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Posts Tagged ‘Erwin Mortier’

While the Gods Were Sleeping shortlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

In Awards, Masters on April 11, 2015 at 5:39 PM

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The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize was inaugurated by British newspaper The Independent to honour contemporary fiction in translation in the United Kingdom. This year eminent Dutch-language Belgian author Erwin Mortier’s While the Gods Were Sleeping is one of the contenders, joined by literary giant Haruki Murakami, German authors Jenny Erpenbeck and Daniel Kehlmann, Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel from Equatorial Guinea and Colombian Tomás González. The winner will be presented with the prize at the Royal Institute of British Architects on 27 May.

Helena’s mother always said she was a born poetess. It was not a compliment. Now an old woman, Helena looks back on her life and tries to capture the past, filling notebook after notebook with memories of her respectable, rigid upbringing, her unyielding mother, her loyal father, her golden-haired brother. She remembers how, at their uncle’s country house in the summer of 1914, their stately bourgeois life of good manners, white linen and afternoon tea collapsed into ruins. And how, with war, came a kind of liberation amidst the mud and rubble and the appearance of a young English photographer who transformed her existence.

Lyrical and tender, filled with images of blazing intensity, While the Gods Were Sleeping asks how it is possible to record the dislocation of war; to describe the indescribable. It is a breathtaking novel about the act of remembering, how the past seeps into our lives and how those we have lost leave their trace in the present.

While the Gods Were Sleeping was translated by acclaimed translator Paul Vincent and published by Pushkin Press.

Erwin Mortier made his mark in 1999 with his debut novel Marcel, which was awarded several prizes in Belgium and the Netherlands, and received acclaim throughout Europe. While the Gods were Sleeping received the AKO Literature Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the Netherlands.

Paul Vincent taught Dutch at the University of London for over twenty years before becoming a full-time translator. He has translated a wide variety of literature from Dutch, including Louis Couperus’s Inevitable and the Hidden Force as well as J.J. Slauerhoff’s The Forbidden Kingdom for Pushkin Press. In 2012 he was awarded the Vondel Translation Prize.

My Fellow Skin

In Review on November 18, 2012 at 4:01 PM

My Fellow Skin - Erwin Mortier

There is a sense in which Belgian novelist Erwin Mortier’s My Fellow Skin resembles Proust in his resurrection of lost significant moments. But Proust’s world is wound round in webs of reflection and explanation. Mortier strings those obstinately persisting moments of fear, incomprehension, relief like discrete beads on a string. His first-person narrator does not say he is looking for a pattern of causality or inherent psychological structure. But the linear threading of the beads is itself an ordering.

This is a Bildungsroman which is related to much European literature from Proust and Mann onwards. It is very sparsely populated with things and incidents, but what there are are peculiarly unforgettable, as though the memories of Anton’s body have been acquired by the reader. We are stifled and illuminated with him.

This depends of course on the writing, and the quality of writing is not always easy to discern through the glass of translation. Mortier is fortunate in his brilliant translator, Ina Rilke, who appears to have picked up all the little theological and historical references, all the almost invisible linked motifs, and woven them into an English whose rhythms have an apparently easy clarity and subtlety. Between them they have made a clear and articulate work of art.

Read the full review by A.S Byatt in The Guardian

Two other novels by Mortier, Marcel and Shutterspeed are beautifully translated by Ina Rilke as well, “Mortier writes beautiful metaphorical prose…Marcel is a literary debut of great originality.” The Times Literary Supplement.

Pushkin Press (London, UK) recently bought the foreign rights for Mortier’s award winning novel Godenslaap and Gestameld Liedboek. Pushkin Press will also reprint Marcel, My Fellow Skin and Shutterspeed.

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