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Prétend, a novella by Arielle Burgdorf

Arielle Burgdorf is a writer originally from Washington, D.C. They received their MFA from Chatham University in Pittsburgh where they taught in the Words Without Walls program at Allegheny County Jail. Their writing and translations have appeared in Lambda Literary, Broken Pencil Magazine, Exilé Sans Frontières, Maximum Rocknroll, and elsewhere. They are currently pursuing a PhD in Literature at UC Santa Cruz focused on queer and feminist experimental writers from Québec.

Paperback, printed and bound by Coach House Press on 60 lb Rolland Natural paper.

ISBN 978-1-7381784-1-4
Prétend follows a young translator from Montreal whose name and identity are in constant flux. Our protagonist begins the story as Jean, a woman trapped in an abusive marriage to a dangerous man named Konstantin. Isolated and alienated in London, Jean soon becomes John, and her relationship with Konstantin starts to unravel when he asks her to translate his poems from Russian. After she begins to uncover some of Konstantin’s deceits, she agrees to meet a reclusive artist in Canada named M., and leaves Konstantin, becoming Jeanne upon her return to Montréal.

Working with M. on a new translation is magical and restorative for Jeanne, as she learns for the first time in her life what it might be like to have a translator-author relationship free of dated ideas on fidelity, domination, and the invisibility of the translator.  Jeanne also starts to realize she has feelings for M. and wants more than just a business relationship together. But M. has a secret too, and just when it comes to light, Konstantin lands in Montréal and creates chaos. Jeanne uncovers Konstantin’s biggest secret and becomes determined to expose him, forcing him to leave her alone once and for all—but will he give in so easily? And will she find a way to work things out with M., or leave Montréal behind for a new city and a new identity?

Praise for Prétend:

“[Burgdorf] has written a clever, sexy, moving & playful novel about literary translation, control, language, & selfhood.”

Jen Calleja, translator, publisher at Praspar Press and author of Vehicle, Dust Sucker, and I’m Afraid That’s All We’ve Got Time For

“As its protagonist cycles through names, cultures and countries in a journey of self and soul, Burgdorf’s passion for language itself is a beautiful lodestar, a leitmotif woven into the fabric of the story. Like a knife to a whetstone, Prétend gives off sparks.” 

Alex Manley, author of The New Masculinity and translator of Made-Up