Travel by Bookstore

Conversations with Independent Bookstores Near & Far

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The Wild Detectives

The Wild Detectives is a place where you can order a book, and instead of paying shipping, the owners will buy you a drink when you come to pick it up. This bookstore-bar venue first took root in conversations between two Spanish civil engineers, Javier García del Moral and Paco Vique, who wanted to create a space for bar-inspired conversations and books to collide. Since opening in 2014, they’ve been lauded by D Magazine as Best Bookstore for 3 consecutive years, were invited to give a TedTalk at University of Texas in Arlington, and launched a #LitBait campaign that went viral.

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SAIT IBIŠI ON LITERATURE OF THE BALKANS

Nestled between Europe proper and Asia Minor, the Balkan Peninsula has witnessed countless nations form and dissolve. It has served not only as a crucible of European and Asian peoples and cultures, but a crossroads where Eastern and Western civilizations came together, whether in war or in peace, to share different ideas and beliefs in the same space. This complicated coexistence, at times either harmonious or tense, has given the Balkans its unique multicultural identity, and is reflected in the modern literature of the region, which is rich in reference to these various intersecting and interlocking cultures. Here is my "Balkan literature starter pack" of five novels, each written by a personally-chosen representative of the most numerous of Balkan nations.

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SPECIAL FEATURE: INTERVIEW WITH THE EDITORS OF NATIONAL TRANSLATION MONTH

The main goal of National Translation Month (NTM) is to encourage readers worldwide to read, share, and discover translation throughout the month of September. Inspired by the successful celebrations of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), we set out to bring awareness of the craft of literary translation and the work of translators and authors around the globe. To that end, NTM promotes works in translation from a variety of emerging, established, and never-before-translated into English international authors.

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CYRIL WONG ON SINGAPOREAN LITERATURE

Singapore is an island-city in a pathological state of survivalist panic. But with fear comes pragmatism and robotic adaptability. The British ruled us. So did the Japanese. The island formed part of the Federation of Malaysia from 1963 before its independence in 1965. Singapore can be "cosmopolitan," but only for practical reasons; we must do business and "play well" with others. Our multiculturalism is a source of both pride and painful cynicism. Its national language is tokenistically Malay, with Mandarin and Tamil as other officialized "mother tongues"; Chinese dialects to Indian languages are thus sidelined. For better or worse, Englishneither consistently British nor American, much to the bemusement of outsiders or newcomers determined to "correct" our pronunciation, our ever-modifiable syntaxis becoming the language of all our dreams.

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Adam Morris on Brazilian Literature in Translation

The volumes are a selection from some of the most important works of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Brazilian literature available in translation. Although the titles are mostly rather conservative and canonical choices, they nevertheless indicate the diversity of the Brazilian experience: writers of Afro-Brazilian, Jewish, Syrian, and Russian émigré heritage appear together with a landed heiress from a família quatrocentona—the Brazilian analog to a family that traces its heritage to the Mayflower. Thus far the American publishing industry has stuck cautiously by the Brazilian canon. But interest in Brazil and its literary history have grown considerably over the past decade, and some exciting new translation projects are in the works. For those just beginning an exploration of Brazilian literature, here are my recommendations for where to start.

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Douglas J. Weatherford on Juan Rulfo and Mexican Literature

Gabriel García Márquez wrote his most famous work, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), in Mexico rather than in his home country of Colombia. Years later, the Nobel Laureate would explain that he finally found inspiration to write his masterpiece when a friend introduced him to Pedro Páramo by Mexican author Juan Rulfo (1917-1986). García Márquez devoured Pedro Páramo and read the novel so many times that, as he claimed, he had the work memorized. Although García Márquez would find an enthusiastic audience in the United States, Rulfo’s reception among those same readers has been more muted. This year (2017) Mexico celebrates the centennial of Rulfo’s birth and it is my hope that English-language readers here will give this writer another look and celebrate with our southern neighbors the literature of one of their most beloved figures and one of the most significant writers of the Americas.

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Conversations with Independent Bookstores Near & Far

Albertine: A French Bookstore in New York

Since 1952, the Payne Whitney mansion on Fifth Avenue has housed the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, but the building wasn't open to the public until 2014, with the launch of Albertine, a bookshop devoted exclusively to books in French and English.

"What I really like is it doesn’t feel like a bookstore. Or it doesn’t feel commercial—it feels like a private library. And the ceiling is beautiful. It's based off the music room ceiling at the Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany. So people feel invited to come and stay. It’s a kind of nest or heaven."

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Jack Saebyok Jung on Korean Books in Translation

Korean culture is still obscure to many American readers, but the tide is changing. The sudden rise of K-pop, new Korean cinema, and the critical and commercial success of Korean literature (from Shin Kyung-sook’s Please Look After Mom and Deborah Smith’s translation of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, to Don Mee Choi’s translations of Kim Hye Soon’s dark, surreal, and politically conscious verses) have not only turned heads, but made many readers hungry for more stories from contemporary Korea.

For anyone interested in learning more about Korean literature and culture, knowing where to start can be daunting without a guide. The list that follows is what I would recommend to the curious.

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Kaveh Bassiri on Iranian Novels in Translation

"As an Iranian-American, I read Iranian novels to understand my heritage better. I also read them to understand myself as an American. The word translation is rooted in the Latin to "carry over" or to transport. Translated books are ambassadors and messengers. They are immigrants settling in a new home, adapting, changing and being changed by the world around them. They might look different or have strange customs, but they are here and want you to come over and knock at their doors. They don’t carry slogans or shout at you. A book is not a wall, and it's not just a door. It is a lonely friend who is waiting to share what it has prepared for you at its table of words.

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Conversations with Independent Bookstores Near & Far

DC's Capitol Hill Books: Please Read the Signs

Jim Toole has owned DC's Capitol Hill Books for 23 years, and while his three-story, secondhand bookstore has been named one of America's "10 Beautiful Bookshops for Bibliophiles" and "10 Best Bookstores in DC," Toole has earned a title as well: "DC's Most Curmudgeonly Store Owner."

In honor of AWP 2017, February's TRAVEL BY BOOKSTORE is going to Washington. Take an advance tour of one of our capital's literary landmarks here, but when you visit in person, please, be sure to read the signs.

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Samuel Rutter on Argentine Fiction in Translation

"Everybody loves Borges. No one figure has exerted greater influence over the literary tradition of Argentina than the author of masterpieces like “The Aleph” or “Funes the Memorious.” If you haven’t read him, you should. But there’s so much more to Argentine fiction than Jorge Luis Borges."

"This list below covers some very recent translations of writers that have been largely inaccessible to readers in English. There are some oft-overlooked greats (di Benedetto, Saer, Uhart) as well as some of the most exciting contemporary authors at work today (Schweblin, Oloixarac, Ronsino, Almada), and even a few that still await translation."

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Meet Madrid's Barbrarians: Used Books and Craft Beer at J&J Books and Coffee

On a sunny corner of calle Espíritu Santo in Madrid's Malasaña neighborhood, J&J Books and Coffee caters to the city's book, beer and bagel lovers, offering a selection of 15,000 used English-language books, 22 craft beers on tap, homemade bagels and quiz and intercambio nights that draw large local crowds.

With an international staff of English-speaking "barbrarians," J&J's wants you to feel at home .whether you're a traveler, expat or Madrileño.

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Farzana Akhter on South Asian American Lit

"At the end of this year of isolationist fear-mongering, threats of deportation, and the smearing and othering of large swaths of the U.S. population, it has never felt more important to celebrate and share the stories of immigrants in America."

"Although these stories mainly concentrate on the cultural negotiation and identity reformulation that go into attempting to join the American experiment, they also introduce readers to characters from an array of different geographic regions and cultures before they converge on a shared destination."

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Conversations with Independent Bookstores Near & Far

No Prose Allowed: Seattle's Poetry-Only Emporium

"I want it to be a dynamic space where people can spend time exploring and finding poetry that is new and exciting for them, because for me, that moment of discovery is one of the best things about walking into a brick-and-mortar store.

Before I became owner, I was always impressed with how full-to-bursting the store’s selection felt, even though the space itself felt very minimal and uncluttered. It’s a tricky balance that I’m making every effort to maintain."

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Mariko Nagai on Japanese Books in Translation

Another Nobel Prize announcement came and went, and here in Japan, it has become an annual event of holding one’s breath: will he, or will he not, win this year? “He,” of course, refers to Haruki Murakami, and every year, as soon as the winner is announced, there is a collective sigh of disappointment. I am, unfortunately, one of those unpatriotic people who think that Murakami has a slim chance of winning the Nobel. But then, if Bob Dylan can win, maybe he can, too?

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Nicole Fares on Arab Women Writers

Arabic literature finds its home in experimentation. Arabic writers, perhaps less burdened by conformity to “canon,” demonstrate year after year their willingness to take risks with form and subject. Many English-language readers are largely unfamiliar with Arabic literature, partly due to the relative dearth of translation as compared to translation from, say, French. There are a number of ways to begin to span the geographical and cultural distance between English-language readers and Arabic literature in translation. Here, I will focus on one gateway into Arabic literature by reviewing works originally written in Arabic by women.

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Let Elizabeth’s Set You Up on a Blind Date with a Book

"Blind Date with a Book started on a cold and rainy night in our King Street store in Newtown, Sydney. We are always fielding requests for book recommendations and we wanted to help people choose books they might not pick for themselves.

One of our staff members began choosing books that were not on people’s radar but were great reads. They were then wrapped in brown paper with a few clues written on the front. It was a surprising and instant hit with the customers.

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