NEA Literature Fellowships

Will Vanderhyden

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(2016 - Translation)

from The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán

[Translated from the Spanish]

When the workday is over, Lina mutates, transforming into the princess of local counterculture. Every night, she puts on her show in an unequivocally and decidedly bohemian café in the center of the city. There, Lina dramatizes and soliloquizes the life and death of Joan Vollmer, the unfortunate wife of William S. Burroughs who caught a bullet fired by the author of Naked Lunch in the temple while playing a game of William Tell. That night, after finishing her hospital-recreational duties, on the pretext of a headache, Penélope escapes from Mount Karma and arrives at the bar Carpe Noctum. Lina has put her name on the list and Penélope is greeted by the bar owners. Two foreigners—one skinny and sad and the other massive and expansively happy—whose nationalities appear to have faded away like those passports with worn out covers and pages that won’t fit even one more stamp. Professional foreigners. “They look like first rate B-roll actors at the premiere of Casablanca,” Penélope thinks as the short one leads her to a table and the giant serves her a tall glass filled to the brim with rum while all the while the jukebox plays some kind of pop supplication, something that talks about intermittencies of the heart, something like that. On the stage, with a red hole in the side of her head, Lina is sitting in front of a TV that broadcasts nothing. Lina is Joan Vollmer, sitting in front of a TV, broadcasting her death and life from the depths of the pre-Columbian netherworld. In the body and voice of Lina, Joan Vollmer is hating on the beatniks and refusing to resign herself to be a minor member in the body of the beat.

Original in Spanish

About Rodrigo Fresán

Rodrigo Fresán’s unique narrative sensibility, his propulsive, contagious style, and his creative sampling of literary and popular culture make him one of the most original contemporary writers of Spanish language literature. He is the author of nine books of fiction that together compose an expansive, interconnected fictional universe—a complex system of storylines, resonances, and self-reference.

The Invented Part delves into the mind of a writer, into how stories come into being, into the ways reality feeds fiction and vice versa. Its massive scope, diffracted structure, and irrepressible style create a mirror hall of memories and obsessions, a mash-up of great literature, pop culture, sci-fi, and rock ‘n’ roll, a whirlwind of rewritten histories and alternate realities.

Will Vanderhyden is a translator of Spanish and Latin American Fiction. He has a BA from Lawrence University and an MA in literary translation from the University of Rochester. He has translated two novels by the Chilean writer Carlos Labbé for Open Letter Books, Navidad & Matanza (2014) and Loquela (2015). His translations have appeared in such journals as The Literary Review, Asymptote, and Two Lines, and in the anthology of Spanish language literature A Thousand Forests in One Acorn.

Translator's Statement

More than anything, this NEA fellowship will allow me the freedom to, for a while, fully engage with the sprawling, multifaceted novel that is Rodrigo Fresán’s The Invented Part, to study it, to comprehend the way its world of references fits together, to work at recreating in English the coherence of its complex interplay of ideas and the rhythms of its sinuous sentences. Rodrigo Fresán is one of the Spanish language’s most innovative contemporary fiction writers, and yet, while much of his work has been widely translated into other languages, only one book—Kensington Gardens—has so far made its way into English. The NEA’s decision to support my translation of Fresán’s most recent novel is not only a great honor for me personally, it’s a testament to the value of his writing and an acknowledgement of his relative absence from our own literature. I am deeply grateful to the NEA for their vote of confidence in me as a translator, for their appreciation of Fresán’s work, and for their continued commitment to enriching the landscape of American letters by supporting translation.