Novels in Translation Book Discussions 2024

Join the Ohio Center for the Book and Clevo Books (1026 Euclid Ave) a bookstore that specializes in translated literature, for a monthly discussion on new and classic works of international literature.

Thursday, June 20th, 2024, 6-7 PM: The Most Secret Memory of Men by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, trans. from the French by Lara Vergnaud (2023)

A gripping literary mystery in the vein of Bolaño’s Savage Detectives, this coming-of-age novel unravels the fascinating life of a maligned Black author, based on Yambo Ouologuem.

In 2018, Diégane Latyr Faye, a young Senegalese writer in Paris, discovers a legendary book from the 1930s, The Labyrinth of Inhumanity. No one knows what became of its author, once hailed as the ‘Black Rimbaud,’ after the book caused a scandal. Enthralled by this mystery, Diégane decides to search for T.C. Elimane, going down a path that will force him to confront the great tragedies of history, from colonialism to the Holocaust.”

Thursday, July 18th, 2024, 6-7 PM: The Movement by Petra Hůlová, trans. from the Czech by Alex Zucker (2021)

The Movement’s founding ideology emphasizes that women should be valued for their inner qualities, and not for their physical attributes. Men have been forbidden to be attracted to women on the basis of their bodies. While some continue unreformed, many submit—or are sent by wives and daughters—to the Institute for internment and reeducation. Our narrator, an unapologetic guard at one of these reeducation facilities, describes how the Movement started, her own personal journey, and what happens when a program fails. Outspoken, ambiguous, and terrifying, this socio-critical satire of our sexual norms sets the reader firmly outside of their comfort zone.”

Thursday, August 15th, 2024, 6-7 PM: Seasonal Associate by Heike Geissler, trans. from the German by Katy Derbyshire (2018)

How the brutalities of working life are transformed into exhaustion, shame, and self-doubt: a writer’s account of her experience working in an Amazon fulfillment center. No longer able to live on the proceeds of her freelance writing and translating income, German novelist Heike Geissler takes a seasonal job at Amazon Order Fulfillment in Leipzig. But the job, intended as a stopgap measure, quickly becomes a descent into humiliation, and Geissler soon begins to internalize the dynamics and nature of the post-capitalist labor market and precarious work. Driven to work at Amazon by financial necessity rather than journalistic ambition, Heike Geissler has nonetheless written the first and only literary account of corporate flex-time employment that offers ‘freedom’ to workers who have become an expendable resource.”

Thursday, September 19th, 2024, 6-7 PM: A Strange Woman by Leylâ Erbil, trans. from the Turkish by Amy Spangler and Nermin Menemencioğlu (2022)

In English at last: the first novel by a Turkish woman to ever be nominated for the Nobel. A Strange Woman is the story of Nermin, a young woman and aspiring poet growing up in Istanbul. Nermin frequents coffeehouses and underground readings, determined to immerse herself in the creative, anarchist youth culture of Turkey’s capital; however, she is regularly thwarted by her complicated relationship to her parents, members of the old guard who are wary of Nermin’s turn toward secularism.”

Thursday, October 17th, 2024, 6-7 PM: The Secret Crypt by Salvador Elizondo, trans. from the Spanish by Joshua Pollock (2022)

Originally published in 1968, a cult classic of Mexican literature is available in English for the first time.

In The Secret Crypt, Elizondo’s impassioned, breathless prose launches the reader into a labyrinth that is also a hall of mirrors. Here, we find a small group of characters who are part of an underground sect called Urkreis, one of whose aims is to discover the identity of the sect’s founder, known only as “the Imagined.” The identities of the narrator, author, and characters blur into one another as the narrative moves between the two worlds of the novel and the author writing the novel–an unclassifiable masterpiece containing initiation rites, sacrificial murder, conspiracy, and delirium.”

Thursday, November 21st, 2024, 6-7 PM: Overstaying by Ariane Koch, trans. from the German by Damian Searls (2024)

Winner of the aspekte Prize, the most prestigious German prize for debut fiction, Swiss playwright and visual artist Ariane Koch’s Overstaying is an absurdist tour de force.

‘I don’t see my writing as chronological or classically narrative, but as spatial—a kind of architecture. I keep adding rooms, and readers can take different paths through the rooms,’ writes Ariane Koch of Overstaying, her anarchically comic debut. Koch’s narrator is an impudent young woman, a contemporary Bartleby living alone in her parents’ old house in the small hometown she hates but can’t bring herself to leave. When a visitor turns up, promisingly new, she takes him in, and instantly her life revolves around him. Yet it is hard to tell what, exactly, this visitor is. A mooch, a lover, an absence, a presence—possibly a pet? Mostly, he is a set of contradictions, an occasion for Koch’s wild imagination to take readers in brilliant and unexpected directions.”

Thursday, December 19th, 2024, 6-7 PM: Termush by Sven Holm, trans. from the Danish by Sylvia Clayton (2024)

With an introduction by Jeff VanderMeer that makes an ardent case for its relevance to today’s world, this rediscovered classic of Scandinavian fiction is still shockingly relevant more than fifty years after it was first published. Sven Holm’s Termush is a searing and prophetic study of humanity forced into a moral bind through its own doing.

Termush caters to every need of its wealthy patrons—first among them, a coveted spot at this exclusive seaside getaway, a resort designed for the end of the world.

Everyone within its walls has been promised full protection from the aftereffects of “the disaster.” The staff work behind the scenes to create a calming and frictionless mood; they pipe soothing music into the halls and quickly remove the dead birds that fall out of the sky. But the specter of death remains. Recon teams come and go in protective gear. Fear of contamination spreads as the hotel cautiously welcomes survivors only to then censor news of their arrival. As the days pass, the veneer of control begins to crack, and it becomes clear that the residents of Termush can insulate themselves from neither the physical effects of the cataclysm nor the moral fallout of using their wealth to separate themselves from the fate of those trapped outside.”