Over the past few years especially, Dalkey Archive Press has become a leader in the publication of absurdist, existential, surreal works in translation--especially by European and Japanese writers, with a smattering of Latin American writers as well. This past year, they published Michal Ajvaz's The Golden Age, a brilliant novel that deserves comparisons to Kafka and Borges. The Golden Age was the #1 book on Amazon's top 10 SF/Fantasy for 2010, and came in at #37 on the general top 100 list.
So I thought it would be interesting to ask Dalkey's associate director Martin Riker for his top 10 books of all time, with the limitation that it couldn't include anything published by Dalkey. As I suspected, it's a great list, with a few I'd not read, including the Perec and the Dutton. His list does come with a slight disclaimer: "#6 and 10 have a potential conflict in that 10 is written by my wife and 6 is published by my wife. But what can I say, it's the truth--those are the books I'm currently most excited by. This was hard enough not including any Dalkey books, no Sorrentinos, or Flann O'Briens, or Viktor Shklovskys, or Stanley Elkins. It's torture to make a top 10 list without any of those names showing up."
A list by Martin Riker
1. W, or the Memory of Childhood, by Georges Perec
2. Jacques the Fatalist and His Master, by Denis Diderot
3. 1982 Janine, by Alasdair Gray
4. Imaginations, by William Carlos Williams
5. Bogeywoman, by Jaimy Gordon
6. Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, by Barbara Comyns
7. On Being Blue, by William Gass
8. Stories and Texts for Nothing, by Samuel Beckett
9. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
10. S P R A W L, by Danielle Dutton
To up the stakes, I then asked Riker what was the one book not on the list that he'd choose if he could only choose one book in the world, regardless of publisher. After an appropriate amount of horrified deliberation at the thought of just one book, Riker narrowed it down to three: "I'd say Viktor Shklovsky's Energy of Delusion. Unless it's Stanley Elkin's The Franchiser. Or possibly Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two Birds."
Expect more coverage of Dalkey's books in 2011--they've got some great things planned.