[AUDIO] Valerie Miles and Scott Esposito in Conversation on Enrique Vila-Matas


On February 11, 2016, we were very pleased to be joined by the editor and translator Valerie Miles via Skype to discuss her translation of Enrique Vila-Matas’s Because She Never Asked, as well as Vila-Matas’s work more generally. When Miles worked with Vila-Matas to create her anthology A Thousand Forests In One Acorn, the author told her that Because She Never Asked was his favorite book that he has ever written. Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito discusses with Miles why this is, as well as how this book fits into Vila-Matas’s idiosyncratic, postmodern, ironic approach to literature. Miles also talks about the challenges of translation Vila-Matas and her favorite of his books. Below you will find the complete audio of this event, as well as a table of contents.


0:00 Introductions

4:29 The main idea of Because She Never Asked

10:10 Paul Auster’s book with Sophie Calle, and how it relates to Because She Never Asked

14:30 Valerie’s perceptions of Vila-Matas as a person, and the relationship of Vila-Matas the person to Vila-Matas the author/literary figure

18:35 Vila-Matas’s ridiculous presentation of himself on the page, and how this relates to his literary aesthetic, and the kidney failure that occurs in Because She Never Asked

23:30 Why Because She Never Asked is Vila-Matas’s favorite thing he has ever written; Exploradores del abismo; and Vila-Matas’s near-death experience

30:25 Translation challenges that Valerie faced in Because She Never Asked, including Vila-Matas’s voice and his use of tense in this book

36:50 “Shandys” in Vila-Matas’s literature, the origins of Vila-Matas’s aesthetic

45:10 Vila-Matas’s generosity toward other writers and artists in his books, and writers Valerie and artists has discovered through Vila-Matas

49:54 Vila-Matas’s El País column about Green Apple Books bookseller Stephen Sparks

51:10 Valerie’s favorite work of Vila-Matas’s, The Illogic of Kassel, and a general discussion of Kassel

59:10 Vila-Matas’s relationship to Roberto Bolaño, and disciples of Bolaño compared to disciples of Vila-Matas

1:02:40 Audience Q & A

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


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

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


0:00 Introductions

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

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

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

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

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

28:20 How Gauvin discovered this book

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

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

46:15 Gauvin’s work with translating graphic novels

52:50 Audience Q & A

Salon Preview: The Artist as Stalker


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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