Free Books from Archipelago.

The Latest from Archipelago Books:

Dear readers and friends,

As a response to the pandemic, we would like to offer 30 ebooks FREE from March 19th until April 2nd! Simply click ‘purchase’ on the book page and you will be able to download the book free of charge. In the meantime, thank you for continuing to support world literature. We are grateful. Our free ebook library includes…

It’s an impressive and wide-ranging list, and I applaud both the generous offer (I snagged some great-sounding books) and their attempt to deal with the problem featured in this post. (Don’t forget to click the “e-book” circle; the paperbacks aren’t free!)

Also, the LRB is “featuring just one piece from our archive per day … for 24 hours”; check it out, there’s some good stuff.

Update. Melville House is offering e-book editions of their top ten bestselling novels at $1.99 for the next week. I grabbed Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone; they’ve got Raymond Radiguet, Irvine Welsh, Andrey Kurkov, and others on offer.


  1. Wonderful list.

    Especially this
    A Dream in Polar Fog by Yuri Rytkheu, trans. by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse

    Yuri Rytkheu was a Chukchi writer who wrote both in Russian and Chukchi.

    The Chukchi are a small Siberian Arctic people numbering a little over 15 thousand in total and for them to have a real literature translated into major European languages is a small miracle.

    One of the books of Rytkheu I’ve read in Russian was SF novel (!!!)

  2. Yes, that was the first one I grabbed!

  3. John Cowan says

    I’ve ordered it too, along with Musil’s Posthumous Papers and Aridjis’s Child Poet. It may be a while before I get to them.

    For those who enjoy audiobooks, Audible (an Amazon company) is making selected audiobooks freely available, at least in the U.S., while schools are closed (i.e. for the duration). The categories on the catalog page are: children of various ages, classics, folk/fairy tales, and books in French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese. Not all books are shown on the page, but there are links. Many, but not all, appear to be based on texts in the public domain.

  4. Among the titles listed:

    The Woman of Porto Pim by Antonio Tabucchi

    Translated by one Tim Parks.

  5. They’ve added more free books:

    The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico by Antonio Tabucchi, trans. by Tim Parks
    The Exploded View by Ivan Vladislavić
    Wayward Heroes by Halldór Laxness, trans. by Philip Roughton
    A Change of Time by Ida Jessen, trans. by Martin Aitken
    Dreams and Stones by Magdalena Tulli, trans. by Bill Johnston
    My Kind of Girl by Buddhadeva Bose, trans. by Arunava Sinha
    Dance on the Volcano by Marie Vieux-Chauvet, trans. by Kaiama L. Glover
    Seraphin by Philippe Fix, trans. by Donald Nicholson-Smith
    A Kitchen in the Corner of the House by Ambai, trans. by Lakshmi Holmström
    A Wheel With a Single Spoke by Nichita Stănescu, trans. by Sean Cotter
    The Gothamites by Eno Raud, art by Priit Pärn, trans. by Adam Cullen
    Hīznobyūtī by Claude Ponti, trans. by Alyson Waters
    Hyperion by Friedrich Hölderlin, trans. by Ross Benjamin
    Small Lives by Pierre Michon, trans. by Elizabeth Deshays, Jody Gladding
    Emblems of Desire by Maurice Scève, trans. by Richard Sieburth
    Wolf Hunt by Ivailo Petrov, trans. by Angela Rodel
    Landscape with Yellow Birds by José Ángel Valente, trans. by Thomas Christensen
    Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga, trans. by Melanie Mauthner
    All One Horse by Breyten Breytenbach, trans. by Breyten Breytenbach
    Blinding by Mircea Cărtărescu, trans. by Sean Cotter

    If anybody particularly recommends any of them, by all means say so!

  6. Blinding by Mircea Cărtărescu

    I looked it up and it sounds interesting, but I have to gripe about something in Sharon Mesmer’s review:

    I prefer Blinding’s Romanian title, Orbitor, because it contains the word orb, which suggests what both the narrator Mircea and I are doing: lingering, in our memories, around an earthly place (Mircea in Bucharest, me in Back of the Yards), just as an orb—a term used by ghost hunters to indicate a spirit—might be observed doing. The Romanian title is also suggestive of the way the mind’s eye instinctively gravitates toward certain places, like a planet around the sun […]

    For fuck’s sake, orbitor ‘blinding, dazzling’ is a derivative of orb ‘blind’ which is from Latin orbus ‘bereaved, bereft,’ which was often used of sight in Vulgar Latin. I appreciate that poets can’t help poeticizing and free-associating, but languages and words are actual things that exist outside your head.

  7. I never heard of any of them except of course Halldór Laxness, Icelandic writer who won the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1955.

    I attempted to read his works during brief period when I tried to learn Icelandic, but didn’t finish any of them (purely due to difficulty of Icelandic language and not due to any fault of the great Nobel laureate!)

    Anyway, Gerpla or Wayward Heroes is an historical novel based on Icelandic sagas notable for language in dialogues which Laxness invented himself trying to recreate what he thought would sound like medieval spoken Icelandic.

    Larissa Kyzer’s review of the book:

    I’m reading (older English translation of Gerpla) alongside the Icelandic original because the language in Gerpla—Halldór’s self-created medieval Icelandic—is so complex and stylized that it would be pretty difficult for me to read it on its own within the given time frame. (Halldór said that he could have taught himself Chinese six times in the time it took him to develop the language spoken by the characters in this book.)

    This version conveys the plot, obviously, as well as a lot of the latent humor and subtext of the story and situations. But the linguistic qualities of Halldór’s writing definitely do not come across. So I am very much looking forward to Philip Roughton’s new English translation of the book, which will be released by Archipelago Books in September 2016.

  8. Thanks!

  9. David Marjanović says

    I don’t know any of them (well, I was taught that Hyperion exists, uh…), but Breyten Breytenbach is the nice South African.

  10. What I know by Hölderlin is a couple of poems, which I liked. One of his most famous is “Hälfte des Lebens”. I never read Hyperion, but Wikipedia has a plot summary.

  11. I never read Hyperion, but Wikipedia has a plot summary.

    Sounds interesting, so I grabbed it — hey, free!

  12. Tell us what you think of it! (I have so many unread books waiting on my shelves that currently even free books can’t lure me – they would just add to the pile.)

  13. Tell me about it. But virtual books don’t add to piles, they just sit there in the ether, nagging you virtually.

  14. I’m reading Rytkheu’s Сон в начале тумана [Dream at the beginning of fog, though Son is also the Chukchi version of John, the protagonist’s name], and out of curiosity I’m occasionally checking the English version mentioned above, A Dream in Polar Fog, translated by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse. I’ve just run across one of those errors that makes you wonder how much Russian the translator really knows; a footnote “Энэныльын — шаманы (буквально — умеющие лечить)” is rendered “Enenyl’yn — shamans (literally — those who can fly).” It’s easy for a beginner to confuse лечить (1 sg. лечу) ‘to treat (medically)’ with лететь (1 sg. лечу) ‘to fly,’ but that is not the kind of error you expect a professional translator to make.

  15. It’s also striking that her footnotes are all translated (or, as above, mistranslated) from the ones in the Russian edition, with the Chukchi words transliterated from the Cyrillic — she seems to have had no idea of either providing her own, of moving some of the information into the text, or of simply using English words instead of foreign terms needing explanation. It makes sense to keep “yaranga,” a particular kind of nomadic tent that has its own Wikipedia article, but I don’t see the value in “Kelena threw back the sleeve of her kerker*” (“*Kerker — a female’s one-piece fur suit”) over “Kelena threw back the sleeve of her fur suit.”

  16. Just discovered this sentence in the text I am reading (which is obviously the same one Chavasse used):

    Закололи еще несколько оленей поющее на корм собакам.

    They slaughtered a few more deer poyushchee as food for the dogs.

    I couldn’t understand the word поющее, a neuter participle meaning ‘singing,’ and clearly Chavasse couldn’t understand it either, since she ignored it and rendered the sentence “A few more deer were slaughtered for the dogs.” However, a moment’s googling showed me the original text (from the magazine Neva in 1969) was:

    Закололи еще несколько оленей, потощее, на корм собакам.

    They slaughtered a few more deer, on the skinnier side [potoshchee], as food for the dogs.

    When you don’t understand, investigate, and always suspect a typo!

  17. Чукотский язык
    Шарль Венстен

  18. Sigh. I just got to a place where Chavasse translated магнето (magneto) as “magnet.” It’s quite a decent translation in general, as far as I can tell from occasional checks, but this is why I don’t trust translations.

  19. It occurs to me that it might have been ignorance on the part of an editor who’d never heard of magnetos rather than on the part of the translator; I don’t want to be unjust.

  20. orbitor ‘blinding, dazzling’ is a derivative of orb ‘blind’

    I’m reading an interview with Cărtărescu, and I just got to this:

    Other publishers decided to use my Romanian title, “Orbitor”, which is very different from the English “orbiter”, because “orbitor” in Romanian means “mystical light”, or “the Tabor Light”, the light that Saint Paul meets on the way to Damascus when he’s struck by illumination from the skies. It’s the light of truth, the light of revelation. Some translators interpreted it in one way, some others in another way, but I think “blinding” or “abbacinante” in Italian reflects better what I meant by this title. In Romanian, it’s very beautiful by the way, because “or-bit-or” has “or” at both ends, which means “gold” in French, and “bit” in the middle, which makes me think of a microchip surrounded by golden threads.

    All I can say is “hoo, boy.” But if the author himself goes off in such wild directions, I guess I can’t blame Sharon Mesmer too much for her “orb” idea.

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