Strange Horizons Review of Twelve Collections and The Teashop

An extensive review/essay by Lara Buckerton of my mosaic novel Twelve Collections and The Teashop just appeared at Strange Horizons:

Collections are harmless, right? It’s one of their conspicuous virtues—we come and peer into the collector’s murky world, fail to understand it, tut and shake our heads, but ultimately we approve of it, as a kind of monument honouring—not exactly the Unknown Oddball himself—but the social tolerance which allows him to thrive. But what if collections aren’t evidence of liberalism and diversity at all, but of a levelling, decontextualising waste? What if collections don’t have a special life of their own, but a special death of their own?

If these sound like ostentatious questions, they’re balanced by the spare and graceful way in which Zivkovic investigates them. The tales are quite slight—sixish pages, usually—and very moreish. There’s something a bit mannered about Zivkovic’s prose (an effect of translation perhaps?)— “stay there, all the way till lunch time,” “avoided by a hair”—but chaste and clunky is a fitting style for the quietly comic, fantastika material. Fiction which relies on keeping its readers’ interpretative machinery switched on will hardly want to hypnotise them with rhetorical pyrotechnics. The time is everywhen, the place is everywhere—or at least everywhere blandly Euro—and the protagonists are all pumped full of Everyman jelly. Stylistically, faux naivety is your only man.

Nor will such fiction really need to rock out plot-wise. There are thick traces, in almost every tale, of a pair of generic devices so distinguished that you might almost call them clichés—Science fiction’s “aah-aah-creation-turned-against-its-maker” is one, fantasy fiction’s “ooh-ooh-pact-with-the-devil” the other. The reader of Tweve Collections is still entranced and tickled by a stream of incident, but her excitations generally derive from a world of nuance. As the formulae become increasingly familiar (the collectors of tangibles are collected by their collections, anybody who hands over an intangible tends to feel ominious regret), more significance attaches to the little stuff—the manner, the mood, the colour, the detail—and to the cobweb of connections unfolding underneath the tales.

Link to the full review.

A voice from Japan

Edward Lipsett at Kurodahan Press on foreign authors being published in English:

Does anyone really know or care what the original language of a work was? There are actually quite a number of works translated from other languages into English, and in many cases (especially in the US) it doesn’t actually say anywhere whether it was translated or not. The translator’s name may be listed once inside, in small print, or not at all. As someone who has made a living out of translation for over 25 years, this is rather distressing, to say the least…


The problem persists, of course. Many American publishers (and possibly others; I mention American because that’s what I’m familiar with) believe that the buying public will be put off by books translated from other languages, and hide the translator’s name on the copyright page in the fine print. Kawabata Yasunari won the Nobel Prize in Literature, but I’m confident that a lot of the glory was earned by his translator, and if you don’t know who that was perhaps you’re reading the wrong blog.

I think the situation is changing slowly, though. Every so often an author comes along who combines excellent writing with an in-the-footlights homeland. One example is Zoran Zivkovic of Serbia. I happened to pick up a copy of his Seven Touches of Music, translated by Alice Copple-Tosic, and absolutely fell in love. The man is a genius, and apparently I am not the only one to notice, because a variety of his material is being published here and there in English. I was intrigued to note that the English translation mentions, for example “Mrs. Martha,” and wonder if Martha is her first name, last name, a name made up by the translator, or what… In Japan I am commonly called “Edward-san,” apparently because foreigners in Japan are always named in that fashion without regard for surnames or the fact that it seems to violate Japanese custom. Does the same custom exist in Serbia?

Link to the full entry.