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The Translation of Dr. Apelles (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – February 12, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Treuer's latest novel is a metaphysical blending of two love stories, one mythological, the other very much in the urban present. Dr Apelles is a Native American translator of ancient Native American texts--every other Friday. The rest of his time is spent in a vast library, sorting an endless succession of obscure books. He feels that no one would notice if he disappeared, and knows that he takes too much comfort in "the bouquet of languages he holds so dear." Then a new translation he is working on sends him into a tailspin. It's a mythological tale of two orphaned Native Americans from different tribes who fall in love, suffer hardships, and eventually marry. Dr Apelles becomes immersed in his translation, seeing his own life as pale and loveless in comparison. As he becomes romantically involved with a coworker, the translation becomes the story he tells her of his own life. Treuer's novel comprises an intricate and provocative labyrinth that challenges the reader at every turn. (See p.16 for Treuer's Native American Fiction.) Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 315 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307386627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307386625
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,044,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Translation of Dr. Apelles is a book that sneaks up on you and takes you to unexpected places.

The novel has two intertwined stories. There is the star-crossed love of Eta and Bimaadiz, two Indian children who are found and raised by families in Agencytown. They are both beautiful and innocent, and much of their struggle is the result of these characteristics. Since they are both the only children of their adoptive families, and they share a love of hunting and trapping, they often find themselves working together. Their love grows as they do, but not as simply. Jealous friends, marauding war bands, and plain misunderstanding keep them apart.

The other story is of Dr. Apelles, who is translating the story of the children. He learns as much about himself as he does of the story. We are introduced to him as he realizes that he has never truly loved or been loved. As his story alternates with that of Eta and Bimaadiz, we see him come more alive to the people around him and learn the nature and pain of loving. We meet Campaspe, a woman who works with him at RECAP, and who is attracted to Dr. Apelles long before he finds himself to be attractive. Their relationship is also challenging, not so much because of external events, but because of their own idiosyncrasies.

This novel is written in a style (which appears old fashioned) with a narrator who knows everything that is going to happen and who shares snippets of this omniscience you. The stories take on a life of their own with characters that are well rounded and believable. The result is a very readable book with a wonderfully satisfying conclusion.

Few books make me say, "That was a good book" at their end. This was one.

Armchair Interviews agrees.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Treuer's "Dr Apelles" is a powerful tour-de-force. The writer proves himself well-read and well-stocked with echoes from western literary tradition as well as Native American storytelling content and structures. The novel assembles all of the parts into a splendid love story--love of stories and storytelling, romantic love, and caustic love of self and of other. Brilliant as the writer proves himself I believe Treuer goes a bit too far. Clearly a reader's writer, the author overextends his hand with too much repetition. The doubling of character ideas, actions, gestures, and phrases are necessary to weave this complex tapestry through motifs and modalities. However, additional editing would have been helpful to move Teuer's brilliance forward. Lots of high notes in this novel, but more ideas through less words were needed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Translation of Dr. Apelles is a great story for those interested in some good "beach reading" and a fantastic literary criticism of what Treuer calls "Native American Fiction" for those interested in the field of indigenous authors.

Treuer's style is highly readable yet very complex and symbolic at the same time. The book is full of allusions and referenes to past literary works (see Hall's review) but can be read simply for pleasure as well.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A friend recommended this book, and I loved it. It's about a period of North American history that I don't know much about, told from a true seeming point of view. It makes the time and people come alive in the best way. A pleasure to read.
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