Crime Fiction Friday: “The Story Daddy Never Know” by Elisha Efua Bartels

 

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  • Selected and Introduced by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

In honor of International Crime Fiction month, we’re sharing some of our favorite pieces from Akashic Books’ Mondays are Murder series. Each story is shaped by its unique setting. Our last Friday to feature Akashic’s Mondays Are Murder ends with a trip to Trinidad courtesy of Elisha Efua Bartels. She uses an interesting cadence and meter for a story with one dark ending.

“The Story Daddy Never Know” by Elisha Efua Bartels

“What sweet in goat mouth does sour in he bambam . . . her mother’s words seem an echo but come from inside, making the chorus of a song (something she cyah remember doing since reaching double-digits) with verses of mondayjanuarysixthtwentyfourteen and eighteenthbirthdayfirstdayofmylife—sometimes she hearing first-day, sometimes last, but mostly first; annoying, even so. She turn and snap, “shut up, ma!” more to break the singsongy internal refrain than for lack of comprehending the futility of her words.”

Read the rest of the story.

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Crime Fiction Friday: “Lena” by Preston Lang

 

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  • Selected and Introduced by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

With it being International Crime Fiction Month, we will be offering some selections from Akashic Press’ Mondays Are Murder blog series. The series challenges authors to write a short crime story under 750 words with a distinct setting. First we stop off at Heathrow Airport with Preston Lang’s tale of con artist correspondence.

“Lena” by Preston Lang

My dear. My sweetest intimate. I long to be with you. We will touch with a profound fondness. You are the house of my soul. I count on you to send the funds so that we may be together—85,000 United States Dollars….”

Read the rest of the story.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Translator Alison Anderson

Back in January, I enjoyed Alison Anderson’s excellent literary translation of French author Hélène Grémillon’s psychological thriller  The Case of Lisandra P.a stirring exploration of Argentina in the 1980s. The novel is told from the perspective of a therapist and his patients, many of whom grapple with the traumatic legacy of Argentina’s CIA-backed dictatorship. Gremillon uses an inventive mixture of recorded therapy sessions, police interrogations, and first person perspective, layering multiple perspectives to slowly round out the murder plot. The therapist, accused of murder after his wife’s fatal plunge from a high window, enlists one of his patients to assist in his own investigation into the murder.

Alison Anderson has translated numerous works of literary fiction, including the bestselling novel Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry. She has also written her own works of fiction, including most recently  The Summer Guesta historical re imagining of a young Chekhov, the novel he might have written, and the work’s unintended consequences. In honor of International Crime Fiction Month, and as part of our blog’s support for fiction in translation and the professionals who make that happen, I asked  Alison if I could send along a few questions. She was kind enough to let us interview her on about her work on The Case of Lisandra P. and about translation in general. 

 

Interview with a Translator: Alison Anderson on Hélène Grémillon’s The Case of Lisandra P. 

Molly Odintz: The Case of Lisandra P. has an Argentinean setting, yet a French author – does it feel different to translate a book that takes place where the author lives, versus a setting somewhat foreign to the author?

Alison Anderson: This did feel somewhat unusual; I couldn’t say that I could “hear the Spanish” behind the French – I don’t even know if Hélène speaks Spanish (and I don’t) – but I do remember one passage where I had to contact a French-speaking Argentinian friend to untangle what might be the best translation in English for a tricky cultural issue.

What is great about translating mysteries and crime novels is the suspense: I don’t read the whole book first anymore, as I used to, before translating; this keeps the language fresh, and above all the suspense keeps me going and I look forward to my daily “installment” of work. So certainly work-wise mysteries may be my favorite genre!

MO: How did you come to translate The Case of Lisandra P.?

AA: I had translated Hélène’s previous book, The Confidant, for the same publisher, and they contacted me regarding this new one.

MO: The Case of Lisandra P. has a number of character perspectives with unique voices – did any pose a challenge to translate? Which character’s perspective most interested you?

AA: I would say they were each challenging in their own way—to keep their specific voices, to convey their character just through dialogue and the briefest of descriptions (Hélène uses very little description). I felt the most sympathy for Eva Maria, and tended to get quite impatient with Vittorio and even Lisandra herself, but I suspect this is somewhat intentional on the author’s part.

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Crime Fiction Friday: ‘The Life Saver’ by Lina Zeldovich

 

 

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  • Introduced by Scott M.

Our latest link to a story from Akashic’s ‘Mondays Are Murder’ Series in honor of International Crime Fiction Month takes us to Russia with a Muslim cleric as the lead. It is a great piece of suspense as well as a quirky meditation on religion.


“The Life Saver” by Lina Zeldovich

‘A knock on the door interrupted Imam Galim’s late night tea. Resting in his apartment attached to the Qolşärif mosque—the largest mosque not only in Tatarstan’s capital, but all of Russia—he was watching the moon rise over the Kazanka River and the nearby Blagoveshchensk Cathedral.

The stranger at his door had the pale face of a fugitive. “The Russian goons are after me, Imam,” he blurted out, clutching a large duffel bag to his chest, as if holding his most precious possessions thrown together minutes before he left home. “Please hide me!”’

Read the rest of the story.

The Hard Word Book Club Goes Italian

Hard Word Book Club to discuss: The Night of the Panthers by Piergiorgio Pulixi

9781609452759June’s Hard Word Book Club celebrates International Crime Fiction Month with a discussion of The Night Of The Panthers by Piergiorgio Pulixi. It is a book that is a violent and blunt look at the streets and politics of Italy, full of moral ambiguity. The book reads as if the television show The Shield was dropped in the country.

The novel starts with Irene Pistelli, an ambitious agent for the National Crime Bureau out to put the lid on a mafia war. To do this, she must cut a deal with Biago Mazzeo, the leader of an elite narcotics unit, who was just arrested for being in bed with the mob. As Biago cuts a deal with Pistolli, his unit kill a cop as they try to break another member out of custody. Biago must play his alliances off one another with his own life and those of his men on the line.

This look at dishonorable men trying to keep their honor in a dishonorable and violent world allows for a lot to discuss. The Hard Word Book Club will meet at 7PM, on BookPeople’s third floor, on Wednesday June 29th. Books are 10% off in-store to those who attend. You can find copies of The Night of the Panthers on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

Interview with a Translator: Alex Zucker on Translating INNOCENCE, OR MURDER ON STEEP STREET, by Heda Margolius Kovaly

On Monday, June 20th, at 1 PM, the Murder in the Afternoon Book Club meets to discuss famed Holocaust memoirist Heda Margolius Kovaly’s novel Innocence, or, Murder on Steep Street, a noir account of secrets and lies in 1950s Prague, and a rare glimpse at the painful effects of Soviet-imposed Communist rule from a woman’s perspective. Innocence begins at a movie theater, mainly staffed by women whose husbands have either died in World War II or have been arrested by State Security, the Communist Party’s secret police. When a dead body is discovered at the theater and the police begin an investigation, we learn more about each woman’s backstory, and see the ways in which the state’s relentless search for informers has torn apart the communities and families represented in the book. 

Earlier this year, I interviewed Alex Zucker, the novel’s translator, via Skype. We chatted about the book, translation, and the enduring appeal of Czech literature to American readers. Some of the interview has been condensed to summary form. 

  • Interview by Molly Odintz

Molly Odintz: It seems to me that Czech literature has inspired more interest in America than other Eastern Bloc countries. When I try to name writers from other small European countries; for example, Bulgaria, or Lithuania, or Belgium, I come up short; when I think of Czech writers, automatically, there are a bunch that come to mind. Why do you think that Czech writers have such a high reputation and recognition among American readers, compared to writers from other smallish languages? 

Alex Zucker: I guest-edited an issue on Czech literature for Words Without Borders, and I wrote an introduction to the issue that talks about the popularity of Czech authors; my theory is the reason these Czech authors, Kundera,  Klíma, Hrabal, Havel,  Škvorecký, the reason as many Czech writers are as well known as they are is because they had people in this country championing them, and writers from other countries have not had this same level of support…There has been a critical mass of important influential people in the US and Europe in publishing who really vouched for Czech authors, and made sure they got published, reviewed and got attention. I think Czech literature in the United States does not have a champion right now; there’s nobody writing about Czech literature on a regular basis, in contrast to the UK, where Czech books are reviewed regularly in the Times Literary Supplement.

Alex goes on to name figures in support of Czech literature in France and the Czech Republic as well.

A lot of translators and publishers now are starting to look more at books that might in the past have been considered less literary. They’ve realized that readers don’t care if a book is a translation as long as it’s a good read.

MO: Do you think that writers in the Czech Republic have more celebrity status than writers in the United States? 

AZ: Than in the United States? For sure; but I think, the whole position of intellectuals is different in most European countries than here; there’s a long tradition of them writing for papers, in France they have intellectuals on talk shows…We don’t have intellectuals on talk shows, here, we have “experts.” It is much more common for writers to write for newspapers about topics not about literature or their own writing, so in the Czech Republic you have writers weighing in on public affairs on a regular basis.  Alex points out that, during the Prague Spring uprising of Czechoslovakia against Soviet oppression, writers were an integral part of Czech opposition to the Soviets, and spoke out for political change before and after, despite their party membership and orders to toe the line. 

MO: Tell us about the initial publication of Innocence.

AZ: Innocence, by Kovaly, was originally published in Czech in 1985 by an emigre publishing house in Cologne, in Germany, called Index, under a pseudonym, and I would guess she wrote it in the early 80s, but set it in the 50s….One of the reasons people are interested in this book is that it is to some degree a fictionalized account of the author’s life in the 50s after her husband was falsely accused of being a traitor to the Czechoslovak communist regime, despite being a high official and member of the Communist Party. Throughout the Eastern Bloc there were show trials with wild accusations against mostly high-ranking Jews in communist parties in Eastern Europe of disloyalty to the Soviet Union as part of a Trotskyite-Titoite-Zionist conspiracy.

In 1952, Kovaly’s first husband, Rudolf Margolius, was tried and accused with a group of mostly other Jewish members of the Czechoslovak Communist Party….Rudolf Margolius was, along with Heda Margolius, a survivor of Auschwitz and a few other camps  (this was in the intro to the book that her son wrote.) The accusation of Zionism among high-ranking Jewish Communists in Czechoslovakia [was particularly ironic] given that the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia was the main supplier of arms to the new Israeli state after 1948….But that’s another chapter of history. Kovaly’s story reflects the fickle nature of Stalinist politics and how the waves rippled through the East Bloc through the early 50s and even after Stalin’s death in 1953.

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Crime Fiction Friday: “Lluvia, Leche y Sangre” by John Manuel Arias

 

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  • Introduced by Scott M.

In honor of International Crime Fiction Month the rest of June’s Crime Fiction Fridays will share a link to a story on Akashic Books’ Mondays are Murder series, where each Monday they post a story under 700 words that take place in cities around the world. Our first stop is San Jose, Costa Rica, where to author John Manuel Aria, marriage and murder are not just an North American mix. He also gives one of the best descriptions of the taste of a cigarette.


“Lluvia Leche y Sangre” by John Manuel Arias

“Without realizing it, she had bludgeoned him to death with a statue of La Virgen de los Ángeles.

But how had it killed him? It was just a hollow, bronze replica of the black Madonna and child. Was it because it was filled with holy water? Or because she had slammed it like a machete into sugar cane?”

Read the rest of the story.