Forthcoming: A Room by Youval Shimoni

RoombyShimoniWhile I’m trying to write a review of perhaps the most ambitious and insane untranslated novel of the last century, let me introduce to you another spectacular novel, which luckily for many, has been translated into English and is due to be published by the marvelous Dalkey Archive. If you have read and enjoyed William Gaddis’ The Recognitions, you might as well start looking forward to the publication of  A Room, a big novel of ideas written by Israeli writer Youval Shimoni. Composed as a triptych, it is a complex meditation on art, faith, and human condition. The first part of the novel is set in Israel and tells us about a police investigation in one of the military camps following a tragic death by fire. In the second part we get to know an art student at the Beaux-Art in Paris who wants to create a modern version of Andrea Mantegna’s painting The Lamentation of Christ by setting the Biblical scene in a morgue and using three homeless people as his models. The third part takes us to a mythical dimension in which a whole nation is forced by its ruler to erect a statue to their god: a tremendous enterprise which is doomed to failure. If you happen to read French, and do not want to wait for 2016, you might as well check out the French translation. The novel was hailed in Israel as an instant classic. For instance, Amos Oz praised it as a “searing statement about the dangerous and comical insanity of artistic pretensions and of the unavoidable shattering of these pretensions… A book that is both terrible and terrific.” Discovering a new name in literature has always been an exciting event, so the news of this upcoming translation has definitely made my day, and, I hope, yours too.

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5 Responses to Forthcoming: A Room by Youval Shimoni

  1. Definitely a book I’m anxious to get in March.

  2. Yes, Miguel, it looks very promising. However, a lot will depend on the translation I guess. So far there have been only two reviews of the English translation, neither was very positive, but maybe it’s a kind of book that requires slow and careful reading.

  3. Thanks for sharing you review. This is of some note: “Most American readers will find South African born translator Michael Sharp’s Commonwealth English understandable if occasionally awkward.” Does it mean, that if the translator was an American, the British readers might find some of his/her renderings awkward? And what’s the solution to this? Should we create some new form of neutral English specifically for the purpose of translation? I’ve always found this subject fascinating. Good to see a more positive view of the novel.

    • davidfcooper says:

      I expect some British and Commonwealth readers might find American words and/or phrases awkward, but for better or worse the ubiquity of American movies and TV programs make American English more familiar to non-American anglophones than the reverse. A split the difference solution would be to hire a Canadian translator, since Canadian English occupies the middle ground between British and American English.

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