Review by Tess Tabak
Who knew mushrooms could be so fascinating?
In The Beauty of the Death Cap, Nikonor, the eccentric narrator, states, “I have always preferred the company of trees and mushrooms to that of my fellow humans.” That is the gist of the book. With a wry sense of humor, Nikonor takes us on a rolling journey through his life in mushrooms. He is obsessed with fungi, and has made them his life’s work. The people he meets are another story.
Author Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze gives us a Nabokovian narrator in Nikonor. The prose is gorgeous, with lines shifting back and forth between French and English that verge on poetry (“Encore que . . . suddenly I am seized with doubt!”). He slowly unveils a narrative, distracted along the way by tangents on everything from mushrooms to Charles Baudelaire’s missed calling as a nature poet, all with a surprisingly sharp sense of humor and a pretentious air. He speaks of death and murder as coldly and carelessly as if he were talking about picking a mushroom, musing things like, “I am a lone wolf by nature. I made the mistake of taking on a partner only once, and the attempt ended in an abject failure—one from which my associate did not recover.” Continue reading
As a translator, Tina Kover bridges gaps between cultures. For over ten years, she has been translating novels from French into English, so that they can be read and appreciated by a wider audience. This year alone, Kover has translated two wildly different books: Disoriental by Negar Djavadi (read our review here) and The Beauty of the Death Cap by Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze, forthcoming this fall from Snuggly Books.
This year, Kover even helped to bridge the gap between a married couple. “[Catherine’s husband] doesn’t speak French, so he actually couldn’t read her book until I translated it, which is quite funny.”
When asked if he liked the book, Kover laughed. “He loved it,” she said. “But [Catherine] said she was a little frustrated because as he was reading it, he kept saying more about how much he liked the translation than the book itself.” Continue reading
There’s a commonly held belief among academics that you should always read works in the original language. However, with over 3,000 languages in the world, that’s a damaging idea. Esther Allen, an award-winning translator and langauge educator at Baruch College, called that type of thinking “a pretext for not paying attention to the rest of the world.”
On Thursday, Gabriella Page-Fort, the editorial director of AmazonCrossing, joined in conversation with Elisabeth Jaquette, Executive Director of American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), and Esther Allen, at Book Expo America. They shared their insights about translation, including advice for anyone looking to enter the field. Continue reading