One other highlight of October is my breezing through the rest of César Aira's fiction in translation. The completist in me is more than satisfied with this reading marathon. No, not marathon. This month is like a leisure walk with 7 novels, 2 poetry collections, 2 nonfiction, and 1 brilliant short story collection.
57. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
What I noticed in the choice of words is the almost complete lack of adverbs. In exceptional cases when adverbs do appear, they appear in sentences that anticipate something ominous. The adjectives are the only modifiers, and they always come singly. The use of two consecutive adjectives is very rare. This limitation may be similar to the ones used by OuLiPo writers to achieve poetry. The result of these limitations is a no-frills, plainspoken voice, very rooted to the land and perhaps signifies the stability, purity, wholeness of culture. That is why the advent of changes in social norms, religion, and form of government at the end of the book represents an apocalyptic transformation for the African tribe, the "second coming." As the white colonizers try to impose their influence on the original settlers of the land, the Nigerians lose their original gods, their beliefs and stories, their very identities. Against the wishes of the elders and the vanguards of customs like Okonkwo, the protagonist, they are 'modified.'
I read this book as part of a group read in one of my Shelfari groups.
58. The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
59. The Literary Conference by César Aira, trans. Katherine Silver
60. How I Became a Nun by César Aira, trans. Chris Andrews
61. Dance Dance Dance by Murakami Haruki, trans. Alfred Birnbaum
62. Poems of Akhmatova by Anna Akhmatova, trans. Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward
63. Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts by Wisława Szymborska, trans. Magnus J. Krynski and Robert A. Maguire
Here's one of my favorite poems in the book:
by Wisława Szymborska
Woman, what's your name?—I don't know.
When were you born, where do you come from?—I don't know.
Why did you dig a hole in the ground?—I don't know.
How long have you been hiding here?—I don't know.
Why did you bite the hand of friendship?—I don't know.
Don't you know we will do you no harm?—I don't know.
Whose side are you on?—I don't know.
There's a war on, you must choose.—I don't know.
Does your village still exist?—I don't know.
Are these your children?—Yes.
– Translated from the Polish by Magnus J. Krynski and Robert A. Maguire
64. The Jaguar by João Guimarães Rosa, trans. David Treece
The "Setting Out" part contains three stories told from the point of view of children. The word inventions in these stories are exhilarating for their fresh perspectives on how children begin to view the world through their observant eyes. The final section ("Final Farewells") contains another long story, "In the Name of the Grandfather" which is translated here for the first time, and two more which are widely anthologized, "The Third Bank of the River" and "Soroco, His Mother, His Daughter." The long story is yet another feat of word invention and narrative stream of consciousness. In Treece's versions, Rosa's modern language is resurrected in beautiful living idioms, alive through interpretation. It unfolds, is lived and experienced.
65. The Fixer by Joe Sacco
66. The Hare by César Aira, trans. Nick Caistor
This book is pure happiness. I posted my notes and speculations here.
67. Managing Online Forums by Patrick O'Keefe
68. Exploits and Opinions of Doctor Faustroll, Pataphysician by Alfred Jarry, trans. Simon Watson Taylor