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New Translation Trends and Learning to Talk to Plants

In Issue 3 of “The Pushing Post” we are bringing you an extended feature on new translation trends set by Vintage Editions, and a review of an upcoming translated book Learning to Talk to Plants, published by Pushkin Press.

Happy reading!

Translation Trends: Vintage to Launch New Series of Pocket-Sized Translations

With a global pandemic pushing international travel firmly off the cards, translated fiction is one way we can learn about the world without leaving the comfort of our own homes. And the launch of a new collection of pocket-sized translations, Vintage Editions, means that even when you go out, you can take your little piece of the world with you.

Launching on the 3rd of September with eight titles, Vintage Editions will "transport readers to wherever in the world literary innovation may be found". Among its authors are well-known names such as France’s Emmanuel Carriere, who takes two of the launching spots with titles The Class and The Moustache, and Patrick Modiano with The Search Warrant, his biography of a young girl who went missing during the German occupation of Paris, originally published in French. The collection is diverse both in genre and language of origin: other titles include Spanish author Carmen Laforet’s debut novel Nada, Hungarian writer Magda Szabo’s The Door, and Revenge, a collection of short stories by Japanese Yoko Ogawa.

Vintage Classics’ senior editor, Nick Skidmore, declared of the collection: "The Vintage catalogue has long been home to some of the most prized and prize-winning authors from across the world and so I’m thrilled that with Vintage Editions we now have a dedicated list with which to celebrate that range and versatility of our backlist in translation.

"All the titles in the Vintage Editions list are contemporary classics in their own right – books that surprise, transport and destabilise something in their reader – and the confident, bold design is a statement of the series’ ambitions. I’m excited to see how the list grows as a part of Vintage Classics."

The aesthetic of the collection takes inspiration from the minimalist look of its European counterpart: each cover has a minimal A-format design, a vibrant, off-centre panel and sophisticated French flaps, similar to France’s popular Livre de Poche collection.

The small books are portable enough to accompany the reader wherever they go: on the work commute, to the boulangerie, for a glass of vin rouge outside a little bistrot… In this post-Brexit era, the need to reach out across not only the channel but the globe is more vital than ever, and Vintage Editions are providing the UK publishing industry with an opportunity to do just that. Editorial Director of Vintage Classics Hattie Adam-Smith says she hopes that “this series will grow and evolve over the coming years, showcasing some of the most exciting modern literature in translation.” We hope so too.

Learning to Talk to Plants By Marta Orriols

Published on 3rd September by Pushkin Press, translated by Mara Faye Lethem

Learning to Talk to Plants is about the gut-wrenching journey Paula, the protagonist, has to embark on when her partner of many years, Mauro, suddenly dies.

Hours before his death, Mauro had told Paula he was leaving her for someone else. Throughout the novel she has to find the strength to reconcile her feelings of anger towards her partner, with the grief she feels for his passing, and learn to make those two very different feelings coexist.

Paula is also a doctor that works in the neonatal unit: she attaches hopes and fears to the tiny children that she cures and oversees. Oftentimes she is obsessive, and taking care of the babies seem an almost cathartic experience for her: throughout the novel it is as if she were healing herself in succeeding in caring for her tiny patients.

Paula also struggles with keeping her apartment plants alive: these plants were looked after by her partner, and her failure to water them is another way the protagonist has to exorcise her grief. In fact, this is a way for her to almost have a small revenge against the man who was going to leave her after so many years.

This novel’s protagonist is flawed and at times hard to like: her relationship with her friends, her father, one of her lovers, and even the connection she has with the woman Mauro was going to leave her for, are all masterfully portrayed in the book, and extremely important to understand Paula as a character and why she is how she is. The reader can follow her choices, which sometimes are frustrating, but ultimately make her an all-rounded and “real” character.

Learning to Talk to Plants is a heart-breaking book about grief, lived through a lens of anger and disappointment. Paula keeps hers and Mauro’s separation a secret, and makes small acts of vengeance to make herself feel better, until she accepts that she can grieve for her partner and also accept that the relationship wasn’t working anymore.

Marta Orriols does an amazing job of creating a book about loss, and giving it an almost comical and dark twist, almost as if to tell us that life is ironic, sometimes, but so is death.


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