distinguished obscenity from pornography. For her, and for the writers she most admired—Nabokov, Miller, Huysmans, the French eroticist Pierre Louÿs, and many others—the obscene was an aesthetic category intended, as you say, to disrupt bourgeois morality and complacency. Noll is not exactly picking up where Hilst left off, but the use of sex has a disruptive function in this novel.

Katrina Dodson: Yes, and not only sex but ways of looking at the body that focus on scatology and decay, things that we are faced with every day but that don’t make for polite conversation.

Adam Morris: We get an even clearer idea of what Noll is doing with sex in Atlantic Hotel, where the narrator describes sex with a hotel employee as an anonymous action, bodies touching below the waist. Although there is certainly more sex and more violent sex in Quiet Creature.

Katrina Dodson: What difference does gender make in how you read these authors’ approaches to sexuality, violence, and death? For example, I’ve found it easier to take in Hilst’s graphic scenes because she approaches them as a woman writer and in ways I find subversive on a more intuitive level. In contrast, the protagonist in Noll’s book treats women in brutal, misogynistic ways that echo dominant power structures in a manner that’s harder for me to take as a female reader, even if I want to believe that there’s a more sophisticated way to understand this material.

Adam Morris: I think what we have in Noll can only be described as a critique of casualized violence against women. The character appears morally confused or ambivalent, and this is the problem. The casual violence of the state on the bodies of its people has become manifest in gender relations. Hilst addresses this, as well.

Katrina Dodson: What part of this do you see Hilst addressing? In the Hilst I’ve read, there is plenty of physical abjection, but it tends to have a sense of perverse pleasure and willingness in the participants. In Quiet Creature, the sexual encounters range from outright rape to scenes of questionable consent on the woman’s part. Hilst is more about the crazy orgy, whether literal or literary, while in Noll’s book I had a harder time witnessing scenes from a point of view that replays the dynamic of male dominance and female objectification that bombards us from all around.

Adam Morris: Hilst’s theater work, which has not been translated, is one place to look for this critique of social gender roles. Her play O visitante (The Visitor), for instance. The literary and queer theorist David William Foster is writing on this play, comparing it to contemporary work by Pasolini, in a volume I am coediting on Hilst out later this year. [Essays on Hilda Hilst: Between Brazil and World Literature, coedited with Bruno Carvalho, forthcoming from Palgrave Macmillan.]

Katrina Dodson: Pasolini is an interesting figure to tie into these questions.

Adam Morris: Yes, he is. And you are correct that Hilst was interested more in pleasure and in the hidden or repressed pleasure at hand in scenes of debasement and abnegation, as well as what would be considered depravity from a bourgeois perspective. In Noll, by contrast, the narrator appears to take uncertain pleasure in his sexual exploits. And I use the word exploits advisedly, since I agree with you that he exercises a violent level of control in most of these encounters. But at the same time, later in the novel, he unexpectedly finds himself in the role of the person whose body is used and manipulated. The path to this scene is as surreal as many of his other discoveries. Here I think Noll uses sexual violence as a metaphor for a social condition of helplessness.

Katrina Dodson: Which scene are you referring to?

[Here, we discuss the disjointed narration of several scenes, in which the narrator himself is the victim of sexual aggressions by other men. The details of one act in particular remain ambiguous, in part because the narrator is ashamed, as Morris points out.]

Adam Morris: So there is a final experience that might provoke empathy with the women he abuses. An emasculating experience where he has no power whatsoever.

Katrina Dodson: Or, as you say, this is a story about people losing control over their bodies, in many senses and not just in that most overt first rape that occurs. And in all of this there’s no sense of fun or pleasure. Just fear, mockery, and brutality.

Adam Morris: Exactly—the rapes, the cancer, old age, homelessness, jail. But! You also see that this loss of control is no longer a subjection experienced at the hands of a Foucauldian disciplinary institution. He has also lost his job, remember, as a machine worker of some sort. So factory, prison, and clinic all expel him. And he’s left without a discernible occupation that would aid in forming his identity. His response to this is to exert power over a woman—after watching porn.

Katrina Dodson: Ah, I forgot that he starts off as an actual worker. I had more of the sense of him as a poet-loafer. This is definitely a book that warrants rereading. It’s short but very condensed and with key details that float by if you’re not paying close attention.

Adam Morris: Yes, as I say, it’s deceptively superficial. It is a very weird book. That’s what I love about Noll.

Katrina Dodson: While Noll’s delirious style resonates with the work of Clarice Lispector and Hilda Hilst, his writing is more overtly attuned to external political contexts in Brazil, even if still oblique. Quiet Creature on the Corner was published in 1991, in that first wave of writing that was free from censorship under the military dictatorship, which ended in 1984. It appears to take place in the late 1980s, with mentions of Lula running for president (for the first time) and of the Landless Worker’s Movement, which became the MST (Movimento Sem Terra), which originated in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, where Noll is from and where a lot of this novel takes place, particularly in the city of Porto Alegre. In what ways was this novel responding to its political context?

Adam Morris: Well it was a surprise to the political establishment that Lula did so well in the elections of 1989, and the place where he had one of his strongest showings was in the south. Dilma also began her career in politics in Porto Alegre. But yes, Lula is already a celebrity by the time the novel is published in 1991, and Noll had recognized the ways he was responding to the plight of people who realized that the opening of the dictatorship to democracy did not necessarily mean an improvement of their lot. Our protagonist represents what Marx called relative surplus-labor. Today in the context of a global crisis, we describe these workers as belonging to the precariat. So there is a sense of abandonment that follows the fall of the dictatorship when those who fill these ranks realize that the new democratic order will be controlled by the business elite who do not have their best interests in mind. Lula represents the populist opposition to this elite.

Katrina Dodson: As you say, Quiet Creature reflects a sense of economic uncertainty. Its protagonist starts out living in a state of precarity among squatters, worried that the military police could come and throw them all out of their homes at any moment. Then after his arrest, he gets whisked away to an almost feudal manor, lorded over by a German-Brazilian couple, though their activities get blocked for a time by the landless protestors.

Adam Morris: And here is where a class and perhaps race dimension emerges in this novel in a way that is more obvious to Brazilian readers. The landless are, generally speaking, less white than the general population or the middle class and many are indigenous. Brazilian readers would see the Germans as white Brazilians and the landless as nonwhite Brazilians. Readers unfamiliar with the movement could consider them a proto-Occupy movement of sorts.

Katrina Dodson: Noll is known for being a stylist, a writer very much invested in language. What aspects of his style did you feel were most important to convey in English? What were some of the challenges or pleasures in translating him?

Adam Morris: One of the challenges was to preserve something I alluded to earlier: the brittle opacity of the narration, its deceptive simplicity, which is related to another challenge that was also a pleasure, maintaining the narrator’s movement in and out of dreams and the related unannounced transitions between states, settings, and times. Noll himself offers a metaphor for this at the end of the novel, when the narrator swims to the middle of the pond on the farm. He bobs up and down in the pond while looking at Kurt on the shore, trying to remain underwater for longer each time. The narration appears in a similar fashion to avoid reality.

Katrina Dodson: Yes, that’s an arresting image. I was also struck by the passages after he leaves the mental asylum, the clinic they call it, and goes to the farm. I kept thinking he was still dreaming until at a certain point the “plot” just kept moving forward. It all bleeds together.

Adam Morris: Noll and I did not correspond much as I translated, but one thing I felt necessary to ask him about, and perhaps this sounds like the mundane query of a grammarian, was his use of run-on sentences and incessant comma splices. As you know, Portuguese is much more flexible than English about what in English would be called a run-on sentence.

Katrina Dodson: The run-on sentence is very much a part of Brazilian linguistic patrimony. I find it difficult to figure out when to let it roll and when to clip it for the sake of English. With Lispector, I felt very little liberty to do that, so I just kept the comma splices to maintain her flow.

Adam Morris: In our conversations, Noll confirmed that this was his way of conveying an adolescent view or narration. So I worked to preserve a certain naiveté that you noticed. This was very confining, as Noll restricts the character’s lexicon as well.

Katrina Dodson: Yes, a certain breathlessness and carelessness in his youthful way of speaking.

Adam Morris: Yes, carelessness. And also a matter-of-factness that is by turns poetic and crass. Breathtaking in both instances, as well as breathless in others! The narrator will occasionally indulge in a more poetic outlook or description, which reminds us that he is a poet. He grasps at sophistication. Sometimes he achieves it: the images of the moon, for instance. Other times it is rather strained.

Katrina Dodson: Do you plan on translating more of Noll’s work?

Adam Morris: Two Lines will be publishing my second translation of Noll, Atlantic Hotel, next spring. It’s one of Noll’s best-known works. The editors at Two Lines agreed that his books are meant to be read in conjunction with one another. So although we can’t do his whole corpus in one year, readers will have a second novel to look forward to. I enjoyed translating these works very much, but I never know what I’ll next translate. I have a strong evangelical incentive to bring untranslated voices to new readers.

 

Portrait_Katrina-Dodson_001Katrina Dodson is the translator of The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector (New Directions, 2015), awarded the 2016 PEN Translation Prize. She has written for GuernicaMcSweeney’s, and The Millions, and her translations have appeared in GrantaHarper’sLapham’s Quarterly, and elsewhere. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley.

Adam_004Adam Morris has a PhD in Latin American literature from Stanford University and was the recipient of the 2012 Susan Sontag Foundation Prize in literary translation. He is the translator of João Gilberto Noll’s Quiet Creature on the Corner and the forthcoming Atlantic Hotel (Two Lines, 2017), as well as Hilda Hilst’s With My Dog-Eyes (Melville House, 2014). His writing and translations have appeared in The Believer, BOMB, Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement, among other publications. He is writing a book on American messianic movements, American Messiahs, forthcoming from Liveright.