Dr Apelles, Native American translator of Native American texts, lives a diligent existence. He works at a library and, in his free time, works on his translations. Without his realizing it, his world has become small. One day he stumbles across an ancient manuscript only he can translate. What begins as a startling discovery quickly becomes a vital quest—not only to translate the document but to find love. Through the riddle of Dr Apelles's heart, The Translation of Dr Apelles explores the boundaries of human emotion, charts the power of the language to both imprison and liberate, and maps the true dimensions of the Native American experience. As Dr Apelles's quest nears its surprising conclusion, the novel asks the reader to speculate on whose power is greater: The imaginer or the imagined? The lover or the beloved?
In this mystery of letters in the tradition of Calvino, Borges, and Saramago, David Treuer excavates the persistent myths that belittle the contemporary Native American experience and lay bare the terrible power of the imagination.
"This book describes itself as 'a love story,' and it is certainly that, but its ambitions are larger than usual: as a novel, it has elements of satire (of Hemingway, among others), metaphysical whodunit, and urban legend. The miracle of this book is that it makes two seemingly incompatible stories into a hybrid, a story about stories of death and rebirth. Formally daring, The Translation of Dr Apelles may be David Treuer's best book; it is certainly his most courageous."—Charles Baxter
"Imagine Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha written by Nabokov and you will get some idea of the linguistic fireworks and the suavity of the prose in this extraordinary book."—Edmund White
"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)."—Publishers Weekly