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As happens from time to time in translation, a dead author has become a mini-sensation. Though he did most of his writing decades ago, the French author Albert Cossery has been made fashionable in English with two translation in 2010–A Splendid Conspiracy (New Directions) and The Jokers (NYRB Classics). More are planned for 2011.
In a recent review of Conspiracy and Jokers in the LA Times, David Ulin claimed that Cossery “ought to be a household name.” He calls The Jokers “a small masterpiece,” about “a group of pranksters who conspire to bring down the governor of the unnamed city in which they live,” a city that frequently resembles the Cairo in which Cossery spent mush of his life.
I interviewed translator and editor Anna Moschovakis on her work with The Jokers, which has just been named a finalist for the French-American Foundation and The Florence Gould Foundation Announce 24th Annual Translation Prize, which is worth $10,000. The Jokers is also on the longlist for the Best Translated Book Award, which will announce its shortlist this Thursday. In addition to translating novels for NYRB Classics, Moschovakis is an editor and book designer with Ugly Duckling Presse and a poet whose second collection, You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake was published by Coffee House Press earlier this year.
SE: This book is about revolutionaries in Egypt, yet I sensed very little that pertained to what has recently happened in that country’s politics. Cossery seems more interested in politics as an abstraction. Really, with all the talk of politicians as buffoons and laughter as a revolutionary technique, I was reminded of nothing so much as Sarah Palin and Steve Colbert. So, do you think this book (or Cossery at large) adds anything Continue Reading