Who is the Man of Pain?

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This post comes to us from Sarah Coolidge, who works with Poetry Inside Out, a program of Two Lines Press’s parent organization, The Center for the Art of Translation. In addition, Sarah helps evaluate pieces for the Two Lines journal during our editorial meetings, and she’s our de facto photographer for Two Voices events.

When I first searched the name Richard Weiner online, I found only a short Wikipedia article and a handful of blog posts by Slavic literature enthusiasts, clearly intended for fellow academics and speakers of Czech. I was intrigued but bewildered. Here and there I caught bits of information: passing remarks about the writer’s sexuality, France, WWI, and odd comparisons to Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust, amounting to mere fragments of a life lived and obscured for nearly a century. I wished I knew Czech.

After speaking this past spring to Benjamin Paloff, Weiner’s translator and a professor at the University of Michigan, I realized that Weiner was a contradiction of identities, much like his protagonists. “It’s no longer, and not yet, real; it’s the most beautiful moment he could ask of waking,” the narrator tells us in the opening pages of “The Game for the Honor of Payback,” the second part of The Game for Real. It seems that all of Weiner’s protagonists live in worlds in which they would rather not exist. In these worlds—I say worlds because Weiner’s universe is multifaceted and malleable—they are pursued, invaded, manipulated, ignored, accused, and shamed. And in this particular case, the protagonist is literally referred to as Shame.

Perhaps this hostility reflects Weiner’s own sense of alienation as a gay Jew living in early 20th-century Europe. This is most likely what first attracted the Czech writer to Marcel Proust, another gay man of Jewish descent writing at that time. In fact, after suffering a psychological breakdown (today we would call it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) during his short service in WWI, Weiner relocated to France, where he spent the majority of his remaining life. There, he became one of the first readers and reviewers of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, writing about each book as it came out for the Czech newspaper Lidové noviny.

And yet Weiner never achieved the international success of Proust. Much like his characters, he seemed to take refuge in abstraction, those moments when reality ruptures into a thousand pieces of uncertain dimensions. Whether lost in the torrent of European existentialist and surrealist writers or else overshadowed by his fellow countrymen Franz Kafka and Milan Kundera, Weiner died relatively unknown outside of his own country, and his works were left to collect dust for decades under the expansive shadow of the Iron Curtain.

The harder I search for Weiner—in those biographical fragments as well as in his prose—the more I am confronted with contradictions, which answer my question Who is Richard Weiner? with a succession of slaps! My only certainty is that the writer has playfully eluded me, escaping to an alternate reality in which a day is “ashily authentic, with hands dejectedly folded,” and hands behave “like sworn and skittish spies on the front lines . . . looking out for whatever’s eventually coming up against them.”

9/17: Indonesian Author Eka Kurniawan at Green Apple Books on the Park [EVENT]

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Considered by many to be the greatest among a new generation of Indonesian novelists, Eka Kurniawan will discuss Beauty is a Wound (New Directions) and Man Tiger (Verso)—both published on the same day—with Center founder Olivia Sears. and his able translator Annie Tucker.

Kurniawan has been described as the brightest star in Indonesia’s new literary firmament, the author of two remarkable novels whose sheer beauty, elegance, cosmopolitanism, and ambition have brought comparisons not only to Pramaoedya Ananta Toer, universally considered Indonesia’s modern literary genius, but also to Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Mark Twain.

  • September 17, 2015
  • Green Apple Books on the Park
  • 1231 9th Ave., San Francisco
  • 7:30 pm
  • FREE
  • RSVP here

10/19: A Celebration of Wolfgang Hilbig [EVENT]

“Wolfgang Hilbig is an artist of immense stature.”
— László Krasznahorkai, winner of the
2015 International Man Booker Prize

Join us on October 19 at Brecht-Haus in Berlin to celebrate one of Germany’s most essential authors: Wolfgang Hilbig. Although Hilbig is no stranger to acclaim in his native Germany, he has never before had any of his full-length works published in English. That changes this year, as two Hilbig titles see their English-language release: The Sleep of the Righteous (Two Lines Press) and ‘I’ (Seagull Books).

To mark this long overdue arrival into English, Two Lines Press has convened a Hilbig celebration in Berlin, consisting of: translator Isabel Fargo Cole, who is responsible for both of these English-language translations, plus two award-winning German authors who have been greatly influenced by Hilbig: Ingo Schulze and Inka Parei. The conversation will be moderated by the noted translator of German fiction and all-around lover of German books, Katy Derbyshire. Co-sponsored by Exberliner.

Join us to learn more about the work of one of Germany’s most esteemed and influential post-war writers, with four specialists on German literature!

WHERE: Brecht-Haus, Chausseestraße 125, 10115 Berlin

WHEN: Monday, October 19, 2015, 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm

WHAT: A celebration and exploration of Wolfgang Hilbig’s work, with Isabel Fargo Cole, Ingo Schulze, Inka Parei, and Katy Derbyshire. Co-sponsored by Exberliner.

COST: admission: €6,
copy of The Sleep of the Righteous: €12
copy of The Sleep of the Righteous + admission: €15

WHO:

Isabel Fargo Cole is a U.S.-born, Berlin-based writer and translator. Her translations include Boys and Murderers by Hermann Ungar (Twisted Spoon Press, 2006), All the Roads Are Open by Annemarie Schwarzenbach (Seagull Books, 2011) and The Jew Car by Franz Fühmann (Seagull Books, 2013). The recipient of a prestigious PEN/Heim Translation Grant in 2013, she is the initiator and co-editor of no-mans-land.org, an online magazine for new German literature in English.

Katy Derbyshire is a London-born translator who lives in Berlin. She translates contemporary German writers including Inka Parei, Clemens Meyer, Helene Hegemann, Simon Urban and Christa Wolf. Katy thinks out loud about German books and translation issues at her blog love german books,as well as co-editing the online journal no-mans-land.org, co-hosting Berlin’s monthly translation lab, and occasionally leading translation workshops.

Inka Parei is the recipient of the 2003 Ingeborg Bachmann Prize. Her novels The Shadow-Boxing Woman, What Darkness Was, and The Cold Centre have appeared in English translations with Seagull Books in Katy Derbyshire’s translation.

Ingo Schulze was born in Dresden in 1962 and studied classical philology at the University of Jena. His first book, 33 Moments of Happiness, won two prestigious German literary awards, the Alfred Döblin Prize and the Ernst Willner Prize for Literature. In 2007 he was awarded both the Leipzig Book Fair Prize and the Thuringia Literature Prize. He is a member of the German Academy for Language and Literature.

Win a Pre-Publication Copy of The Boys

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This fall, you’re going to be hearing a lot about Toni Sala! He’ll be appearing at the incredible International Festival of Authors in Toronto (alongside another Two Lines Press author, Santiago Roncaligolo). Plus, we’re going to be doing a major launch event with Toni in San Francisco. And that’s just for starters. This is Toni’s first ever appearance in the English language, and we’re preparing a very warm welcome for him.

As part of this welcome, we are making available 20 pre-publication copies of The Boys for people who can’t can’t wait to see what this book is all about. Anyone on Goodreads can enter to win one of these books free of charge by using the entry button below.

So who is Toni Sala? Well, for starters, the influential newspaper La Vanguardia said of him that “during the last 15 years, Catalan literature has produced
few voices of such strength.”

He’s regarded as one of the leading Catalan authors, and The Boys was hailed as a masterpiece upon its release in 2014, winning the Premis de la Crítica, the most prestigious award in Catalan writing.

And what is this book, you ask? Toni Sala’s The Boys is a profound story of how the deaths of two young men change the lives of four individuals. With intricate meditations worthy of Javier Marías, and dark, existential plots reminiscent of Michel Houellebecq, Toni Sala’s English-language debut should put him into the company of the best world writers.

We’d love to hear what you think! Please enter for a chance to read Toni Sala’s The Boys.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Boys by Toni Sala

The Boys

by Toni Sala

Giveaway ends August 11, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway