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The Task of This Translator

Overview

Stylistically daring, morally perplexing, and outrageously funny, Todd Hasak-Lowy's The Task of This Translator marks the debut of a writer of extraordinary talent. In these seven stories, Hasak-Lowy captures the absurdity that often arises when very personal crises intersect with global issues such as ethnic violence, obesity, and the media.

A journalist sets out to write an investigative piece on a dieting company that uses bodyguards to protect overeaters from themselves but ...

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Overview

Stylistically daring, morally perplexing, and outrageously funny, Todd Hasak-Lowy's The Task of This Translator marks the debut of a writer of extraordinary talent. In these seven stories, Hasak-Lowy captures the absurdity that often arises when very personal crises intersect with global issues such as ethnic violence, obesity, and the media.

A journalist sets out to write an investigative piece on a dieting company that uses bodyguards to protect overeaters from themselves but loses his bearings when he becomes a client and is paired up with a bodyguard of his own. In the coffee shop of Israel's Holocaust memorial museum, a stale pastry triggers a brawl between an American tourist and the Israeli cashier. A man misplaces his wallet shortly before a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan. An unwilling and mostly unqualified slacker finds himself cast into the role of translator for the bitter reunion of a family torn apart years earlier by unspecified brutality.

A standout story collection, The Task of This Translator is funny, intricate, and deeply human.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE TASK OF THIS TRANSLATOR
"These are inventive, delightful stories by a startling new talent, easy in their modernity, classic in their authoritative tone, and secretly fitted with deep structures of irony and pity."
-MICHAEL CHABON , author of THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY
Richard Eder
Under the satiric play of surfaces in Todd Hasak-Lowy's stories coil the dark roots of larger matters … Only a novice writer, perhaps, would attempt a juxtaposition of such extravagantly disparate elements. It is far more than beginner's luck, though, that he has succeeded in making out of them such a savagely dissonant tragicomedy.
— The New York Times
Library Journal
Hasak-Lowy's debut collection places uneasy protagonists in a variety of difficult and often absurd situations and lets them muddle their way through them. The backdrops tend to be contemporary crises as varied as nuclear war threats, the aftermath of an Eastern European atrocity, and obesity in America. This allows the author to deliver ironic punches, some more successful than others, as personal neuroses meet global concerns. One of the liveliest stories is also the simplest, involving an unworldly academic whose attempt to make friends with a streetwise character nicknamed T-Dog has a Mork and Mindy sort of comic flare. Another imagines a company that hires out what are quite literally bodyguards-they prevent their obese customers from overeating. Other attempts at humor bog down in unwieldy prose, and there is a singular lack of descriptive detail that could have added depth and authenticity to these stories. Nonetheless, the author's debut is full of adventurous ideas and some moments of genuine vivacity, pathos, and wit. Recommended for larger fiction collections.-Laurie Sullivan, Sage Group International, Nashville Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Seven debut stories reach beyond their grasp. One concerns an author who writes about a man losing his wallet just as a "significant nuclear exchange between two nation states" is pending. The "author" examines his options and ends up "casually deciding to liquidate tens of millions of Indians and Pakistanis in a story that's really about a guy losing his wallet." As with most of Hasak-Lowy's tales, the concept is greater than the result. The title piece is the best realized. There, a bumbling translator is hired by an eastern European who has called a family reunion, and, through a hilarious series of miscommunications, the translator gradually realizes that his employer's goal is to convince his relatives that he's not a murderer of the worst sort. In "Will Power, Inc.," a journalist joins Don; Don's employee, Peter; and two friends for dinner at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Don eats little at first, but when dessert comes, he grabs Peter's spoon and digs in-until Peter takes the spoon back by force. Peter's job, it turns out, is to keep Don from overeating (for a six-month fee of $120,000). The journalist decides to write an article about Will Power, Inc., hooks up with a diet escort, and begins a battle of wills that leads to mayhem. Again, the premise is fresh and funny, but the story reads like a badly written article, with tedious footnotes and a vague ending. "On the Grounds of the Complex Commemorating the Nazis' Treatment of the Jews" offers similar problems. The narrator is a failed Israeli journalist working as cashier at the Jerusalem complex commemorating the Nazis' treatment of the Jews (a phrase that's repeated throughout). For reasons that are never clear, the cashierattacks an American Jewish tourist who complains about the staleness of the baked goods. Brightly imagined, disappointingly realized.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156031127
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 6/1/2005
  • Pages: 266
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

TODD HASAK-LOWY was born in Detroit. He teaches Hebrew language and literature at the University of Florida and lives in Gainesville, Florida.

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Table of Contents

On the grounds of the complex commemorating the Nazis' treatment of the Jews 1
Will Power, Inc. 21
The end of Larry's wallet 61
The interview 117
The task of this translator 149
Raider nation 179
How Keith's dad died 211
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