We’re immensely honored to pass on the news that the inaugural Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award for long-form work has gone to A Life on Paper: Stories by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, translated by Edward Gauvin. The awards were presented at the 2011 Eurocon in Stockholm (winners and honorable mentions below).
The full announcement on the awards—and the wonderful and generous jury comments—is here, along with statements from the winners. We’re honored and humbled and would like to thank the the jury and the award administrators—what a job, trying to corral all those books from publishers all over the world to a similarly scattered jury!
A Life on Paper is a great book and our publishing it is all down to the translator, Edward Gauvin: thanks Edward!
Long Form Winner
A Life on Paper: Stories, Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, translated by Edward Gauvin (Small Beer Press). Original publication in French (1976-2005).
Long Form Honorable Mention
The Golden Age, Michal Ajvaz, translated by Andrew Oakland (Dalkey Archive Press). Original publication in Czech as Zlatý V?k (2001).
Short Form Winner
“Elegy for a Young Elk”, Hannu Rajaniemi, translated by Hannu Rajaniemi (Subterranean Online, Spring 2010). Original publication in Finnish (Portti, 2007).
Short Form Honorable Mention
“Wagtail”, Marketta Niemelä, translated by Liisa Rantalaiho (Usva International 2010, ed. Anne Leinonen). Original publication in Finnish as “Västäräkki” (Usva (The Mist), 2008).
The Hôtel de Massa is a handsome historical edifice in the 14th arrondissement, not far south of the Sorbonne, on the rue du Faubourg St. Jacques. It is the headquarters of the Société des Gens de Lettres, a sort of French Authors Guild, of which Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud was president from 2000 to 2002. He had told me to meet him there at a quarter to one, and he was late.
The receptionist rose from her desk and came to the lobby to tell me that his RER commuter train had been delayed. Later, striding briskly toward the restaurant, Châteaureynaud explained that someone had committed suicide by leaping onto the tracks. They were probably still cleaning the remains off now. If he hadn’t given up and changed trains, he might still be waiting. The thought of another year was apparently, for some, a terrible prospect. Read more
Do yourself a favor: order Swamplandia now.
Here’s a suggestion for next year’s calendar: Storytellers 2012: The Author Interview Calendar from Balladier Press. Locally made and full of interviews with good people including Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Sara Paretsky, Robert Pinsky, and Shaun Tan.
I find it hard to believe that Nick Bilton is “the lead technology writer for the New York Times” because in this article he seems clueless about books and rights &c. Maybe it’s because I’m mired in them everyday. It’s funny: if he’d gone to a library, I’d be fine with this (ugh, teasing apart behaviours!) as they would have bought the books. At least pay your coffee rent if you’re going to sit there playing with the books for hours. (Via firebrand Pat Holt)
BTW Nick, yes, you are doing wrong. But as Nicola Griffith says readers are who we’re trying to reach and it frustrates me when I can’t make the customer happy. (Well, most of the time. I’ve worked retail: the customer is frequently right but sometimes completely wrong.) I’m completely frustrated because agents and writers won’t sell World English ebook rights even though no one else is going to buy those rights which means readers everywhere except in North America (hello Mexican readers, hello Brazil, hello Charles, & so on) will be left to either go without (go on, try it, you’ll love not reading that book . . . er, wait . . .) or pirating. Wonder which one they’ll choose?
Anyway, in happy news today, A Life on Paper by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud and translated from the French by Edward Gauvin, is on the 25-title long list for the Best Translated Book Award. In March they throw 15 of those books out and “Winners will be announced on April 29th in New York City, as part of the PEN World Voices Festival.” Just in time, we have a post coming up from Edward about a recent conversation he had with Châteaureynaud about his career. Edward’s in Belgium reading and translating—can’t wait to see what he comes up with—and here he writes about the best fry joint in Brussels and to going to a comics signing with Ludovic Debeurme, Top Shelf are going to publish his book Lucille in the US this spring, and he will be at the PEN World Voices Festival. Maybe everyone will be there! Maybe we should go. See you there?
And there’s a great closely read review of LCRW 26 at SFF Portal.
Hey look, there’s a profile of the press in one of our local papers, the Valley Advocate—except I am not in the Valley this week. Someone save me a copy! (Also, it got picked up by io9, nice!) I like that the writer takes the story wider at the end:
It’s an oft-heard story in the Valley: an idea that coalesces from the background noise of urban hipster climes comes to rest here. Such moves are often generated by practical concerns like lower rent and quality of life, but the accretion of cultural capital like that of Small Beer or a hundred more arts-driven enterprises has made the Valley a place like few others.
He’s right. You can hardly toss a caber down Northampton’s Main Street (as with Easthampton, Amherst, Hadley, Holyoke, etc.) without it bouncing off two artists (they make them strong out there), being photographed a couple of times, having a dance piece choreographed about it, at at last squishing a couple of writers.
This year, the centenary of Thomas Owen’s birth, was marked in Belgium by a series of readings, lectures, and events under the general heading “100 Years of Disquiet”—a tribute to the author regularly cited, along with Jean Ray and Franz Hellens, as a pillar of Belgian fantastical fiction. Owen (1910-2002) is such a monument in Belgium it’s hard to believe that in the English-speaking world he is an exceedingly well-kept secret, known only on the basis of a single book to a handful of dedicated horror fans.
The story goes like this: there once was a lawyer named Gérald Bertot, who worked all his life in the management of the same flour-milling factory. He held a doctorate in criminology, and a side career in art criticism under the pseudonym Stéphane Rey. Spared service in World War II, he turned to writing mysteries for money, with the encouragement of Stanislas-André Steeman, a celebrated craftsman of Belgian noir. In Tonight at Eight (1941), he introduced the police commissioner Thomas Owen—a character whose name he liked so much he later took it as his own when he embarked on what he has called his true calling, his career as a fantasist. Read more
No survey of Belgian fiction can fail to mention Jean Ray, born Raymundus Joannes Maria de Kremer—but where to begin? Any biographical account of the “Belgian Poe” seems to adopt the narrative strategy of one of his most famous stories, “La ruelle ténébreuse” (variously translated as “The Shadowy Street,” “The Street of Shadows,” and “The Tenebrous Alley,” though I prefer “The Shadowy Alley,” for Ray’s voice always lends the sinister a slightly mocking air): what knowledge there is comes to us piecemeal and unverifiable, often in conflicting accounts from scattered sources, such that the only final feeling is one of uncertainty. If his friend and self-professed disciple Thomas Owen is to be believed, Jean Ray was part Indiana Jones, part Father Damien, and part Robert Langdon—adventurer, exorcist, and esoteric scholar, at least in Owen’s short story “The Bernkastel Graveyard.” In fact it pleased this man of many pseudonyms (John Flanders, Kaptain Bill, John Sailor. J.R. Ray) to appear in his friends’ fiction: in Alice Sauton’s Iblis or the Encounter with the Evil Angel, in adventure writer Henri Vernes’ Spectres of Atlantis and Smugglers of the Caribbean, featuring Vernes’ popular hero Bob Morane, where Ray has a cameo as the sailor Tiger Jack. Ray had a particular fondness for nautical skullduggery, and actively encouraged the proliferation of rumors surrounding his person and past. Read more
For a few months now, the NEA Writers’ Corner has been featuring excerpts from the translation projects of this year’s fellows, along with author bios and statements. For anyone who’s been intrigued by the description and snippets of the author I’m working on, Belgian fabulist Bernard Quiriny, or who caught his stories in Subtropics and World Literature Today earlier this year, I thought I’d chime in with some updates.
In September, Le Seuil came out with Quiriny’s first novel, Les Assoiffés [The Thirsty Ones], which was well-reviewed and longlisted for several major prizes. It is an alternate history set in a 1970s Belgium that never existed: a closed matriarchal dictatorship, the result of a feminist revolution. Read more
Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud is fond of urging students in his writing workshops to “abandon the haunted castle and consider the haunted bus stop.” Meant as a rejection, in favor of something more contemporary, of all that is outdated and clichéd in the fantastic as a genre, the image speaks to Châteaureynaud’s ironic, affectionate take on the plight of modern man. The puny bus stop, where a lone, lost traveler shelters from the storm, at once ridicules the grand, foreboding castle—grown portentous and self-important—yet by being quite aware of its reduced stature, the bus stop also manages a certain pathos. Read more
That her father was a poet and her mother one of Belgium’s greatest novelists may have influenced Anne Richter’s predilections, but the place she has made for herself in Belgian letters is one all her own. In 1954, she burst onto the scene with her very first book, Le Fourmi a fait le coup [literally, The Ant Did It, the “It” in question being what the butler is usually accused of], a collection of fantastical short stories whose protagonists were often animals or objects. Her story “Un sommeil de plante” from her 1967 collection Les Locataires appears in Kim Connell’s 1998 anthology The Belgian School of the Bizarre as “The Dreaming Plant,” and with its central conceit of a woman turning into a plant recalls Kathe Koja’s “The Neglected Garden,” from her 1997 collection Extremities, and reprinted in the Vandermeers’ anthology The New Weird. In Richter’s story, however, the transformation is a serene escape: through it, the heroine dodges marriage and finds the solitude she has always sought: Read more
In Fernand Dumont’s Treatise on Fairies, a brief pamphlet of some twenty pages, we learn, among other things:
- A fairy never wears black, brown, red, or violet.
- A fairy has to speak but a word, and a fine dust—that of forgetfulness—falls over everything you’ve ever heard up to that moment. Read more
Small Beer readers big and little, new and old! I am writing you from rainbound Brussels, which is blustery and trying to decide, despite the waning daylight hours, between a last wet burst of fall and bitter winter. I’d girded myself for a gray year, so days of sudden sunshine both delight and alarm me, for almanacs inform us that annually, Brussels only has a hundred sunny days. In other words, were each sunny day a gold piece, we’d have a finite purse, and every time it’s nice out, I feel a pang, as though some quick-fingered pilferer has slipped a coin out and flung it blithely into the air.
Weather aside, living in this schizoid country is lovely. I came for the weird—specifically, to study the rich tradition of Belgian weird tales—and I’m getting it. Mysteries abound, from the mundane to the confounding. What to ferret out next? I find myself in a garden of forking paths and unearthly pleasures. How odd is it that every major Belgian writer uses at least one if not multiple pen names which are often open secrets in the tiny literary community? Why did mystery writer Georges Simenon, known mainly for creating Inspector Maigret, expressly forbid that his only work of science fiction, a late novelette about creatures of the London mist, ever be reprinted or included in a collection?
The national attachment to the fantastic is formally known as L’École belge de l’étrange, which has been translated over the years as the Belgian School of the Strange, the Bizarre, or the Weird. Although my understanding of it keeps growing and changing, I now think the Belgian fantastic is best thought of less as a school or a movement than a national literary pastime. Although the entire oeuvres of some Belgian writers fall squarely in the field, authors of all genres from all backgrounds—academia, poetry, criticism, crime, mainstream realism, surrealism—seem to recognize it as a tradition and feel compelled to pay it homage with at least one book (often a short story collection) if not several. It’s like a stage you have to go through to really be considered a Belgian writer. Because of the durability, if not the dominance, of the fantastic as a mode of expression, writer and critic Jean-Baptiste Baronian has compared it to the midcentury efflorescence of Argentine fabulists (Borges, Bioy Casares, Ocampo, Cortázar). As he remarks, “Few national literatures in the 20th century have produced in such a short span of time such a pantheon of first rate writers in such a specific and, on the whole, marginal genre.”
Over the next few posts I’d like to share a few authors and finds with you.
Today we’re celebrating the publication of Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud’s first book in English, A Life on Paper: Stories, translated by Edward Gauvin. Obviously we will be watching the New York Times bestseller list closely this week because this book is a surefire hit: not only is it a translation, it’s a short story collection. Last week’s bestseller list contained four collections (one translated from Basque, one Welsh) and two anthologies—one of the usual sex+drugs+rocknroll stories and the other an anthology of Czech novellas. So the national appetite is whetted for a collection such as A Life on Paper, which introduces one of France’s premiere masters of the form. Run to the store! Or, download it now.
Edward Gauvin first brought Châteaureynaud to our attention a couple of years ago with a small chapbook of three stories, Trois Contes (One Horse Town), and he continued to keep us up to date with his doings. There had been a story published here, a story there, had we seen that Châteaureynaud won another award, let me tell you about this great and weird novel he just published. He sent us some pictures of the author (see below—and we realized that this was the French Vonnegut) and a few of his French book covers. Eventually we clued in to the fact that we are publishers and here was a fantastic French author whose work hadn’t been published in ye olde English language. At that point we broke out the checkbook and acquired the book. We also realized that Châteaureynaud’s face was about the best cover possible for this book. There’s a face that says I’ve got stories to tell.
Publishing a translation of 22 stories taken from half a dozen different collections whose rights are owned by three different publishers and the author has been . . . interesting! The easiest part was working with Brian Evenson who wrote the excellent Foreword to the collection. The more difficult part was that thing about the three publishers and so on. However, that’s where the French Publishers’ Agency comes in. The lovely people there worked with us on all those contracts (and the revisions, the endless revisions!) with Actes Sud, Grasset, and Juilliard, and without them it’s unlikely that this book would have made it to publication here in the USA. They also worked with us and Edward on applying for a couple of different grants—which very much helped with the costs; and one of the grants may be used for Châteaureynaud’s next book instead of this one. Because it turns out that some of Châteaureynaud’s work is connected and if you read some of these stories they help set up the world of some of his novels. Which is something we’re looking forward to getting to once Edward sends us the translation. Of course, Edward is off in Belgium on a Fulbright, but we’re hoping he won’t be so enamored of the Belgian beer and books that he will forget his US readers patiently waiting for the next Châteaureynaud.
So in the meantime, we’re proud to present our second translation—Kalpa Imperial by Argentinean writer Angélica Gorodischer and translated by Ursula K. Le Guin being the first—and newest collection of short stories: A Life on Paper. As usual for us, this book crosses many genre borders so no doubt in some bookshops you will find it shelved in fiction and in others you’ll find it in science fiction. The one given is that you should go out and find it!