Chinese verse translated into mellifluous Scots with an English crib is a personal triumph for the Sino-Scottish makar Brian Holton who is the creator of Staunin Ma Lane (Standing Alone) [Bristol: Shearsman Books, 2016]. An interest has to be declared. I pushed my cousin Brian in his pram and it has clearly done him a great deal of good.
The title of The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera is a neat joke that the reader will latch on to as they work their way through this novella [High Wycombe: & Other Stories, 2016, translated by Lisa Dellman]. It’s a short book and worth reading despite it being another sort of apocalyptic vision like we found in his earlier Signs Preceding the End of the World that I rated very highly in my review.
Lunatics, Lovers and Poets, according to Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, are ‘of imagination all compact’; cut from the same tree, hewn from the same rock, hard to tell apart, who knows! To mark the 400th anniversary year of the deaths of both Shakespeare and Cervantes, the ever-enterprising publisher & Other Stories has published an anthology of twelve short stories. Intriguingly, the six Spanish writers take Shakespeare as their starting point while the English take Cervantes. In the English edition, the Spanish stories appear in translation while in a Spanish edition hispanophones can read the English rendered into their language. To top it off, Salman Rushdie contributes an introduction. For 83p a story this must be one of the year’s best buys.
The President’s Hat [London: Gallic Books, 2013] by Antoine Laurain more or less jumped off the shelf and sat on my head until I had read it. Readers will remember my enthusiastic review of a later novel by Laurain, The Red Notebook and I think this one is just as good. I didn’t think so at first. I thought it was going to be like those English compositions we had to write in primary school such as ‘The Adventures of a Penny’ where it goes from hand to hand. However, very soon it becomes obvious that this is a witty and well-written novel in which a black Homburg belonging to France’s President, François Mitterand, is mislaid and then appropriated, one after another, by different characters. For each, it becomes an impulse to major changes in their lives. The story is brought to a fascinating and convincing dénouement.
Swedish writer Lina Wolff has both lived and worked in Italy and Spain, experience she has put to use in her first novel, Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs [High Wycombe: & Other Stories, 2016]. An eye-catching title is never a disadvantage and this one does have its origin in the text but you would never guess it until you come across the reference. Wolff’s novel is cleverly constructed and conspicuously well written; aided in the English version by the excellent translation by Frank Perry.