Monday, December 11


I've just finished my first reading of David Treuer's The Translation of Dr. Apelles, his third novel (after Little and The Hiawatha) and absolutely the best (so far). I began reading his books because David Treuer was a small boy in Washington, D.C., and was our neighbor when my children were small. Now he's a professor of English and a writer who deserves attention. His first two novels were fine but also fairly straighforward stories of Ojibwes who lived in two cultures, reservation life in northern Minnesota and urban life in a Minneapolis that you never hear about on Prairie Home Companion, a city with neighborhoods of poverty and bleakness, where Indians build skyscrapers because they can get paid for dangerous work that whites don't want to do. Both novels enmesh you fully in the lives of the protagonists and their families. The plotting is skillful, with important information revealed in successive layers, so that the reader doesn't fully understand the backgrounds and motivations of the characters until the end. Treuer's writing is strong and original.
But this new novel (2006) is a departure from the earlier, more traditional stories. While Dr. Apelles is also an Ojibwe living in the city and dealing with some of the same attitudes and stereotypes, his story is a more unique one, of a solitary man simultaneously translating an ancient Indian manuscript about a young pair of lovers and falling in love in his own life. Since's I'm puzzled by how it all turns out, this is all I'll say for now.
Treuer has also published a critical guide to Native American fiction, of which more later.

No comments: