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Reviews, Interviews & Profiles

Recent Interviews & Profiles

5 Questions with Jessica Powell, Translator of Woman in Battle Dress

City Lights Books Blog, August 2022

All Booked: Talking Translation with Jessica Powell

Santa Barbara Independent, April 2022

Faculty Spotlight, CSULB

March, 2022



Reinbou, by Pedro Cabiya

Translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell

Astra House, 2024

Review in Publishers Weekly

February 27, 2024

""Dense and exciting . . . Cabiya evokes the Dominican Republic’s heat and passion with frank and poetic prose and the excitement of a spy thriller. This is teeming with life."

Review in Kirkus Reviews

February 3, 2024

"Cabiya—a Puerto Rican writer who lives in the Dominican Republic—turns a military thriller about the 1965 Dominican civil war into a contemporary fairy tale about a young boy whose innocent goodness has the power to change lives... A sometimes angry, sometimes sardonic, but ultimately optimistic view of humanity."


Electric Literature: 20 Novels In Translation You Need to Read this Winter and Spring

February 20, 2024

"'My story begins with a gringo. Yes, with a gringo. That’s as glamorous as it’s going to get.' With that fiery start, the Puerto Rico-born Pedro Cabiya begins his sweeping historical novel of the Dominican Republic’s civil war, known as the April Revolution, and the U.S. invasion of the country. Translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell, the novel has the ten-year-old Ángel searching for the truth behind his father’s murder, and moves between 1965 and 1976, featuring a cast of unforgettable characters, rendered in energetic prose. Reinbou, part of the country’s contemporary literary canon, was made into a 2017 film. Essential for an intimate understanding of the history of the DR and the US intervention."

Words Without Borders: The Watchlist: March 2024

February 28, 2024

"Reinbou is a short novel, but it brings together a number of threads in its pages. Those threads include everything from a child seeking out the truth of his origins to a blistering exploration of US foreign policy in the second half of the twentieth century. The use of parallel timeframes throughout much of the novel also helps illustrate the close relationship between past and present for Reinbou’s characters, and the way that the two can bleed together—sometimes literally."

The Transentients, by Sergio Missana

Translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell

McPherson & Co., 2021


The Santa Barbara Independent: All Booked: Talking Translation with Jessica Powell

April 19, 2022

"The Transentients by Sergio Missana, translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell, is an existential expedition of a book that takes the reader on unexpected journeys.”--Caitlin Fitch

Review in The Millions: A Year in Reading by Matt Seidel

December 18, 2021

"Sergio Missana’s The Transentients was riveting, a tantalizingly suggestive, and immersive read.”

Literal: Latin American Voices/Voces Latinoamericanas: A chapter from The Transentients

February, 2021

Starred Review * Kirkus Reviews "Simenon meets García Márquez in this sly, strange, entertaining work."

September 29, 2021

"Missana, abetted by a fine translation from Powell, raises questions about identity, friendship, intimacy, and empathy while building a psychological mystery on the shifting border between realism and fantasy, “a thin membrane that threatened to tear apart at any moment.”

Review in Publishers Weekly

September 29, 2021

"In this singular portrait of a dissolving identity, Chilean novelist Missana’s English-language debut, chronicles a man’s curious midlife crisis. This slippery tale about characters trapped in a “warped” but revelatory script offers intriguing reflections on identity and determinism, as well as art and interpretation."



Nine Moons, by Gabriela Wiener

Translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell

Restless Books, 2020

The New York Times: The Queue

June 4, 2023

LeyendoLatAm: Review: Nine Moons (Nueve lunas) by Gabriela Wiener

September 27, 2021

"This is where I praise Jessica Powell’s translation, which is a triumph. Her seemingly effortless ability to capture Wiener’s dry humour, picking just the right word to make her turns of phrase take flight in English are to be admired."

Midnight Breakfast: An Excerpt from Gabriela Wiener's Nine Moons

May 2021

Review in the Santa Barbara Independent: "Nine Moons by Gabriela Wiener"

July 3, 2020

"Translator and scholar of Latin American literature Jessica Powell has added another bold voice to the chorus of authors she has ushered into English. In Nine Moons, the Peruvian journalist Gabriela Wiener offers a deeply personal and often irreverent account of her experience conceiving, carrying, and giving birth to Lena, her first child. Coming out of the Latin American tradition of crónicas, a hybrid, mostly urban genre that blends fearless truth-telling with journalistic research and comic self-awareness, Wiener delivers an account of the nine “moons” of her pregnancy that’s unsentimental and yet touching in its openness and vulnerability." --Charles Donelan

The Magic Word: Recommended Reading: Summer Releases!: "Nine Moons by Gabriela Wiener"

June 24, 2020

"Provocative, offbeat, and always insightful, Gabriela Wiener’s follow up to Sexographies does not disappoint. The book charts Wiener’s thoughts on pregnancy and motherhood during her own pregnancy with her signature daring and candidness. The second of her books to be translated into English, Nine Moons reads like the delightfully uncomfortable sex ed class you didn’t know you wanted."

The Paris Review: "The Unreality of Pregnancy." An excerpt from Nine Moons

May 27, 2020

Latin American Literature Today: An excerpt from Nine Moons

May 23, 2020

New York Magazine: "Nine Moons and 9 Other Reads I Can't Get Out of My Head"

Apr 10, 2020

"With certain writers, it doesn’t matter what the book is about, because the brain that created it is so euphoric, so wicked, so irascibly specific, that you want to clear out a corner of your own headspace and beckon the author inside as a permanent tenant. It is for this reason that I, a person who has never been pregnant and has little interest in reproduction, can recommend a book about a pregnant lady who watches trash TV and dreams that she’s going to give birth to a monkey... It’s the sort of book you will read and pass on to your friends with a note that says TRUST ME taped to the cover. You needn’t possess a baby to enjoy it. Having once been a fetus is sufficient." ---Molly Young

Starred Review * Kirkus Reviews: "Refreshingly literary and off beat -- a mother-to-be book for firebrands"

March 15, 2020

"A Peruvian journalist’s vibrant musings on pregnancy and childbirth. In this whip-smart follow-up to Sexographies (2018), the author details her nine months of pregnancy as anything but pastel. Wiener interweaves facts on embryonic development and other scientific elements with visceral experience and accounts of her rabbit-hole internet searches to reveal the anxiety of her first full-term pregnancy…. Such dark, fertile forays signal Wiener's original take on the simultaneously common and unique experience of pregnancy…. The author's ruminations are consistently provocative, digging into areas many are not willing to go…."

The Promise, by Silvina Ocampo

Translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell and Suzanne Jill Levine

City Lights Books, 2019

Review in Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas

June, 2020

"Silvina Ocampo’s novel, which took a very long time to come into existence, turns out to be among the more singular works of literature." --Jason Weiss

Review in the New York Review of Books
Apr 23, 2020

" . . . a bold phantasmagoria, marked by Ocampo's insight that in extremis, delirium can be the highest form of truth."—Laura Kolbe

Review on 1st Reading's Blog
Apr 6, 2020

" . . . much of the novel is focused on the theme of love, but it is primarily about memory. Ocampo continued to write the novel (begun in the sixties) until the years before her death in 1993, and it is difficult not to see elements of it as a response to approaching mortality. The disappearing ship is the sense that life is leaving her behind, the stories an attempt to ward off death . . . "

KCRW "Bookworm" Interview with Michael Silverblatt                               

Feb 20, 2020


"Silvina Ocampo is the next writer you should be reading."—Michael Silverblatt

Three Percent: Review of The Promise
Feb 7, 2020

"Ocampo's one hundred and three page novella, which she spent twenty-five years perfecting, feels like unearthed obsidian. It is both gorgeous and unsettling, like looking into a glittering darkness you could lose yourself in."—Chris Phipps, City Lights Bookstore

Review in the Times Literary Supplement
Jan 24, 2020

"Suzanne Jill Levine, working with Jessica Powell on The Promise and Katie Lateef-Jan on Forgotten Journey, has produced a translation that beautifully captures the elegance and strangeness of Ocampo's style. . . . The results are intoxicating."—Miranda France

Review in The Paris Review
Jan 17, 2020

"Diamonds, Dionysus, and Drowning: . . . every sentence glints with precision . . . what you're after are the sentences, which have the feel of epigrams . . . I think I took a photo of nearly every other page so as not to forget them."—Rhian Sasseen 

Review in the Southwest Review
Jan 8, 2020

"The majority of Silvina Ocampo's characters are female, and there is an accompanying feminism—subtle yet disruptive—that echoes through both Forgotten Journey and The Promise. Largely evincing a politics of acknowledgement and witness, her writing quietly reveals the double standards and ironies layered into mundane aspects of the lives of the women in her stories."

Essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books
Dec 5, 2019


"In The Promise, Ocampo further addresses the many forms of love, and femininity, through selective, shattered memory. The Promise is the longest piece of fiction and only novel that Ocampo wrote. In Ernesto Montequín's introduction, he writes that Ocampo first mentioned writing it in an interview in 1966. Ocampo claims that it took her decades to complete the novel because 'the main character is endlessly telling us things; something is making this woman talk on and on, telling one thing after another. It's a promise that she has made and that she keeps so as not to die, but one can tell she is dying.' The novel was finally published in 2011, almost 20 years after Ocampo’s death in 1993."—Claire Mullen

Review in Zyzzyva
Nov 6, 2019

"These are the moments that elevate The Promise into a higher echelon of letters; simultaneously, death proves evasive and nostalgia serves as a survival tactic. All the while readers get to witness the wondrous tightrope act Ocampo performs, traipsing back and forth between past and present."—John Gibbs

LitHub Essay: Mariana Enriquez on the Radical, Subversive Power of Silvina Ocampo
Nov 6, 2019

"The world is ready for her blend of insane Angela Carter with the originality of Clarice Lispector."—Mariana Enriquez

Feature on Words Without Borders
Oct 30, 2019

In anticipation of City Lights's publication of Silvina Ocampo’s Forgotten Journey (tr. Suzanne Jill Levine and Katie Lateef-Jan) and The Promise (tr. Suzanne Jill Levine and Jessica Powell), Argentine writer and critic María Agustina Pardini reflects on Ocampo’s writing and legacy and speaks with the translators of the forthcoming works.

Review on NPR
Oct 26, 2019

"Both her debut story collection, Forgotten Journey, and her only novel, The Promise, are strikingly 20th-century texts, written in a high-modernist mode rarely found in contemporary fiction. The translator Suzanne Jill Levine worked on both books, collaborating with Katie Lateef-Jan on Forgotten Journey and Jessica Powell on The Promise. Together, the three have captured Ocampo's Surrealist style beautifully, creating translations powered by image and mood rather than character or plot."—Lily Meyer

Feature on BookRiot
Oct 24, 2019

Fall 2019 New Releases In Translation Roundup.

"Legend Silvina Ocampo worked on perfecting this novel over the course of 25 years, right up until her death in 1993, and it's out this fall in its first ever English translation. It's being published alongside Forgotten Journey a collection of short stories by Ocampo translated by Suzanne Jill Levine and Katie Lateef-Jan. In The Promise, a woman reminisces about her life, and lets her imagination get away with her, after falling overboard into the sea—a reflection of Ocampo’s own struggles with dementia and her interest in memory and identity. It’s said to be Ocampo 'at her most feminist, idiosyncratic and subversive' and I just can’t wait to get my hands on it and Forgotten Journey."—Pierce Alquist

Review of The Promise at Reading in Translation
Oct 21, 2019

"Her obliquely-focused narrative lens requires readers to experience the off-kilter sensation of a slant perspective, lending a cinematic quality to her gothic themes."—Dorothy Potter Snyder, "Reading in Translation"

Oct 18, 2019

"It's an extraordinary book, for which only Borges’s description of her writing will do—clairvoyant."—Brian Dillon, 4Columns

Big Indie Books of Fall 2019, Publishers Weekly
Sep 2, 2019

"In the final work and only novel from Ocampo (1903–1993), a dying woman attempts to recount the story of her life and in the process reveals the fragility of memory and the illusion of identity. Although, as Stephen Sparks, owner of Point Reyes Books in Point Reyes Station, Calif., points out, 'Silvina Ocampo is known primarily in the English-speaking world as a friend of Borges and wife to his collaborator Bioy Casares, the translation of more of her work into English is a reason to celebrate her for her own right, as one of the most singular writers of the 20th century.' City Lights is also publishing Ocampo's Forgotten Journey: Stories trans. by Suzanne Jill Levine and Katie Lateef-Jan, in October."—Judith Rosen

Feature in Perfil, Argentina
Sep 9, 2019

Maria Agustina Pardini discusses the new releases of Silvina Ocampo's work with translators Suzanne Jill Levine, Jessica Powell, and Katie Lateef-Jan, and City Lights' Publisher (and the books' editor) Elaine Katzenberger.

Review in the Women's Review of Books
Sep 1, 2019

"Forgotten Journey and The Promise by late Argentine writer Silvina Ocampo are cornucopias, outpourings of words with the same concision we ascribe to nature. Descriptions pour forth not like water but sap, ensuring the reader will pause and savor, not just in a portrait but every paragraph, each word."—Ana Castillo, Women's Review of Books

Starred Review * Kirkus Reviews
Aug 19, 2019

"A woman relives the people and places of her life while stranded in the middle of the ocean. The premise of Argentinian writer Ocampo's posthumously published novella, which she worked on for the final 25 years of her life, is a grand metaphor for the authorial condition. On her way to visit family in Cape Town, the nameless narrator somehow slips over the railing of her trans-Atlantic ship and regains consciousness in the water, watching 'the ship…calmly moving away.' Adrift, facing almost certain death, she makes a pact with St. Rita, the 'arbiter of the impossible,' that she will write a 'dictionary of memories,' and publish it in one year's time, if she is saved. What follows is an intensely focused series of vignettes in which the characters of the narrator's life once more walk through their dramas. There's Leandro, a handsome and feckless young doctor with 'a face as variable as the weather'; Irene, his intensely focused lover and a medical student in her own right; Gabriela, Irene's obsessive daughter; and Verónica, a not-so-innocent ingénue. These central characters' stories entwine and begin to form the basis of a tale that includes our narrator—who is present as a voyeur but never an active participant—but her drifting consciousness is just as likely to alight upon less crucial secondary characters like Worm, Gabriela's countryside companion, or Lily and Lillian, devoted friends who fall in love with the same man because 'instead of kissing him they were kissing each other.' As the narrator's memories progress, and sometimes repeat, they grow increasingly nightmarish in their domestic surrealism. Meanwhile, as all chance of rescue fades, her sense of self is diluted by the immense mystery of the sea. Completed in the late 1980s, at a time when Ocampo was grappling with the effects of Alzheimer's, the book can be read as a treatise on the dissolution of selfhood in the face of the disease. However, its tactile insistence on the recurrence of memory, its strangeness, and its febrile reality are themes that mark the entirety of Ocampo's oeuvre and articulate something more enduring even than death. 'I'm going to die soon! If I die before I finish what I'm writing no one will remember me, not even the person I loved most in the world,' the narrator exclaims in the final pages. This urgency and despair seem to sum up the central tenet of the artist's condition—even in the final extreme, the act of making is a tonic against obscurity. Art is the cure for death. A seminal work by an underread master. Required for all students of the human condition."

Excerpt in Latin American Literature Today
Aug 16, 2019

Just as when I was sick and, after being in bed for forty days, I missed my bed, now I miss the sea. Ah, the sea. "The sea full of masculine urgency." Whose line was that? Gabriela, oh how beautiful she was! Her eyes were the color of the sea. . . .


Three Percent blog:
Aug 5, 2019

"Ocampo is a legend, and this, her longest work, has never before made it into English. . . . Add to that an intriguing premise—a woman falls overboard on a transatlantic voyage and, while she floats along for hour after hour, promises that if she survives, she'll write her life story—and some really sharp prose (wonderfully rendered by two top notch translators) and you just know this book is going to be great."—Chad Post

LITHUB -- Most Anticipated Books of 2019
Jul 9, 2019

"Year by year, more of the great Argentinian Silvina Ocampo is restored to us, like the lost work of a luminously dark seer. Borges and Calvino were in her thrall: the fantastic Mariana Enriquez has written an entire book on her. Yet Ocampo remains an obscure writer to most. Yet what work she wrote, what an incredible life she lived. These two newly translated books could make her a rediscovery on par with Clarice Lispector. In The Promise, a woman falls overboard a transatlantic ship and confronts her regrets and longings as she bobs in the freezing water. Forgotten Journey gives us 28 short stories, translated into English for the first time, providing a surprising glimpse of the birth of gothic fiction in Latin America which dates back to the 1930s. Lusciously strange, uncompromising, yet balanced and precise, there has never been another voice like hers."—John Freeman, Executive Editor, LITHUB

Starred Review * Publishers Weekly
Jun 24, 2019

"This haunting and vital final work from Ocampo (1903–1993), her only novel, is about a woman's life flashing before her eyes when she's stranded in the ocean. The nameless narrator has fallen off a ship, and as she floats, her mind takes over, presenting a flotilla of real and imagined memories about the people in her life in the form of a version of the book she promises herself she'll finish. The book's main thread is a woman, Irene, and a man, Leandro, with whom both Irene and the narrator get involved. But the fluid narrative also encompasses brief snapshots of a murder mystery, the narrator’s grandmother’s eye doctor ('In profile, his intent rabbit face was not as kind as it was head-on.'), her hairdresser, her ballerina neighbor, and the fruit vendor to whom her brother was attracted as a boy ('it was a fruit relationship, perhaps symbolizing sex'). The narrator’s potent, dynamic voice yields countless memorable lines and observations: 'The only advantage of being a child is that time is doubly wide, like upholstery fabric'; 'What is falling in love, anyway? Letting go of disgust, of fear, letting go of everything.' But the book’s true power is its depiction of the strength of the mind ('what I imagine becomes real, more real than reality') and the necessity of storytelling, which for the narrator is literally staving off death: 'I told stories to death so that it would spare my life.' Ocampo’s portrait of one woman’s interior life is forceful and full of hope."—Gabe Habash, Publishers Weekly, * Starred Review

venture of the infinite man, by Pablo Neruda

Translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell

City Lights Books, 2017

Times Literary Supplement

May 11, 2018

"[venture] is arresting for the images it conjures up. . . . a collection full of drive and

rhythmic energy. . . . Here, in deft versions by Jessica Powell, a new addition to the roster

of translators of Neruda into English, the poems appear with the English first and then the

Spanish at the back, with identical pagination. As the [venture] is a breathless rush, this

makes sense, not interrupting the surge of Neruda's poetic journey into the night." ––Ben


Reading in Translation

October 8, 2018

Powell's translation is monumental, as much for its fearlessness as for its grace and

beauty. For nearly a century, translators avoided the work, as Neruda's determination to

break through poetic and grammatical forms to achieve a higher consciousness produced

an aesthetic that was bewildering even to native Spanish speakers. . . . The translator

approaches this work with an absolute willingness to give herself over to its strangeness,

and a determination to allow Neruda’s emerging voice to speak for itself."––Arielle


Pacific Rim Review of Books

Issue 23, Vol. 12.1. 2018

"venture of the infinite man obviously played a significant role in [Pablo Neruda's]

accomplishments. The book also beckons other poets do what Neruda did: indulge in

fearless experimentation at some stage of your poetic journey. Sooner the better."––Ajmer


Cultural Weekly

July 25, 2018

"This new City Lights edition also includes the text in Spanish as well. Neruda exclaims: 'if you call to me storm you thunder as distant as a train.' Despite how opaque the text can seem, Neruda's lyrical language and vivid imagery make this book a keeper."––Mike Sonksen

"SPD Recommends venture of the infinite man in January"
Jan 18, 2018

"World Literature Today's 75 Notable Translations of 2017"
Dec 12, 2017

"venture of the infinite man appears on Largehearted Boy's books of the week list"

Dec 1, 2017

Conversational Reading: "6 Questions for Jessica Powell on venture of the infinite man by Pablo Neruda"

Nov 25, 2017


Jessica Powell interviewed by Scott Esposito about the process and difficulty of translating venture of the infinite man.

"Mark Eisner discusses venture of the infinite man on La Biblioteca podcast."
Nov 16, 2017

Discussion of venture of the infinite man goes from 7:02 to 10:18.

Galatea Resurrects

November 26, 2017

"This book should not have been kept out of the light … Catch up then, Poetry Lover, in

your reading by checking out this book which was so important to Neruda himself. City

Lights' edition is wonderfully designed and also provides the service of offering the poem

in its original Spanish."—Eileen Tabios

Wicked Weeds, by Pedro Cabiya

Translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell

Mandel Vilar Press, 2016


Review in Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas

Vol. 61 No. 2, December, 2018

"Pedro Cabiya's hybrid tale of a zombie hero looking for qualia -- 'the living being's capacity to establish a connection between his experience of the world and the 'self' -- is both wickedly funny and  at times deeply moving." ---- Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

Three Percent: Best Translated Book Awards "Why This Book Should Win"

Fall, 2017

"I haven’t even scratched the surface here in expressing the depth, humor, and brilliance of this book. And Jessica Powell’s translation is exquisite, achieving that goal of making the reader think that the novel was originally written in her own language.

Those of you who have read my reviews in the past know that I only do cartwheels over a tiny fraction of the books that I read. Wicked Weeds is cartwheel material, dear reader. It should win." -- Rachel Cordasco

Global Literature in Libraries Initiative Title Pick: Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya

October 31, 2017

" A must read from one the most respected and prolific writers living in the Caribbean today, this English translation, skillfully rendered by Jessica Powell, offers a new audience initial access to a compelling body of work that has already reached cult status in its native Spanish."

Review in Repeating Islands

July 5, 2017 Speculative Fiction in Translation: 15 Works to Watch Out for in 2016

July 20, 2016

"You know what’s been missing in your life? A work of Caribbean noir and science fiction! in Wicked Weeks, a smart and successful zombie desperately searches for the formula that would reverse his “zombie-hood” and turn him into a “real person.”--- Rachel Cordasco


The Washington Post: "Wicked Weeds" and other science fiction books to read this month

November 2, 2016

Review in Kirkus Reviews 

October 25, 2016

"What Cabiya accomplishes here is twisting the reader’s perceptions to see the world through the eyes of a man who does not see the world as it is and enveloping his protagonist in emotions that he cannot possibly comprehend. 'Is it possible that existence is not a feat of balance?” he asks. “Created from nothing, sustained by nothing, and sought by nothing, aren’t we, every single one of us, but a single stop away from dissolution? What separates us from the void? Nothing separates us from the void. We carry it within. We are the void.'”


Review in Speculative Fiction in Translation

October 25, 2016


"Subtitled “A Zombie Novel,” Wicked Weeds is so much more than that. Yes, it is a book whose main character is a self-professed “zombie,” but it is also a work of simultaneously free-wheeling complexity and carefully-plotted exploration of the intersection of the human mind, body, and soul." ---- Rachel Cordasco

LitHub: Nine Books to Read for Latinx Heritage Month

October 14, 2016

Review in Forward Reviews

Fall, 2016

"With all the edgy, philosophical musings characteristic of Latin American fiction, the progression of Wicked Weeds unfolds over generations and across the complicated social strata of Haitians and Dominicans... Whether you consider yourself a lover of zombie fantasies or not, devour Wicked Weeds for its unique perspective, cultural insights, and charged humor. Go ahead and laugh out loud or clear your throat in surprise because, as every zombie knows, “when all is said and done,” a laugh and a cough are each just a “spasm of the thorax.”---- Pallas Gates McCorquodale

Wicked Weeds named a Foreward Reviews 2016 Indies Winner

Fall, 2016

"Threats of a zombie apocalypse seem to be around every corner, but what’s rare is an intelligent, thoughtful, funny, sentimental, socially conscious, and, yes, gross at times zombie tale infused with Caribbean culture, piques, prejudices, and passions. Pedro Cabiya delivers all of this and more in Wicked Weeds, one gentleman zombie’s quest to recapture his lost qualia, that indefinable, internal, sensory perception of self."---- Pallas Gates McCorquodale

Publishers Weekly: 2016 SF Fantasy and Horror Top 10 List

December 18, 2015

Woman in Battle Dress, by Antonio Benítez Rojo

Translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell

City Lights Books, 2015

Excerpt from Woman in Battle Dress in Levure littéraire
Jun 25, 2017

Review in Metamorphoses

Vol.25 No.1, Spring 2017

"Segments of the novel flow seamlessly from romance to history to picaresque to almost magical realism, and back again. And while the novel takes place mostly in Europe and the United States, the Caribbean accent is always present. In some ways you could be reading a novel written two hundred years ago. The romanticism, the dense unhurried prose, are all there, and Jessica Powell's translation beautifully captures the style and voice of the original. Precisely because it is so unobtrusive, this translation is so worthy of praise."––Robert Kaplan

"Who Are You? The Search for Henriette Faber" by Enrico Mario Santí
Feb 17, 2017

A letter written to Antonio Benítez-Rojo by Enrico Mario Santí, read originally at the launching of Woman in Battle Dress at City Lights Bookstore on September 27, 2015. ---- Published in Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas.

"Jessica Powell/'Woman in Battle Dress' Named Finalist for 2016 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Translation"
Aug 25, 2016

Jessica Powell named as finalist for the 2016 PEN Center Literary Award for Translation.

- PEN Center USA

"Translator Jessica Powell and Woman in Battle Dress featured in UC Santa Barbara Alumni Magazine."

---- CoastLines

Excerpt of Woman in Battle Dress appearing in Literal: Latin American Voices
May 12, 2016

Section of the first chapter of Woman in Battle Dress excerpted. ---- Literal: Latin American Voices

Kirkus Reviews

"The final novel from Cuban writer Benítez-Rojo is a grand historical work about the kind of woman history often ignores . . . rarely has a historical person been so fully inhabited since Yourcenar told the story of Hadrian. Eventually, the novel morphs into metatext: 'I believe that all writing has a utilitarian purpose,' the narrator says, trying to write her story. And often, the matter of embodying another person's consciousness is useful enough."


The Historical Novels Review

February, 2016

"Using the sparse historical records, [Benítez-Rojo] has skillfully reconstructed Henriette/Enriqueta's not-widely-known life story. The exquisitely detailed chronicle, written in the first person and seamlessly translated by Jessica Powell, is a fascinating read. We are taken along with Henriette on her epic journey, hear her thoughts, and observe the joys and pains she experiences while growing up, attending grand balls, having adventures on the battlefield, dealing with slaves, and practicing medicine in the demanding disguise of a man. . . . This is a valuable addition to existing stories about courageous gender-bending women, and as such it is highly recommended."

Review in World Literature Today

November, 2015


"Benítez-Rojo's clear writing breathes life into this woman’s story."

"Passing in Translation: Jessica Powell on Antonio Benítez-Rojo's Woman in Battle Dress" in Reading in Translation
Oct 15, 2015

Jessica Powell, translator of the City Lights book Woman in Battle Dress by Antonio Benítez-Rojo is interviewed by Reading in Translation editor Lucina Schell. They talk about how Powell came across the project, the work of Benítez-Rojo, and the research necessary to translate a globe-trotting and historical narrative. ---- Reading in Translation

Review in Booklist

"Henriette Faber's life seems tailor-made for fiction. A Swiss orphan who disguised herself as a man, studied medicine in Paris, and served as a surgeon in Napoleon's Grand Armée during France's invasion of Russia in 1812, she later worked as a doctor in Cuba, where her identity was discovered only after she married another woman. In his impressive, hugely enjoyable final novel, the late Benítez-Rojo revivifies this little-known figure and recognizes her as an early champion of gender equality. Presented mostly chronologically, Henriette’s first-person account offers the complexity of an old-fashioned adventure narrative, packed with history and incident, yet is told with a candid, modern voice. Shaping her chronicle as she wishes, she stitches together numerous episodes, moving from her romance with a dashing Hussar to her picaresque journey with a traveling show, and spends significant time on Napoleon’s military victories and disasters, including the horrific retreat from Moscow. Details form Caribbean history are interwoven throughout, and through Henriette’s eyes, the author also addresses the economic factors that kept slavery alive in his native land."––Sarah Johnson

"La Cage Aux Mujeres" Review in SF Weekly
Sep 27, 2015

SF Weekly's writeup for the book party at City Lights Bookstore for Woman in Battle Dress.

"Born in Switzerland in 1791, the orphan Henriette Faber was widowed at 18. Seeing few options beyond prostitution, she assumed a male identity and enrolled at Université de Paris to study medicine. Faber spent 15 years living as a man, first as a surgeon drafted into Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign and later as a doctor in a remote Cuban village. Ultimately, it was Faber's wife of several years who betrayed the secret, demanding an annulment and kicking off a sensational trial which ended with Faber's mandatory hospitalization — only after she had attempted suicide to avoid being stripped and paraded through the streets. Faber was eventually exiled to New Orleans, only to be resurrected and reclaimed by recent generations of Cubans in film, and more notably, in the final epic novel of the late great Antonio Benítez-Rojo. Tonight is a celebration, not only of the long-awaited translation of Woman in Battle Dress, but also of Benítez-Rojo's own life, which is nearly as exceptional as Faber's. Insightful translator Jessica Powell is joined by Suzanne Jill Levine, award-winning author of Manuel Puig and the Spider Woman, and Enrico Mario Santí, scholar of Cuban literature." ---- SF Weekly

Review in OZY

May 31, 2015

"This historical novel elaborates on the true story of Henriette Faber, a woman who assumed a man's identity in order to practice medicine in Cuba, where her identity was outed with disastrous results. Rojo, who defected from the island in 1980 after running the state-sponsored publishing house Casa de las Américas for years, is best known here for a collection of essays and literary criticism on the Caribbean, The Repeating Island. He gives his protagonist an irrepressible free spirit, which forces her to test the boundaries of sexual practice, identity, and nationalism of her time. Under this first-person adventure story, a somber question lingers: What’s the limit to the freedom you can write into your own life?"––Alexia Nader

Where There's Love, There's Hate, by Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo

Translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell and Suzanne Jill Levine

Melville House, 2013

“This deftly constructed collaboration offers more riddles than one might expect.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“One of the most charming, purely enjoyable books I’ve ever read.” —Pasha Malla for the Globe and Mail

“[An] unsung jewel of a novella…Bioy Casares and Ocampo save a final subversive wink for their utterly perfect last line: an elegant reminder that, inevitably, reality contains mysteries more unfathomable than any detective plot.” —Words Without Borders

“Bioy Casares has a charm and a sinister wit.”— John Updike

“[Bioy Casares is] one of the most innovative and imaginative names in Argentine writing.”— Kate Bowen, The Argentina Independent

“Bioy Casares is now Argentina’s most distinguished living man of letters and is considered a founding father of the new novel in all of Spanish America.”— The New Criterion

“Of all the words that could define [Silvina Ocampo], the most accurate is, I think, ingenious.”— Jorge Luis Borges

“I think Silvina Ocampo is a genius, one of the greatest. She lived a little in the shadow of her sister Victoria on the one hand and of her husband Bioy Casares and Borges on the other. She was an extravagant woman when writing her stories, short and crystalline, she was perfect.”— César Aira

“Silvina’s impressive literary production at least equals that of her husband Bioy in terms of quantity and possibly even far exceeds him in terms of quality, linguistic ability, and influence.”— Kate Bowen, The Argentina Independent

“Ocampa’s readers will participate in an unforgettable banquet. Luckily for many of us, Ocampo’s universe is constantly expanding.”— Página/12

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