A collection of nine classic macabre tales, exquisitely translated from the Italian by Venuti.

FANTASTIC TALES

Originally published in English in 1992, these reissued translations will introduce Tarchetti's short, fantastic works to a new generation of U.S. readers.

Tarchetti (1839-1869) was a novelist, journalist, and poet aligned with a scrappy Milanese collective of artist-agitators known as the Scapigliatura (from scapigliato, "disheveled"). As is evident in this collection, Tarchetti, who also worked as a translator, was heavily influenced by gothic literature from abroad, favoring the morbid, the metaphysical, the socially and sexually outré. However, despite frequent use of Italian settings in earlier works by gothic authors from other countries, by Tarchetti's time, gothic literature had not taken hold in Italy, and until Venuti discovered otherwise while translating these stories, Tarchetti was credited with writing the first gothic tale in Italian in 1865. This story, about a young man who drinks a potion to relieve himself of love for his disloyal sweetheart, which appears in this collection as "The Elixir of Immortality (In Imitation of the English)," was actually an unattributed translation (with a few notable tweaks) of Mary Shelley's "The Mortal Immortal." Whether viewed as a pure act of literary subterfuge or, as Venuti does, also a sly statement on the anti-bourgeois ethos of the Scapigliatura, comparing Venuti's retranslation into English with Shelley's original is in itself a brief and illuminating education in the art and artifice of literary translation. While certain stories, like "The Letter U (A Madman's Manuscript)" and "Captain Gubart's Fortune," will likely seem less fresh to modern readers than they would have to 19th-century Italian audiences, others still feel remarkably vivid and innovative. In "A Spirit in a Raspberry," when the myopic and supercilious Baron B. eats the fruit of a mysterious raspberry bush that has sprouted following a maid's disappearance, the most interesting aspect isn't what happens next but the way it unfolds in an almost psychedelic portrayal of the resultant war for dominance of personality and gender expression within the baron's body. In "Bouvard," it isn't the perverse but ultimately predictable ending but the young Bouvard's unassailable belief in his future success despite the disadvantages of his birth, the sensitivity he displays toward nature and the inspiration he draws from it for his art, and ultimately the disillusionment he feels with society when his talent and fame as a violinist fail to produce the acceptance and affection he most desires. The collection overall is well worth the read for these and other inventive tales.

A collection of nine classic macabre tales, exquisitely translated from the Italian by Venuti.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-939810-62-5

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

THE SWALLOWED MAN

A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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