As with the theme of the month, today I going to put you on to three books from their catalog this year. Finding books is what Lost Books Month is about and there are few publishing firms that have done the work in finding books like Archipelago.
Here are three books recently "found" by Archipelago. Remember that the only way to keep them "found" is by going out and procuring yourself a copy. Sorry, it's just the system we're beholden to.
Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer by Ernst Weiss. Translated from the German by Joel Rotenberg. Archipelago Books. Fiction. Trade paperback. ISBN: 0980033039. 350 pps. $17.
From Archipelago Books' website...
First published in 1931 and now appearing for the first time in English, Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer is a disquieting anatomy of a deviant mind in the tradition of Crime and Punishment. Letham, the treacherously unreliable narrator, is a depraved bacteriologist whose murder of his wife is, characteristically, both instinctual and premeditated. Convicted and exiled, he attempts to atone for his crimes through science, conceiving of the book we are reading as an empirical report on himself – whose ultimate purpose may be to substitute for a conscience. Yet Letham can neither understand nor master himself. His crimes are crimes of passion, and his passions remain more or less untouched by his reason – in fact they are constantly intruding on his “report,” rigorous as it is intended to be. Both feverish and chilling, Georg Letham explores the limits of reason and the tensions between objectivity and subjectivity. Moving from an unnamed Central European city to arctic ice floes to a tropical-island prison, this layered novel – with its often grotesquely comic tone and arresting images – invites us into the darkest chambers of the human psyche.
Wonder by Hugo Claus. Translated from the Dutch by Michael Henry Heim. Fiction. Archipelago Books. Trade Paperback. 338 pp. ISBN: 9780980033014. $15.
From a February 2010 Devil's Accountant Front List/Back List post...
Claus' hapless but intelligent protagonist is Victor de Rijckel, a schoolteacher. Victor is clearly mentally unstable and, lucky for us, also the supposed author of the book we are reading. He is not however an unreliable source. Despite the revelation that Rijckel is penning his book from the confines of a madhouse, the reader should still believe his story. There is something intrinsic in de Rijckel's Belgium. Whether in the eternal collaboration of big business (in his case Haakebeen's Lumber and Furniture Center) with the powers that be (NAZI or foreign occupying) or the echoes of a fascistic sense of inherited destiny espoused by Victor's Principal, Claus' world relates to ours with disturbing ease.
The story itself sums up easily, if somewhat absurdly. Victor, a teacher who has been divorced by a student whom he married, meets a remarkable beauty at the town's annual costumed ball, which is named The White Rabbit Ball. He follows her and her male suitors to the sea, where, following an antisemitic outburst, she drives off leaving the suitors to ponder her existence. In short order, and with the assistance of his very own Sancho Panza manifested in an impish boy from the school he teaches at, de Rijckel learns the whereabouts and seeks out this mysterious woman.
I wondered about the ball's name to some degree, as the theme of madness and an increasingly lurid adventure full of fearful tyrants and bizarre benefactors aligns well with that other rabbit hole induced fantasy, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.
From Archipelago Books' website...
In his novels, Hugo Claus lays bare the haunted underbelly of twentieth-century Flanders with portaits of a shattered society and warped psyches rising to a mythic pitch. In Wonder, Victor-Denijs de Rijckel, a bewildered schoolteacher, is led to a distant village in pursuit of a mysterious woman. Tracking her to an underground political conference in a remote castle, he poses as an expert on Crabbe, a messianic Belgian fascist who disappeared in World War II. Drifting into a dense fog as his sanity begins to crumble, de Rijckel soon finds himself trapped among a handful of desperate individuals still living out the consequences of their collaboration with the Nazis decades earlier, all of whom are united by their belief that Crabbe's return is imminent. The subtle cadences of the prose and the dense emotional texture of characters lost in complex moral labyrinths make Wonder a symphony only Claus could have composed.
A Time For Everything by Karl O. Knausgaard. Translated from the Norwegian by James Anderson. Archipelago Books. Fiction. Trade paperback. 600 pps. ISBN: 098003308X. $20.
From Archipelago Books' Website...
In the sixteenth century, Antinous Bellori, a boy of eleven, is lost in a dark forest and stumbles upon two glowing beings, one carrying a spear, the other a flaming torch . . . This event is decisive in Bellori’s life, and he thereafter devotes himself to the pursuit and study of angels, the intermediaries of the divine. Beginning in the Garden of Eden and soaring through to the present, A Time for Everything reimagines pivotal encounters between humans and angels: the glow of the cherubim watching over Eden; the profound love between Cain and Abel despite their differences; Lot’s shame in Sodom; Noah’s isolation before the flood; Ezekiel tied to his bed, prophesying ferociously; the death of Christ; and the emergence of sensual, mischievous cherubs in the seventeenth century. Alighting upon these dramatic scenes – from the Bible and beyond – Knausgaard’s imagination takes flight: the result is a dazzling display of storytelling at its majestic, spellbinding best. Incorporating and challenging tradition, legend, and the Apocrypha, these penetrating glimpses hazard chilling questions: can the nature of the divine undergo change, and can the immortal perish?