Were I stranded for a couple months with nothing but Dalkey’s spring ’08 lineup, I don’t think I’d mind. There’s really a lot of very-intriguing sounding stuff here. These are my favorites from this strong season.
First-off, Dalkey is happily giving me more of two of my favorite non-American authors. First is Jean-Philippe Toussaint, whose short comic novel Television, which reads kind of like a book Jim Jarmusch would have written, made a wonderful impression on me when Dalkey published it a couple years back. Now they are publishing Monsieur (June, trans. John Lambert), more of Toussaint’s trademark style of having nothing really happen, but making it all deadpan hilarious and somehow meaningful.
After Toussaint I am looking forward to Estonian Mati Unt, author of the previously translated (by Dalkey) surrealist Things in the Night. (Read my review here.) Now they bring us Diary of a Blood Donor (May, trans. Ants Eert), which is being billed as "a postmodern tale of vampires and a mysterious trip to Leningrad."
Probably the best-known Portuguese author in the U.S., Antonio Lobo Atunes, sees his book Knowledge of Hell published in English in March (trans. Clifford E. Landers). Apparently, the "hell" here refers to the narrator’s job, as this is a book narrated by a psychologist who hates psychology and who is driving back to work from a vacation. The book mixes Portugal’s colonial past with Angola with elements of the surreal and, of course, thoughts on modern-day psychology.
Last fall I was impressed by, if not wholly taken with, Place-names by French New Novelist Jean Ricardou. This spring Dalkey is publishing a book that sounds somewhat similar in its construction, as well as in its playfulness and willingness to break down our concept of a novel. Hotel Crystal (May, Oliver Rolin, trans. Jane Kuntz) is a manuscript scribbled on bits of hotel stationary and postcards, ostensibly assembled by an impartial editor, consisting of descriptions of hotel rooms. Fear not, as the text soon bends toward shadowy networks, thuggery, and spy spoofs.
Makbara (July, Juan Goytisolo, trans. Helen Lane) is not only the name of a novel but also, says the Dalkey catalog, Arab for the place in cemeteries where people carry on relations. That’s about all the catalog tells us about this book, but that’s enough. (It also bills Goytisolo at "Spain’s greatest living writer.")
There is some good criticism to be had in this catalog. Dalkey publishes yet another book from Viktor Shklovsky (to add to their 6 others), Literature and Cinematography (June, trans. Irina Masinovsky). It’s a short (75 pages) manifesto about the function of arts and, obviously, literature’s relationship to film. Originally published in 1923.
Then there is Fiction Now, (August, Warren Motte) an overview of contemporary French novelists.
And then we have Intersections (July), a collection of 17 essays on the works of Richard Powers. Appropriately enough for Powers, the essays have a wide range (photography, systems theory, ecocriticism, and neuroscience are all mentioned). Powers himself contributes an essay, as well as does Sven Birkerts.