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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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 […]

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