[The Action Books Blog contributors share their favorite books-in-translation published in 2020. Some contributors also included some of their favorite excerpts alongside their selections. See you in 2021!]
Sense Violence by Helena Boberg (Translated from Swedish by Johannes Goransson) | Black Ocean
00000000000devours the words
00000000000loose as oysters
its flaking pistil
Mailcroix by Henri Bosco (Translated from French by Joyce Zonana) | NYRB
White bulls swam on rushing rivers of dark, heavy winds; muzzles raised, they bellowed in the stream as they slid toward the sea. The strangest hallucinations moved through my electrified wind-self. As the windswept expanse acquired more unreal dimensions in its height and depth and width, an entire aerial universe took shape around my soul. There the wind became the celestial matter of interstellar flows, and constellations of wind flowed down from the Seven Oxen of the northern sky. With their shooting stars, like a rain of blue winds flung by a vast Boreas across the infinite reaches of the world, these huge stellar shapes sparkled beneath the cosmic storm and were slowly absorbed into it, even as they rent the sky with long, dazzling, electric beams of light…
Memory Rose into Threshold Speech: The Collected Earlier Poetry (Paul Celan) A Bilingual Edition (Translated from German by Pierre Joris) | Macmillan
Moonmirror rockwall. Downward.(Breathflecked lightglow. Blood streaks.Clouding soul, once more near-shapely.
Eyes worldblind,eyes in the deathcliffs,eyes, eyes.
Phone Bells Keep Ringing for Me by Choi Seungja (Translated from Korean by Won-Chung Kim and Cathy Park Hong) | Action Books
For no reason, the years threw shit
ruthlessly in front of me
and behind me, into my mind and my body, too.
Those unchanging years
which couldn’t even flow away
fed me shit
and left me mercilessly
Katabasis by Lucía Estrada (Translated from Spanish by Olivia Lott) | Eulalia Books
Jellyfish, wide-open, circle you. Actually everything dangles its nets in your direction now. You want to go back because you’re frightened, but it’s impossible. The secret should be swallowed whole. You go back, in any case, inside yourself, aware of the reality of the red surge that threw you to the sea.
Spawn by Marie-Andrée Gill (Translated from French by Kristen Renee Miller) | Book*hug Press
A luck: the arena at night and making out
behind the police station
the northern lights dancing on nintendo
chicken buckets, the monthly allowance
happy meals from nobody’s birthday
and weekends in the woods
and partridges to twist.
And the lake, a luck, the lak
Carnation and Tenebrae Candle by Marosa di Giorgio (Translated from Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas) | Cardboard House Press
As we crossed all those gardens, there came a perfume, violent and subtle at the same time
To the friend who did not save my life by Hervé Guibert (Translated from French by Linda Coverdale) | MIT Press
Sky-Quake: Tremor of Heaven by Vicente Huidobro (Translated from Spanish and French by Ignacio Infante and Michael Leong) | co•im•press
The sky is slowly dying.
Do you hear the nailing of the coffin in the sky?
Enter, you all, into your own vertiginous cavern; descend without chloroform into your intimate depths.
Girls Against God by Jenny Hval (Translated from Norwegian by Marjam Idriss) | Verso Books
Agadir by Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine (Translated from French by Pierre Joris and Jake Syersak) | Diálogos
The city oozes, a red and white-veined yellow oil drop onto my memory’s soft folds. Roads in fits and starts toward the pale nakedness hoisted by the pylon’s night and the wind. The City toward the port, the railway station platforms, the swimming pools, the Kon-Tikis where my legs used to split the marine foam: My City that I carry along in my briefcase, My-City-Knife-Of-The-Sun. I don’t exhibit myself, I easily risk being understood.
Unexpected Vanilla by Lee Hyemi (Translated from Korean by So J. Lee) | Tilted Axis Press
Let’s walk with our fingers laced when the loquats arrive. Wet trees permeating between each finger. When we become jumbled branches with all the yellow we have, our touching palms become the world’s ripped interior. A tree begins when you break the berry and wet some other flesh. That’s why people who’ve put their palm lines together travel inside the same dream
Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda (Translated from Japanese by Polly Barton) | Soft Skull Press
études by Friederike Mayröcker (Translated from German by Donna Stonecipher) | Seagull Books
from a red barn by Víctor Rodríguez Núñez (Translated from Spanish by Katherine M. Hedeen) | co•im•press
The spiral thickens, layer over layer over layer, since knowledge is also and always translated. Far from any anxiety, embrace the influenza of influence. Dive deep into the derivative and uninspired, the imitative and hackneyed. Sick with it. I propose a countermapping where the original loses its power.
(from translator’s note, “translation = spiral”)
The Trilogy by Bruno K. Öijer (Translated from Swedish by Victoria Häggblom) | Action Books
inside the antique ivory comb
lingers an electric shower of sparks
who combed out their hair at the window
withdrew into themselves
and conjured up the fuse for the vast darkness
São Bernardo by Graciliano Ramos (Translated from Portuguese by Padma Viswanathan) | NYRB
“Not worth it. Let’s settle up.”“Settle up now? Didn’t I just tell you I can’t? Unless you’ll take the printing press.”“The printing press? Are you thick?”“It’s what I have. You’ve got to make do with what you have. I’m not denying I owe you, but how am I supposed to pay like this, with a knife in my chest? If I turned myself upside down today, a nickel wouldn’t fall out of my pocket. I’m tapped out.”“Bad form, Padilha. You know perfectly well the notes are due.”“But I don’t have the money! Am I supposed to steal? I can’t. It’s over.”“What’s over, you loafer? This is just the beginning. I’m taking everything, you dog. I’m leaving you in your long johns.”
Life in Space by Galina Rymbu (Translated from Russian by Joan Brooks) | Ugly Duckling Presse
Rough Song by Blanca Varela (Translated from Spanish by Carlos Lara) | The Song Cave
and just now I found them by listening
Yi Sang: Selected Works (Edited by Don Mee Choi and Translated from Korean and Japanese by Jack Jung, Don Mee Choi, Sawako Nakayasu, and Joyelle McSweeney) | Wave Books
My blood wets a cigarette. The red-light district burns through the night. Fake angels begin to breed, flying every direction, covering up the entire sky. However, everything I have put here in my room is heating up, clamoring all at once. The vast room rots from within. The wallpaper gets itchy. The trash wildly sticks to my walls.