Charlotte Mandell has translated two books for Fitzcarraldo Editions by the 2015 Prix Goncourt winner, Mathias Enard: ZONE, published August 2014, and STREET OF THIEVES, published August 2015. Here are her three top reads from 2015 (plus a bonus pick, as four is her favourite number).
Robert Kelly, A VOICE FULL OF CITIES: THE COLLECTED ESSAYS OF ROBERT KELLY (Contra Mundum Press, 2014)
This is a huge book, over 800 pages of essays about everything from the experimental films of Stan Brakhage to the concept of Deep Image to Walter Benjamin and theories of translation. What sets Robert’s essays apart from any others that I know is their refusal to confine themselves to a particular genre: an RK essay can start out as prose, veer into a poem, briefly become dialogue, and then turn back into prose again — a wonderfully refreshing reminder that language is language, and can do what it likes. The essays range in time from the early 1960s to the present. And this is only the first volume! The second volume will consist of essays about Robert Kelly, forthcoming next year.
Stephen Mitchelmore, THIS SPACE OF WRITING (Zero Books, 2015)
This is another book of selections, this time of essays from Mitchelmore’s literary blog, This Space. Mitchelmore’s willingness to delve deep into the Book and examine writing itself from every possible angle is brave and unusual in the world of literary blogs. His style — at once questioning, probing, and insightful — is reminiscent of the great literary essays of Maurice Blanchot, with whom he shares a passion for writers like Beckett, Kafka, and Virginia Woolf. From “The Work of Night”: “If the writer is, as Maurice Blanchot declares, a daytime insomniac, then the reader is a sleeper sunk in the other’s impossible dreams.”
Ashley Mayne, MANKILLER (Dr. Cicero Books)
This is Mayne’s first novel, but the writing is so sure of itself, and so compelling, one feels as if Mayne has been writing forever. The narrator of MANKILLER has an uncanny ability to pull the reader into her world almost instantly, and the world she describes is new and strange and hauntingly beautiful. The writing has a lyrical intensity one usually finds only in very good poems.
I know I’m only allowed three books, but if I could add a fourth, it would be INSTANTS SOUFIS by Abdelwahab Meddeb (published in France by Albin Michel), a rich collection of anecdotes and tales from the Sufi masters by a Tunisian poet, essayist and novelist whose work I’ve translated before. Meddeb died recently, and very suddenly, so this book was published posthumously. I would love to be able to translate it someday.