The Untranslated: a hidden dimension of the shadow canon
October 3, 2019 2:56 AM   Subscribe

The Untranslated blog is closing after six years of reviewing significant literary works that have not yet been translated into English and are relatively unknown in the Anglophone world

Run by an Eastern European polyglot with 9 languages and "a useless PhD in Comp Lit", The Untranslated has spent six years writing English reviews of significant literary works that have not yet been translated into English, identifying a whole world of books relatively unknown in the Anglophone world.

Inspired by a 2009 post on the online journal Quarterly Conversation titled 'Translate this Book!' where nearly 50 authors and agents were asked about books deserving of translation, blog author Andrei wrote detailed reviews of books which have not yet been translated into English, "books that were not widely known, that were left outside of the established canons due to their complexity, experimentalism, eccentricity, weirdness". His last review was of Stefano D'Arrigo's Horcynus Orca.

"Each time when I stumbled upon a brief mention of some book which sounded extraordinary, I caught myself wishing that there was somebody who would write a longish review in English so that not only the curious reader like myself but also the potential publisher of its translation could get a better idea of what the book was about. There were all those awesome long, complex, encyclopedic novels, like Alberto Laiseca’s The Sorias and Miquel de Palol’s The Troiacord, nobody knew existed, yet they seemed to be so much better than most of the mediocre stuff that was being translated."

In an interview with The Collidescope, Arnei attributes his fascination with these books not just to their absence in the Anglosphere but also his frustration with the traditional history of the novel: "I want to be surprised either by the outlandish and unexpected ideas expressed in a literary work, or by its wild erudition, or by its linguistic exuberance, and, ideally by all three."

His five-year anniversary post is almost more of a swan song than the goodbye post, offering a history of the blog, detailed advice for monoglots who want to pick up another language for literary purposes - "The whole enterprise might take anything from two to five years depending on how frequently and how long you study and practice. It is a lot of hard work. Don’t believe anyone who says it is easy" - and surprisingly unsparing but un-self-pitying acknowledgement of how few readers and subscribers this project has reached.

In the anniversary post, Andrei gave his personal top ten great untranslated novels.

1. The Sorias by Alberto Laiseca ("Without his wild imagination, which surpasses even the most baroque and audacious exploits of the Latin American Boom, the literary jigsaw of the 20th century would be deplorably incomplete.")

2. Songs of Chaos by Antonio Moresco

3. The Troiacord by Miquel de Palol ("I spent more than a year teaching myself Catalan, and then six months reading the novel. It took me another month to prepare the summary, for which I used up three notepads. The writing of the review itself took more than three weeks. In my opinion, this review is the best thing I have done so far.")

4. Solenoid by Mircea Cărtărescu

5. Remember Famagusta by Alexander Goldstein

6. The Weaver of Crowns by Germán Espinosa (Singled out byt the National Commission for UNESCO of Colombia as one of the most significant literary works it would like to see translated. "The Weaver of Crowns is the most outrageous omission in the lives of English language readers I have encountered so far.")

7. Corporal by Paolo Volponi

8. Finisterra by Carlos de Oliveira

9. The Absolute Marshal by Pierre Jourde

10. The Book of Illuminations by Gamal al-Ghitani (translated into English but abridged to a third of its original size)
posted by ocular shenanigans (7 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
There's no telling if or when it actually comes out but since that 5-year post Deep Vellum acquired the rights to Solenoid.
posted by Cezar Golescu at 3:28 AM on October 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

I didn't know this existed, I'll look forward to reading it. I just looked up Los Sorias and the least expensive copies, even used, are over $150 so it appears that not only is it not translated but it is not even reasonably available in the original language. I'm sad about that.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 4:15 AM on October 3, 2019

Wow, this is a brilliant blog. I’m glad this exists, what a tremendous gift.
posted by nikaspark at 5:02 AM on October 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

There's so much at this blog I didn't even know that I didn't even know about & I'm very grateful for this belated introduction to it. Many thanks for the post, ocular shenanigans!
posted by misteraitch at 6:44 AM on October 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Metafilter at its best.
Thank you for this.
I will scour the second hand bookshops for
The Sorias.
posted by adamvasco at 8:46 AM on October 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much for sharing this! I love something that makes me ken how deeply ignorant and illiterate I actually am (dude speaks 9 languages?!)
posted by Balthamos at 9:35 AM on October 3, 2019

This really hits me in my own personal way. Two years ago I asked about the author Goro Masaki and where to find his books. I acquired two of his books, but I will probably never get to read them unless I spend quite a lot of time learning Japanese.
posted by gucci mane at 8:05 AM on October 4, 2019

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