Here in our second “Hoot,” we could try and engage you in a serious discussion on the art of good translation, and once we’ve exhausted the discussion, we could wrap the post up (in what would be a rather predictable manner) by sounding the call for American readers to expand their “reading borders,” and then we could plug our newest book. Or… we could simply talk on this lazy, rainy Friday afternoon about the rewards of finding a good story and an author who really speaks to you. Why waste time extolling the virtues of a good translation? It’s already pretty obvious. Besides, author Paul Auster already said it best: “Translators are the shadow heroes of literature, the often forgotten instruments that make it possible for other cultures to talk to one another; who have enabled us to understand that we all, from every part of the world, live in one world.”
Since the first book in the millennium trilogy, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was published in Sweden in 2005, Stieg Larsson’s books in translation have become a global publishing phenomenon. (While thrillers are not for everyone, Lisbeth Salander is undeniably one of the strongest and most outlandish female protagonists ever to grace the pages of a book.) Thus, if the success of Larsson’s books here in the States and the world for that matter is an indication, then American readers probably don’t really care if the books they are reading are translations just as long as the characters are entertaining and just as long as the story is really good.
This brings us directly to Owl Canyon Press’s soon-to-be released translation of German author Marianna Leky’s quirky and engaging novel, “The Gentlemen’s Tailor.” The language of the book is light and straightforward- the story is superbly balanced between light and hard-hitting. The novel’s protagonist Katja Weisberg may well be the very antithesis of Larsson’s larger-than-life badass avenging angel, but in her defense, Katja not only has her very own, albeit eccentric guardian angel (who we get to meet and who helps her on her strange journey), but also, unlike Lisbeth, Katja has a rather good sense of humor that peeps through her well justified lackluster outlook and depression. Despite the novel’s serious subject of loss, grief and recovery, all of which Leky explores with wit and German precision, the understated Katja unselfconsciously walks between the real and the fantastic, the tragic and the surreal, the sad and the funny. Complete with unexpected twists and turns, “The Gentlemen’s Tailor” takes us on a journey that is far from conventional, close to home and well worth the read.
So what we will instead ponder here is the following question: What other literary gems out there in the world are just waiting to be discovered by American reading audiences? Hmmmm… Let us know about a book in translation that you give a hoot about…