The Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons
Translated by Donal McLaughlin
5 x 8 inches, 232pp. February 2014
ISBN : 9780857421845
Rs 495.00 (HB)
“My father bought me from the council for 365 francs,” recalls the narrator in Monica Cantieni’s novel The Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons. She’s a young girl, an immigrant to Switzerland whose adoption is yet to be finalized. When she finally moves into her new home with her new family, she recounts her days in the orphanage and how starkly different her life is now. Her new community speaks German, a language foreign to her, and she collects words and phrases in matchboxes. Though her relationship with her adoptive parents is strained, she bonds with her adoptive grandfather Tat, and together they create the eponymous “Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons.”
Set in the time of the crucial 1970 Swiss referendum on immigration, Monica Cantieni introduces us to a host of colorful characters who struggle to make Switzerland their home: Eli, the Spanish bricklayer; Toni, the Italian factory worker with movie star looks; Madame Jelisaweta, the Yugoslav hairdresser; and Milena, the mysterious girl in the wardrobe. This is a book with a very warm heart, and rarely has a young girl’s narrative been at once so uproariously hilarious and so deeply moving.
Born in 1965 in Thalwil, Switzerland, Monica Cantieni lives in Wettingen and Vienna. She is head of Multimedia in the Culture Department of Swiss Radio and Television. She debuted as a writer with Hieronymus’ Kinder (‘Hieronymus’ Children’) in 1996. The German edition of The Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons was shortlisted for the prestigious Swiss Book Prize in 2011.
Donal McLaughlin is author of An Allergic Reaction to national Anthems and Other Stories (2009) and has specialized in translating Swiss fiction. Known for the stage version of The Reader (with Chris Dilan, 2000) and Shards (2003), the bilingual edition of the poems of Stella Rotenberg, he has also translated Widmer's My Mother's Lover (2001), My Father's Book (2012, nominated for the Best Translated Book Award 2012) and On Life, Death, and This and That of the Rest (2013), all available from Seagull Books.