It’s Been a Great Week for The Fata Morgana Books

Working in the trenches of literary translation can sometimes be a lonely, frustrating thing, so pardon us while we enthuse over some richly deserved admiration for our fall title The Fata Morgana Books by Jonthan Littell (translated with utter beauty by Charlotte Mandell).

First, Steven Axelrod at Numéro Cinq gives the book a remarkable in-depth review. I want to single out what he says about “Fait Accompli,” since it’s one of my favorite pieces in the book:

The fourth étude, “Fait Accompli,” the most impressive text in the entire collection, features a leap into third person and an attempt at pure emotional abstraction. We have two characters – unnamed, of course, undescribed, virtually undifferentiated – thinking about the process of thinking about each other. Are these two people the characters from the earlier études? It must be, but it’s hard to be sure, because we have plunged from a satellite view of their actions to a close-up so extreme that we’re studying the pores on their faces, unable to see the larger features. This works because of the repetition of certain phrases, the obsessive recycling of language that perfectly captures to futile spin of the mind coping with jealousy and rejection. The narrative is abstract the way ballet is abstract. It’s a a dance of despair. The reader provides the music:

For him then, two questions, that is question 1 the other or not the other, and question 2 her or not her, To these two questions four solutions, that is solution 1 him without her without the other, solution 2 him with her without the other, solution 3 him without her with the other, solution 4 him with her with the other. Now for him at this stage with the other out of the question and hence out of the question solutions 3 and 4, remain numbers I and 2, without the other or without her, hence why not with, it wasn’t so bad, and it would be almost like before, except that in the meantime there would have been that. But here precisely is the problem, since for him with the other out of the question, for her without the other out of the question, of this he is certain, even without asking her I mean. So if for her, without the other out of the question, then out of the question solutions 1 and 2, remain thus numbers 3 and 4, already out of the question. So start again.

And he does.

As they say, read the whole thing—you’ll be quite glad you did. And a huge thank-you to Axelrod for the perceptive review. I really like the observation that the four etudes are moving closer and closer to the “protagonists” of this strange work. And the comparison to the abstraction of ballet is spot-on.

The other review The Fata Morgana Books received this week was a “Briefly Noted” mention at The New Yorker. Rather than quote the whole reivew (I’m not 100% sure that would be legal under fair use) I’ll just give you this:

four nightmarish novellas . . . The writing is sinuous and propulsive; disturbing images are rendered with icy, swift precision.

Suffice to say, it’s a positive review.

You can see links to more reviews and other related tidbits at the book’s page on our website.

And just as a reminder: if you take us up on our insanely good Bundle of Joy offer, you can be reading The Fata Morgana Books right this very minute: just select it as your free ebook at the checkout.

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