The Extinction of Irena Rey

Bloomsbury. Mar. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9781639731701. $28.99. F
DEBUT Eight translators gather in Poland to translate world-renowned author Irena Rey’s latest novel. But Irena is acting out of character, and soon after their arrival, she disappears. Torn between completing their work or tracking down their author, the translators come into conflict, particularly Spanish-translating Emi and English-translating Alexis. As their efforts embroil them in nationalist tensions and the destruction of a nearby forest, they grapple with whether the community, and their author, really want them there. Croft’s novel is Emi’s account of events, translated by Alexis, presenting readers with an unreliable narrator who is further obscured by an unreliable translation. Croft explores the idea of invasiveness through the relationship between translator and author but also through climate change, nationalism, and theft. The building unease of the plot is offset by the back and forth between Emi’s text and Alexis’s footnotes, which add humor even as they cast doubt on events. Readers are left unsure what to trust, as the novel questions if true, accurate translation is possible and what is lost along the way.
VERDICT This fiction debut from Booker Prize–winning translator Croft (Homesick: A Memoir) is a metatextual feast that will keep readers wondering even after the book concludes.
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