I usually find myself reading contemporary novels years after they’ve been published, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Transient fads are filtered out over time. But I’ve been feeling recently that I’m missing out, not on the works themselves, but participating in their reception: the reviews, the conversations, the tweets and (despicable word) the buzz. One of the effects of the internet’s relentless presentism, I suppose. So for 2015, I’ve decided to set aside the classics, and as much as possible, only read novels as they’re published this year.
So I’ve browsed through catalogues of forthcoming titles, especially from publishers that specialise in translated fiction, and read a few 2015 preview roundups like this one in the Guardian, and this one in the Sydney Morning Herald. Here’s what I’ve found so far. I’d be delighted if anyone reading this would suggest more novels to add to the list (comments are switched off on this website, so best just to tweet at me). It’s an arbitrary list of fiction, mostly novels, nearly all in translation, that sound like I’d enjoy reading them; no attempt at objectivity or comprehensiveness. I’ve leant towards translations of recent work rather than new translations of classics. I may or may not read them all.
To begin with, I’m going to read the Best European Fiction 2015, an annual anthology from Dalkey Archive that’s been a little hit-and-miss in the few years it’s been running, but has always contained at least a half-dozen pieces that make reading the whole thing worthwhile. I heard last year’s was a poor offering, but apparently this one’s better. (This one is actually a bit of a cheat, as it was published in December 2014, but it says 2015 in the title, so I reckon I can get away with it.)
This month (January), Michigan State University Press publishes The Knight and his Shadow, an English translation of Senegalese writer Boubacar Boris Diop’s 1997 novel. Apparently it’s full of hypodiegetic narrative and allegorical/metaphorical slippage of the real and the unreal; sounds pretty interesting.
There’s a couple of promising titles out in February. The first of Peirene Press’s 2015 season is a translation of the 2012 Finnish novella White Hunger, by Aki Ollikainen, about the famine of 1867. It’s been translated by Emily and Fleur Jeremiah; I loved their translation of Kristina Carlson’s Mr Darwin’s Gardener last year, so I’m looking forward to this one. Then there’s Dominique Fabre’s Guys Like Me, a ‘quiet, subdued tale’ of drifting Parisian lives, translated by Howard Curtis and published by New Vessel Press.
I’ve picked out three titles for March. Raj Kamal Jha’s She Will Build Him a City is billed as a ‘kaleidoscopic’ novel multiple story-lines set in Delhi (Bloomsbury). Anna Gavalda’s Billie, translated by Jennifer Rappaport and to be published by Europa Editions, alternates between the frame story (two friends trapped in a gorge in the Cervennes mountains) and the stories of their lives that led them to that point. New Directions will publish Horacio Castellanos Moya’s The Dream of My Return, about a hare-brained plan by a El Salvadoran journalist to return home during the final throes of his country’s civil war. Translated by Katharine Silver.
I’ve never read any books translated from Catalan, so I’m particularly keen to read Josep Pla’s Bitter Life, a book of short stories translated by Peter Roland Bush, which is to be published in April by Archipelago Books. One of the few non-translated books on this list is Amit Chaudhuri’s Odysseus Abroad (to be published by Knopf, but I can only find this Penguin India publisher page on it, thus far). I’ve never read anything by Chaudhuri that’s less than brilliant, so that one’s a ‘must-read’ for me. I’m also keen to read Tregian’s Ground by Anne Cuneo, translated by Roland Glasser and Louise Rogers Lalaurie, which tells the story of Francis Tregian’s journeys across Europe (to be published by And Other Stories).
In May, Edouard Levé’s Newspaper (Dalkey Archive, translated by Jan Steyn and Caitlin Dolan-Leach) sounds intriguing; apparently it’s ‘composed of fictionalised newspaper articles’. Curious to see how well (or otherwise) that conceit can be sustained across a whole book.
Another one from Dalkey Archive comes out in June: Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s The Key (translated by Louis de Paor and Lochlainn Ó Tuairisg) seems like a deliberate homage to Kafka, with a protagonist named J., caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare when his key breaks, trapping him in his office.
More historical fiction from Other Press in July, with Chantal Thomas’s The Exchange of Princesses, translated by John Cullen. Eighteenth-century intrigue set in the courts of Spain and France. The intrigue continues, this time in the world of East Berlin’s ‘postmodern underground literary scene’ and its surveillance by Stasi informants; Wolfgang Hilbig’s I is translated by Isabel Fargo Cole, and published by Seagull Books.
Salman Rushdie’s latest, Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, comes out in August, apparently on Cape (though I can’t find any mention of it on their website yet). Open Letter books will publish Rock, Paper, Scissors, a novel of ‘violence and betrayal’ by Danish writer Naja Marie Aidt, translated by K. E. Semmel.
In September, Archipelago Books will publish Antonio Tabucchi’s Tristano Dies: A Life, translated by Elizabeth Harris. I’ve been meaning to try Tabucchi’s work for some time, so this will be a good opportunity.
I loved Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, but found The Black Book a little tiresome; I didn’t hear good things about The Museum of Innocence, so I passed it over. But I’m willing to give his latest, A Strangeness in My Mind, a try. It’s out in October, though I’m not sure who’s translating it, or publishing it.
Last book of this list is out in November (December is the only empty month). Argentinian novelist Ricardo Piglia’s Target in the Night (Deep Vellum, translated by Sergio Waisman) is a philosophical novel masquerading as a murder mystery, apparently. Sounds like a great way to end the year’s reading.
Thoughts, additions, corrections, etc., are welcome via Twitter.
Update 04.01.15: I mixed up the dates on the And Other Stories website; they got in touch to let me know (thanks for that) and I’ve switched out a book published last year that I’d added by mistake, for another forthcoming in 2015 (Tregian’s Ground) – which actually sounds more like my cup of tea, in any case.
Update 16.01.15: Open Letter Books have announced their spring/summer catalogue; I like the look of the Naja Marie Aidt novel, so I’ve added that in to the list above.
Update 27.01.15: I’ve added Wolfgang Hilbig’s I to the list.