PositiveAsymptoteLina Meruane’s Nervous System is a curious little book, both deeply intimate and widely relatable ... Megan McDowell does an excellent job of balancing the sentence-level manipulations of language with the coldness of rendering a woman’s breakdown in slow-motion. Ominously at work is a wider narrative about the ways illness and violence, both personal and national, continue to live in the long-term memory of the body ... As the story widens to encompass the other characters, it still remains internally focused. We learn other character’s illnesses but not where or who they are, and we only know them as they relate to Ella. There are oblique references to state violence ... Perhaps the most distinctive thing about this novel is that it takes place in tenses more so than on a timeline. Much like the universes Ella studies, the narrative is constantly wrapping around itself, expanding and contracting ... Nervous System is a quiet novel. McDowell does an excellent job of translating the tenses and tensions, characteristic of Meruane’s lyrical style, in a way that captivates the reader, even though there is little active plot.
Abdellah Taia, Trans. by Emma Ramadan
RaveAsymptote... more about atmosphere than plot. It is a brief, taut work that digs deep into the margins of society to demonstrate the many ways in which colonialism pollutes our notions of love and self ... Their stories read like monologues, and talk toward each other more than they ever intersect ... great emotional effect ... Taïa masterfully conveys...characters’ frustrations by equating their work to a performance of sorts—a(n) (dis)illusion ... These crushing depictions serve an important political purpose in Taïa’s deft hands: they showcase how sexuality, too, can be colonized ... A Country for Dying during a period of widespread immigration, social distancing, and oppression of marginalized groups feels almost prescient. Its powerful lyricism, on the other hand—fully captured in Ramadan’s skillful translation—is positively timeless.
Mercè Rodoreda, Trans. by Martha Tennent
PositiveAsymptoteIt is a testament to Rodoreda’s skill that she not only packs such richness into her novels, but it is just understated enough to intrigue the reader to dig deeper. It is not just hesitancy that clouds the narrative, but also grief ... Martha Tennent and Maruxa Relaño embrace the seeming non-events of the text and render emotional undercurrents beautifully, skillfully striking a balance between the rhythm of Rodoreda’s writing and the moments where we seem to luxuriate in the language itself. Both the translators and the author seem to know that the power of Garden by the Sea lies in the spaces between the words, in what remains unsaid, and the result is a story that settles itself in your mind, content to be recalled later on, perhaps in a garden.