It’s All in the Translation: Why We Like Stories from Elsewhere

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…


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dog Days of Summer and Why We Give a Hoot

August is moving swiftly by. The final stretch of the dog days of summer is upon us.  Some of us have had the luxury of being able to take a much-needed vacation this summer and some of us have not.  For most of us however, stress remains a condition of modern life. From work, family, finances, health issues or countless other things that we have to deal with on a regular basis, we all are looking for ways to reduce our stress levels.  Stress is not easy to escape and there can be no doubt that it has tremendous costs to us all, both financial and personal.

For starters, we all know that being perpetually stressed out can literally kill us. At the very least, it can set into motion mental and physical changes that can bring about a much earlier demise. Health problems ranging from heart disease, to weight gain, to diabetes, to acne are often caused or exacerbated by stress.  And as some of us know all too well that trying to lose weight can be an uphill battle when stress is flooding our systems with cortisol. Stress just makes it exponentially more difficult to shed unwanted pounds or enjoy the things we love the most.  Being stressed is serious business, literally.  Even in a downturn economy, the stress reduction industry is booming.  It’s no small wonder that spas and yoga studios are popping up all over the place! 

So why does Owl Canyon Press give a hoot about stress? Well, we love to read and if you stop and think about it for a second, a good book not only offers a world of escapism, it can also act as low cost remedy for stress. Did you know that as little as six minutes of reading in a day could cause a significant drop in your cortisol levels resulting in a reduction in your stress, and perhaps, a welcomed shedding of a few unwanted pounds?

The truth of the matter is few things in this world offer the low-cost kind of imagination-fueled escapism that a truly good work of fiction can. In particular, any well written novel from one of our favorite genres, magic realism can do wonders for your physical, mental and spiritual heath.

As a literary mode, magical realism is mostly characterized by two conflicting perspectives, one based on a so-called rational view of reality and the other on the acceptance of the supernatural as prosaic reality. It differs from pure fantasy primarily because it is set in a normal, modern world with authentic descriptions of humans and the society we live in.  Thus, this beloved gem of a literary mode is highly relatable and easy to read. It often imparts wisdom and is almost always highly entertaining.  A magic realism novel doesn’t tax the brain, but instead rather seamlessly allows us to process some the more stressful but unavoidable events of our daily lives.  Whether we are dealing with death, loss, grief, unrequited love, disillusionment with our current predicaments, tight budgets, or just plain old –fashioned ennui, a magic realism novel can resonate with what ever ails the human heart. 

So be kind to yourself. Put down the TV remote. Unplug some of those endless avenues of technology that run your day and restore some of the sacred rhythms of your life by journeying into the world of magic realism. Read to soothe your soul.

A wise old owl that gives a hoot knows you wont regret it.

Some of our very favorite magic realism novels are:

And this little German gem by Mariana Leky that our editor Eugene Hayworth has translated into English. The Gentlemen’s Tailor  will be released this fall.


We really give a hoot: please tell us about your favorite magic realism novel.  Share the love.



Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments