Herbert Clyde Lewis’ Gentleman Overboard Reissued–in Spanish

July 8th, 2012

Several years ago, Diego D’Onofrio, one of the partners in La Bestia Equilátera, a small press located in Buenos Aires, contacted me asking for suggestions of neglected books that might be of interested to his readers. La Bestia Equilátera, which translates literally to “The Equilateral Beast,” had already published the works of a number of English-language authors that qualify as neglected–or at least until-recently-neglected: Julian McLaren-Ross; Alfred Hayes; David Markson; Ivy Compton-Burnett; and Lord Berners.

Cover of 'El caballero que cayó al mar' translation of 'Gentleman Overboard'After a quick check of La Bestia’s catalog, I knew just what to recommend: Herbert Clyde Lewis’ Gentleman Overboard, which I’d just featured on this site. Gentleman Overboard is a small masterpiece, a marvel of precise writing and imagination. One reader on Goodreads describes it as “Wodehouse meets Sartre”–which is an excellent précis. It starts out as a restrained comedy and evolves into a profoundly moving meditation on existence.

I didn’t hear from Diego again until a couple of months ago, when he contacted me looking for some more recommendations. To my surprise and great pleasure, he informed me that La Bestia Equilátera had, in 2010, published El Caballero que Cayó al Mar: a translation in Spanish by Laura Wittner of Gentleman Overboard. Diego reported that the book had sold well and earned some good reviews from critics and bloggers. They had even put together a fun little website dedicated to the book: elcaballeroquecayo.com.ar, where you can read the first chapter.

Diego was kind enough to send me a copy of the book, along with two others from La Bestia that deal, at least in part, with lesser-known books. Siluetas, by Argentinian writer Luis Chitarroni, an editor at La Bestia, is a collection of essays and reviews of a wide range of authors and their works. Many are fairly well-known, even best-sellers such as P. D. James. However, there are also a few that will appeal to any fan of neglected books–including William Gerhardie, Flann O’Brien, Logan Pearsall Smith, and Oliver St. John Gogarty. Informes de lectura/Cartas a Montale is a collection of letters written by Roberto Bazlen, a lifelong resident of Trieste, to friends, writers, and publishers about books. Bazlen was a voracious reader, fluent in a number of languages, and he was constantly championing the works of writers from far and wide. Bazlen was, in particular, a friend of the Nobel Prize-winning poet Eugenio Montale, and the second half of the book is a selection of letters Bazlen wrote to Montale between 1925 and 1930.

I won’t mention the books I recommended when Diego contacted me again in May, for fear of jinxing them, but one of them was one of Isabel Paterson’s three amazing novels from the 1930s. I notice that all three are available now from Amazon in Kindle format, but when the heck will someone reissue one or all of them in paper?

One Response to “Herbert Clyde Lewis’ Gentleman Overboard Reissued–in Spanish”

  1. Patrick Murtha Says:

    That is wonderful news. As someone who has happily settled in as a teacher at a Mexican university, I’m pleasantly aware of how deeply cultured Latin American nations are, a fact that is all-but-unknown to Americans, who tend to indulge some very inaccurate stereotypes about these countries. When the great novelist Carlos Fuentes died a few months ago, it was an occasion of national mourning here. There is an impressive number of serious cultural/intellectual reviews on news-stands. It doesn’t surprise me, but simply delights me, that an Argentine publisher would take such an interest in neglected books from other languages. Greater Iberian culture has always had a taste for the offbeat; I think of the madcap mystery novelist Harry Stephen Keeler (1890-1967), who when he stopped being able to sell his lengthy and baroquely complex “webwork” mysteries to American and British publishers about ten years before his death, continued writing for translation into Spanish and Portuguese.

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