We are running down favorite reads of 2013 from Quarterly Conversation contributors. This list comes from Daniel Medin, who is Senior Editor of The Quarterly Conversation.
To read all entries in this series, click here.
1. Dodge Rose by Jack Cox (forthcoming, Dalkey Archive)
The most singular work of fiction written in English that I encountered this year. Difficult to summarize what it does in so little space, though in addition to being a Great Australian Novel–in less than 200 pages–Dodge Rose is a funny and profound take on the legal language of property and ownership. For a sense of what Cox manages on a smaller scale, seek out his story “The Fisherman” in issue 6 of The White Review. You can even sample Dodge Rose in a recently published volume of The Review of Contemporary Fiction devoted to new writers. It may take a while for the entire book to appear, but remember this young author’s name: Cox is a brilliant and utterly original novelist, renewing the labors of Beckett and Joyce in exhilarating ways.
2. The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pie by Eugene Ostashevsky; E.O. portfolio for issue 81 of Schreibheft; An Invitation for Me to Think by Alexander Vvedensky (translated by E.O.); and poems by Arkadii Dragomoshchenko (trans. by E.O. and Bela Sheyavich) in issue 2 of The American Reader.
Ostashevsky is the rightful heir of the wonderful OBERIU writers. I’m terribly fond of his poetry–and behind it, his sensibility and witz–and will read everything he deems fit to print, translations included. (“The Conversation of the Hours” by Vvedensky was, by itself, a highlight of 2013’s readings.)
3. Teaching is a privilege for numerous reasons, among them its opportunities to study beloved authors in the company of fresh readers. Last spring I revisited two of my favorite novels, Sentimental Education and Bouvard and Pécuchet for a course on Gustave Flaubert. These hours were richly rewarded, as were those devoted to Three Stories, the Correspondence, and two very different biographies: the elegant and largely synthetical Life by Frederick Brown; and Pierre-Marc de Biasi‘s often fascinating work of genetic criticism. The latter’s occasional abuses of scholarship (e.g. tallying the number of times Flaubert refers to a horse in his books, or the total hours he spent on horseback during a visit to Africa) are easily offset by insights generated by De Biasi’s careful examination of the manuscripts. De Biasi also demonstrates convincingly that the most famous line attributed to Flaubert–Madame Bovary, c’est moi–is in all likelihood apocryphal.
4. The Zibaldone by Giacomo Leopardi (edited by Michael Caesar and Franco D’Intino and rendered into English by seven translators)
I’ve not read this from cover to cover, and may, in fact, never make it through every sentence of the work. But I’ll own this book longer than most of the titles that came into my possession in 2013. And the parts I have been through–several on repeated occasions–rank Leopardi, in both his vision and sensitivity to human suffering, alongside Schopenhauer, Beckett and Bernhard.
5. I’ve focused mainly on titles that aren’t eligible for the Best Translated Book Award, since I’ve had the opportunity to write about those elsewhere. But it would feel amiss to omit Hilda Hilst’s Letters from a Seducer (trans. John Keene), Faris al-Shidyaq’s Leg over Leg (trans. Humphrey Davies), Hella S. Haasse’s The Black Lake (trans. Ina Rilke), and–especially–László Krasznahorkai’s Seiobo There Below (trans. Ottilie Mulzet) from any discussion of resonant readings.