Every month here at BookPeople we like to spotlight a smaller, independent publishing house that we love. These Indie Presses are helping to push the literary world forward with unique and adventurous work and we’re proud to showcase their titles in our store. This month check out the wonderful Restless Books!
Recognizing the limited exposure of great world literature in the United States, Restless Books set out to help fill in the gaps for the English language reader. Publishing a wide range of international literature in translation — fiction, journalism, graphic novels — that larger, more commercial publishing houses might miss; Restless is on a mission to create better read, better informed global citizens.
They also organize the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing — a $10,000 award for new literature from a “first-generation” resident of the United States. Ilan Stavans, the founder of Restless and immigrant from Mexico himself, has this to say about the prize and the importance of diverse voices in literature:
The ethos of America is defined by its immigrants. In novels, short stories, memoirs,and works of journalism, immigrants have expanded our sense of what it means to be American. In these times of intense xenophobia, it is more important than ever that these stories reach the broadest possible audience.
Here’s a Top 5 List of Restless titles we’re excited about:
Carlos Fonseca Suárez,
Megan McDowell (Translated by)
A dazzling debut about the demented final project of a brilliant mathematician, recalling the best of Bolaño, Borges, and Calvino, Coronel Lágrimas is an allegory of our hyper-informed age and of the clash between European and Latin American history.
Holed away in a cabin in the Pyrenees, the world-famous and enigmatic mathematician Alexander Grothendieck is working furiously on a final project. But what exactly is this monumental, mysterious undertaking? Why did this man, one of the greatest geniuses of the century, a politically militant man himself, suddenly decide to abandon politics and society altogether? As the reader pursues the answer to these questions, two layered narratives emerge. One is a series of unforgettable characters that have transfixed the mathematician’s imagination: Chana Abramov, a woman obsessed with painting the same Mexican volcano a thousand times, Vladimir Vostokov, an anarchist in battle with technological modernity, and Maximiliano Cienfuegos, a simple man who will nonetheless become the symbol for the Colonel’s as well as Europe’s restless political conscience. The other is the protagonist’s life story: a picaresque journey that traverses the 20th century: from the Russia of the October Revolution to the Mexico of the anarchic 1920s, from the Spanish Civil War to Vietnam, all the way back to France and from there to the Caribbean islands. Out of this Borgesian web emerges a tragicomic allegory for the political arch of the past century, one that began addicted to political action and ended up hooked on big data.
Loosely based on the fascinating life story of the eccentric mathematician Alexander Grothendieck, Colonel Lágrimas is a world-spanning tour de force of history, politics, literature, mathematics, and philosophy that wears its learning lightly, forming an appealingly human story of the forces that have created the modern world.
About Carlos Fonseca Suárez
Carlos Fonseca Suárez was born in Costa Rica in 1987 and grew up in Puerto Rico. His work has appeared in publications including The Guardian, BOMB, The White Review and Asymptote. He currently teaches at the University of Cambridge and lives in London.
David Frye (Translated by)
Super Extra Grande
“Intergalactic space travel meets outrageous, biting satire in Super Extra Grande…. Its author [Yoss] is one of the most celebrated—and controversial—Cuban writers of science fiction…. Reminiscent of Douglas Adams—but even more so, the satire of Rabelais and Swift.” —The Washington Post
In a distant future in which Latin Americans have pioneered faster-than-light space travel, Dr. Jan Amos Sangan Dongo has a job with large and unusual responsibilities: he’s a veterinarian who specializes in treating enormous alien animals. Mountain-sized amoebas, multisex species with bizarre reproductive processes, razor-nailed, carnivorous humanoid hunters: Dr. Sangan has seen it all. When a colonial conflict threatens the fragile peace between the galaxy’s seven intelligent species, he must embark on a daring mission through the insides of a gigantic creature and find two swallowed ambassadors—who also happen to be his competing love interests.
Funny, witty, raunchy, and irrepressibly vivacious, Super Extra Grande is a rare specimen in the richly parodic tradition of Cuban science fiction, and could only have been written by a Cuban heavy-metal rock star with a biology degree: the inimitable Yoss.
Born José Miguel Sánchez Gómez, Yoss assumed his pen name in 1988, when he won the Premio David in the science fiction category for Timshel. Together with his peculiar pseudonym, the author’s aesthetic of an impentinent rocker has allowed him to stand out amongst his fellow Cuban writers. Earning a degree in Biology in 1991, he went on to graduate from the first ever course on Narrative Techniques at the Onelio Jorge Cardoso Center of Literary Training, in the year 1999. Today, Yoss writes both realistic and science fiction works. Alongside these novels, the author produces essays, reviews, and compilations, and actively promotes the Cuban science fiction literary workshops, Espiral and Espacio Abierto.
(P.S. from the bookseller: I just picked my copy of Super Extra Grande this week and, alongside his bio, I would be amiss if I didn’t include his fantastic author photo)
Tim Wilkinson (Translated by)
A literary sensation, György Spiró’s Captivity is both a highly sophisticated historical novel and a gripping page-turner. Set in the tumultuous first century A.D., between the year of Christ’s death and the outbreak of the Jewish War, Captivity recounts the adventures of the feeble-bodied, bookish Uri, a young Roman Jew.
Frustrated with his hapless son, Uri’s father sends the young man to the Holy Land to regain the family’s prestige. In Jerusalem, Uri is imprisoned by Herod and meets two thieves and (perhaps) Jesus before their crucifixion. Later, in cosmopolitan Alexandria, he undergoes a scholarly and sexual awakening—but must also escape a pogrom. Returning to Rome at last, he finds an entirely unexpected inheritance.
Equal parts Homeric epic, brilliantly researched Jewish history, and picaresque adventure, Captivity is a dramatic tale of family, fate, and fortitude. In its weak-yet-valiant hero, fans will be reminded of Robert Graves’ classics of Ancient Rome, I, Claudius and Claudius the God.
About György Spiró
Born in 1946 in Budapest, award-winning dramatist, novelist, and translator György Spiró has earned a reputation as one of postwar Hungary’s most prominent and prolific literary figures. He teaches at ELTE University of Budapest, where he specializes in Slavic literatures.
Philip Roughton (Translated by)
Land of Love and Ruins
The winner of the EU Prize for Literature, Land of Love and Ruins introduces a daring new voice in international fiction: Oddný Eir. In the wake of Iceland’s financial crisis, a young author, recently separated and feeling out the uncertain terrain of a new relationship, finds herself questioning the foundations of our love and family lives, our bonds to country and the earth. Stirred by a dream about an old Viking woman on a pilgrimage, she sets out on a quest to the the ruins of the homes of her ancestors, where they tried to live in harmony with nature and each other. Her guiding questions are as essential as their answers are elusive: How do we create a home for love? How can we nourish personal space while sustaining intimacy and desire with a partner? How can we go, not back, but forward to nature?
Drawn both to her archaeologist brother and her ornithologist lover, she explores alternate forms that those relationships might take. Her search brings her all over Iceland and abroad to Paris, Strasbourg, Basel, and the Lake District home of famous Romantic siblings Dorothy and William Wordsworth. Written in the form of a diary that pans from small details to big questions and weaves elements of philosophy, history, archaeology, ecology, eroticism, and literature into a beautifully patterned whole, Oddný Eir invents a new, intimate language between writer and reader in this enchanting book about being human in the modern world.
About Oddný Eir
Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir (1972) is an Icelandic author. She has received advanced degrees in political philosophy from the University of Iceland and The Sorbonne. In addition to publishing four novels and several books of poetry and essays, she has worked in the art world as a lecturer and gallerist, has received a grant to study archives and museums in Iceland, has been an environmental activist, and has collaborated with the musical artist Björk in composing lyrics for her albums Biophilia and Vulnicura. Land of Love and Ruins won the EU Prize for Literature and the Icelandic Women’s Literature Prize. Oddný Eir lives in the Icelandic countryside, by the glacier Eyjafjallajökull.
Samuel Rutter (Translated by)
Galicia, Spain’s northwest region, in the 1950s. After a childhood in exile, two sisters return to their grandfather’s cottage for the first time since his shocking murder during the civil war. “The Winterlings” try to keep their dark secrets buried and carve out a peaceful existence in Tierra de Chá, an idyllic village host to a cast of grotesque but charming characters: a powerful psychic, a madman who believes he is a bus, a woman who refuses to die and the obese priest who heaves up a steep hill each day to give her last rites, a cross-dressing dentist who plants the teeth of the deceased in his patients’ mouths.
Tension mounts when the sisters, once united by their passion for Hollywood cinema, compete for the chance to stand in for Ava Gardner in the nearby filming of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Meanwhile, a mutual suspicion develops between the mysterious sisters and the eccentric villagers: Why have the women returned, and what are they hiding? What perverse business arrangement did the townspeople make with their grandfather, and why won’t they speak of his death?
Enchanting as a spell, The Winterlings blends Spanish oral tradition, Latin American magic realism, and the American gothic fiction of Flannery O’Connor and Shirley Jackson into an intoxicating story of romance, violent history, and the mysterious forces that move us.
About Cristina Sánchez-Andrade
Cristina Sánchez-Andrade (Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 1968) is the author of eight novels, including Ya no pisa la tierra tu rey (Your King No Longer Walks this Earth), which won the Guadalajara International Book Fair’s prestigious Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz literary prize in 2005, and Las Inviernas (The Winterlings), which was a finalist for the Herralde Novel Prize in 2013. Her work has been translated into English, Portuguese, Italian, Polish and Russian. She lives in Madrid.