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As You Were Saying: American Writers Respond to Their French Contemporaries

ISBN-10: 1-56478-474-6
ISBN-13: 978-1-56478-474-2
$9.50, paperback

At a time when the dialogue between America and France is strained by political and cultural forces, As You Were Saying provides a space for an important and riveting exchange between writers from these two countries. By pairing some of America's best writers with their French contemporaries, As You Were Saying shows us the importance of considering—and responding to—the world beyond our borders. A unique collaboration, the stories collected here were begun by the French writers, and then completed by their American counterparts. The results are spectacular—funny and inventive, and an interesting look at the similarities and differences between how French and American writers approach the short story.

This collection includes stories by some of the most important contemporary French and American writers, including these pairings: Marie Darrieussecq and Rick Moody; Lydie Salvayre and Rikki Ducornet; Grégoire Bouillier and Benjamin Kunkel; Jacques Roubaud and Raymond Federman; Jean Hatzfeld and Philip Gourevitch; Philippe Claudel and Aleksandar Hemon; and Camille Laurens and Robert Olen Butler.

Vain Art of the Fugue

by Dumitru Tsepeneag
translated by Patrick Camiller
ISBN-10: 1-56478-421-5
ISBN-13: 978-1-156478-421-6
$12.95, paperback

Clutching a bouquet of flowers, hurrying to catch his bus, and arguing with the driver once he's on, a man rushes to a train station platform to meet a woman. This sequence of events occurs and recurs in remarkably different variations in Vain Art of the Fugue. In one version, the bus driver ignores the traffic signals and is killed in the ensuing crash. In another, the protagonist is thrown off the bus, and as he chases after it, a crowd of strangers joins him in the pursuit. As the book unfolds, the protagonist, his lovers, and the people he meets become increasingly vivid and complex figures in the crowded Bucharest cityscape. Themes, conflicts, and characters interweave and overlap, creating a book that is at once chaotic and perfectly composed.

Dumitru Tsepeneag is one of the most innovative Romanian writers of the second half of the twentieth century. In the 1960 and '70s, he and the poet Leonid Dimov led the country's only literary movement in opposition to the official "socialist realism." In 1975, while he was in France, his citizenship was revoked by Ceausescu, and he was forced into exile. In the 1980s, he started to write in French. He then returned to his native language after the Ceausescu regime ended, but continues to write in his adopted language as well.

A Fool’s Paradise

by Anita Konkka
translated by A. D. Haun and Owen Witesman
ISBN-10: 1-56478-422-3
ISBN-13: 978-1-56478-422-3
$12.95, paperback

"Marriage kills love. That's why people get married." The unmarried and unemployed narrator of A Fool's Paradise is seeing a married man and must, because of her social security, apply and interview for jobs she does not want. Her life is founded on unsustainable contradictions. As her lover considers recommitting to his wife and as her poverty becomes increasingly dire, she confronts the temptations and contradictions of conventional success, but she is also overcome by jealousy and dissatisfaction. She travels to Russia and spies on her lover's wife. She takes a job that she hates. This precise and intensely personal novel describes the narrator's growing sense that freedom becomes, itself, a kind of routine, and shows her burgeoning desire to break out of it.

Anita Konkka lives and writes in Helsinki, Finland. She is the author of novels, essays, radio-plays, and a dream-book. Of her eleven books, which include Black Passport, Love, the Everlasting Temptation, and The Garden of Desires. A Fool's Paradise is the first to be translated into English. She is regarded as one of the most important writers of contemporary Finnish literature.

Summer in Termuren

by Louis Paul Boon
translated by Paul Vincent
ISBN-10: 1-56478-414-2
ISBN-13: 978-1-56478-414-8
$14.95, paperback

This, the author writes, is "the novel of the indiviual in a world of barbarians." It is the story of Ondine and Oscarke, a young married couple adrift in a Belgian landscape that is darkening under the spread of industry and World War I. Ondine, who "came to serve god and live," finds that she must "serve the gentlemen" instead. Oscarke, an aspiring sculptor, finds himself unsuccessfully scouring Brussels for work and, when he is finally hired, too tired to make his own art. They grow old and their four children grow up as "technology and mechanization, unemployment, fascism, and war" take over around them. War destroys their attempts to establish a better life, which they seek continually and against all odds. And the chapters about these characters, some of whom first appeared in Chapel Road, alternate with chapters about Boon himself, who describes the impossibility of modern life and the destruction of war. As this wide-ranging novel progresses, the author's struggles—both with writing and with his own life—come more and more to resemble those of his characters.

Louis Paul Boon's (1912-1979) oeuvre spans several genres, including compelling historical epics, sharp, witty newspaper columns and tongue-in-cheek scabrous novels. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize on several occasions.