Tag: Lolli Editions

all this here, now by Anna Stern (tr. Damion Searls): a map of friendship

It begins with a stark two-line paragraph: “ananke dies on a winter monday, in the afternoon, between four and five o’clock.”

The ramifications of this event spiral out across the rest of the novel, in a series of vignettes from the lives of ananke, the narrator, and their friends: present and future on the left-hand pages, past on the right. We get a sense of how close these people are, how exhilarating their lives together could be:

fred and ananke are already on the street waiting for you when you ride your bikes across the yard and down the driveway, and along the way vienna and cato join too: a gang, your gang. you get goosebumps racing down the hill towards the harbour: it’s early, it’s cold though the day is going to be hot: the first summery day after a grey, wet spring. 

Translated from German by Damion Searls

There are no capital letters in this novel, no gender pronouns attached to the main characters – and the names we know them by are, it is implied, names given among the group. The effect of these together is that the characters recede as individuals in the reader’s view, and the precise detail of their relationship to each other is not always apparent. At the same time, the sense of being in fabric of the gang grows – what matters is the moment. 

The narrator emphasises that, for them, these bonds of shared experience count for more than the circumstances of one’s birth:

family is not blood, not genes. family is memories, it’s tears blending together on tired cheeks; family is what you make of it. what you let be family.

In its final section, Stern’s novel takes a turn, as the vignettes give way to a forward narrative, when the characters decide to retrieve ananke’s ashes. This is where the group’s friendship is tested as never before, because this plan may be too much for the unspoken consensus that has existed between them – and yet discussing any difference of opinion might fracture their relationship beyond repair. all this here, now maps the contours of this group’s friendship, and how the landscape is changed by ananke’s loss. 

all this here, now is published by Lolli Editions.

Three new reviews: White, Mayo, Voetmann

Today’s post is rounding up a few reviews I’ve had published elsewhere. First off is an Irish novel from Tramp Press, Where I End by Sophie White, which I’ve reviewed here for Strange Horizons. This is the tale of Aoileann, who lives an isolated existence looking after her bedridden mother. It’s not until an artist and her baby son visit Aoileann’s island that she realises what she’s been missing in terms of human connection. What particularly struck me about White’s novel is the way it creates its own little fairytale horror world without ever invoking the supernatural. Aoileann becomes both a source and victim of horror in an intimate piece of work.

The European Literature Network has recently launched The Spanish Riveter, the latest issue of its occasional magazine on European writing. This one has almost 300 pages of articles, extracts and reviews of translated literature from Spain – including a review of mine. I’m looking at a Catalan novel from 3TimesRebel Press: The Carnivorous Plant by Andrea Mayo (tr. Laura McGloughlin). It tells of an abusive relationship, and challenges the reader to understand what it was like for the protagonist, and why she stayed in that situation. The Spanish Riveter is available as a PDF here; you’ll find my review on page 91.

My last stop is Denmark, and Awake by Harald Voetmann (tr. Joanne Sorgenfri Ottosen, pub. Lolli Editions). This is a novel about Pliny the Elder, and his attempt to catalogue the world and its knowledge in his Naturalis Historia. Voetmann brings Pliny’s world to life, and explores the limits of what he could achieve. I’ve reviewed this one for European Literature Network in their regular review section here.

New Passengers – Tine Høeg

One of my favourite literary awards, the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, offers its own Book of the Month subscription. I signed up for it this month, and recently finished my first title, Tine Høeg’s New Passengers (translated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra). It’s from a publisher that was new to me – the European-focused Lolli Editions – and has a strikingly stark cover design. I was intrigued even before I knew much about the book.

The first thing you notice about the text of New Passengers is that it’s laid out like a poem:

it’s by chance
we fall to talking on the train
my first day of teaching

I’m nervous and our legs
graze each other
when we sit down

you’re a graphic designer at a travel agency

you’re a commuter too

you’re ten years older than me

you’re married and father to a girl

These two characters embark on an affair, and there you have the basic premise of Høeg’s novel. But it’s not the premise that matters so much as the telling.

What does this fragmentary verse-style prose do? For me, it does two key things: it breaks the novel into small pieces, and allows them to merge together.

Høeg’s narrator is having to compartmentalise her life: over here is teaching, over there is her older lover, and so on. The thing is, the different parts of her life won’t necessarily stay separate, especially after she meets her lover’s wife and daughter. Nor is this the only example: the woman is well aware that she’s not much older than her pupils, and the past keeps threatening to intrude on her – supposedly more responsible – present.

This then plays out in the novel as the sense that snatches of prose from different areas of the narrator’s life are encroaching on each other (Hoekstra’s translation is great at conveying this). It takes you right inside the narrator’s situation, which in turn makes for some powerful reading.

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