Month: April 2019

Love in the New Millennium by Can Xue

Posted April 26, 2019 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Love in the New Millennium by Can XueTitle: Love in the New Millennium (Goodreads)
Author: Can Xue
Translator: Annelise Finegan Wasmoen
Published: Yale University Press, November 20, 2018
Pages: 288
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: eBook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019
Longlisted for the BTBA 2019

There is something about Love in the New Millennium that I was not able to connect with.  Out of the entire Man Booker International longlisted books for 2019, this is the one that I struggled the most with. It was not because of the unlikeable characters or toxic relationships, there was just something that did not work. I spent a lot of time wondering if I felt disconnected from the cultural aspects of this novel, but I have come to the conclusion that me and Can Xue do not agree, or at least with this book.

The premise of this book is basically love stories of the new millennium. It is a collection of interconnected stories that center around a few different characters. Love in the New Millennium is meant to be an exploration into modern day romance, dating and relationships, however there is nothing inherently modern about this novel. Has the author adopted same for a magical realism where modern people are living in a world void of technology? I do not remember a single mention of the internet or cell phones in the entire book. I know this a Chinese novel, so culturally things are different, but I find it hard to believe that technology does not play a part in their lives. Can Xue is 66 years old, so it felt like she did not truly understand how young people live.

“People like us, more dead than alive, always indecisive.”

Having said that, this book was packaged as a dark comical look at a group of women living in a world of constant surveillance. I went into this thinking maybe this will be an exploration into women living in a world of social media. An Orwellian look at dating in the computer age. However, this book feels more like Middlemarch in a sense that it is not the surveillance cameras that people have to worry about, it is the gossip from other people.

The main problem with Love in the New Millennium for me what probably the fact that I built this book up differently in my head. Generally I prefer not to know too much about the books I plan to read, but since this was longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, as well as the BTBA, I felt like I needed to know more about this book in order to join in on the conversations before actually reading it. I was hoping for a satirical look into dating in the new millennium, as well as some insights into modern day China, but this novel delivered none of that.

“Before entering a dream, she thought, a little enviously, they must be so happy. In her dream, she heard the couple outside referring to her as “the orphan.” When she heard these two syllables, or—phan, her tears rolled down in waves, soaking the pillow. Her dreamscape was passionate, with two silvery forms always floating around her. She saw milkvetch all around, honeybees everywhere, to her right the houses of the disappearing village, and the maple leaves burning like fire.”

Having said all that, there is this weird dream-like, almost surreal quality to the novel that played a small factor in not abandoning this book completely. My main reason for sticking to the book was because it was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize. The writing was never really bad, Annelise Finegan Wasmoen did a great job of translating this into English. For me, my main verdict came down to the subject matter and my disappointment in not exploring these very important issues. There are so many different socio-political, philosophical and psychological avenues that were left unexplored.

When Can Xue is blurbed as the “most important novelist working in China today” and is also known as an avant-garde writer, I expected something more from Love in the New Millennium. She is also a literary critic who has written about Dante, Jorge Luis Borges, and Franz Kafka, so you cannot judge me for expecting so much more. Love in the New Millennium left me wanting a very different book, and I think that might have been what disappointed me the most about this novel. I have no idea why it made the longlist for both the Man Booker International Prize and the Best Translated Book Award, but clearly others see something in this book that I could not see.

Podcasting for a Year

Posted April 18, 2019 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 9 Comments

It is hard to believe that it was a year ago when I first started my podcast Lost in Translations. For a long time, I had considered starting the podcast, but I was also hoping someone else would create a podcast dedicated to translated literature. It feels like it is always the way, you go searching for content you want to consume not finding any, leaving you with no choice but creating it yourself (with the help of my wife). Normally that is then when you find all the same type of content, it happened when I started BookTube, but I still haven’t found a podcast similar.

Starting this podcast was stressful, there was a lot of time thinking about the best way to format everything, not to mention imposter syndrome. I am still relatively new into the world of translations, but I have found my niche; I love this corner of the literary world. I predominately read books in translation now, to the point where I normally avoid English books completely. I have a passion for books in translation, so I am always finding new ways to try and promote this form of literature, from this blog, to BookTube, the news/collaborative project in Translated Lit and the podcast Lost in Translations. If I can find other ways to promote translations, you can be sure that I will look into it, I do have Instagram and Tumblr where I also post about translations.

Now a year after starting Lost in Translations, I can honestly say that I am glad it exists in the world. I still have imposter syndrome, which does not help when trying to find guests for the podcast, in fact that is probably the biggest struggle. I like the way that the podcast feels more like a casual conversation about translations, rather than a deep dive into a book. In the future I would love to expand the podcast to more than just book discussion episodes. There are a few episodes that are currently taking on a different format, from the introduction episode, the 2018 WITMonth recommendations, best of 2018, and the 2019 Man Booker International longlist. I hope to do more like this in the future. My ultimate goal would be able to get a wide range of guests, enough to turn the podcast into twice a month. The first episode being a discussion about the guest’s experiences with translated literature or a particular theme while the second being a recommendation or book discussion episode. However, that feels like a long way off.

I am hoping that this next year will continue to be great for Lost in Translations, with growth and new and exciting guests (let me know if you are interested). I want to thank all the listeners and guests; without them this podcast would not exist. But I also need to give a special thank you to our Patreon supporter Miriam from BetweenLinesAndLife, her support has helped cover some of the costs of hosting this podcast. Hopefully this will be the year the podcast has it costs fully covered by Patreon, which will mean expansions can happen, but I am just grateful for all support.

The Longlist for the 2019 Best Translated Book Award

Posted April 15, 2019 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

Adding the longlist for the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) to track which books I have read. As the longlist for fiction is 25 books long, I will not be trying to complete the entire list, but I would love to complete as many as possible. It is a great list, which is to be expected from the BTBA.

Here is the longlist for fiction;

  • Congo Inc.: Bismarck’s Testament by In Koli Jean Bofane, translated from the French by Marjolijn de Jager (Democratic Republic of Congo, Indiana University Press)
  • The Hospital by Ahmed Bouanani, translated from the French by Lara Vergnaud (Morocco, New Directions)
  • A Dead Rose by Aurora Cáceres, translated from the Spanish by Laura Kanost (Peru, Stockcero)
  • Love in the New Millennium by Xue Can, translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen (China, Yale University Press)
  • Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated from the French by Linda Coverdale (Martinique, New Press)
  • Wedding Worries by Stig Dagerman, translated from the Swedish by Paul Norlen and Lo Dagerman (Sweden, David Godine)
  • Pretty Things by Virginie Despentes, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan, (France, Feminist Press)
  • Disoriental by Negar Djavadi, translated from the French by Tina Kover (Iran, Europa Editions)
  • Dézafi by Frankétienne, translated from the French by Asselin Charles (published by Haiti, University of Virginia Press)
  • Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresán, translated from the Spanish by Will Vanderhyden (Argentina, Open Letter)
  • Bride and Groom by Alisa Ganieva, translated from the Russian by Carol Apollonio (Russia, Deep Vellum)
  • People in the Room by Norah Lange, translated from the Spanish by Charlotte Whittle (Argentina, And Other Stories)
  • Comemadre by Roque Larraquy, translated from the Spanish by Heather Cleary (Argentina, Coffee House)
  • Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour, translated from the Persian by Khalili Sara (Iran, Restless Books)
  • Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer, translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire (Germany, Fitzcarraldo Editions)
  • Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori (Japan, Grove)
  • After the Winter by Guadalupe Nettel, translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey (Mexico, Coffee House)
  • Transparent City by Ondjaki, translated from the Portuguese by Stephen Henighan (Angola, Biblioasis)
  • Lion Cross Point by Masatsugo Ono, translated from the Japanese by Angus Turvill (Japan, Two Lines Press)
  • The Governesses by Anne Serre, translated from the French by Mark Hutchinson (France, New Directions)
  • Öræfï by Ófeigur Sigurðsson, translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith (Iceland, Deep Vellum)
  • Codex 1962 by Sjón, translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb (Iceland, FSG)
  • Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft (Poland, Riverhead)
  • Fox by Dubravka Ugresic, translated from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac and David Williams (Croatia, Open Letter)
  • Seventeen by Hideo Yokoyama, translated from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai (Japan, FSG)


Here is the longlist for poetry

  • The Future Has an Appointment with the Dawn by Tenella Boni, translated from the French by Todd Fredson (Cote D’Ivoire, University of Nebraska)
  • Dying in a Mother Tongue by Roja Chamankar, translated from the Persian by Blake Atwood (Iran, University of Texas)
  • Moss & Silver by Jure Detela, translated from the Slovenian by Raymond Miller and Tatjana Jamnik (Slovenia, Ugly Duckling)
  • Of Death. Minimal Odes by Hilda Hilst, translated from the Portuguese by Laura Cesarco Eglin (Brazil, co-im-press)
  • Autobiography of Death by Kim Hysesoon, translated from the Korean by Don Mee Choi (Korea, New Directions)
  • Negative Space by Luljeta Lleshanaku, translated from the Albanian by Ani Gjika (Albania, New Directions)
  • Scardanelli by Frederike Mayrocker, translated from the German by Jonathan Larson (Austria, Song Cave)
  • the easiness and the loneliness by Asta Olivia Nordenhof, translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied (Denmark, Open Letter)
  • Nioque of the Early-Spring by Francis Ponge, translated from the French by Jonathan Larson (France, Song Cave)
  • Architecture of a Dispersed Life by Pable de Rokha, translated from the Spanish by Urayoán Noel (Chile, Shearsman Books)

At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong

Posted April 12, 2019 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yongTitle: At Dusk (Goodreads)
Author: Hwang Sok-yong
Translator: Sora Kim-Russell
Published: Scribe, 2018
Pages: 192
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019

On the outside, Park Minwoo was the poster boy for success. Born into poverty, his parents owned a small fishcake store. He worked hard and now he is the director of one of Korea’s biggest architectural firms. However, Park thinks maybe he have missed the point of life. He has followed the ideal path to become wealthy but at the cost of his childhood love Cha Soona.

At Dusk is a quiet exploration into the life of a modern Korean businessman and his success, but it also reflects on the modernisation of Seoul. It is an obvious allegory; while Park doubts his success is the true meaning of a well lived life, the author begins to question the modernisation of Korea. The cost of progress really is the driving force behind the novella. As a Westerner, I feel like we are led to believe that all progress is good. The US goes to war with many countries because their values are different. We are forcing westernisation onto the rest of the world, and we are led to believe this is for the good of the country.  However, it is books like At Dusk that often help me explore a different argument.

Park Minwoo’s family lived a simple life running a small business, while Cha Soona’s parents were noodle makers. Modernisation means the end of these small businesses. Mass production and making money is the only thing of value. Noodle houses quickly become franchised coffee houses. The Korean culture is dying, leaving only Taekwondo and K-Pop behind.

This was a simple little novel, just a quiet yet urgent meditation on the effects progress has on its people and their culture. I feel the author could have done more but I have heard that Park Minwoo appears in other Hwang Sok-yong books. While it is longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, I cannot see it making the shortlist. This feels more like a quick read the judges put into the list to get people to think more about the topic of westernisation and progress, what it means to the people, the country and also their culture.