Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Some literary fiction in translation

A couple reviews in Library Journal this month...

Kahn & Engelmann by Hans Eichner

Published to critical and commercial success in Europe ten years ago, this debut from prominent Canadian Germanist Eichner is now offered as the third title in the "Biblioasis International Translation" series. Narrated by Peter Engelmann, a middle-aged veterinarian working in Haifa, this work is at once the story of a family and a memorial to Viennese Jews. The narrative, the stream-of-consciousness recollections of a man caught between the need to remember and the desire to forget, opens in both 1980 and 1880 and chronicles the Kahn family's move from rural Hungary to Vienna, the narrator's 1938 flight to Belgium and eventual settlement in Israel, and all the family drama in between. The result is a moving book full of humor and humanity.

The Possession by Annie Ernaux

Ernaux's latest book to be translated into English is the story of an all-consuming jealousy, a self-portrait whose spare 64 pages sketch the life cycle of a possession. A woman has left a man "as much out of boredom as from an inability to give up [her] freedom." (9) The relationship may have been forgettable, but the narrator finds the idea of the man being with another woman unbearable, and her life is soon eclipsed by an obsession with that nameless, faceless woman. Occupation, the title of the original French edition, more clearly elucidates this state with its double entendre: the narrator is both engaged and possessed. While actively cultivating the obsession, the narrator is also very much concerned with chronicling it; this work is as much about the act of writing the novella as it is about the six months it recounts.

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