Empty Words


“This book might change your life, or at least your handwriting.” Alejandro Zambra is not wrong about Mario Levrero’s Empty Words. Annie McDermott’s translation, out last Thursday, might just do the same for you.

There are plenty of “how to write” books out there, and this isn’t one of them. Although it sets off in a somewhat self-help style, the premise is different. The author is going to do what most of us haven’t done since primary school (if then, these days? He wrote this 25 years ago). He’s going to focus on his handwriting. And this means emptying his mind to fill the page with perfect forms, without getting distracted by the content.


Except the distractions are legion. Constant interruptions from his wife and son put him off track. He finds himself writing about what’s happening, getting agitated, and that shakes the letters off course. Sometimes, he has to get up and intervene in events around him. This leads him to create another interruption for himself in future, by letting the dog out.


He intersperses his daily handwriting exercises with sections where he lets the text take shape. Although Uruguayans are considered odd by their neighbours, and Levero himself was perhaps even odder, his experience of encroaching middle age is universal, and deftly expressed (I can say this, I’m about to turn 44).


Ostensibly intent on saying nothing at all, he ends up saying a great deal. Now we have to hold out for McDermott’s translation of Levero’s masterwork, La novela luminosa. Luckily, And Other Stories is already on the case.

Translator, editor, writer, reader

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in books, translation, words
2 comments on “Empty Words

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

advent Alice in Wonderland American And Other Stories Antonia Lloyd-Jones Arabic Argentina Beowulf Berlin Best Translated Book Award Bible books Brazil Brazilian Portuguese British British Library Buddhism Catalan Children's Books China Chinese Christmas Christmas Carols Contemporary Czesław Miłosz Danish Dari David Hackston Dublin Literary Award English Estonian Fantasy Farsi Fiction Finland Finland 100 Finlandia Prize Finnish Flemish Free Word Centre French George Szirtes German Greek Hebrew Herbert Lomas Herta Müller history Hungarian Iceland Idioms Illustration India international International Translation Day Irish Gaelic Italian J. R. R. Tolkien Japanese Jenny Erpenbeck Johanna Sinisalo Korean Language language learning Languages Latin Literature Lola Rogers Lord of the Rings Mabinogion Man Booker International Prize Maori Maria Turtschaninoff Moomins New Year Nobel Prize Nobel Prize for Literature Norwegian Old English Olga Tokarczuk Owen Witesman Oxford English Dictionary Penguin PEN Translation Prize Persian Philip Boehm Phoneme Media Poetry Poetry Translation Centre Polish Portuguese Pushkin Press Queer Romanian Rosa Liksom Russian Salla Simukka Second World War Short Stories Sofi Oksanen Spanish Stanisław Barańczak Suomi100 Susan Bernofsky Svetlana Alexievich Swedish Switzerland Thomas Teal Tibetan Tove Jansson transation Translation translator Translators Without Borders Valentine's Day Wales Warsaw Welsh Wisława Szymborska Witold Szabłowski Women in Translation Month words Words without Borders writing YA

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow found in translation on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: