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'Ways to Disappear' Explores the Nature of Translation and the Art of Dissappearing


Even if you are entirely happy with the state of world affairs circa 2017, the idea of disappearing can be alluring - especially in the midst of a Wisconsin winter. But the disappearance at the heart of novelist Idra Novey’s new book extends beyond that romantic notion of disappearing for a while.

Her recent novel, Ways to Disappear, features a novelist at the center of its plot - a fictional Brazilian novelist who has apparently vanished. This draws her American translator to Brazil to look for her in a book that is hilarious, dark and thought-provoking for its look at the nature of translation and writing. 

"I think we all disappear in different ways from each other and from our lives. You know, I think the attraction of phones and devices is that it can feel like a little disappearance," Novey says. "You can be in the room and in your mind, by opening something online, you can slip into some other place than where you are."

She was inspired to write this book, in part, because of her experiences with Brazilian exchange students that stayed with her family. She grew up in a Rust Belt town, and felt that getting to know them allowed her some small insight into the world beyond the U.S. 

"Sometimes you can go away from the place you know and be immersed in another language or another literature, and see something that you know with new eyes," Novey says. "I think that's why we're often attracted to ex-pat literature, of seeing what happens to Americans when they leave the country." 

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