Be Very Afraid: It’s Fiction in Translation!

A  Floridian I knew said that they didn’t like it that so much Spanish was spoken in Miami. Thank God so much Spanish is spoken there! enriching our English language with so many rich and alien perspectives. I love international literature in translation. The symbol of world literature should be the Statue of Liberty. And the Bible misleads about the Tower of Babel. It wasn’t a curse; it’s a blessing. A monolingual world would be a dead world. Extinct. Why do people actually want to be dinosaurs?

I’ve been missing Javier Marías since his passing. I feel like my Spanish eye has been removed. But now I’ve discovered Carlos Fonseca, so I’ve been saved. He hails from Costa Rica. (And I still have works of Marías to explore.) The literate reader should aim to have a dozen eyes, all hungry for literature. Being a cyclops is no fun, as that creature discovered when he once met a resourceful Greek person. (Not me.)

I’m reading a digital galley of Fonseca’s forthcoming Austral right now. Due in May of next year. There’s not even a cover design yet. It’s a novel that contains a novel about a failed attempt by Friedrich Nietzsche’s sister to found a racially “pure” German colony in South America. Elisabeth Fôrster-Nietzsche attempts to turn her brother’s  philosophy into an upside-down blueprint for an emerging Nazi empire.

But the early pages make it clear that if culture is vital, it’s “impure”. I can pull a legitimate Nietzsche quote out of my head from Walter Kaufmann’s reading of Nietzsche. “Where the races mix, there is the source of great cultures.” That’s the real Mr. N, as vital and unstable as he was.

I remember a long-ago evening, reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra with a beautiful friend in their Village apartment. We took turns reading passages. We played Richard Strauss to accompany our reading. Looking back now, I guess the platitude applies that you’re only young once. But play it right and it’s a gas. 

When you start a new novel like Austral, and it feels like you’re entering a labyrinth made of words, only to discover that another labyrinth is hidden within that labyrinth of words, and then maybe another; you energize yourself for a stimulating climb, more like rock climbing than the sedentary activity of reading a novel. (Try climbing up that previous sentence.) Review forthcoming early next year.