Translation Reading Challenge 2013 – Wrap-up

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It was Curiosity Killed the Bookworm’s Translation Challenge that I found the most ‘challenging’ of this year’s reading challenges. But it also delivered some of the best and most thought-provoking books I read this year.

I started and finished the challenge with books about mothers (both were brilliant) – Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran and The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante. Xinran’s stories will never leave me – steel your heart a little before beginning it although regardless of how prepared you feel, you’ll finish in tears. Continue reading

‘The Infatuations’ by Javier Marías

I’ll be upfront. I struggled with this one. Read on and I’ll describe the plot of The Infatuations by Javier Marías and you’ll think to yourself, ‘That sounds really, really good!’ and yes, you’d be correct because the plot is really, really good. It’s just getting there that was tough. There’s a lot of monologues. A lot of deep thinking. A lot of navel-gazing.

The plot is simple – Maria Dolz goes to a cafe each morning and becomes infatuated with a couple that are also regulars. In Maria’s eyes, the couple are perfect.

“You could say that I wished them all the best in the world, as if they were characters in a novel or a film for whom one is rooting right from the start, knowing that something bad is going to happen to them, that at some point, things will go horribly wrong, otherwise there would be no novel or film. … They were the brief, modest spectacle that lifted my mood before I went to work at the publishing house to wrestle with my megalomaniac boss and his horrible authors.”

Of course, Maria is shocked when she learns that the man has been brutally stabbed to death in what seems to be a random crime. After a while she befriends the man’s widow, and then begins an affair with the man’s best friend. A strange and disturbing love triangle forms, and Maria soon realises that the murder may not have been as ‘random’ as it first appeared. Continue reading