Literary roundup: examining evil and Russian books 2013

Prague literary journal B O D Y has an unbelievable story from award-winning Czech writer Tomáš Zmeškal. “Vision of Hitler,” translated by Nathan Fields, is a story that is even more unnerving in keeping the reader guessing what kind of story it is than in its ultimate subject matter (though that’s unnerving too). What begins as a darkly comic interaction between a madman and psychiatrist morphs into very different territories as you follow the patient’s path to having ended up with the name Jesus Socrates Amenhotep Hitler.

Besides his Czech literary awards Zmeškal was among last year’s winners of the EU Prize for Literature. I wrote about a panel he participated in at Book World Prague 2012 for Publishing Perspectives in which he and other prize-winners discussed the difficulties of getting their work broader exposure. This has been true for Zmeškal, whose two novels – Love Letter in Cuneiform Script and The Biography of a Black-and-White Lamb – have yet to be published in English. According to the Pluh agency website the English edition of Love Letter is in progress for Yale University Press. You can read samples of both novels and further information on the agency’s website.

For more on Zmeškal and the up-and-coming generation of Czech writers here is an interview I did with him a while back at Czech Position.

Russian books in 2013

At Lizok’s Bookshelf there’s a list of Russian books due out in English translation this year, and it’s got a lot to look forward to. The new Andrei Gelasimov is already out, The Lying Year, and though I reviewed last year’s Thirst and placed it among my best of the year, Amazon Crossing hasn’t sent me the new one, which Lisa says is her favorite. Do they connect the book and its cover with the amount of vodka I’ve been drinking and worry that the same will happen this year with lying?

Later in the year, Gelasimov’s Gods of the Steppe will be published. Both books are/will be translated by Marian Schwartz, who translated Thirst.

Other books on the list include Leonid Tsypkin’s The Bridge Over the Neroch: And Other Works, which I just reviewed at Asymptote, new novels by Mikhail Shishkin and Andrey Kurkov. Glas is coming out with a beautifully titled novel called Petroleum Venus by Alexander Snegirev, translated by Arch Tait. I have this in hand and will review it when I have the chance. Tait has also translated Dmitry Vachedin’s Snow Germans for Glas, which will also be issuing an e-book edition of Anatoly Mariengof’s Cynics together with Novel Without Lies.

Other reissues or great writers from Russia’s past being brought back into print include OBERIU poet Alexander Vvedensky’s An Invitation For Me To Think translated by Eugene Ostashevsky, as well as novels by Saltykov-Shchedrin, Boris Pilnyak, Nikolai Leskov and Dostoevsky.

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