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JBC Bookshelf: Translations and Boundaries

Thursday, April 19, 2012 | Permalink
Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

While not all of this month's offerings are translations, there are quite a few in this round's mix, which makes JBCers particularly happy. We're happy both because fine international titles are making their way into the American literary market, and also because they help reflect the broader Jewish experience and keep lines of communication open between Jews worldwide.

Speaking of translations, if you're not familiar with Three Percent's Best Translated Book Awards, you should be. This year's shortlist includes Moacyr Scliar's Kafka's Leopards (translator: Thomas O. Beebee) and the 2010 winning title was Gail Hareven's The Confessions of Noa Weber (translator: Dalya Bilu). Two other great resources for translated titles are Dalkey Archive Press's Hebrew Literature series, which we feature on our website here, and Melville House's translations, which includes titles by Imre Kertész, Sholem Aleichem, and Joshua Sobol. Bonus: Check out Melville House's Sholem Aleichem bobbleheads. Finally, check out translator Jessica Cohen's article on translation for the Summer 2007 issue of Jewish Book World here.

Along with the translations, several of the below selections explore the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction (see: God's Horse and The Atheist's School, The Messenger, and The Wine of Solitude). When do these forms need to work together to tell the whole story and when does one form suffice?  It may also be of interest to look into newly reviewed HHhH (Laurent Binet; Sam Taylor, trans.), which is both a translation and also explores the aforementioned boundaries. And, of course, who could resist the forthcoming UPNE title focused on coffee (another thing that makes JBCers happy)? Needless to say, we've been spoiled by riches this month, and, as always, look forward to the next round of literary treats.

God's Horse and The Atheists' School, Wilhelm Dichter; Madeline G. Levine, trans. (March 2012, Northwestern University Press)
Dichter's autobiographical novels bring to life the tensions between ideologues and pragmatists, Polish patriots and their Soviet masters.

The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir, Claude Lanzmann; Frank Wynne, trans. (March 2012, Farrar, Straus and Giroux) 
Check out The New Yorker's recent profile of Lanzmann here
Jews Welcome Coffee: Tradition and Innovation in Early Modern Germany, Robert Liberles (April 2012, Brandeis University Press)
Not surprisingly, Jews readily accepted coffee when it made its way to Europe in the 1650s.

The Messenger, Yannick Haenel; Mark Baker, trans. (May 2012, Counterpoint Press)
The novelized biography of Jan Karski, a young Polish diplomat charged with bringing the truth of Hitler's extermination plan to the Allies.

The Innocents, Francesca Segal (June 2012, Voice)
Segal's debut novel explores the world of a tight-knit Jewish suburb of London.

The Wine of Solitude, Irène Némirovsky; Sandra Smith, trans. (September 2012, Vintage)
Since we have a bit of a wait for this one, check out JBC's Irène Némirovsky review page here.