The Best Books in Translation of 2009

Your Face Tomorrow Trilogy

Javier Marias

 

"How can I not know today your face tomorrow, the face that is there already or is being forged beneath the face you show me or beneath the mask you are wearing, and which you will only show me when I am least expecting it?" We tend to think of hunters, gathers, and prostitutes as primordial professions. But we should not stint in our homage to councilors -- those detectives, avant la lettre, whose revenues rise and fall on their talent for gleaning the motives behind events and people. The protagonist of Javier Marias's Your Face Tomorrow trilogy, who is also the asker of the aforementioned question, is a professional of this sort. Through him, Marias reflects on how we, as social animals, flit between knowledge, intuition, ignorance, exposure, and concealment. These books are awash with mature gratifications.

 

 

Memories of the Future

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky

 

Literary justice is no stranger to dalliance. During his lifetime (1887-1950), Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's literary career was hamstrung by the politics of the Soviet Union. He did not see into print any of the stories that constitute Memories of the Future. Writing with little hope of being published, he wagered on posthumous appreciation. We're lucky that Krzhizhanovsky was a betting man because his conceptually rich tales have only appreciated with age.

 

 

A River Dies of Thirst

Mahmoud Darwish

 

The last published book to originally come out in Arabic by the famed Palestinian poet offers a preview of how the conflicts that beset the Middle East will be read once art has been left to enamel the depleted passions of history's victims.

 

 

 

The Country Where No One Ever Dies

Ornela Vorpsi

 

This jaundice-eyed ode to communist-era Albania is sautéed in a pungent irony which tranquillizes the catalog of deprivations that encircle the young narrator, a girl, for whom sickness is a ticket to love.

 

 

 

 

 

The Halfway House

Guillermo Rosales

 

It would be hard to identify a loitering word in this book that can be read in one sitting. Drawing from his experiences as a Cuban exile and diagnosed schizophrenic, Rosales (1946-1993) dramatizes the self-perpetuating indignities suffered by the inhabitants of one of the boarding houses that service Miami's underclass.

 

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.