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.

Available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and direct from this site:


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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  • The Atlantic on Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of PilgrimageThe Atlantic on Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

    This is the first review I've read of the new Murakami book. My feeling is that Nathaniel Rich, representing The Atlantic's... »
  • Bae Suah on SebaldBae Suah on Sebald

    Bae Suah is one of the more astonishing authors I've discovered lately. So when I saw that an essays of hers on Sebald had been... »
  • The Old School QCThe Old School QC

    Thanks to Michael Orthofer for this blast from the past. In his look back through the days of yore for various literary... »
  • Wallace MarginaliaWallace Marginalia

    The writing on this is horrifyingly bad, but there is some interesting information here about the things David Foster Wallace... »
  • All Hail AugustusAll Hail Augustus

    Daniel Mendelsohn's introduction to the NYRB Classics' reissue of Augustus is now available online as part of the Aug 14 issue... »
  • Anybody?Anybody?

    I don't expect The New York Times to have mastered the minutia of every single topic on earth, but it would be nice if the... »
  • A Million WindowsA Million Windows

    A nice review at Music & Literature of the latest book from Gerald Murnane, A Million Windows. For those of you who have been... »
  • Simon LeysSimon Leys

    Writer Pierre Ryckmans, aka Simon Leys, died earlier this week. So, perhaps the kind memorial messages that are appearing will... »
  • How Benjamin LivedHow Benjamin Lived

    Stuart Jeffries reviews the new biography of Walter Benjamin, Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life, in The Guardian. In the... »
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You Say

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.


  • Nostalgia June 15, 2014
    Few habits are as prone to affliction, or as vulnerable to an ordeal, as the bent of a peddler’s consciousness. Placeless, the peddler completes an untold number of transactions; there are ideas to conduct (through language, which can transact a mind) and feelings to certify (through tasks, repeated interminably). […]
  • Why Literary Periods Mattered by Ted Underwood June 15, 2014
    There are some writers who are, and likely always will be, inextricably linked to the “period” with which their work is associated, and in many cases helped to define. Surely Wordsworth and Keats will always be “Romantic” poets, while Faulkner and Woolf will remain modernists, as the term “modern” has been fully appropriated to describe the historical era be […]
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz June 15, 2014
    August 1939. You sail to Buenos Aires on the Chombry as a cultural ambassador of Poland. Why say no to a little holiday on the government’s tab? Soon after arriving you sense that something isn’t right. You emerge from a welcome reception and your ears are “filled with newspaper cries: ‘Polonia, Polonia,’ most irksome indeed.” Before you’ve even had a chance […]
  • Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan June 15, 2014
    The first collections of most young poets, even the better ones, carry with them a hint of bravado. Flush with recognition, vindicated by the encouraging attentions of at least one editor and three blurbists, the poet strikes a triumphant pose and high-fives the Muse: “We did it, baby.” When Joshua Mehigan published his impressive first collection, The Optim […]
  • The Histories of Herodotus, translated by Tom Holland June 15, 2014
    Two of the greatest of Tom Holland's predecessors in translating Herodotus are Victorian scholar George Rawlinson and Aubrey de Selincourt; the former translated Herodotus in 1860, making an enormous hit (despite the fact that its detractors often referred to it as “dull and prolix"), while the latter's 1954 Herodotus was another enormous hit, […]
  • Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue June 15, 2014
    The premise of Yasushi Inoue's debut novella Bullfight, celebrated in Japan as a classic of postwar literature, is unassuming enough: an evening newspaper sponsors a tournament of the regional sport of bull-sumo. As practical and financial issues arise, the paper's young editor-in-chief, Tsugami, soon realizes he has taken on more than he can handl […]
  • Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones June 15, 2014
    Sworn Virgin was made to be translated. Elvira Dones wrote this book not in her native language of Albanian but in Italian—a necessarily fraught and complicated decision. In an Italian-language interview with Pierre Lepori, Dones speaks about her choice of language: “Sworn Virgin was born in Italian . . . I’ve lived using Italian for nineteen years, it has s […]
  • On the Letters of David Markson June 15, 2014
    Knowing these narrators and how their lives paralleled David’s own, it’s difficult to deny his being a recluse. I certainly held that image of him, and nursed it, secretly cherishing it because it meant I was one of the few people with whom he corresponded, and with whom he would occasionally meet. Arranging our first meetings in person was something of a ni […]
  • Storm Still by Peter Handke June 15, 2014
    Storm Still (Immer Noch Sturm) does not necessarily represent new terrain for Handke. Originally published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2010 and now available for English-language readers thanks to Martin Chalmers’ fluent translation, the play chronicles the dissolution of the Svinec family, a family of Carinthian Slovenes—a quasi-fictionalized version of Handke’s […]
  • Red or Dead by David Peace June 15, 2014
    David Peace's novel Red or Dead is about British football, but it partakes in the traits of Homer's epic. This is a novel about the place of myth and heroes in modern society, about how the cyclical rhythms of athletic seasons reflect the cyclical patterns of life. It is a book about honor and fate, and one which bridges the profound, dreamlike ter […]

YFTS: Margaret Jull Costa Interview

MJC: The long sentence that is so characteristic of Javier’s style first occurs in The Man of Feeling. The sentences and the novels have grown longer and longer since then, mainly, I suspect, because his novels have moved away from plot (although there always is a plot) towards the dissection of ideas, feelings, words, motivations. His sentences have the shape of a thought, full of buts and perhapses and then agains. The style in Your Face Tomorrow is the latest stage in that development–less plot and more thought. . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Genius of What Is Possible In English

Fascinating conversation between Adam Kirsch and Ilya Kaminsky on what translation can and can’t do. I’ll grant that Kirsch is well-informed, and his concerns are fair enough, but this response of Kaminsky’s really gets at the inherent error in focusing to exclusivity on the source text w/r/t translation:

But what interests me is not only the genius of the poet translated but also the genius of what is possible in English as it bends to accommodate or digest various new forms. By translating, we learn how the limits of our minds can be stretched to absorb the . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The European Fiction Anthologies

This winter we'll be seeing two European lit anthologies from two of the best publishers of lit-in-translation.

First there's The Wall In My Head, covering Eastern European fiction and nonfiction and published by Open Letter in conjunction with Words Without Borders. From Open Letter's catalog:

To mark the twentieth anniversary of this momentous collapse, and to shed some light on how it came to pass, Words without Borders presents The Wall in My Head, an exciting anthology that features fiction, essays, images, and original documents to pick up where most popular accounts of the Cold War . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Total (Translation) Information Awareness

Over at Three Percent, Chad has just posted a list of recommended lit-in-translation that have thus far come out of the evaluation process for this year's Best Translated Book Award. It's a rather robust list, and looking of it I'm struck by the amount of books we've managed to cover so far.

Basically, between the great enthusiasm of the judges and the low number of translations published each year in the U.S., I think by the time we're done with this year's award we'll have accounted for virtually every work of literature in translation published this year. I . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Between the Meanings of Consciousness and Reality

As part of the new issue of Words Without Borders, translator Michael Emmerich has a very interesting essay on translation.

His essay is concerned with the difficulty of defining the word translation, and how this complicates the work of the translator: unlike some words (Emmerich uses the example dog), translation is fraught with differences in contexts and values that complicate a translator's job.

Emmerich puts it like this:

In order for "translation" to have any meaning at all, it must be translatable into other languages; but the moment it is translated, it is swept . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Rushdie: Bolano Proves We Should Translate More

Opening the PEN World Voices Festival, Salman Rushdie has declared that the example of Roberto Bolano proves that there are tons of great writers still unknown in English. So American publishers, get going:

El autor anglo-indio Salman Rushdie destacó hoy el reconocimiento en EU del fallecido escritor chileno Roberto Bolaño y animó al mercado editorial estadounidense a tomar nota e impulsar más traducciones al inglés de obras de éxito.

"El éxito tardío de Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) con 2666 es una muestra de lo poco que se traduce en Estados Unidos", dijo el célebre autor de Los versos . . . continue reading, and add your comments

In the United States of Africa Review

Chad reviews a book whose premise is that Africa is as rich as the U.S., and the U.S. is as rich as Africa:

In the opening pages we’re introduced to Yacuba, a “flea-ridden Germanic or Alemanic carpenter” who has fled AIDS-ridden, poverty-stricken Europe in hopes of a better life in the much wealthier and cleaner United States of Africa. Through Yacuba we’re introduced to a world where Quebec is at war with the American Midwest, where the “white trash” of Europe speak an undecipherable “white pidgin dialect,” and where the African media fans the flames . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Grossman Discusses Translating Don Quixote

Translator Edith Grossman recently discussed Don Quixote’s singular place in the Spanish canon:

It was Grossman’s ambition to honor the significance of Don Quixote as a prose model for Spanish literature. "Though we have Shakespeare and the Bible for poetry," she said, "there’s really no equivalent for prose in our language. In Spanish literature, everyone is informed by Cervantes." The English template she chose as a point of entry was the novel of the 19th Century, in part the work of Jane Austen. "I hope Austen doesn’t mind," she said. Grossman has read Don Quixote many times . . . continue reading, and add your comments

The Value of Reading Translated Fiction

Aviya Kushner’s essay on translated literature in the U.S. is an interesting mix of provocation, insight, and misrepresentation. Her main argument is more or less that:

It’s not that Americans aren’t interested in the world at all. It’s just that we seem to want someone else to do the ­heavy ­lifting required to make a cultural connection. As the ­Peruvian-­born writ­er Daniel Alarcón ob­serves, Americans would rather read stories by an American about Peru than a Peruvian writer translated into English. “There’s a certain curiosity about the world that’s not matched by a willingness to do the work,” . . . continue reading, and add your comments

Zone Translator Interviewed

Translator Charlotte Mandell will see her translation of French giga-novel The Kindly Ones published here in March (and already garnering review attention); her translation of 500-page, single-sentence French novel Zone is forthcoming from Open Letter.

Quarterly Conversation contributor Lauren Elkin provides an interview with Mandell on her blog, wherein we learn:

With Zone, the challenge is to reproduce the style of the narrator’s stream-of-consciousness:  the novel is written around one long sentence, and I need to keep the reader’s undivided attention in English in the same way that the French does – it’s a . . . continue reading, and add your comments