Poems of Osip Mandelstam by Osip Mandelstam, Translated from the Russian by Peter France (New Directions)
One of the most difficult tasks facing a translator of rhymed poetry is to equally enchant new readers with a lyrical style that conveys the original musicality. Peter France, with his wonderful selection, manages to make Osip Mandelstam’s thick and sensuous imagery resound like a pipe organ in this new translation: “A star melts in the barrel like salt, / and the ice-cold water is blacker still, / death is more pure, disaster saltier, / and earth more truthful and more terrible.” Lines such as these lure the reader into Mandelstam’s melodious world of hard-hitting beauty.
Guarding the Air: Selected Poems of Gunnar Harding by Gunnar Harding, translated from the Swedish by Roger Greenwald (Black Widow Press)
In his generous selection from the entire career of this important contemporary Swedish poet, Roger Greenwald makes a major contribution to English-language (and specifically American) poetry. Harding’s jazzy vernacular and its evolution through variations on a lyrical colloquialism that grows increasingly burdened with grief over the course of a lifetime are caught so convincingly in Greenwald’s versions that it’s hard to believe these poems were not composed originally in English. Their natural-sounding fluency moves, pleases and astonishes.
Why I Killed My Best Friend by Amanda Michalopoulou, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (Open Letter Books)
Karen Emmerich’s sensitive and deft translation from the of Amanda Michalopoulou’s Why I Killed My Best Friend brings to life a coming-of-age tale of two young women from distant lands finding their way together in Athens amid the political and social upheavals of the ’70s and ’80s in a tale that is startlingly relevant to the present moment. Emmerich’s surefooted dialogue, seamless weaving of context, and caring attention to detail allow the tale of love and crisis, both national and personal, to resonate and shine.
Lazy Suzie by Suzanne Doppelt, translated from the French by Cole Swensen (Litmus Press)
With a slowly spinning display of the senses, Suzanne Doppelt provokes a rethinking of how we experience reality. An interplay of words and photographs, these prose poems, bracingly rendered by Cole Swensen, pull the reader into a camera obscura world to explore light and mirrors in a swoon of shifting perspectives, which are juxtaposed in gliding, chiming enumerations that repeatedly allude to Cezanne’s principles of painting—“sphere, cube, cone”—in order to thus ponder the relationships our eyes/cameras/reproductions may make of them: “sight presumes a slight fissure and to start painting means to pierce a hole”; or, “[w]hen everything is perfectly aligned and the moon is as flat as a leaf and slides into the shadow of the earth, it disappears, then re-emerges an hour later in the half light, a striated ghost, and slightly stained, to regain its luster at another time.”
The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette, translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York Review Books)
Donald Nicholson-Smith brings the violence, humor, and social satire of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s The Mad and the Bad into a no-nonsense English that perfectly suits this taut hallucination of a novel. The prose soars above messy thriller to a higher plane of rich substance and tough-love cynicism. Nicholson-Smith’s command of the noir idiom as he accesses a great range of registers in this genre-bending work pulls the reader into a sinister and riveting world.