Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Mighty Angel

Jerzy Pilch's The Mighty Angel, published by Open Letter and distributed here in Canada by Biblioasis, has been shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award. Over at Three Percent, Open Letter's blog on translated literatures -- an essential site for anyone interested in contemporary literature in translation, -- publisher Chad Post has been spotlighting each shortlisted title. Today's is The Mighty Angel's turn, one of my favourite books from 2009:

The Mighty Angel is a difficult book to talk about. Although, ironically, this glass of wine is totally loosening me up. BTW, I’m writing this on Saturday night—not completely inappropriate time to be drinking. But seriously, how can one relate humor, the joy that comes from reading about a writer (named Jerzy) who is a life-long alcoholic and spends most of his time either getting out of rehab or going on the bender that will send him right back? How can a novel that relates—in painfully true to life detail—story after story of people hitting rock bottom, of people destroying their lives for another drink, another high, another lost night, how can a novel with this much pain and pathos also be incredibly fun to read?

It’s Pilch’s genius to be able to craft a narrative that’s both honest and deceiving. That doesn’t pull punches when exposing his character flaws, but does so in a way that makes it seem like he might be writing himself better, so to speak. That by putting these things down, by conveying them in a way that you can relate, that you can see the problem, that if he can do that, he can cure himself.

For the rest, please go here.

Open Letter is publishing two other Pilch titles, including his A Thousand Peaceful Cities, which will be released in summer 2010. I've already read this short novel, and think it quite brilliant. For now, though, you could do far worse than pick up Pilch's Angel.

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