Monthly Archives: July 2020

Interview with Helena Buffery, translator of The Passion According to Renée Vivien

Last week I reviewed María-Mercè Marçal’s The Passion According to Renée Vivien; I’m delighted to bring you today some intimate insights into the translation of this novel from Helena Buffery, who co-translated it with Kathleen McNerney.

How did you discover this novel, and what made you want to translate it?

Helena Buffery: The novel was one of the earliest contemporary Catalan texts I read when it first came out in the 1990s and really impressed me at the time for the audacity of the writing: this is a novel that takes on the Republic of Letters and explores it from the margins, creating a rich, polyphonic, and spatially and temporally diverse world from the fragments and traces of a (meticulously researched) life. It reads beautifully; culminating with the breathtaking final chapter, which I could not quite believe was constructed entirely from fragments of Vivien’s poetry (but I can now promise you that this is the case). Back then, when I had the time to travel quite regularly to Paris and Barcelona, I was fascinated by the different perspectives the novel offered on quite familiar spaces.  I remember being transported into a richly nuanced, complex and believable world.

I returned to the novel more recently as someone with a great deal of interest in the way minority literatures (and particularly Catalan literature) travel, and having written on these issues from the perspective of cultural (in)visibility and (un)translatability. Given the recent increase in translations of Catalan literature and also of Iberian and Latin American women’s writing, I was very interested in exploring why a figure as important María-Mercè Marçal – a supremely charismatic and openly lesbian poet, translator, feminist thinker, essayist and activist to whom numerous Iberian writers profess their debt – had such a limited presence in English (beyond poetry magazines and anthologies).

Why do you think such an important and recognised piece of work hasn’t been published in English before now?

I think a significant factor is the subject matter, the fact that it is by a Catalan author but not explicitly about Catalan culture (no Barcelona, no Civil War, little reference to any Catalan landscapes). Another factor, I believe, is that it is written against English (understood, as in the sense of Vivien’s own process of self-translation, as a form of resistance and rebellion against the normative, the hegemonic, the neo-colonial). Having looked more closely at the German, Italian and Spanish translations, I began to consider the possibility of translating elements of the novel (as I think many of the chapters work as stand-alone pieces, in the manner of sketches or even short stories), and it was then that I bumped into Kathleen McNerney at a conference on Marçal in Cambridge and learned that she had begun translating the novel many years before, but had been unable to find a publisher. Kathleen is widely recognised as a pioneer translator of Spanish and Catalan women’s writing – she began translating Marçal back in the 1980s (selected poems from Bruixa de dol/Witch in morning appeared in the Catalan Review in 1986), and collaborated with her in events on feminist writing in Barcelona. We corresponded for a while before agreeing to co-translate; Kathleen was in touch with the Maria-Mercè Marçal Foundation to enquire about rights and permissions, and then was able to secure a series of writing retreats to work on the novel.

Once you had made the decision to embark on this project, how did you and Kathleen McNerney approach the co-translation?

We agreed to split translation – with one of us (me in the end) focusing initially on Sara T.’s narrative and the other (Kathleen) translating the other voices. We then swapped and revised each other’s work, as well as meeting together in Barcelona and Cork to discuss overarching issues (how to translate certain key terms, what to do about the intertextual references, the translations of the poems, and so on). Once all the pieces were together, I took responsibility for editing and correcting the whole text and ensuring cohesion. This was very much helped by the fact that I am very familiar with the Maria-Mercè Marçal archive in Barcelona, so I have read all of the notes, readings and drafts that are preserved as traces of her creative process, and I also undertook further research on the different voices included in the novel. In some cases, such as the prologue and first chapter, for instance, this led to quite extensive adjustment, in order to bring out the subtle irony that pervades the Catalan original (Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway was the key inspiration here). In other cases, such as the exquisite Kerimée chapter, the writing is pretty much entirely Kathleen’s.

This is a translation from Catalan, but about a French context. How did the multi-lingual features influence your translation?

We agreed to deliberately interventionist translations in parts. On the one hand, we opted to preserve fragments which appeared in other languages (including fragments of Dante). On the other hand, we compensated for the disappearance of Catalan in translation by augmenting the plurilingualism of the text in parts. The decision to source the French originals for certain fragments and quotations in the Sara T. narrative, for instance, was a decision taken jointly in order to make it clear that Sara T. is translating, and often reflecting consciously on the process of translating, from French – hence, for instance, the indecision between “sorrowful” and “painful” to render “douloureux”, when in Catalan that hesitation is simply expressed using a comma the first time it appears. In some ways, the inclusion of fragments in French that Sara T. is trying to translate allows us to remind everyone that she is not French herself, but Catalan. This was important to us, given the impossibility of keeping Marçal’s exquisitely creative translations of Vivien’s poems – it would have added too much to the length of our version. Even so, it would be great to be able to publish all of the different versions in parallel one day! You’ll also have noticed that there are numerous places where we have gone for words with Old French etymology in order to keep the sense of a process of writing against English I mentioned before. Words like blame, regret, verse, vanquished, damsel, coquetries, insouciance etc… and even the more unusual “badinage” which I use in the prologue to translate the Catalan “asteisme” (asteism). I decided that “asteisme” was sufficiently marked in Catalan to warrant an equally marked choice in English.

Another significant intervention was my introduction of recurrent references to trial and error with each use of the word choose (“triar” in the original Catalan). These are intended to prepare for the word-play on “triar”-“trair” (“to choose” versus “to betray” – or as I have it, “trial” and “betrayal”) in Sara T.’s meditations on the nature and (im)possibility of desire. But they also fit in with the constant reference to trials and betrayals in Vivien’s hagiography of martyred queens, and with meta-reflection on the (im)possibility of translation and representation: traduttore, traditore, the translator as traitor. I also quietly corrected incorrect references to dates (such as Barney’s birthday), place-names and so on, where I thought the error was just a slip. In some cases, the errors aren’t so much errors as a reflection of the sources available on Vivien in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Francis Boutle Publishers focus on books from minority or minoritized languages; was this why it was important to you to publish The Passion According to Renée Vivien with them?

We approached Clive Boutle primarily for the really obvious reason that he is the first publisher to have brought out a book by Marçal in English – her posthumous The Body’s Reason. I also really liked the edition of Josafat that he did with Peter Bush, a text which I don’t think many publishers would have taken the risk to publish. It felt right to take the novel to him, even though in many ways Marçal deserves to be included alongside other great twentieth-century feminist authors. I myself sourced the image for the cover, in the Smithsonian archives, inspired by the exploration of the limits and possibilities of visual representations that threads through the novel. It was painted – more properly sketched in pastels – by Natalie Clifford Barney’s mother. Clive Boutle is responsible for the rest of the design and formatting, and for helping me to be brave enough to re-paragraph the novel in order to introduce more breaths when reading. Incidentally, we were very conscious of the poetry all the way through; this is a novel that can and deserves to be read aloud. I was very attentive to breaths and cadences; partly, I suppose, because I generally work on theatre and performance. There is a strongly performative, carnivalesque side to this novel too: ultimately, it is all about bringing words to life, about putting flesh on Vivien’s words. We hope that The Passion of Renée Vivien will travel to the many different readers it deserves.

Review: Maria-Mercè Marçal, The Passion According to Renée Vivien

Translated from Catalan by Kathleen McNerney and Helena Buffery (Francis Boutle Publishers, 2020)

This is a very different kind of novel from those I normally read for Translating Women, and will be a treat for anyone who enjoys creative biographies. The Passion According to Renée Vivien represents a literary project to uncover the hidden life of Renée Vivien (the literary pseudonym of Pauline Tarn).  Renée Vivien was an English-born poet who wrote in French in the early twentieth century, whose poems are particularly notable for their explicit revelations about her amorous relationships with women, who lived in a “palace of pain” and longed to escape from life, and whose legacy has been “demolished by the victorious blows of mediocrity and stupidity.” Originally published almost thirty years ago, The Passion According to Renée Vivien is a ground-breaking work in Catalan literature, taking on the traditional “academy” from the marginalised perspective of a woman writer – and not just a woman, but a woman who openly proclaims her love for other women, a poet whose name “shines … with its own light amid a tradition that certainly existed but only underground, the victim of invisibility and silence.”

Herself an openly feminist and lesbian author and activist, Maria-Mercè Marçal became obsessed with the idea of lifting Renée Vivien out of the exile which is “the common lot of poets” – an obsession that she transfers to one of the main active voices of the text, Sara T. The decision to create fictional biographers is a clever one: this is no dry, objective account of Vivien’s life, but rather a vivid, impassioned quest to uncover her mystery and her legacy. The Passion According to Renée Vivien is full of beautiful aphorisms (“After all, perhaps glory is just a posthumous form of love: the only form with the capacity to raise the dead”), and Marçal sets out to give voice to an overlooked figure from recent literary history by writing a book about “women who, like me, yearned for deep-rooted changes in the world.”

This polyphonic text is part documentary, part biography and part love song to its subject. We discover much of Pauline’s life through the eyes of Sara T., a 1980s Catalan documentary maker who becomes obsessed with giving voice to Pauline, and in particular Sara reveals the difficulties of piecing together all the details of Pauline’s life to make a coherent whole. The other main source of information is Salomon R., a museum curator, and we also have letters from Pauline’s lovers, as well as a more objective and omniscient third-person narrator from Pauline’s own era, through whom we gain insight into her personal circumstances through observations of her entourage and conversations between courtesans. Though in some ways contemporary readers might find the main narrative’s milieu less recognisable because of the relatively privileged lifestyle it details (for example, one character’s great dilemma regards her “unresolved doubts” about an ivory statue in a museum, and Renée herself “had the fortune to be able to torment herself with only metaphysical problems”), the timeless and universal qualities of love, loss, desire, jealousy, sorrow and despair prevent the text from feeling dated or unrelatable.

My over-riding impression of the translation was that much time, energy and (if I may borrow from the title) passion has gone into making this work available to English-speaking audiences: it’s clear just how much both translators care about this project. The writing is lyrical and eloquent, almost old-fashioned in its language choices, but not dated. It evokes a time of formality in turn-of-the-century Paris, and manages to sustain a formal and authentically period-appropriate narrative style throughout its 350 pages. This formality is also partly owing to a delicate attention on the part of the translators to favour terms that have French etymology, reflecting through this choice Pauline’s own writing “against” English. In the whole book there were only a couple of instances when I thought something more modern might have crept in, but this may well be my own ignorance of when expressions became current in English – or it may reflect potential anachronisms in the original Catalan. Overall, there was something very nostalgic for me about reading this book: its turn-of-the-century style and references to 19th-century writers and culture took me back to my years studying French literature, and locating much of the narrative in Paris is always a way to tug at the nostalgia for me. All it takes is the street names and in my mind I’m already there – so my only regret in that sense was the anglicisation of some of the street names – a number of the more recognisable ones remain in French, but elsewhere there are references to, for example, “Vendôme Square” and “the boulevard of Paix”, which for me snapped the nostalgic connection. But that’s an entirely personal reaction, and for readers who don’t know French – or don’t know Paris – then this might, conversely, bring them closer to the text, particularly given the strategies of writing “against” English that I mentioned earlier.

I’ll leave you with a little scoop that for me was the most fascinating thing about this novel: thanks to an interview with translator Helena Buffery (which you can read here in full next week), I discovered that the final chapter of The Passion According to Renée Vivien is made up entirely of fragments of Renée Vivien’s poetry. This section is breathtakingly beautiful, and the book is worth reading for this alone – not only its beauty, but also the skill of weaving together the (French) fragments to make a narrative (in Catalan) that is now translated into English. Within the fictional biographer’s task, we are told that “her verses were the autobiography of her soul”, and so it feels appropriate to give the last word to Renée Vivien, via Marçal, in a rendering by Buffery and McNerney:

“I am of those laid low by light. Under the implacable face of day, memories devour me like abject vermin. And at dusk when I hear the groaning of the unfortunate land, I have felt in excess the horror of having been born. Who, then, will bring me the hemlock in their hands? Night slithers, slowly and subtly, toward the opal of the hill. The soul resuscitates in the tenebrous shadows.

… I will hurl myself into your eyes, where sadness rhapsodizes.

… Here, words do not hurt, Let us keep the doors closed. Souls without hope have the solitary pride of islands.”

Review copy of The Passion According to Renée Vivien provided by Francis Boutle Publishers

 

 

Review: Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, Camille Laurens

Translated from French by Willard Wood (Les Fugitives, 2020)

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen is a work of non-fiction that delves into the life of Marie van Goethem, the young model for Degas’ famous sculpture Petite danseuse de quatorze ans (Little Dancer Aged Fourteen). In it, Camille Laurens takes us back to Paris in the Belle Époque, but exposes a sordid underbelly beneath the glittering façade.

Though the Palais Garnier opera house evokes opulence, elegance, and sumptuous fin-de-siècle decadence, Laurens takes us quietly and carefully through the reality behind the curtains. The petits rats, young girls who were sold to the ballet and earned a pittance, were put through physically demanding training routines while barely having enough to eat; if they were expelled because of absence, insolence or lack of progress then they were still yoked to the opera, compelled to pay for the years of “education” and remaining in a contract that was close to slavery. Many were sold in other ways too: Laurens notes that “as soon as the girls reached adolescence they acquired a blank gaze and a look of resignation, entering a life of prostitution without ever having been children.”

In 1880, Marie Van Goethem was one of the Opera’s petits rats, sold with her sisters to the opera house, a lonely girl whose fate concerned no-one. She supplemented her pitiful income by posing for painters and sculptors – including Edgar Degas, “her frail body now turned to bronze” by the artist His immortalisation of her did not, however, give her a voice or an identity, but rather ensured that “she would die less completely than the other girls”, seen across the world and through the generations but never known or understood. Tied in with Marie’s modelling for Degas is a topic that influenced much French literature of the period: physiognomy. This new “science” was believed to enable the educated or “initiated” to distinguish certain characteristics about people from their physical appearance – essentially, proponents believed that they were able to designate a person criminal or lacking in morals because of features such as a prominent forehead or high cheekbones. The luminaries of the day needed scant licence to exaggerate this, condemning people from the lower classes because of their appearance and supporting their prejudice with a “science” that amounted to little more than a self-fulfilling prophecy: “The ruling classes needed to be reassured about their privileges. Small wonder that they clung to theories that ‘proved’ the natural superiority of the bourgeoisie over the working class, the rich over the poor, whites over blacks, and men over women … Social hierarchy was justified by nature itself, with rich white men at the apex and other races, women, and the poor in the lower depths.” Though we may have moved beyond physiognomy, some of Laurens’s depictions of its uses are strikingly and terrifyingly contemporary.

Throughout the reconstructions in Little Dancer Aged Fourteen we gain intimate insights into Degas’ life and artistic process. In particular, Laurens lingers on his commitment to eschewing superficially glamorous representations of ballet in his paintings and focus instead on the rehearsal space, the physical hardship to which the dancers were submitted, showing “not the mythical dancer but the humdrum worker.” However, Laurens resolutely refuses to shine a purely flattering light on the artist’s intentions. She openly refers to his own prejudices – which were backed up by advances in studies of physiognomy – detailing how his exaggerated courtroom drawings of suspected criminals were designed to “reflect theories of social delinquency that he subscribed to.” On the basis of this, Laurens suggests that he did the same to Marie, coarsening her features between his initial sketches and the finished sculpture and changing her face “to give it the hallmarks of a savage, quasi-Neanderthal primitivism, a precocious degeneracy.” This alarming representation of women, and in particular a young woman with no rights, no voice and no agency of her own, may have been intended to unsettle and question, as Laurens suggests, but it also perpetuates the social hierarchies mentioned above, and makes this attempt to give Marie back a place in history all the more historically and socially important.

Towards the start of the book there were a few examples of syntax that stood out to me as awkward, but aside from this the translation by Willard Wood rapidly developed into a careful non-fiction narrative, understated and yet lexically rich, a piece that evokes the Belle Époque while simultaneously remaining contemporary. Overall, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen is a particularly interesting kind of non-fiction. It blends an almost academic research (in the acknowledgements Laurens does note that the book is an offshoot of her doctoral thesis) with references that bring us back into the now – and the result is a piece that raises more questions than it answers, but in doing so shows how very contemporary the concerns of the work still are: the classism, prejudice, poverty and exploitation of women over a hundred years ago are uncannily close to our modern experience.

As for Marie van Goethem, frustratingly little about her actually comes to light, for the information is simply not there to uncover. She has disappeared in history, an insignificant and impecunious petit rat who is remembered only the way Degas presented her, offered up for the interpretation of art lovers the world over. If Laurens does not manage to reinstate Marie, or to give her a story or a voice (I was glad that she consciously refrained from inventing these in their absence) she does nonetheless succeed in questioning the place and period that condemned her to this disappearance. Though at times Little Dancer Aged Fourteen seemed more about the artist than the muse, by shining a light on Marie’s absence even as her likeness is tangibly present throughout the decades, Laurens pays the only kind of homage possible to a young girl without a future: though Laurens attempts to discern Marie’s inner emotions as she posed for Degas, to understand her thoughts and her inner world rather than simply the artist’s intentions, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen is all the more poignant for the author’s acknowledgement that “what is missing is her soul.”

Event review: Holiday Heart book launch

It was a great honour last week to chair the virtual launch of Holiday Heart, interviewing author Margarita García Robayo and translator Charlotte Coombe for a wonderful event organised by Carolina Orloff and Jules Danskin of Charco Press. I’m writing up some of the main points into a little piece here, so that those of you who missed the event can get a flavour of what was discussed, and those of you who were there can relive it! For a limited time you can also watch the interview on Charco’s website.

Charco’s director Carolina opened the live session by talking about Margarita’s “universe”, her unique mission and way of understanding the world, her talent for making us laugh with her wry, brutal humour and making us feel uncomfortable at the same time because of the way that she portrays reality. In the interview, Margarita expanded on this idea of a “universe” by explaining that her books are all pieces of a bigger literary project: whereas Latin American literature often deals with things that the region is known for, such as political violence, she made the point that it hasn’t necessarily dealt with the particular social “strip” that she focuses on – the middle class or the “in-betweeners” in terms of class. Holiday Heart is an attempt to portray the damaged and damaging Latin American middle classes by presenting uprooted characters looking for a sense of belonging, and this is the environment in which Margarita grew up: it was not an equal society, but she believes that no-one is an innocent victim of their government. Rather, we must all look to ourselves to identify the ways in which we perpetuate this inequality.

When I asked Margarita more about her main characters (the rather unpleasant Pablo and Lucía) she responded that, controversial as it might sound, she doesn’t see Pablo and Lucía as unlikeable, or rather not as purely unlikeable. They are, she suggests, simply unsatisfied people who are over-exposed – and if we were to put such a magnifying glass over anyone, we’d find flaws we didn’t suspect they had. Lucía doesn’t think of herself as racist, but is so dissatisfied with her own life that she hasn’t even noticed her son’s behaviour (which is a mirror of her own), and it is only when he makes loud racist comments in public that she is forced to confront her own behaviour. When Holiday Heart was released in Latin America, it made people question themselves and think “Do I talk/ think like that?” – and this is where its great power and provocation lies.

While Charlie did not find it difficult to inhabit the minds and thoughts of those characters as she was translating (her feeling being that their flaws come from their insecurities – their rootlessness and how they project that onto other people), there were sections that were difficult for her to deal with as she was translating. In particular, she found the sections about black people hard to translate, as well as the sections where Pablo sexualised his student and those which discussed “brown-ness”. However, Charlie noted how important it was not to dilute these issues, and to maintain that challenge to readers: though her instinct might have been how to make certain sections more culturally sensitive, her job as a translator is to convey Margarita’s intentions. Charlie also made a particularly interesting point about how a translator has to think more about who’s reading than a writer might, constantly keeping in mind the question “who am I writing for?”

When I asked both Margarita and Charlie how it felt to have this book come out not only in a time of global crisis, but also at a moment when anti-racism movements are making international headlines, they both considered this to be a good thing: Charlie feels that seeing characters with these particular flaws forces readers to confront such prejudices instead of pretending that they don’t exist, and Margarita suggested that to read a book in a negative way because it contains characters that we don’t agree with is a very limited and sad vision of literature, and went on to insist that she will never modify or erase things just because they make people feel uncomfortable. She is presenting reality: many people who wouldn’t think they are racist are in fact racist, just as many men and women who say they’re feminist aren’t really feminist – and we often don’t recognise this until it explodes in our faces.

Margarita ended the interview with an insightful observation for translators and readers alike: the absence of empathy prevents full comprehension. If we focus only on the negative aspects of the characters, then we miss some of what she’s trying to do. This to me summed up what makes Margarita such an important contemporary writer: just as in life an absence of empathy will prevent us from understanding others and feeling connected to the world around us, so in literature this absence will prevent us from understanding what a book is doing or saying, and will prevent us from understanding the context it comes from. If we only read books in which we see our ideals reflected, we will only reinforce our own sense of innate “rightness”, and never understand the multiplicity of experience and perspective that makes up our world. I truly believe Margarita García Robayo to be not just a good writer but a great one, and am grateful that with Charlie’s translation and Charco’s mission her work can reach more readers, as it deserves to.

I will be on holiday for the next few weeks, but have prepared several posts to publish automatically while I’m offline! Here’s what you can look forward to until my return:
Review of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, Camille Laurens, tr. Willard Wood (Les Fugitives, 2020)
Review of Three Plastic Rooms, Petra Hůlová, tr. Alex Zucker (Jantar Publishing, 2017)
Review of The Passion According to Renée Vivien, tr. Kathleen McNerney and Helena Buffery (Francis Boutle Publishing, 2020)
Interview with Helena Buffery, co-translator of The Passion According to Renée Vivien

Happy reading, and have a wonderful summer!

 

Review: The Book of Shanghai

Edited by Dai Congrong and Jin Li (Comma Press, 2020)

Featuring Wang Anyi, Xiao Bai, Shen Dacheng, Chen Danyan, Cai Jun, Chen Qiufan, Xia Shang, Teng Xiolan, Fu Yuehui and Wang Zhanhei

Translated by Lee Anderson, Yu Yan Chen, Jack Hargreaves, Paul Harris, Frances Nichol, Christopher Macdonald, Carson Ramsdell, Josh Stenberg, Katherine Tse, and Helen Wang.

The Book of Shanghai is the latest in the Reading the City series from Comma Press, and brings together ten stories of alienation at the heart of a busy metropolis. This futuristic city is the perfect site to show the disenfranchisement that comes with progress, and the insidious danger of replacing relationships and human contact with technological advances. The glittering façade of Shanghai’s high-rise buildings and neon lights is rejected in favour of what happens on the streets below, as we meet an array of memorable characters navigating situations as diverse as losing a mobile phone, collecting sellable waste, floating through an apocalyptic flood in a bathtub, and the end of the world. Five of the ten included authors are women, emphasising the commitment Comma Press make to aiming for gender parity in their anthologies (you can read more about that in my interview with Comma’s Becca Parkinson and Zoë Turner).

The stories in The Book of Shanghai also highlight the deep rift between human experience and the advance of technology, cybernetic umbilical cords that anchor us to the future while leaving us adrift in the present. Loneliness is a recurring theme, along with a disconnection that seems ironic in a city so plugged into global networks and development. In “The Novelist in the Attic” (Shen Dacheng, translated by Jack Hargreaves) a writer struggles with his legacy, and questions his usefulness in a world that has left him behind (I particularly enjoyed the following lament: “Just because I, the writer, am simple-minded, my protagonist has turned out to be a dumb fool too. Imagine that, my sole contribution to this world, nothing but the passing on of my own imbecility into fiction.”) Like other stories in the collection, “The Novelist in the Attic” has a touch of the surreal, mirroring the other-worldly sense of the murky labyrinthine streets that we see from beneath the shimmering high-rises of the city.

In several of the stories in The Book of Shanghai lives cross paths in chance encounters and stolen moments, while family bonds disintegrate and are redefined: in “The Story of Ah-Ming” (Wang Zhanhei, translated by Christopher MacDonald), an elderly woman is cast out by her family because of the lengths she goes to in her attempts to help them, while in “Snow” (Chen Danyan, translated by Paul Harris), a woman is surrounded by relatives but still feels lonely, and escapes into literature. The city comes alive (in sometimes unnerving ways) in these tales where ruptures abound, relationships falter, and individuals hurtle perilously towards solitude, shame, failure or death. In my favourite story of the collection, “State of Trance” (Chen Qiufan, translated by Josh Stenberg), we accompany one man through the last night on Earth, as he decides to take “an action that will place a perfect full stop at the end of civilisation”: his mission is to go to Shanghai Library and return the book he has borrowed.

Teeming with profound reflections, offbeat humour and unsettling observations, the individual stories hang perfectly together to create a vivid panorama of snapshots of life in a fast-moving city. Enervated and visionary, these contemporary stories acknowledge the past while focusing on an uncertain future: The Book of Shanghai is an excellent addition to a consistently innovative series.

The Comma Press podcast is back! You can hear more about The Book of Shanghai in a forthcoming episode, and if you enjoyed Europa28, you might like to tune into that episode too. You can see the series 2 schedule here.

Review copy of The Book of Shanghai provided by Comma Press