Wednesday, January 14th, 2009
Argentine author Sergio Chejfec, whose Mis dos Mundos was recommended by Enrique Vila-Matas as one of the best books he read in 2008, will be reading from the translation My Two Worlds in NYC Thursday the 29th, two weeks from tomorrow. His translator Liz Werner will also be there; this is Chejfec's first book to appear in English. The event is a party for the 10th anniversary of BOMB Magazine. If you're coming, drop me a line. (via 3%.)
Update: A misreading -- Chejfec's translator is Margaret Carson.
Thursday, January 29th, 2009
I'm looking forward to hearing Sergio Chejfec reading this evening, and hope to buy a copy of his book. And I just found out, he is blogging, and has been since 2006! His blog is Parábola Anterior -- mostly in Spanish, the top article AOTW is translated into English by Margaret Carson (who translated My Two Worlds and will be at the event tonight). At LanguageHat's site, I asked how his name is pronounced; Bill Walderman notes that the name is the Polish spelling of Heifetz.
Sergio Chejfec turned out not to be the highlight of the evening. His work -- the portion of it that is excerpted in BOMB -- is lovely and introspective; but because it is introspective it did not lend itself to being read aloud. You want room for your mind to wander while you're reading it. My favorite thing I heard this evening was the poetry of Nicanor Parra, read by his translator Liz Werner from the recent book Antipoems: How to Look Better & Feel Great. For instance, from the poem "Something Like That":
THE TRUE PROBLEM of philosophy
is who does the dishes
the passage of time
but first, who does the dishes
whoever wants to do them, go ahead
see ya later, alligator
and we're right back to being enemies
Also very nice to listen to was Lina Meruana's short story "Ay" -- she writes a flowing, engaging narrative that pulled me in. She only read the first half of the story but it was enough to make me want to read the rest of it on the train coming home. Raúl Zurita was also there, reading some oddly dream-like poems about the coup of 1973 and about Akira Kurosawa; he has one of the most pleasant reading voices I've ever heard -- it was almost hard to get past the immediate sensory delight of listening to him speak, to get at the content of the poems. Zurita also has a piece in this issue of BOMB about Nicanor Parra, sort of bringing me full circle.
In truth, we can only read the maps of cities we know. In my case, for example, and first and foremost, Buenos Aires. The problem is, under normal circumstances, a map plays a kind of trick on us, because if we know a city well, any detail it shows us will be either redundant or limited. Come to think of it, that describes the relationship I have with Buenos Aires: redundancy and insufficiency.
This line really captures my imagination. I've always liked looking at maps -- I'm very familiar with the distinction between looking at a map of familiar territory and looking at a map of somewhere I've never been (and the gradations of experience in between), but I would never have thought of expressing it this way. I love the idea that home is necessarily redundant and insufficient.
-- Sergio Chejfec, My Two Worlds
Saturday, April 17th, 2010
Last month's issue of Words Without Borders has newly-translated poetry by a Chilean poet and an Argentine: "Tales of Autumn in Gerona" is Erica Mena's translation of Bolaño's "Prosa del otoño en Gerona," excerpted from the forthcoming Tres (which Bolaño considered to be one of his best books); and "Roosters and Bones" is Elizabeth Polli's translation of "Gallos y huesos," by Sergio Chejfec. And, well, lots more too -- Words Without Borders is consistently full of interesting stuff.
Friday, January 21st, 2011
Exciting news from 3% -- Open Letter Books will be publishing Margaret Carson's translation of Mis dos mundos this summer! This should be great -- I remember loving the excerpt printed in BOMB.
Open Letter will be publishing two more of Chejfec's titles, The Dark and The Planets.
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
Chad Post of 3% links to an interview with Sergio Chejfec at Fric-Frac Club (and in translation at Read This Next), which includes a hilarious anecdote about Chejfec's first experience (as "a very and consistently bored child" -- which "was a common thing for my generation, at least it’s what I’ve got to think") writing fiction:
One day, it occurred to me to send a fictitious postcard to my mother : it would be written by a sister she had never heard of, who would announce therein that she had numerous revelations to disclose : a dark and scandalous family past, a very sad past, and so on, a real melodrama. In order that the story seem truer, I had to send the card from another country: Paraguay. During my childhood, Paraguay had been for me an exotic country (it was by way of Paraguay that my parents had come secretly into Argentina, after the Second World War). The text was written and I was ready to go buy the postcard at the corner bookstore, on which to to copy it out. But once there, I realized that they didn’t sell postcards for Paraguay, and more problematically even, that I could not send a card from Paraguay! These obstacles proved insurmountable, I had to resign myself finally to the plan’s failure.
I don’t know if there’s some lesson to be taken from this story, or whether to consider it a major defeat. I think that today I would not assign so much importance to details, which seemed so essential then to the making of a credible story. But it was the first time I wrote a fiction and I still remember my anxiety on the walk to the bookstore, in search of a postcard for Asunción del Paraguay.
Friday, April 13th, 2012
I started reading two books on Monday, both translations from Spanish -- The Planets by Sergio Chejfec/tr. Heather Cleary, and Almost Never by Daniel Sada/tr. Katherine Silver. Two extremely different novels. Both authors have very strong voices -- Sada's voice is grabbing me, pulling me in; Chejfec's voice is pushing me away.
Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
I read about half of The Planets last week before realizing I wasn't getting it... restarted it yesterday and over the last two days, I must have read the opening pages twenty times. It is just not clicking for me. Very happy then, to come home and find a new book in the mail from Amazon, Ondaatje's The Cat's Table -- which Juan Gabriel Vásquez said is one of the finest English-language novels of 2011. Here I go!
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