Charles Abel Baker, a mostly unknown writer of advanced middle age, is seized by a desire to see one of his short stories translated successively into ten different languages, then back into English, a sort of literary version of the old party game "telephone."
With his project rejected unceremoniously by publishers in New York, our naive hero sets out to accomplish his goal himself, and the results of his global peregrinations are comical, hair-raising, and at times, touching.
Problems of Translation is a cloak-and-dagger adventure as well as a bracing ride for the language buff. The pitfalls and nuances of rendering one language into another share the stage with comic pratfalls that remark on human fallibility and greed. Who knew that literary translation could be so perilous? And, along the way, Charlie comes to love and be loved by - and forgive - a generous, complicated woman, as well as to understand what drove him to seek this adventure. Problems is a great read and a rousing hybrid - part David Lodge and part Evelyn Waugh - as stimulating as it is entertaining. Comments to date include "...practically every paragraph twinkles with humor...;" "...erudite from start to finish...;" "One of the most enjoyable books...in recent memory;" "Marvelous touches of...poignancy that don't...delay the progress of the story toward its delectable conclusion...;" "...pretty much perfectly done."
Then scroll down that page for recordings of earlier readings from Problems and other works by Jim.
"An insanely amusing adventure that has a deep love of language at its belly-shaking core."
--Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure and A Super Sad True Love Story
"...a merry, yearlong chase around the globe....A sure-handed narrative led by a hapless but resilient adventurer."
"Jim Story's name says it all: he was meant to be a writer...I hope everyone reads this book!"
--Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief; editor-in-chief of One Story
"In this comic masterpiece...we take a wild ride...through the underside of the literary world...as [Charlie] stumbles and careens into all kinds of trouble in and obsessive pursuit of hid Dream."
--Robert Roth, author of Health Proxy; editor, co-creator of And Then
"A fascinating look at the issues of translation, publishing, and an unglamorous middle-age."
--Edith Grossman, author of Why Translation Matters; award-winning translator of Cervantes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and others
"...Marvelous touches of...poignancy that don't...delay the progress of the story toward it's delectable conclusion...pretty much perfectly done."
--Ron Story (no relation), Emeritus Professor, UMass Amherst; author of Jonathan Edwards and the Gospel of Love
Who knew that literary translation could be so perilous? So romantic? So downright funny?