Horcynus Orca Stefano D’arrigo what are we missing

Another in the occasional series of post about books I’ve discovered from around the world that have yet to hit us in English published in 1975 Horcynus Orca was twenty years in the writing by Stefano D’arrigo and is one of the longest novels in the world it has been compared with Ulysses and Moby dick .The book covers four days in 1943 and tells the story of a sailor returning home after the collapse of the Italian navy . i found out about this via a german friend that point me in the direction of the German translation by Moshe Khan which has recently been a hit in Germany .

Here is him reading and talking from the German edition ,I can understand a little of this so found the prose interesting . Then I also found an interview with Andrea Camilleri translator had said in an interview he was translating the book ,which is good given one problems with translating the books would see to be it has a Scillian element too it in the dialect used in the Italian .So not sure which publisher this is for if it is not just a personnel journey by Stepeh Sartarelli himself

Any ideas which publisher has this lined up ?

Which over modernist masterpieces are we missing in English ?

Where tigers are at home by Jean-Marie Blas De Robles

Where tigers are at home by Jean-Marie Blas De Robles

French fiction

Translated by Mike Mitchell

Source – review copy

When this fell on my doorstep from the publisher I was a bit daunted ,but managed over ten days or so , earlier this year to read this complexed novel .Then I’ve spent a few months sitting on reviewing it I get so stuck with large books on how to cover them well .So This book is by the French writer Jean-Marie Blas de Robles ,he is French writer who was  born in Algeria , but moved to France in his youth ,he studied philosophy at the Sorbonne ,then spent many years travelling around the world .But since the 1990 has split his time between joining in archaeological digs and writing this was his third novel and took many years to write this epic book 700 plus pages  and when it was originally published in France won the big French lit prizes and was shortlisted for both the Goncourt and European book award .

Once more Elezard leafed through the first chapter of the life of Athanasius Kircher,rereading his footnotes and certain passages as he did so .God .wasn’t the opening terrible! nothing more irritating than the stilted tone

Elezard near the start on his book


Any way too” where the tigers are at home “,now this book is split into thirty-two chapter and then between each chapter is an extract of a book been worked on by the main character Eleazard Von Wogau a french foreign correspondent ,he is living in a distant town in North east Brazil drinking in the bars and getting very friendly with some of the locals  ,meanwhile his ex-wife and some of her students  are in the middle of jungle on an expedition with his daughter in tow  she  has a drug problem .So the book unfolds between these main characters and there friends and enemies  this interwoven with Von Wogau biography he is writing on the 17th century scholar Athanasius Kircher the Jesuit priest and scientist ,he wrote on varied subject such as science ,the bible ,technology and medicine ,he has been called Borges before Borges for the breadth of his interests (this adds to my feeling that anything worthwhile is some how touched by or connected to Borges ) .Umberto Eco has also written about Kircher .So through the extracts of Von Wogau’s book  ,we find a lot out as we get the snippets of the life of Kircher and some how they echo what happens in the present .This is a place full  of corrupt officials and ex pats , I felt a lot of the people we meet there where the sort of people who where trying to escape there lives elsewhere or have got caught in this places . We also capture Von Wogau in his  thought as we see the notes he has scribble to himself in his notebooks .

Kircher fascinates me Because he’s a crank,a veritable artist at failure,at sham .His curiosity was exemplary but it took him to the very edge of fraud … how could peirsec continue to trust him ? (write to Malbois to check details on Mersenne etc.)

A bit from Von Wogau notebook

This book is truly epic in scale and is one that probably will never be read by the majority of people in English ,which is a great shame,as  its complex ideas and narrative threads make it a rewarding read up there with the most challenging writers in English or any language  .This would have  made a great film in the series of films Werner  Herzog made in Latin america in the seventies ,I somehow had that image in my head as I read of a wild place full of life and dangers at the same time  .I think it is shame this was largely uncover in the national papers when it came out and just a few weeks ago in the TLS .This is probably one of the most French feeling books  I’ve read even though it is set in Brazil .

Have you read this book ?

What are we missing ?(2) Days of ziklag

The second in an occasional series of post about books and writers yet to hit us in English .This is the epic novel by S Yizhar published in 1958 ,I first came across this after  reading his novella Khirbet Khizeh that Granta published I reviewed it here .Days of ziklag it also set in the Israeli war of independence and covers six days of that war ,follows a squad of the defence force and is told in a stream of consciousness style of story telling ,and is based oon a real area of conflict in that war .Now the main reason for it not being translated is probably its size that is 1100 pages in its original Hebrew,this means it would be a bit longer in English as it uses more vowels than Hebrew in its written language .Another is the time to translate It took Peter Nadas Translator Imra Goldstein 5 years to translate Parallel stories a book of similar length and like Hebrew from a language not connect to English in its origins .It is considered the greatest book on this conflict and the best in modern Israeli fiction classic so why hasn’t a publisher taken the dive and translated it ? for more info on S Yizhar here is a link to his wiki page .If anyone knows if rights have been sold and a translation is forth coming I be very interested to know .

Winstons coffee and muffins A challenge

One day last week Meike from peierne press was highlighting a blog post on harvil secker about translation and wondered if any one could suggest some well I suggest one from German book list and also said that ulrich holbein was over due translation ,as I said in my post a few weeks ago. He shot up in Nobel betting which remind me of reading a short piece when I lived in Germany in a magazine about him .well the downshot  of this discussion was a challenge from Meike to myself if I could some how generate interest in holbein and that people would want to read and buy this book by Germany’s most avant grade writer ,she will try and publish one of his shorter works in English well I tried to think of ways to highlight him and on the whole have drawn a blank so any one any ideas I d welcome a guest post from one my German friends about him below I ve collect a few pieces from German papers about him .I know Meike has been in touch with his German publishers and she is the first English publisher to show interest so if you want to help and want see Ulrich Holbein in English  contact me or do a post about him !! it would be most welcome .

wiki entry from german wiki need use a translator to read in english

taz interview

A collection of reviews from a german culture magazine

what are we missing ? Ulrich Holbein

A flick through the nobel prize odds ,showed the German writer Ulrich Holbein shooting up the odds ,this made me, go who? So a quick twitter chat to a German friend and a look for him on web turned up some information ,he is experimental ,avant grade writer ,lives like a hermit in  a small town near Kassel in the centre of Germany ,in a house full of books .His most famous book is Isis Entscheiert (Isis Unveiled ) a work assembled from other works ,in a clever variation on the cut up technique used by William S Burroughs  .he has won a number of awards and has yet to be translated to English .I’m  puzzled why a successful writer with at least 20 plus books written has yet to reach us in English ? Like the German book prize it shows how blotchy translation of works from German to English are .

This is a new feature were occasionally I ll highlight writers yet to reach english or need highlighting more

June 2023


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