Britain's first book blogger (November 2000)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Modest books to come

Browsing publisher's forthcoming titles, reading the blurbs, is, more often than not, an experience of mild alienation. Do they really think we fall for the nonsense? Am I the only one who sees through this? No, thankfully. Robert McCrum isn't fooled either.

An exception today is New Directions. Three novels, go on and count them - three, attracted me. All translations. César Aira's An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter gets a review in this morning's LA Times. Then there's Wilhelm Genazino's thrillingly-entitled The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt. We don't get many new novels in German translation, do we? There's a longish extract which I haven't read yet (for fear of spoiling my good mood).

Finally, and perhaps most interesting of all, is Antonio Tabucchi's It's Getting Later All the Time. His novel Declares Pereira stands out in memory, although standing out is all it does such is the quality of my memory. Confusingly, New Directions' translation is called Pereira Declares, which might cause problems as about all I remember apart from it standing out is the repeated phrase: declares Pereira. Will it work the other way around?

Even if each of these novels is a disappointment, it's encouraging to have a publisher willing to publish novels that aren't 800-pagers taking on the history of the 20th Century or isn't a titillating roman à clef appealing to the schadenfreude of an audience trying to mitigate its indifference to the world by reading "this summer's hottest novel".

1 comment:

  1. Strange thing: the book you read, called "Declares Pereira" (Harvill, 1995), was translated by the same person (Patrick Creagh) who translated the version I read, called "Pereira Declares" (Norton, 1996).

    If your memory is to be trusted, it therefore appears that the US version removed that little anastrophic flourish not only from the title, but every place it occurred in the book. As I said: strange.

    Anyway, wonderful book.

    Re blurbs, one thing I've learned over many years of blurb-reading is that books described as "wise" are invariably the worst kind of crap.

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