Translation Conversation Series: Ángel Bonomini's The Novices of Lerna with Jordan Landsman and Gideon Jacobs

May 21st
McNally Jackson Soho
134 Prince St. 
RSVP Required — see below

A forgotten masterpiece by an enigmatic master of Argentine fantastic literature.

When unambitious scholar Ramón Beltra receives a mysterious invitation to a lucrative six-month fellowship at the University of Lerna in Switzerland, he reluctantly complies with the unusual qualifying paperwork requiring several pages of detailed measurements and photographs of his entire body. Beltra soon finds himself in the deserted university town of Lerna, together with twenty-three other “novices” subject to the same undisclosed project—all of them doppelgangers of Beltra himself. At first, Beltra is the only one to bristle at the school’s dizzying array of rules and regulations, but this all changes with the onset of an uncontrollable epidemic, and the fellows begin dying off one by one....

The Novices of Lerna introduces Bonomini’s fantastic tales to English readers for the first time. Shot through with wry humor and tender absurdity, these meditations on identity, surveillance, and isolation remain eerily prescient.

“I’m so enthralled by the book that one night, when Borges came over, I proposed we read the only story I hadn’t read yet: The Novices of Lerna. We were dazzled. The story is admirably told, with much wisdom, everything is spot on.” —Letter from Adolfo Bioy Casares to Ángel Bonomini, September 18, 1972

About the author: An overlooked and enigmatic master of Argentine fantastic literature, Ángel Bonomini was forty-three years old in 1972 when he published The Novices of Lerna, the first of four books of short stories he released before his death at age sixty-four. A contemporary of Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares, and Silvina Ocampo, he received the prestigious Premio Konex two times.


Jordan Landsman was born in New York City. After graduating from Binghamton University, he spent several years living in Buenos Aires, where he co-created the BA Comedy Lab and taught literary workshops at Walrus Books. The Novices of Lerna is his first translation.




Gideon Jacobs has written on arts and culture for the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Paris Review, Artforum, and others. His short fiction has appeared in BOMB Magazine, Playboy, Joyland, Heavy Traffic, and others. He has lectured at the Institute of Fine Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome, the School of Visual Arts, the New School, and elsewhere. He is currently working on a novel.



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