Which French Prizes Sell Books?

The website Paris Match has a pretty cool graphic where you can see how the various major French book awards stack up, in terms of moving copies of books. At may be no surprise, the Prix Goncourt is by far the best-selling prize. Here’s a screen capture to give an idea:

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And we’re quite impressed to see that Two Lines Press’s own Marie NDiaye is the second-best-selling author on that list, tied with the always popular Michel Houellebecq.

Looking at the Prix Femina (which NDiaye also won, albeit a few years before those tracked by the graphic) you can see that the Goncourt is really where it’s at, so far as sales are concerned.

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It’s a fun little feature, and you don’t really need any French to enjoy it. Have fun!

AUDIO: Dark and Stormy: A Night of Contemporary Swedish Poetry with Malena Mörling and Robert Hass

sbmh-newest(These notes were compiled by Two Lines Press intern Zuha Khan.)

As a part of San Francisco’s Litquake Festival, Two Voices and Green Apple Books teamed up to bring internationally acclaimed poet and translator Malena Mörling and former United States poet laureate (and translator) Robert Hass to discuss Swedish poetry in translation. The event, which occurred on October 15th, focused on the recently published anthology of Swedish poetry from the 20th and 21st century, The Star by My Head (Milkweed Editions in partnership with The Poetry Foundation). The poems span the beginnings of Modernism to the present day and feature eight of Sweden’s most highly regarded poets, including Nobel Prize winner Tomas Tranströmer—all poems in this volume were translated by Mörling and her co-editor Jonas Ellerström. Mörling and Hass discussed the breathtaking poetry, the differences between the English and Swedish language, and the translation process, among other things.


00:00 Introductions

5:40 Robert shares how he knows Malena, and ruminates about the importance of translation

8:28 Discussing Swedish poetry’s intense, brooding inwardness

9:20 Malena discusses Swedish literature as a phenomenon

10:28 Discussion of Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf

11:29 Reading of a Gunnar Ekelöf poem & discussion of poem & translation process

15:07 Malena & Jonas’s translation collaboration process

16:20 Back to discussing Ekelöf (influenced by Surrealism & Sufiism)

18:03 Discussion of Swedish poet ‪Edith Södergran‬

21:17 ‪Edith Södergran‬’s “I Saw A Tree” reading & discussion

24:20 ‪Edith Södergran‬’s “Decision” reading & discussion about translating her

30:30 Swedish poet Karl Werner Aspenström discussion

32:08 Aspenström’s “You & I & The World” reading & discussion

34:55 Aspenström’s “You Have To Practice Reality” reading &discussion about the loss of transcendence in 20th century poetry

37:43 Aspenström’s “After Having Played Mozart All Day” reading & discussion

38:55 Poet Tomas Tranströmer’s life story, the effects his stroke had on his writing & music

44:23 Tomas Tranströmer’s “Secrets on the Way,” and discussion about realizing one’s presence in the fabric of time and life

47:07 Tomas Tranströmer’s “Tracks” reading & discussion

48:38 Hass’s story about translating Tranströmer in the 1980s and the disparities/challenges between American translators working on Swedish poetry

50:10 Malena discussing the challenges of translating poems

52:25 Q&A Since most contemporary Swedish poets are bilingual in Swedish and English, do they do their own translations?

53:42: Q&A Do you write poetry? Did you write poetry before translating? Does your poetry match the voice of the poetry you translate?

54:18: Q&A Do you have a favorite poem from the collection?

55:42 Q&A How did you select the authors from a whole century of Swedish poetry?

58:20 Q&A How do you teach poetry? [to Malena]

59:44 Q&A Do you write poetry in Swedish or English? [to Malena]

1:01:01 Q&A Do you have a metaphor for the English language?

1:04:12 Closing with a reading of poems: written by Kristina Lugn and Marie Lundquist

AUDIO: Deconstructing Edouard Levé: Jan Steyn and Lorin Stein

leve3We were very pleased to convene Edouard Levé’s two English-language translators for a night of investigation in his four strange books. Translator and critic Jan Steyn was joined by editor and translator Lorin Stein, in conversation with Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito.

The conversation was conducted in The Lab, in San Francisco’s Mission District, and it covered a wide range of topics: Levé’s beginnings as a graphic artist, his literary influences—ranging from Montaigne to Andy Warhol and the Oulipo—his tragic death, and, of course, his four books.

The evening’s moderator was Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito. And our two guests were Jan Steyn and Lorin Stein.

Jan Steyn is a South African translator from French and Afrikaans to English. He is the holder of a Comparative Literature degree from Emory University, and his translations include Suicide and Works by Edouard Levé, Alix’s Journal by Alix Cleo Roubaud, and Orphans by Hadrien Laroche (translated with Caite Dolan-Leach).

Lorin Stein is the editor of The Paris Review. Before taking the helm at the magazine, Stein worked as an editor at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, where he edited Natasha Wimmer’s translations of Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives and 2666. He is also the translator of Edouard Levé’s Autoportrait.


00:00 Introductions

1:56 Levé’s beginnings as a writer and influences

9:00 Levé’s fragmentary aesthetic

14:30 Why has Levé caught on so much?

19:35 Why is the “you” in Suicide?

22:00 How Levé’s books and art all fit together into a single text

25:50 The sense in which Levé’s books are “complete” or “incomplete”

27:26 Discussion of Levé’s Newspaper

34:00 Maintaining the mystery of Levé’s prose during the translation

40:00 Are any of the works in Works are impossible to create?

46:10 The origins of and reasons behind Autoportrait

49:30 The sense of completeness or incompleteness in Levé’s books

54:20 Levé and the Oulipo

59:00 The units of meaning in Levé’s books

1:01:15 Levé’s suicide

1:05:00 Most and least compelling things about Levé

December 2: Two Voices Salon with Sean Cotter [EVENT]

Sean_CotterWe are very pleased to announce that our second Two Voices Salon will be with Sean Cotter, translator of Mircea Cartarescu’s amazing novel Blinding.

It will be held on Tuesday, December 2, in the Two Lines Press offices at 582 Market St, Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94104. The Salon will start at 6:00 pm and will include snacks and alcoholic beverages. This event is free.

If you are planning to attend, please come prepared to interact with the group. And, if possible, have in mind a recent translation that has interested you, that you might feel comfortable saying a few words about.

Blinding was released in 2013 by Archipelago Books and soon went on to become one of that year’s most talked-about novels-in-translation: it was a runner-up for the Best Translated Book Award and was acclaimed by places like Bookforum (“Nothing can prepare you for the scope and ambition of Blinding“), the Los Angeles Review of Books (“Blinding creates an entire world from dreams, memories, visions, and chimeras”) and even myself at the Kenyon Review (“I first read Blinding months ago, and there are images that I can still recall with complete crispness, indeed that I believe I will be able to recall years from now.”)

Sean Cotter’s translation of the book is nothing less than amazing. Cotter previously won the Best Translated Book Award for his work on Nichita Stănescu’s poetry collection, Wheel with a Single Spoke: and Other Poems, and he has been widely praised for Blinding. Writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Bogdan Suceavă, himself a Romanian author with knowledge of Cartarescu’s Romanian prose and poetry, said that

Reading Cotter’s Blinding feels like reading a work originally conceived in English. Many passages of the book are written like a poem, with meter and rhythm, and Cotter matches the quality the Romanian original has.

blindingIndeed, Blinding includes some of the most complex, ornate, and obscure words, sentences, and paragraphs that you will read in a work of fiction. In this Salon, we’ll talk to Cotter about the amazing work he did in bringing this book to an English-language audience.

We will also talk about the bizarre, personal, and spiritual voyage that Cartarescu takes us on in Blinding—itself only the first book of a 1500-page trilogy that took him a decade to write, and was finally completed in 2007. The book encompasses various eras, religions, continents, political systems . . . it is a true postmodern blending of virtually everything under the sun, and it all seems to somehow come back to Cartarescu’s Bucharest, and his country’s experience of Communism after the Second World War.

We look forward to seeing you on December 2! For an idea of what to expect, have a listen to our first Salon, in which we spoke with Ottilie Mulzet, translator of Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s Seiobo There Below.