The Millions has put out a long and translation-heavy list of books to be published in 2013 in the US. There are quite a few Central and Eastern European novels to look forward to, including a few I have already read, either because they came out in the UK last year or because I took the opportunity while visiting their publishers when they had to take a phone call or were otherwise distracted to steal a copy of one of the books I didn’t feel like waiting for. I know this is dishonest and I sincerely feel bad about it, but it isn’t really hurting anyone, is it? (Then again, maybe they’re just review copies.)
At the top of the list for me is Leonid Tsypkin’s The Bridge Over the Neroch: And Other Works, my review of which will be published shortly. Contrary to what the preview says the collection contains two novellas and a selection of short stories. It is as challenging a read as Summer in Baden Baden and if not quite at the level of his masterpiece and only novel it has some even more powerful moments. The thematic continuity between this book and the novel is fascinating as well.
Another novel I have but have yet to read and review is Our Man in Iraq by Robert Perišic, a Croatian take on the American invasion of Iraq. And if a Balkan view of the Middle East whets your appetite what about following it up with a Hungarian novel about a Japanese goddess looking for perfection in various places and times, in László Krasznahorkai’s Seiobo There Below.
Vladimir Nabokov’s play The Tragedy of Mr. Morn was never published intact until recently, the first English translation coming out last year. He wrote it in the mid-20s when he was living in Berlin but finished it while visiting his mother in Prague, on the same occasion he met the poet Marina Tsvetaeva, who, like the author of this blog, was living a life of hardship and neglect in the cold, unfriendly Czech capital.
And The Millions’ preview points out that Aleksandar Hemon’s The Book of My Lives likely comes out of his New Yorker essay “The Book of My Life,” about his former literature professor, the Shakespeare scholar Nikola Koljević, who went on to become second in command to Radovan Karadžić in Republika Srpska during the war, and who went on to commit suicide in 1997.
It would be unfair in this Central European survey not to mention Charles Newman’s In Partial Disgrace, as it is described as “a sprawling self-contained trilogy chronicling the troubled history of a small Central European nation bearing certain similarities to Hungary—and whose rise and fall might be said to parallel the strange contortions taken by Western political and literary thought over the course of the twentieth century.” It’s compared to various sprawling novels of the 60s and 70s I’ve never been able to get through so I’m not sure I’ll do more than mention this here. Ah, done.
Coming soon: more books coming out in 2013 you wouldn’t want to miss out on.
Photo – Leonid Tsypkin