Katherine Silver is an award-winning literary translator and the co-director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC). Her most recent translations include works by Daniel Sada, César Aira, Horacio Castellanos Moya, Ernesto Mallo, and Carla Guelfenbein. She has also translated works by José Emilio Pacheco, Elena Poniatowska, Jorge Franco, Martín Adán, and Pedro Lemebel, among others.
One Saturday night a bankrupt bachelor in his sixties and his mother dine with a wealthy friend. They discuss their endlessly connected neighbors. They talk about a mysterious pit that opened up one day, and the old bricklayer who sometimes walked to the cemetery to cheer himself up. Anxious to show off his valuable antiques, the host shows his guests old windup toys and takes them to admire an enormous doll. Back at home, the bachelor decides to watch some late night TV before retiring. The news quickly takes a turn for the worse as, horrified, the newscaster finds herself reporting about the dead rising from their graves, leaving the cemetery, and sucking the blood of the living—all somehow disturbingly reminiscent of the dinner party.
Available: October 06 2015
Is the journalist’s plan to return a dream or a nightmare? Is he courageous, foolhardy, or just plain dumb? Is the bubbling brew of horrors and threats actual or imagined? After seeking relief for the pain in his liver through hypnosis, his few remaining impulse-control mechanisms rapidly dissolve, and reality only rarely intrudes on his cogitations. Hair-brained murder plots, half-mad arguments, and hysterical rants: the narrative escalates at a maniacal pace, infused with Horacio Castellanos Moya’s uniquely outlandish and unlikely acerbic sense of humor.
Daily conversations in outdoor cafés with cultured friends can help make reality a little more real. Unfortunately, however, during one such conversation, one man spots a gold Rolex watch on a TV soap opera’s goatherd. This seemingly small absurdity sets off alarms: strange sensations of deception, distress, and incipient madness. The two men’s uneasiness soon becomes a nightmare as the TV adventure advances with a real-life plot — involving a mutant strain of killer algae — to take over the world! Conversations, a reality within a fiction within a parallel reality, is hilariously funny and surprisingly touching.
Only a couple of days before the state visit of the President of the United States, Filiberto García — an impeccably groomed “gun for hire,” ex–Mexican revolutionary, and classic antihero — is recruited by the Mexican police to discover how much truth there might be to KGB and CIA reports of a Chinese-Mongolian plot to assassinate the Mexican and American presidents during the unveiling of a statue in Mexico City.
García kills various criminals as he searches for clues in the opium dens, curio shops, and Cantonese restaurants of Mexico City’s Chinatown — clues that appear to point not to Mongolia, but to Cuba. Yet as the bodies pile up, he begins to find traces of slimy political dealings: are local gears grinding away in these machinations of an “international incident”? Pulsating behind the smokescreen of this classic noir are fierce curses, a shockingly innocent affair, smoldering dialog, and unforgettable riffs about the meaning of life, the Mexican Revolution, women, and the best gun to use for close-range killing.
Writing for Harper’s Magazine, Edgardo Krebs describes Professor Borges:
“A compilation of the twenty-five lectures Borges gave in 1966 at the University of Buenos Aires, where he taught English literature. Starting with the Vikings’ kennings and Beowulf and ending with Stevenson and Oscar Wilde, the book traverses a landscape of ‘precursors,’ cross-cultural borrowings, and genres of expression, all connected by Borges into a vast interpretive web. This is the most surprising and useful of Borges’s works to have appeared posthumously.”
Borges takes us on a startling, idiosyncratic, fresh, and highly opinionated tour of English literature, weaving together countless cultural traditions of the last three thousand years. Borges’s lectures — delivered extempore by a man of extraordinary erudition — bring the canon to remarkably vivid life.
Now translated into English for the first time, these lectures are accompanied by extensive and informative notes by the Borges scholars Martín Arias and Martín Hadis.
Dr. Aira is not a conventional doctor. He has a very special gift for miracles, at least in theory. This has not deterred his archenemy, Dr. Actyn, who is trying to prove that Dr. Aira is a charlatan. When the ever wary Dr. Aira is finally called upon to put his theories into practice and use his healing powers to actually cure a hopelessly sick man, César Aira — the authoritative writer — shows us the truth about miracles in this delightfully awesome book.
Published in 1928 to great acclaim when its author was just twenty years old, The Cardboard House is sweeping and passionate. The novel presents a series of flashes — scenes, moods, dreams, and weather — as the narrator wanders through Barranco (then an exclusive seaside resort outside Lima). In one stunning passage after another, he skips from reveries of first loves, South Pole explorations, and ocean tides to precise and unashamed notations of class and of race: from an Indian woman "with her hard, shiny, damp head of hair — a mud carving" to a gringo gobbling "synthetic milk, canned meat, hard liquor."
As the translator notes, The Cardboard House is as "subversive now as when it was written: Adán’s uncompromising poetic vision and the trueness and poetry of his voice constitute a heroic act against cultural colonialism."
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Margaret Carson, Bill Johnston, and Alex Zucker — judges for the 2013 PEN Translation Prize — had this to say about Katherine Silver’s translation of The Cardboard House in their official citation:
Katherine Silver’s extraordinary translation of Martín Adán’s The Cardboard House, a neglected 1928 masterpiece of the Latin American vanguard, arrives in English as if written yesterday. Silver ingeniously evokes the enigmatic, often-startling imagery of the twenty-year-old Adán’s poetic novel, a fractured dreamscape of wonder and longing set in a resort on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. In her illuminating preface, Silver writes that Adán’s novel “is a world unto itself.” Her delicately wrought translation, perfectly attuned to the original, summons us into this singular world with freshness and grace. It is a superb achievement.
The tyrant of Horacio Castellanos Moya’s ambitious new novel is the actual pro-Nazi mystic Maximiliano Hernández Martínez – known as the Warlock – who came to power in El Salvador in 1932. An attempted coup in April, 1944, failed, but a general strike in May finally forced him out of office. Tyrant Memory takes place during the month between the coup and the strike. Its protagonist, Haydée Aragon, is a well-off woman, whose husband is a political prisoner and whose son, Clemente, after prematurely announcing the dictator’s death over national radio during the failed coup, is forced to flee when the very much alive Warlock starts to ruthlessly hunt down his enemies. The novel moves between Haydée’s political awakening in diary entries and Clemente’s frantic and often hysterically comic efforts to escape capture. Tyrant Memory – sharp, grotesque, moving, and often hilariously funny – is an unforgettable incarnation of a country’s history in the destiny of one family.
César is a translator who’s fallen on very hard times due to the global economic downturn; he is also an author, and a mad scientist hell-bent on world domination. On a visit to the beach he intuitively solves an ancient riddle, finds a pirate’s treasure, and becomes a very wealthy man. Even so, César’s bid for world domination comes first and so he attends a literary conference to be near the man whose clone he hopes will lead an army to victory: the world-renowned Mexican author, Carlos Fuentes. A comic science fiction fantasy of the first order, The Literary Conference is the perfect vehicle for César Aira’s takeover of literature in the 21st century.
Laura Rivera can’t believe what has happened. Her best friend has been killed in cold blood in the living room of her home, in front of her two young daughters! Nobody knows who pulled the trigger, but Laura will not rest easy until she finds out. Her dizzying, delirious, hilarious, and blood-curdling one-sided dialogue carries the reader on a rough and tumble ride through the social, political, economic, and sexual chaos of post-civil war San Salvador. A detective story of pulse-quickening suspense, The She-Devil in the Mirror is also a sober reminder that justice and truth are more often than not illusive. Castellanos Moya’s relentless, obsessive narrator—female, rich, paranoid, wonderfully perceptive, and, in the end, fabulously unreliable—paints with frivolous profundity a society in a state of collapse.
A boozing, sex-obsessed writer finds himself employed by the Catholic Church (an institution he loathes) to proofread a 1,100 page report on the army’s massacre and torture of thousands of indigenous villagers a decade earlier, including testimonies of the survivors. The writer’s job is to tidy it up: he rants "that was what my work was all about, cleaning up and giving a manicure to the Catholic hands that were piously getting ready to squeeze the balls of the military tiger." Publishers Weekly calls Senselessness a "crushing satire," remarking, "It’s Moya’s genius to make this difficult character seem a product of the same death and disorder documented in the report, as the survivors’ voices merge with his own;" and Russell Banks writes, "This is a brilliantly crafted moral fable, as if Kafka had gone to Latin America for his source materials. I’ve not read anything quite like it. Clearly, Castellanos Moya is a major writer who deserves a wide audience in the U.S." Roberto Bolaño called Castellanos Moya "the only writer of my generation who knows how to narrate the horror, the secret Vietnam that Latin America was for a long time." He also said about his work, "nationalists of all stripes can’t stand it. Its sharp humor, not unlike a Buster Keaton film or a time bomb, threatens the fragile stability of imbeciles who, when they read the book, have an uncontrollable desire to hang the author in the town square. I can’t think of a higher honor for a writer."
For those readers of Latin American literature who are tired of being fed a particularly monochrome image of Mexico––replete with virgins rising into the heavens sheathed in white gowns, with idealized peasants, tortillas in hand, staring off at the volcano in deep contemplation of The Revolution That Cannot Fail––José Emilio Pacheco will come as a welcome relief. One of Mexico’s leading poets, he has also successfully ventured into the area of the short story and the novel. Battles in the Desert & Other Stories, a collection of short fiction that deals mainly with themes of childhood and innocence betrayed, is the first book of Pacheco’s fiction to appear in English. Here there are no narrative arabesques, no flights of magical-realist fancy. Instead, Pacheco confronts the reader with the uglier sides of urban Mexico––its grime, its beggars, its suffocating pollution, the constricted lives of its lower middle class––all with a simplicity and directness of style impeccably shaped and clearly distilled. Pacheco himself has said that he believes that his work could never really appeal to anyone outside of Mexico City. Yet none of us lives very far from the city he so implacably portrays. His sinking, stinking metropolis becomes a metaphor for something much larger and threatening, and we respond with natural feeling to his quiet-spoken outrage. Battles in the Desert & Other Stories, a companion volume to the author’s bilingual Selected Poems, includes work written over a period of two decades. The stories were translated by Katherine Silver, who has also translated Pacheco’s poetry.