The Delighted States
A Book of Novels, Romances, & Their Unknown Translators, Containing Ten Languages, Set on Four Continents,
By Adam Thirlwell
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374137229, 592pp.)
Publication Date: May 27, 2008
List Price: $30.00*
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Having slept with a prostitute in Egypt, a young French novelist named Gustave Flaubert at last abandons sentimentality and begins to write. He influences the obscure French writer Édouard Dujardin, who is read by James Joyce on the train to Trieste, where he will teach English to the Italian novelist Italo Svevo. Back in Paris, Joyce asks Svevo to deliver a suitcase containing notes for Ulysses, a novel that will be viscerated by the expat Gertrude Stein, whose first published story is based on one by Flaubert. This carousel of influence shows how translation and emigration lead to a new and true history of the novel. We devour novels in translation while believing that style does not translate. But the history of the novel is the history of style. The Delighted States attempts to solve this conundrum while mapping an imaginary country, a country of readers: the Delighted States. This book is a provocation, a box of tricks, a bedside travel book; it is also a work of startling intelligence and originality from one of our finest young writers.
Adam Thirlwell was born in 1978. His first novel, Politics, was translated into thirty languages. In 2003, he appeared on Granta's list of the best British novelists under forty. His second novel, The Misprint, will be published next year. He lives in London.