André-Marcel Adamek at Words Without Borders

January 25th, 2012 § 5 comments § permalink

Happy New Year! For various reasons, it’s been a while since I posted, but I thought I’d better get this up before the month ended, and the January issue gets archived. My translation of André-Marcel Adamek’s story “The Ark” is up at Words Without Borders, who are kicking off 2012 with an appropriately apocalypse-themed issue. It begins like this: “I shall destroy man whom I have created from off the face of Belgium…” In less than one line, the reader gets a sense of the author’s playfulness and seriousness, his ambition and ardor, his humanism and humor. It also strikes, with perfect pitch, a sort of self-deprecating chord typical to Belgian writers, aware of their country’s size and how habitually it gets passed over. Belgians are nothing if not practiced at puncturing pretension, yet for all their mockworthy dithering, they have a very strong if complicated sense of identity. You know what kind of story you’re walking into here, and it delivers: a modern-day unassuming Noah, hapless before his exacting Lord. “The Ark” overflows with love, sometimes gentle, sometimes outraged, for the people of its tiny land.

Adamek was an author with huge heart. He knew how to spin a yarn, plumb a soul, pace a scene, and wright a sentence. A consummate autodidact, he fought for and earned everything he had, wresting it from an uncharitable world with cleverness and will. When I saw him in June, the ungrateful life with which that world sometimes rewards writers had worn him to a wisp. With the Belgian government still at an impasse, and Europe itself on the verge of economic crisis, “The Ark”, first penned in the mid-90s, had come to seem timely once more, if in all the ways no one would have hoped for.

André-Marcel Adamek passed away last August.

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