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John Klima
Posted on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - 02:02 pm:   

This last weekend I bought a copy of Rashomon by Akutagawa, and I really enjoyed it. I also picked up If On a Winter's Night a Traveler by Calvino and it looks very good. I find myself wondering where to go next. I've read a fair amount of German Lit In Trans (took a course in college: Steppenwolf, Spring Awakening, Death in Venice, Mother Courage, usw.) but little else. Other than Petrach, Zivkovic, and some Old English/Middle English (also in college, and does it really count?), that's it.

First, any other recommendations for Japanese writers? I found that there's an amazing Japanese bookstore around the corner from my office (mostly in Japanese, but a fair section of translations, too) where I should be able to find stuff.

Second, any other writers to recommend? I know there are many, Borges, Rimbaud, Nabakov, etc. that I intend on reading. I also know that JeffV's mercilessly flensed list of Fantastical Literature is a great starting point, but it's intimidating.

Looking for help, but don't bury me.
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barth
Posted on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - 02:21 pm:   

john,

i recommend all calvino. forget everything else. just calvino. calvino calvino calvino. "castle of crossed destinies" is good "baron of the trees" is sweet and "t-zero" is a panic (short stories: you can read them on your lunch break and go back to work warped).

calvinously,

barth
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Nathan Ballingrud
Posted on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - 02:39 pm:   

As for Japanese writers, Haruki Murakami is quite good (specifically The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle), is Yasunari Kawabata (try Palm-of-the-Hand Stories or Snow Country). I also highly recommend Czech author Milan Kundera. If you ask me, any of his earlier books are a safe bet, but the best are probably The Unbearable Lightness of Being (don't judge it by the movie) and Immortality. He also wrote an illuminating book ABOUT translation, called Testaments Betrayed.
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Minz
Posted on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - 03:52 pm:   

I heartily second the Murakami. Heck you should have at least one or two of his short stories in a Year's Best F&H somewhere--I know we reprinted him at least once. That'll give you an idea of his writing, though Nathan's right about TWUBC (I might have a copy you could borrow--it was my sister's and I don't know if I ever returned it. I'll try and remember to check the shelves.)

Let me know about the Kawabata, if you try it.

And if you run into Michael Kandel at an NYC event (KGB, NYRSF, usw), he's a man who's _done_ some terrific translating. I'm certain he'd be a font of useful info.
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Rudi
Posted on Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - 08:30 am:   

I'll second just about everyone who's been mentioned.

Kawabata's Palm-of-the-Hand stories are amazing & sublime and not to be missed. (Plus you'll be primed for the Kawabata parody in If On a Winter's Night.)

I'd add Invisible Cities to the Calvino list. Tangentially, I picked up a Calvino-editied collection a couple weeks back, Fantastic Tales: Visionary and Everydday, and (after reading the first few tales) it looks very good. 19th century stories, many of them European.

I haven't read Wind-Up Bird Chronicles yet, but Murakami's great. Wild Sheep Chase and Hard-Boiled Wonderland are the ones I've enjoyed most. (Actually, I think TWUBC is the only thing I've missed-- I should move it from the "read someday" pile to the "read someday soon" pile.)

For things that haven't been mentioned:

Julio Cortazar's stories are worth checking out. Not that far from Borges in many ways, but maybe a bit less cerebral and occasionally tinged with horror. (I haven't tackled his novels yet.)

Angelica Gorodischer's Kalpa Imperial is very good. Kind of like a cross between Delany's Neveryona, Ursula K. Le Guin (who did the translation) and the Arabian Nights or another set of well-told fairy tales.

I remember Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Devil on the Cross as being very good (it's a long time since I read it) with some sections that were great. Most of the other African stuff I'd recomend (Nurrudin Farah's Maps, anything by Tutoula...) is written in English, so that doesn't really count.
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Jason Erik Lundberg
Posted on Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - 10:04 am:   

I second, third, fourth, whatever Italo Calvino. I got pulled in by If on a winter's night a traveler, and have been unable to pull myself out again. Numbers in the Dark is another good collection of his.

Glad you mentioned Zoran Zivkovic, because everybody on this message board needs to read him. And since he has three books coming out soon from Prime and Ministry of Whimsy reprinting his previous books, you all really have no excuse.

Ditto on Angelica Gorodischer. Kalpa Imperial is wonderful, and I hope it will make the American reading public more aware of her.

Jose Saramago is excellent as well. Blindness and All the Names are notables of his.

Aura by Carlos Fuentes is incredible.
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Rhys
Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2003 - 03:04 am:   

Yes, Calvino!

Try COSMICOMICS and TIME & THE HUNTER. Try also the 'Our Ancestors' trilogy -- THE CLOVEN VISCOUNT, BARON IN THE TREES (so sweet, as somebody above said) and THE NON-EXISTENT KNIGHT... Wonderful, gorgeous, splendiferous!

I've lately been highly impressed by Orhan Pamuk, especially his novel THE BLACK BOOK, which certainly has shades of Calvino.

There seem to be three writers with oddly similar names who capture oddly similar feelings of historical weirdness and incorporate them in peculiarly clever formats:
(a) Perec,
(b) Pavic,
(c) Pamuk.
I strongly recommend all three. I try to avoid the temptation of thinking they might really be the same person!
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2003 - 08:01 am:   

I just started La-Bas (translated by Brendan King). I'm not sure if decadence is what you're looking for though. So far, I've enjoyed the Dedalus Books I've read, but The Dark Domain by Grabinski has been my favorite (and a nice work of translation).

I have enjoyed the one Murakami story I read (from Year's Best Fantasy & Horror) and plan to get more of him soon.

Definitely read Borges.

And if you want a really long read, the Mathers & Mardrus translation of Book of Thousand Nights and One Night (4 volume set). I read both it and the Burton translation and prefered the M&M. Plus, differing versions of Burton have differing levels of completeness. Trying to find a complete version of his translation is very hard. Not so with M&M.
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Rhys
Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2003 - 08:07 am:   

Don't forget the marvellous AN BEAL BOCHT by Flann O'Brien, translated from the Gaelic into English as THE POOR MOUTH.

Absolutely hilarious!
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GabrielM
Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2003 - 09:50 am:   

On Japanese writers:

If you like Akutagawa you might want to check out the horror tales of Edogawa Rampo (his real name was Hirai Toro and his pen name a play on the Japanese pronunciation of a certain American supernatural fiction writer who has his main influence).

Also the Gothic tales of Kyoka Izumi, of which Akutagawa was a big fan.

There are Kodansha English language versions available of both authors' works.

There's also a wonderful book (I believe also available from Kodansha) called Ugetsu Monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain), a compilation of eighteenth century Japanese supernatural tales.

I'm also a big fan of the weird fiction writer Yasutaka Tsutsui. His collection of stories WHAT THE MAID SAW, about a psychic maid (yes!), is incredible.

Oh, and will also add my voice to the chorus mentioning Angelica Gorodischer's book, which is wonderful. I have an interview with her that should see the light of day soon.
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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2003 - 10:56 am:   

Great stuff! I'll have to head over to the Japanese book store near me for sure! I'm planning on buying Gorodischer's book, I just haven't gotten around to it.

JK
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Jamie Rosen
Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2003 - 11:55 am:   

Japanese in Translation: Abe Kobo (or Kobo Abe, depending on who you ask) should get a mention. I read his The Face of Another last summer; it was pretty good.

Non-Japanese in Translation: And of course there's Kafka -- best in small doses, if you want my opinion. Calvino is the bomb-diggity. I've twice borrowed Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch and twice returned it unread due to unrelated issues.

Japanese in Non-Translation: Hiromi Goto; she's a Japanese-Canadian writing in English. I read her The Chorus of Mushrooms for a Comparative Literature course, and it was one of the best books I read throughout my postsecondary education. She also won (IIRC) a Tiptree for on of her other books.
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Jason Erik Lundberg
Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2003 - 01:28 pm:   

I think the Tiptree was for The Kappa Child, which is excellent, and I would recommend it to everyone.
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Cheryl Morgan
Posted on Friday, September 26, 2003 - 10:05 am:   

I believe that Isabel Allende writes all of her novels in Spanish. They get translated immediately and published in English as well, but the original creative process happens in Spanish.
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Jason Erik Lundberg
Posted on Saturday, September 27, 2003 - 07:05 pm:   

And I have to give a shout out to Mr. Rhys Hughes for introducing me to Mr. Italo Calvino, after reading his stories (and story notes) in Nemonymous volumes 1 & 2. Thanks, Rhys!
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chuck
Posted on Saturday, September 27, 2003 - 09:25 pm:   

Umm...I'm almost afraid to ask...who is this Calvino? What's he like?
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Calvinoesque
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 04:01 am:   

Links to two great sites about Calvino:

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/7504/calvino.html

http://www.msu.edu/~comertod/calvino/caleffect.htm

This will give you pretty much all you need to know. Then you can start reading the man himself!
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John Klima
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 10:47 am:   

Picked up Wind-Up Bird Chronicles today. I've picked it up and put it back on the shelf the last ten or twelve times I've been in a bookstore. Today I decided to get it.

JK
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Susan Kirby-Smith
Posted on Friday, April 16, 2004 - 08:12 am:   

I have Wind-Up Bird Chronicles and have read some of it; it's good. I also love Cortazar and Calvino.
oh, and I'm new here.

I'm an English Graduate Student at UNC-Greensboro
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John Klima
Posted on Friday, April 16, 2004 - 08:21 am:   

Glad to have you here! WIND-UP BIRD is on my shelf. I haven't gone into much lit in trans this year, I think the last thing I read was PERFUME by Patrick Susskind, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Of course, Zoran Zivkovic is very good, too.

JK
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Mastadge
Posted on Friday, April 16, 2004 - 08:39 am:   

Lit in translation. . . Let's see. . . On my one bookshelf here at school, I've got Kafka's Complete Stories, Murakami's Wild Sheep Chase, and Saramago's Gospel According to Jesus Christ. And somewhere around here is Miyazaki's Nausicaš of the Valley of the Winds, too. And the Bible.

There's quite a bit more back home.
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neil a
Posted on Tuesday, April 20, 2004 - 09:00 am:   

I'm just having my novel translated/adapted into French - it's a really interesting process, and so much work for the translator. Much easier just making stuff up. I reckon translator's should get as big a cut as the novelist, if the job's done properly.

Wind-Up Bird is a great novel. A friend of mine read and loved several Murakami's, all translated into English by the same person, but then tried another, by a different translator, and was really disappointed.

(looking forward to reading EV #6 by the way, John.)
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Bruce Chrumka
Posted on Tuesday, April 20, 2004 - 10:41 am:   

I'm a longtime - well, twelve years or so - Haruki Murakami fan. You might try another Murakami, Ryu, whose last novel translated into English was fairly twisted: 'Coin Locker Babies'. He has a number of other novels in French that are belatedly being translated into English as well as two early novels such as 'Almost Transparent Blue' which won the Akutagawa Prize. I've heard Banana Yoshimoto is worth a look, particularly the novel 'Kitchen', but haven't read any of her works yet.

Can't say I liked Kenzaburo Oe's 'Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids'. An unpleasant take on the 'Lord of the Flies'.
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Neil A
Posted on Wednesday, April 21, 2004 - 03:57 am:   

Thanks Bruce. I've read Yoshimoto's NP, which was quite plain but fairly enjoyable. I'm sure the translators din't have too much of an issue with her work. I've heard of Ryu Murakami's work too, though have a huge reading list at the moment.
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GabrielM
Posted on Wednesday, April 21, 2004 - 08:43 am:   

Ryu Murakami's IN THE MISO SOUP came out in English recently and I read it last week. Quick read. Japanese tour guide escorts an American who may or may not be a serial killer through the Tokyo sex district. Interesting, although more for its descriptions of the Japanese sex industry than anything else. Genuinely spooky at times, but as with so much self-consciously "transgressive" fiction, it strives so hard for effect that you can't take the broader points all that seriously.
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John Klima
Posted on Wednesday, April 21, 2004 - 09:02 am:   

Ryu Murakami sounds interesting. Once I get some of this editorial work done, I may have to delive into it. Of course, there's all that damn reading I do for the Hugo awards this time of year...

JK
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mercedes
Posted on Friday, February 03, 2006 - 02:17 pm:   

hi
can anyone help me?
my brother-in-law has asked for a book he saw the other day [title and anthor unknown] for his 40th b'day.
he says it has just been translated from japanese into english and is similar in content to the "lord of the flies" and has a red cover.
Can anybody help?
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John Klima
Posted on Friday, February 03, 2006 - 07:10 pm:   

Was it BATTLE ROYALE by Koushun Takami? That has a red cover and is about a group of kids that are stranded on an island and forced to battle each other to death.

JK

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