Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence

20.12.20

2020 in perspective

A difficult year, even for reading: I fell short of 100 books again (as I had in 2018). Not that the circumstances affected my daily routine as much as most, but they did distract. It seems as though buzz and prize lists were skewed towards debuts, good as such but not quite of the requisite caliber, and of course the topical became all the more so. So, four picks for each of four categories, spare on the commentary:

Of what came out this year, what stood out:
Mercè Rodoreda, Garden by the Sea (Maruxa Relaño & Martha Tennent) [Open Letter]
Aleksandra Lun, The Palimpsests (Elizabeth Bryer) [Godine/Verba Mundi] (yes a debut, but exophonic fun)
José Eduardo Agualusa, The Society of Reluctant Dreamers (Daniel Hahn) [archipelago]
Tomás González, Difficult Light (Andrea Rosenberg) [archipelago]
(Archipelago provided many other riches for me this year: Pla, Mukasonga, Vladislavić, Kovačič, and from last year Khoury, Ikonomou, Onetti ... also from last year, but from Verso, Vigdis Hjorth, as I mentioned this mid-year)

So, rewards were to be found in backtracking translations:
Antoine Volodine, Minor Angels (Jordan Stump) [Nebraska]
Antoine Volodine, Bardo or Not Bardo (J.T. Mahany) [Open Letter]
Siegfried Lenz, The German Lesson (Ernest Kaiser & Eithne Wilkins) [New Directions]
Wolfgang Koeppen, Death in Rome (Michael Hofmann) [WWNorton]
(Also among the worthy, I filled in Kadare & Nooteboom, along with first encounters with Ruth Kluger [thx2 Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau] & Ricarda Huch)

Similarly, the best reading of English originals was stuff I'd long missed:
Helen Garner, The Children's Bach [text]
Edmund White, Forgetting Elena [Vintage]
Fran Ross, Oreo [NDP] (thx2 biblioklept)
Toni Morrison, Jazz [Vintage]

And the best of the poetry was all in translation:
Hilda Hilst, Of Death, Minimal Odes (Laura Cesarce Eglin) [co-im-press] (2019 BTBA)
Selected Poems of Su Tung-p'o (Burton Watson) [Copper Canyon]
Yves Bonnefoy, Together Still (Hoyt Rogers w/ Mathilde Bonnefoy) [Seagull]
Etel Adnan, Time (Sarah Riggs) [Nightboat] (2020 BTBA & Griffin)

So that's a wrap. Maybe a bad wrap, but I guess it's a fair cop.

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