Europe: Romanian Books, New Weird Events, Moomin, and Book Haul

Jeff VanderMeer • September 6th, 2008 @ 1:57 pm • Book Reviews, News, Uncategorized

(Romanian jaws, and detail work from an original Svankmajer we bought at the famous Gamba Gallery.)

For some reason we took more photographs of Romanian books but wound up buying a lot of books by Czech authors in translation. We also encountered intriguing Czech editions of Milos Urban in Prague bookstores, and were delighted to be told by a bookstore employee at the famous Anagram Bookstore that an English edition, through a Finnish publisher (?!), of one of his books would be available this year. Urban’s work, from what we saw, appears to be relatively unique, in a slipstream, pseudo-Gothic vein. Note also this free poster we got, created especially for Anagram:

At the same time, we also bought some books in the Zurich and Budapest airports, which we wound up getting a chance to read. (I’d brought Mo Hayder’s Pig Island with me from the US, which I can sum up thusly: 1st 200 pages excellent with creepy Wickerman atmosphere; 2nd 150 pages waffling but setting up any number of possibilities; last 75 pages banal, predictable, rushed, and disappointing. I love Hayder’s work, but felt she let me down this time.)

Here’s a link to all of our photos of books from Romania, including Horia Ursu’s excellent library, and photos from book launches, etc.

And below find comments on what we bought and brought back.

The spectacular NW poster created by Laser Books

The poster for Parcon

I found 54, written by committee, much more entertaining than DB Pierre’s Ludmilla’s Broken English. 54 in the end might not have added up to that much, but it had some convincing adventures along the way, and the portrayal of Cary Grant working for the secret service and meeting Tito was perfectly written. I very much enjoyed 54, in particular because the characters turned out to be more likeable than I thought when I started. Ludmilla’s Broken English just seems oddly paced and oddly structured. It involves two conjoined twins separated in their thirties and Ludmilla, who lives in some godforsaken part of the former Soviet republic. Ludmilla’s sections are much less passive than those of the twins, who tend to talk to no effect. It’s good dialogue, but there’s not much movement. When their story intertwines with Ludmilla–they go to visit her when she, in desperation over her circumstances, puts her photo on a mail-order bride site. The grand guignol ending seems entirely appropriate, but is undercut by the coda in which more escape than should have. I really didn’t, in the end, understand why the book existed. It seemed more like an exercise in cleverness, despite some brilliant writing.

Ann read but did not love Kate Atkinson’s first novel. I think she found it too unrelentingly depressing and found some of the side stories, not fully developed, more compelling than the main narrative. Still, it did hold her attention to the end.

I bought these at Anagram in Prague, which was just across the square from our amazing hotel.

The Parcon program book on the right and Tero’s Finnish Fandom chapbook on the left. Both smart-looking productions.

Mike Haulica’s latest book of essays, and a cute little Czech SF book we bought a few of as a novelty gift for friends in the US.

This tarot set is nothing short of spectacular, including a book about its creator. And the first of several English translations of Czech writers recommended to us.

My Romanian translator’s novel, and City Sister Silver, which we’re told is a contemporary masterpiece of Czech fiction.

Twisted Spoon Press does some very attractive editions of Czech writers in English.

Two more Czech recommendations.

Books and magazines from Cornel Secu’s press, including the publicity poster he had made up for our event.

Jukka Halme, thank you for our Moomin pillow cases!!!

More of the wonderful Svankmayer piece we bought.

Plus a shot from inside the gallery, and outside.

And, finally, I urge you to go out and buy the magnificent Black Clock 9, which work by me, Jonathan Lethem, Brian Evenson, Steve Erickson, and many more.

Oh, and I defaced Orcs and now Orbit is running a contest.

Tomorrow, beer, spirits, food, and Finns.

13 Responses to “Europe: Romanian Books, New Weird Events, Moomin, and Book Haul”

  1. Cheryl’s Mewsings » Blog Archive » Con Reportage says:

    [...] Jeff VanderMeer, Jukka Halme and Tero Ykspetäjä have reports from Parcon, the Czech national science fiction convention. Sounds like a great time was had by all. [...]

  2. Ekaterina Sedia says:

    Oh man! I’m so jealous of your Moomin pillowcases!

  3. Larry says:

    I’ve read one of MiloÅ¡ Urban’s books in Spanish translation, Las siete iglesias (The Seven Churches) and I thought it was a pretty good read when I read it early last year. I wonder if that’s the book that’ll be released in English translation in Finland (which sounds quite odd, needless to say).

    As for those other books, you’re tempting me…I’m trying to cut back on book buying through the rest of the year, so I can afford to buy furniture and to pay for my upcoming move, but some of those look appealing to me…even if I only understand a smattering of those languages at best. But book lust is an illogical affair, no?

  4. Jen says:

    OMG that Jaws cover is sooo atrocius! And the tagline is so cheesy…

  5. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Isn’t it, Jen?!
    Larry–most of the books we bought are in English!

    Jeff

  6. Alex says:

    Jeff, where did you manage to buy this Tarot set? It’s magnificent.

  7. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    It was in a store in Prague that you can see in our storefronts of Prague set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vanderworld/2828815920/in/set-72157607113377055/

  8. Alex says:

    I’m off to Prague next month. I’ll certainly look for this shop.

  9. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Yes–it’s up near one end of the main palace/castle, I believe. Is the store title clear enough in one of the photos?

  10. Alex says:

    Yeah, the name’s Adelaide, isn’t it? I thought it was in Zlota Uliczka (the Golden Street) first but then, the door is too big for that to be true. I tried to Google it but nothing came up. But if I can’t find it next month, it’s no problem: Prague is really close and I plan to go to Czech Republic a lot in the next two years.

  11. Larry says:

    Jeff, I know most of the ones you showed are available in English, but I have an expensive habit of occasionally buying translated editions of favorite works (own 8 editions of The Little Prince, for example), so seeing the Czech and Romanian artwork is making me glance longingly towards ABEbooks and ponder if I can afford to spend $500 this month on imports rather than buying that LCD HDTV I kinda might want for my apartment…

  12. Bear says:

    Larry, if any Romanian book is to your taste, give a sign and I’ll find a way to get it to you. of course, I’ll want some british/american books in return :)

  13. Larry says:

    Will do, Horia. Might be a few days, though, as I’m in the midst of my Hell Week of Daily Meetings every day this week but Friday.

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