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The Translation of Dr Apelles: A Love Story

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  245 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
A daring new novel that "may be David Treuer's best book" (Charles Baxter)

He realizes he has discovered a document that could change his life forever.

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 da
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 22nd 2006 by Graywolf Press
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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieLove Medicine by Louise ErdrichThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman AlexieBeyond Bridalveil Fall by Sheryl SealGreen Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
Best Native American/First Nations Fiction
137th out of 355 books — 246 voters
If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo CalvinoSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiThe Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
236th out of 293 books — 433 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 536)
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Oct 26, 2014 Stacia rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014, north-america
3.5 stars

It's a unique look at being Native American in the modern American world. Through two parallel storylines, Treuer examines the traditional, old version of Indian stories contrasted & compared with the version of a modern man's story. Treuer's work also weaves in questions about stories, books, histories, our inner lives, & our outer lives. I think I found it especially intriguing because dd has always been interested in Native American life & we have spent many hours over th
Dec 04, 2009 Christian rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2007
Started strong, ended poorly. Tedious, repetitive… I had to force myself to finish. The meta ending was a big disappointment.
Apr 23, 2007 liz rated it liked it
Shelves: literary
I'm not really sure what I was doing when I picked this book out... But somehow I managed to completely overlook the fact that it's about Native Americans, and was completely surprised when I saw the cover before cracking it open on the train...

So is it any good? Yes! But more likely than not, his next book will be completely phenominal and blow this one away. While it was enjoyable to read, you can tell that he worked at writing it. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not fantastic for the flow, e
Jan 06, 2008 Eleanor rated it liked it
This novel tries to be a metatextual tale as it is about a Native American scholar who realizes he has never fallen in love himself as he translates a manuscript, a love story, written in a Native American language only he can understand. As he translates, the reader follows the story of the two young lovers and their many trials(fictional? historical? we are never told, though their story is told in a straightforward, folktale-like manner); but the reader also follows the story of the translato ...more
Judy B.
May 15, 2008 Judy B. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: readandloved
I discovered David Treuer through an essay he wrote for Slate, which led me to another he wrote for the Los Angeles Times. Both are beautiful intellectual expressions: succinct thought, harmonious language. The second essay touches on Dr. Appelles, and made me eager to read the novel.

I was captivated by both stories in Dr. Appelles - the folk tale and the modern love story. I found both wonderfully imaginative and captivating.

Dr. Appelles is a smart book, so the intellectual evaluations are not
May 22, 2008 Beth rated it it was ok
Shelves: not-finished
Fascinating in an understated sort of way. I'm enjoying Dr. Appelles' own experience of translating the story and his self-revelations even more than the story he's translating of the tale of colonial-era Native Americans.
As the story goes on it, so little happens and in a less engaging way than at first, so I abandoned it.
Wendy Cosin
Oct 08, 2010 Wendy Cosin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Again, unfortunately, need a new category of "didn't bother to finish". More internal monolog interspered with historic native american fable.
Jo Stafford
Mar 22, 2014 Jo Stafford rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Dr Apelles, whose first name we never learn, is translating a Native American love story written in a language only he understands. For the story to be alive, it must be read. While working on the translation, Dr Apelles, who has for many years resisted being read or known, embarks on a relationship with a co-worker, his desire to be read by another human being sparked by his translating work. Although in many ways this is a novel about Dr Apelles' inner life, it is a multi-la ...more
Emily Onufer
Dec 17, 2014 Emily Onufer rated it it was ok
This confusing novel follows Dr. Apelles as he is working on an important translation. During the day, he works at a book cataloging company, where books are sent to be stored away forever. His other life includes translations in his native language of Ojibwe. Throughout the book, Dr. Apelles recalls childhood memories and falls in love. A secondary story takes place underneath, which details two teenage Indians who were abandoned at birth and eventually fall in love. In the end, the book turns ...more
May 25, 2007 shawn rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: reviews
this is one of the most beautiful and understated books that i've ever read that is, at the same time, so fiercely postmodern in its agenda and conception of itself. this is a wonderful demonstration of all the promise of the most avant-garde of innovations and literary self-awareness but without any of the clinical coldness that usually comes with the territory. a real achievement, especially from such a young author. possibly even more important than all this is the fact that he has gone a ver ...more
Oct 14, 2007 Paddy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of literary fiction
An Ojibwe translator and linguist who lives in a city that feels a lot like Minneapolis finds an old manuscript that only he can decipher. Two love stories entwine in this beautifully constructed novel that gives postmodernism a good name. Written by, yes, an Ojibwe author, this is a lovely, lovely novel.

Addendum: I read Monty's review, which linked to an interview w/ Treuer, who says the book takes place in an East Coast city. So much for my ability to tell one cold region from another. Hey, I'
Jun 01, 2008 Bridgid rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Possession and Arturo Perez-Reverte
Recommended to Bridgid by: Kitty
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 04, 2008 Shana rated it really liked it
Recommended to Shana by: bookclub
Shelves: for-bookclub
Alone and seemingly satisfied with this, Dr Appelles lives a predictable and well-ordered life working at a library-type organization and translating American Indian texts one day every two weeks. His new translation somehow makes it obvious to him that he has never known love and needs it.

Told as two stories: that of Dr Appelles and the story from translation. The translation story is American Indian myth of two people destined for each other and the tragedies that nearly come between them. Dr
May 07, 2009 Julie rated it really liked it
Recommended to Julie by: Shana
While this is ostensibly the story of Dr Apelles, a solitary translator of dying Native American languages, interweaved with the story that he is translating, the two stories overlap far more (maybe?) than they first appear to. The narrative of two young Native Americans blossoming into love and desire seems to be the subject matter that has shocked Dr Apelles out of his ordered, sterile existence. However, Dr Apelles and the narrator are reticent upon this point: what exactly is he translating? ...more
Dec 17, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the metaphorical aspects of reading and translation
Recommended to Jennifer by: Shana
In this novel, David Treuer weaves two stories together in interesting and ambiguous ways. One strand follows a 40-something translator of Native American languages who works archiving unwanted books in a giant book depository (I picture that warehouse at the end of the first Indiana Jones). Every other Friday, Dr. Apelles visits a library archive to work on translation projects. At the start of the book, he has found an exciting new text to translate and one that changes him in the process. The ...more
Apr 21, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: want-to-own
I guess I'm on a kick of reading stuff written by professors at the U of MN - I just finished Charles Baxter's First Light, which was great. And now this novel by David Treuer was even better.

I loved the narrative structure of the novel - chapters of a Native American story interwoven with chapters from its translator's life. Appelles is a fascinating character who is seeking a way to express himself, falling in love for the first time, and trying to maneuver between the Indian heritage others p
Jade Adams
Nov 17, 2014 Jade Adams rated it liked it
This book jumps back and forth between two narratives both feeding into a greater project of exploring reading, translation, myth, and love. Though the contemporary Apelles story contained great food for thought, the love story between the 19th century teenagers felt episodic with very little tying the narrative together. It was not an unenjoyable pursuit, but left me wanting more.
Jul 16, 2012 Joan rated it really liked it
David Treuer is coming next week to speak at Santa Fe's School for Advanced Research, which has been around since the 50s. He'll be talking about his nonfiction work Life on the Rez, so I wanted to read some of his work first. And what a sweet surprise this love story is. One reviewier, Edmund White?, nails it by saying "Imagine Longefellow's The Song of Hiawatha written by Nobokov and you will get some idea of the linguistic fireworks and suavity of the prose in this extraordinary book." Plus, ...more
Dec 08, 2015 Allison6876 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
loathed this book had to read for AMIN W
Nov 06, 2014 Ashley rated it liked it
"I've been waiting to read you, he whispers."
Jul 02, 2008 Annette rated it really liked it
different... interesting... two stories a fast-paced story of the past that has you anxious for what will happen to the main characters. The other story, about the translator of the lost manuscript of the above mentioned characters, is a quieter story, more poetic... much slower and it took a chapter or two to get involved, but then it had me just as anxious to see what would happen to this character. Different ending too... overall worth the read and I'll be up for reading more from this ...more
Elizabeth Olson
Feb 02, 2013 Elizabeth Olson rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, read-2013
In lovely, subtle language, two stories intertwine -- a love story being translated, and the story of the translator himself as he is "translated" from the small, dry, sequestered existence he has carefully created for himself, into a richer, more colorful (and more complicated) life he finds himself reluctantly drawn into and engaged with.
Aug 27, 2007 Monty rated it really liked it
There are two parallel love stories set in different time periods with all Native American characters. Each story seems totally different from the other but eventually, their similarities are revealed. Here's a link to a more detailed review:;j...
Jun 07, 2008 Lise rated it liked it
Nice effort, good writing, but I just didn't want to buy it either as a love story or as an intellectual experience. I did enjoy meeting the innocent young couple of the underlying tale, however, and could not help but wish them the best as I looked for the next glimpse of them, concerned about their fate.
Ina uzzanu
Nov 16, 2010 Ina uzzanu rated it it was amazing
unfortunately I'm not an English mothertongue reader! but as long as I'm concerned, even with the handicap of the language, I'm finding this novel really great: for its plot, for the language, and the style,as well! Trueuer is a good writer and he would have deserved more attention!
One part of this book made me cry, so I guess that's good.

It was a good story, nice writing. I liked his treatment of Apelles's solitude/loneliness -- it rang true and I felt like I learned from it, though right now I can't exactly describe what I learned.
Nov 06, 2008 Julie rated it liked it
Well this was the 2nd time reading this book. The first time I thought it was too much like Louise Erdrich light. This time parts of it really resonated and I enjoyed his writing more. The last fourth threw me (again).
Aug 30, 2007 G rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: high-caliber
Possession meets Pale Fire (written by Borges if he were a Native American) in this Mobius-like novel - two love stories, one (or both) being read by the other, and with a well-done ending.
Feb 16, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it
The book is definitely written in an interesting style and presents some interesting points but is overall very good. It presents a different portrait than that of a "typical" American Indian.
Jul 06, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
Great! Three stories fascinatingly entwined. I like this author's voice and his uniques way of describing the world in the contemporary sections.

But I wasn't quite satisfied with the ending.
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David Treuer is an Ojibwe Indian from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the NEH, Bush Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He divides his time between his home on the Leech Lake Reservation and Minneapolis. He is the author of three novels and a book of criticism. His essays and stories have appeared in Esquire, TriQua ...more
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