The NTA Countdown to ALTA42: Comemadre

Join us as we count down to ALTA42: Sight and Sound with the National Translation Award in Poetry and Prose long- and shortlisted titles! We will be featuring the titles in alphabetical order alongside blurbs penned by our judges for the National Translation Awards in Poetry and Prose. This year’s prose judges are Bonnie Huie, Charlotte Mandell, and Jeffrey Zuckerman. This year’s judges for poetry are Anna Deeny Morales, Cole Heinowitz, and Sholeh Wolpe.

For quick reference, you may find the NTA longlists here, and the NTA shortlists here. Today we’re shining the spotlight on Prose NTA longlisted title Comemadre:

by Roque Larraquy
translated from the Spanish by Heather Cleary
(Coffee House Press)

The organism called comemadre is “a plant with acicular leaves whose sap produces (in a leap between taxonomic kingdoms that warrants further study) microscopic larvae”; the Argentine novel called Comemadre is a palimpsest that insistently probes the inconsistencies of theories and realities. A psychiatrist in 1907 is exploring what happens to human heads in the seconds after being cut off; an artist in 2009 is responding to an academic writing on his work even as a vial of the comemadre—which had presumably died out—is discovered. Throughout the book, binaries are explored and shattered, and Heather Cleary’s sly, brilliantly calibrated translation comes through most vividly in the moments where phrases in the earlier half turn out to be drawn from the later half.

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