Angélica Gorodischer translated by Sue Burke  - published August 2015

paper · 172 pages · $14 · 9781618730992 | ebook · 9781618731005

Locus Recommended Reading List
Excerpted in Eleven Eleven and Spolia Magazine

An enchanting novel of the women whose lives pass through a nineteenth century boarding house. Moving, subtle, and dreamlike.

Prodigies explores the story of the poet Novalis’s birthplace in the German town of Weissenfels after it is converted into a boarding house. Moving, subtle, and full of wit, irony, and dreams, this novel fills the house with the women who lived there throughout the 19th century, and across the flow of history constructs the secret drama of their destinies.

Considered by the author and many others to be her best novel, Prodigies is the third novel we have published by this author in English (after Kalpa Imperial and Trafalgar — although this book is very different from both of those.

Translator Sue Burke writing at Asymptote on translating: Different Beauty, Equal Beauty


“Because of Prodigies‘ unusual style, it requires great care and thoughtfulness to read. It cannot be rushed through or casually scanned. An impatient reader will abandon this book long before its rich rewards can be reaped. The right audience will have a willingness to savor, to double-back over sentences, to bob along to wherever the author and characters wish to take you. If you are ready for the experience of Prodigies, it is definitely ready for you.”
Carmen Maria Machado, NPR

Liberty Hardy @ Book Riot says: “I am so in love with this book I could explode! I want to hug it and pet it and call it George. I knew it would be good, because Small Beer Press publishes the best, but I had no idea how just enchanted I would be with this delightful novel of unusual tenants at a boarding house in the nineteenth century. This book scratched my Muriel Spark/Barbara Comyns itches, with an extra side of the unusual. Originally published in 1994, this is Argentinian writer Gorodischer’s third novel to be translated into English. I will definitely be reading the first two now!”

“Put strangers around a common table and you have possibilities, in life and in literature. Thus the driving premise of The Magic Mountain, and thus Argentine novelist Gorodischer’s slender book. . . . Gorodischer writes a poetic, vigorous prose. Her story, dreamlike and start-and-stop, takes effort, for though brief, it is dense—and well worth the trouble.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Written in 1994, this is the third book by Argentinian writer Gorodischer to appear in English. Ursula K. Le Guin translated the first, Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was (also published by Small Beer), which established Gorodischer’s stature in the worlds of SF and speculative fiction. This book is neither genre, however: it’s a fable-like story of a house in the small German town of Weissenfels—a house that was the home of 19th-century German Romantic poet Novalis. Solidly built on a pleasant street, by the mid-19th century it is a boarding house run by the efficient Madame Helena. Gorodischer inhabits the minds of various residents—the general refighting past wars, the tea salon manager dreaming of travel, a retired opera singer and her sullen daughter, a man obsessed with miniature figures, and the cook and maids—around the time a Japanese pearl seller moves in. Although short, the book reads slowly: long, complicated sentences unfurl, mixing prosaic detail about meals (heavy and delicious sounding) with dreams and dread. Despite the house’s many comforts, hauntings penetrate its quotidian world—not witches or ghosts, exactly, but the past, the imagined future, and a kind of unease that stems from being alive, fearful, guilty, human. The residents’ thoughts and routines can charm or chill the reader, and though the book requires patience and tolerance for oddity and open ends, as a picture of the strangeness of life at its most ordinary, it’s a compelling curiosity.”
Publishers Weekly

“La casa del poeta Novalis acoge las vidas de varias mujeres durante el siglo diecinueve. Con humor, ironi´a y un firme manejo de la atmo´sfera en que se desarrolla la accio´n, Gorodischer ofrece una trama misteriosa y secreta de estos destinos atrapados entre los muros de la vieja casona” — Handbook of Latin American Studies, v. 58.

“Gorodischer’s rhythmic and transparent prose reveals the violence underlying bourgeois respectability. Prodigies is both incisive and incantatory.”
—Sofia Samatar, author of A Stranger in Olondria

“The house of the poet Novalis welcomes the lives of several women during the nineteenth century. With humor, irony and firm handling of the atmosphere in which the action unfolds, Gorodischer offers a mysterious and secret plot of these destinations trapped within the walls of the old house.” — Handbook of Latin American Studies

Prodigies, which she considers to be her best novel . . . takes place in Germany in the home of the poet Novalis after his death, and is a humorous and ironic portrayal of the women who passed through that home.”— Gwendolyn Díaz, Women and Power in Argentinean Literature

About the Author

Angélica Gorodischer was born in Buenos Aires in 1928 and has lived in Rosario since 1936. She has published many novels and short story collections including Kalpa Imperial, Mango Juice, and Trafalgar, as well as a memoir, History of My Mother. Her work has been translated into many languages and her translators include Ursula K. Le Guin and Alberto Manguel. With certain self-satisfaction she claims she has never written plays or poems, not even at 16 when everybody writes poems, especially on unrequited love. She received two Fulbright awards as well as many literary awards around the world, including a 2014 Konex Special Mention Award.

See a fascinating list of Angélica Gorodischer’s translators here.

About the Translator

Born in Wisconsin, Sue Burke moved to Madrid, Spain, in 1999. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in many magazines and anthologies. She has worked as a journalist and editor and is a member of the American Translators Association and the Asociación Española de Fantasía, Ciencia Ficción, y Terror.