Maybe it’s because work is satisfying. Maybe it’s because we’re trapped. Or maybe, as Ryan Avent suspects, it’s because of a troubling combination of the two.
Glory, for the translator, is borrowed glory. There is no way around this. Translators are celebrated when they translate celebrated books. The best translations from the Italian I have seen in recent years are Geoffrey Brock’s rendering of Pavese’s collected poems, Disaffections, and Frederika Randall’s enormous achievement in bringing Ippolito Nievo’s great novel Confessions of an Italian into English. Brock, who has also given us an excellent version of Pinocchio, finds an entirely convincing English voice for the troubled Pavese. Randall turns Nievo’s lively, idiosyncratic pre-Risorgimento prose into something sparklingly credible in English. However, neither of these fine books became the talk of the town and their translators remain in the shadows.
Suddenly, loneliness is everywhere. Some people are writing about it, and some are making it the subject of films. Meanwhile, others are simply trying to cope with it, just as they’ve always done. Hubert, which marks Ben Gijsemans’s debut as a graphic novelist, is also about the isolation that comes with city life. However, this beautiful, moving book isn’t only about what it is like to be too much alone; to turn its almost wordless pages is briefly to replicate the experience. The deafening silence of its frames are at moments as crushing as lead.
“The Travelers” does confirm what Mr. Pavone’s first two books have established: that when it comes to quick-witted, breathless thrillers that trot the globe, his are top-tier. But if he chooses to let the next one breathe more deeply, that would work, too.
While e-books retailers like Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble can collect troves of data on their customers’ reading behavior, publishers and writers are still in the dark about what actually happens when readers pick up a book. Do most people devour it in a single sitting, or do half of readers give up after Chapter 2? Are women over 50 more likely to finish the book than young men? Which passages do they highlight, and which do they skip?
Mr. Rhomberg’s company is offering publishers the tantalizing prospect of peering over readers’ shoulders. Jellybooks tracks reading behavior the same way Netflix knows what shows you binge-watch and Spotify knows what songs you skip.