December is Crime Month at Words Without Borders

December 1st, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

I had a friend in film school who always said that assembling-the-team montages were his favorite part of movies, from westerns (The Magnificent Seven) to war movies (The Dirty Dozen), and of course classic crime flicks. I think we were discussing The Usual Suspects. For him, those segments were the high point—pure potential—and even though the actual adventure had yet to start, it all went downhill from there. Which is likely literally true of noir.

Maybe I took his words to heart? Because the excerpt I carved out and translated Les Faux Visages (Futuropolis, 2011) is exactly that: putting the gang together. Every crook gets his brief, cutaway bio setting up character and history as the camera pans around the room where they’ve gathered to discuss the next job. All the usual suspects are indeed there: the smooth gangster, the young hoodlum, the safecracker, the munitions man, the cat burglar… and, this being a David B. script, the reference to some great fabulist: in this case, Marcel Schwob. Himself a writer fascinated by violent brigands and their colorful argot, Schwob was a major influence on Borges’ Universal History of Iniquity.

Penned by David B. with art by Hervé Tanquerelle, False Faces is based on the true history of the Wig Gang, audacious Parisian bank robbers who had an unbroken string of successful holdups in the early 80s. Some of them are still at large today.

The excerpt is live in the December issue of Words Without Borders. Check it out!

Lots of love for A Game for Swallows

December 20th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

A Game for Swallows is getting lots of local and international love. It made World Literature Today‘s year-end Notable Translations list for the year. Huge congrats to all the authors and translators so honorably mentioned!

Nicole Cipri at Gozamos, a Chicago culture blog, makes astute observations about Abirached’s use of negative space on both thematic and pictorial levels.

Such emptiness inspires a sort of pensiveness, an uncertainty. It reminds us of our own smallness and insignificance, particularly when viewed through the wide lens of history…
It’s telling, then, how much negative space Zeina Abirached uses in her graphic memoir, A Game for Swallows. Uncertainty and worry infect each page. Abirached was born during the Lebanese civil war, a conflict that lasted nearly fifteen years and claimed 120,000 lives…
The artwork is full of strong lines and patterns, bordering on whimsical, and reminiscent of Islamic geometric designs. We never see a bomb, a gun, or a pool of blood, perhaps because this is a child’s recollection. Instead, there is that negative space, that sense that one lacks control.

The Provo, Utah Library blog says:

This black and white look at one night of life in war-torn Lebanon is a touching, important book, as it tells the stories of not only the children but also the neighbors and how they’ve been impacted by the war.

Thanks to Words Without Borders and PEN America for believing in this book from the beginning, and running excerpts that helped convince publishers to take it on. Thanks much to Nicolas Grivel, the French Voices grant program, the editorial team at Lerner, and author Zeina Abirached herself for making this book happen!

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