Ways to Disappear
By Idra Novey
Little, Brown and Company, 2016
Ways to Disappear is about a Brazilian author, Beatriz Yagoda, who goes missing in a tree. Emma, Beatriz’s American translator, travels from Pittsburgh to Salvador to help Beatrice’s children, and her publisher, find the author, who was not found in said tree. Told in short snappy chapters, the search for Beatriz leads to an unlikely series of events and discoveries, including that Beatriz had a lot of debt from gambling.
The author, Idra Novey is an American writer and poet who has translated Clarice Lispector. I love Lispector, a Brazilian author. For those of you who do not know her, she is a master of the absurd, quirky short story. Ways to Disappear feels almost like an homage to Lispector, while being distinctly the work of another writer.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I enjoyed this book as much for its writing and language as for the story. Novey’s love of language infuses the book. And there is a meta-layer to the story as Novey is a translator writing about a translator and her relationship with a missing author. If you’re looking for a different kind of novel, with beautiful language, this is a great one to pick up.
Novey teaches writing in the New York area and has also published books of poetry.
By Paul Yoon
Simon & Schuster, 2013
This is a short, dreamlike debut novel about a North Korean man who makes a life in Brazil in the 1950s.
Yohan, a North Korean man, is captured during the Korean War and spends a few years in a prisoner camp. In 1954, when the war ends, and he is 25, he is offered repatriation, but instead he chooses to travel on a cargo ship to Brazil, where the UN has arranged a job for him with a Japanese tailor. Unable to speak a world of Portuguese, Yohan finds his way in this new world, with the help of: Kiyoshi, the tailor; two orphan kids; and Peixe, a church groundskeeper. The book narrates the story of Yohan’s life in Brazil, and his life in Korea, with the Korean story being told backwards, from his time in the South Korean prison camp, to his early years growing up on a farm.
Yoon’s prose is poetic and moving, and his writing is sparse. His style reminds me of Michael Ondaatje’s early works. I was immediately drawn in to this book and was moved by the story of a man finding a home in a new world, where he is both connected and disconnected, and where the ordinary takes on a new weight. This is a story of displacement and loss; the action in the book is both subtle and monumental, as Yohan leaves his culture behind and eventually finds solace in his new life in Brazil.
Yoon has also written a short story collection. I deem him a writer to watch. You can preview the book online.
I bought this book at a local Brooklyn bookstore.