Spotlight On: Fitzcarraldo Editions
By Mollie Gregory-Clark, Priyanka Joshi and Isobel Jones
Fitzcarraldo Editions was founded back in 2014 by Jacques Testard, a then publishing hopeful who was struggling to break into the industry – an experience we’re sure many can relate to! Testard decided to take a punt and open up his own indie press, which would specialise in contemporary fiction and long-form essays. Almost a decade later, it is clear that Fitzcarraldo Editions has built up a reputation of excellence in publishing, with a barrage of world-class titles and not one, but three, Literary Nobel Prize laureates on their books. One of Fitzcarraldo’s principal aims is to make the work of little-known international authors more widely available to an English-speaking audience. In so doing, Testard and his team have successfully produced a boundary-pushing, culturally rich and imaginative line-up of reads, with something for all tastes, be it an essay on gender theory, a classic of Brazilian Modernism, or a provocative contemporary novel.
Sleepless by Marie Darrieussecq
Translated by Penny Hueston
Sleepless is a memoir by French author Marie Darrieussecq about her experience with insomnia. The book explores the physical, psychological and existential effects of sleeplessness, as well as the cultural and historical contexts of insomnia. Writing with wit and insight, Darrieussecq weaves together her personal story with scientific research, philosophical observations and literary allusions. She opens up about her own struggle, as well as the different treatments she tried, including hypnosis, psychoanalysis and medication, while reflecting on the experiences of other people with insomnia, both famous and anonymous. This fascinating and thought-provoking book offers a unique perspective on one of the most common yet least understood human experiences.
Mild Vertigo by Mieko Kanai
Translated by Polly Barton
Set in contemporary Japan, Mild Vertigo follows a housewife named Natsumi as she searches for the meaning and purpose of life in a capitalist society. Feeling increasingly dissatisfied and disoriented, the protagonist experiences mild vertigo due to her suffocating routine which is perceived as a physical manifestation of her inner turmoil. Divided into eight chapters, Kanai examines Natsumi’s life and the challenges of being a woman in the modern world. Natsumi's own fragmented and chaotic thoughts are highlighted by Kanai's outstanding use of a variety of literary methods, particularly stream of consciousness. Exploring themes of alienation, isolation and the search for meaning, this disconcertingly brilliant novel is a must-read for anybody who feels trapped in their life.
A Very Easy Death by Simone de Beauvoir
Translated by Patrick O'Brian, with an introduction by Ali Smith
Originally published in 1964, A Very Easy Death is an autobiographical account of the final illness and death of Simone de Beauvoir's mother, Françoise. Delving deep into emotions, Simone paints a raw and painful picture of losing a close relative due to a dreadful sickness like cancer. Beauvoir writes with great clarity and compassion to convey the meaning of death and the nature of life. Divided into two parts, it describes the physical and psychological effects of the illness, as well as the medical treatments and preparation for death. Moreover, Beauvoir expresses her own reactions to her mother's illness, including her feelings of guilt, anger and sadness. Equal parts jarring and moving, this end-of-life account is ultimately memorable.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Winner of the 2018 International Man Booker Prize, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a dark, feminist comedy told from the perspective of an elderly woman living in rural Poland who is awakened by her neighbour, in the dead of night, to find herself right in the middle of a murder mystery. Intelligent, eccentric and empathetic, the woman lives alone, devoted to her studies on astrology, with a preference for the company of animals over humans. Her character is precisely what makes this story a delight to read, full of wit in a novel that is tainted with darkness.
Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel
Translated by Rosalind Harvey
A heartfelt novel about motherhood, friendship and the choice of whether or not to have children, explored through the lives of two independent, career-driven women. One is certain of her choice to not have children and makes the decision to have her tubes tied, whilst the other changes her mind and is faced with far more during her pregnancy than she could ever imagine. Now longlisted for the 2023 International Booker Prize, Still Born has been praised for its elegant, compassionate and intelligent analysis of the ambivalence and complexity of motherhood, and the author has been praised for her skill at generating discussions of topics that are not so frequently spoken of.
An Apartment on Uranus by Paul B. Preciado
Translated by Charlotte Mandell
The coldest planet in the solar system, named after a Roman god, is the inspiration for the coined term ‘Uranism’, and forms the basis of An Apartment on Uranus, a collection of Paul B. Preciado’s columns for a Parisian newspaper. Dreaming of an apartment where he can live on Uranus, far from the constructs of race, gender, class and disability, Preciado recalls his transition. He discusses hormones and name changing alongside an examination of other forms of political, cultural and sexual transitioning. Engaging, eye-opening and deeply personal, with Preciado’s humour weaved throughout.