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The Translation of Dr. Apelles


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About the Author

David Treuer is an Ojibwe Indian from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. He is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to Canada, a Pushcart Prize, the 1996 Minnesota Book Award and was a finalist for the Penn West prize in 1999. The Translation of Dr Apelles is his third novel. He divides his time between his home on the Leech Lake Reservation and Minneapolis.


The intertwining of two love stories results in a strangely compelling take on matters of the heart in Treuer's third novel (after The Hiawatha). Dr. Apelles, a Native American who translates Native American texts, works as a book classifier for RECAP (Research Collections and Preservations), a "prison for books" located near an unnamed American city. While at the local public library, Dr. Apelles finds a manuscript that he begins translating. The story-within-a-story is of Bimaadiz and Eta, sole surviving infants of separate villages wiped out by a devastating winter. Discovered by different men from the same tribe, the children are adopted by their saviors, reared together as friends and eventually fall in love. Dr. Apelles, while translating the story, realizes his life is unfulfilling, so he begins a love affair with a fellow book classifier, Campaspe, that parallels Bimaadiz's and Eta's. Treuer obscures time and place in both storylines, and though neither the plots nor characters are remarkable, the author's beautiful prose Flaubert in some places, Chekhov in others grabs and holds attention so well that even the narrative contrivances and unlikely coincidences don't diminish the pleasurable reading experience. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Dr. Apelles, a middle-aged Native American scholar, is translating a captivating Native American myth about a young man and a young woman, both orphaned as babies and raised in a town on the edge of the frontier in the northern Midwest. As they grow up, Bimaadiz and Eta fall in love, and the myth traces their gradual coming together. There are daring rescues, passionate love scenes, pastoral interludes, and murderous rivalries. Dr. Apelles himself is a shy introspective man who realizes the shortcomings of his own life as he reads the myth. Working at a library book storage facility called RECAP, described in Orwellian terms by the author, he gradually begins a relationship with a beautiful younger coworker named Campaspe. As the young Bimaadiz and Eta move toward consummating their love at a wedding feast and tribal gathering, the translation itself, both literally and figuratively, becomes a focal point that threatens the relationship of the doctor and Campaspe. While the original myth is told in a straightforward manner, the sections concerning the doctor's life shift perspectives in a dreamlike style. The power of imagination, love, and the written word come across in this engaging tale. Recommended for fiction collections. Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Stunning. . . . Treuer's edgy romance celebrates our love for each other, love for the earth and love of story, the way we make sense of life in all its wildness." --Los Angeles Times

"Deeply crafty, shape-shifting. . . . [Treuer] seems to want to do for Native American culture and literature what James Joyce did for the Irish: haul it into the mainstream of Western culture through sheer nerve and verve." --The Washington Post "The Translation of Dr Apelles . . . provides new layers of information and meaning with every pass. This Escher-esque craftsmanship dazzles." --The Seattle Times "David Treuer is mounting a challenge to the whole idea of Indian identity as depicted by both Native and white writers."
--The New York Times "Smart, sweet . . . well-crafted, clever. . . . Treuer juggles multiple elements with skill and confidence: literary satire, metafictional gamesmanship and cultural truth-telling." --Star Tribune

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