The End of Oulipo?

The End of Oulipo? My book (co-authored with Lauren Elkin), published by Zero Books. Available everywhere. Order it from Amazon, or find it in bookstores nationwide. The End of Oulipo

Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

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Translate This Book!

Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

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Group Reads

The Tunnel

Fall Read: The Tunnel by William H. Gass

A group read of the book that either "engenders awe and despair" or "[goads] the reader with obscenity and bigotry," or both. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Naked Singularity

Summer Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Life Perec

Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

Starting March 2011, read the greatest novel from an experimental master. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Last Samurai

Fall Read: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

A group read of one of the '00s most-lauded postmodern novels. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Tale of Genji

The Summer of Genji

Two great online lit magazines team up to read a mammoth court drama, the world's first novel.

Your Face Tomorrow

Your Face This Spring

A 3-month read of Javier Marias' mammoth book Your Face Tomorrow

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Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

New Books
Here are ten of my favorite moments from these hugely interesting letters.


Interviews from Conversational Reading

New Books
See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • A Legacy by Sybille Bedford March 15, 2015
    Sybille Bedford had the benefit—or bad fortune, however you see it—of being born into the German aristocracy in 1911. Her father was a retired lieutenant colonel and art collector from the agrarian south, from a Roman Catholic family in fiscal decline. Her mother came from a wealthy German-Jewish family from Hamburg. A widower from his first marriage, Bedfor […]
  • Reviving Antal Szerb March 15, 2015
    Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Gr […]
  • 39 Africans Walk into a Bar March 15, 2015
    New anthologies of African fiction seem to materialize virtually every year, if not more often in recent years. When presented with the physical fact of yet another new anthology of African fiction, the immediate question, one which I was asked when I pressed the warm, bound pages of the Africa39 anthology into the even warmer hands of a new acquaintance, wa […]
  • The Country Road by Regina Ullmann March 15, 2015
    This collection of short stories, her first to appear in English, counters material poverty with a fulfilling and deeply spiritual relationship with the natural world. Ullmann herself was no stranger to hardship. A depressive, she was plagued by personal and professional crises. Financial constraints forced her to send her illegitimate children to the countr […]
  • The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura March 14, 2015
    The Fall of Language in the Age of English stirred up debate upon its publication in Japan in 2008, and it’s possible it will do so in the U.S. with its arrival in Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. In their introduction, Yoshihara and Winters Carpenter, point out that Japanese reviewers accused Mizumura of being a jingoist, an e […]
  • Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation by Eduard Stoklosinski March 14, 2015
    Another View demonstrates exciting potential in translation study and praxis. It is especially significant in deconstructing assumptions about fluency and linguistic identity. The author makes some persuasive arguments for considering and even preferring non-native translation of texts, the most controversial of which is the possibility that linguistic compe […]
  • The Latest Five from Dalkey Archive’s “Library of Korea” Series March 14, 2015
    Despite South Korea having the kind of vibrant literary scene you'd expect from a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we're still not exactly inundated with English translations of South Korean fiction. Given this dearth, Dalkey Archive Press's Library of Korean Literature series, twenty five titles published in collab […]
  • B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman March 14, 2015
    here’s a conspicuous history of books that simply should not work: Books like U & I by Nicholson Baker, a book-length exercise in “memory criticism,” where Baker traces Updike’s influence on his own writing life while studiously not actually re-reading any of Updike’s books. Or books like Out of Sheer Rage, Geoff Dyer’s book that procrastinates away from […]
  • The Valerie Miles Interview March 14, 2015
    The idea was to uncover the secret life of these texts, why do their creators consider them their best work? What’s the clandestine, the underground, the surreptitious meaning or attachment? Where’s the kernel, the seed from which a body of work grew, what the driving obsession? Is it something sentimental, something technical, maybe even something spiritual […]
  • On Being Blue by William H. Gass March 14, 2015
    Look up at the sky, or down into the ocean, and what color do you see? We see blue, but not Homer—he never once employs the term throughout The Iliad and The Odyssey, famously calling the sea "wine-dark" and the heavens "bronze." Neither did the Greek philosopher Xenophanes say blue—he described the rainbow as having only three colors. Th […]

Bolano’s Translators

Natasha Wimmer and Chris Andrews, together for the first time?

The evening began with Andrews reading a paper on key elements of Bolaño’s “fiction-making system.” “What is this system?” Andrews said: “How does it work? Bolaño’s fiction invites us to read it genetically, looking for traces of method in the finished work,” Andrews said. “[There are] three procedures that can be discerned by genetic reading: expansion, meta-representation, and the circulation of characters.” These methods are not new literary devices, but are utilized brilliantly by Bolaño. For example, Andrews compared Bolaño reccuring characters to a technique used by Balzac and even James Fenimore Cooper. Regarding Bolano’s use of story expansion, Andrews noted that “Bolaño himself explains in a preface to Distant Star that he blew up the final chapter of Nazi Literature in the Americas because he ‘would have preferred a longer story that, rather than mirroring or exploding others, was, in itself, a mirror and an explosion.’” Andrews concluded his portion of the evening by talking about Bolano’s naturalness, or his “impression of ease” (a phrase he borrows from Nora Catelli). “Bolaño seemed to have been a compulsive storyteller,” said Andrews, “and where other Spanish writers seem to struggle with placing a philosphy or idea within plot, Bolaño was able to do this without much seeming effort.”

The discussion was then handed to Wimmer, who gave a fascinating talk about her translation process. She begins, she says, with a literal translation and then works from that to obtain a true translation. She brought up many conundrums a translator faces, such as the struggle to give lift to even the most banal sentences; when to break run-on sentences; how to find voices within Bolaño’s work; and how to translate slang. “Spanish,” Wimmer said, “maintains steady rhythm in its syntax, whereas English comes off as free-jazz.” She mentioned that the most difficult part of 2666 to translate was in “The Part about Fate,” Seaman’s long, folksy monologue about the Black Panthers and cookbook recipes.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Colin Marshall with Aira’s Translators At The Marketplace of Ideas, Colin Marshall interviews all three individuals responsible for Cesar Aira in English. And it should be said, Aira has been...
  2. The Surreal Bolano? David Varno has an interesting Bolano theory: as the author has gained market success in English, New Directions has slowly been bringing out more and...
  3. Chris Andrews Interview It starts off by mentioning his upcoming projects: The work continues!  From Bolaño, in August, we will see Andrew’s translation of The Skating Rink; in...
  4. Susan Bernofsky’s Rules for Translators 3. If the original text is not well-written, you are doomed; feel free to despair. 4. If the original is well-written, make sure you understand...
  5. More Bolano: The Return and Insufferable Gaucho New Directions keeps pumping out the Bolanos (under duress, I believe), which means that if you are a devoted fan you've got your work cut...

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