Book Reviews

Liu Xiaobo’s “June Fourth Elegies”

Poetry charts a circular path to freedom for Chinese political activist and writer Liu Xiaobo.

Lauren Binet’s “HHhH”

Laurent Binet took an unusual gamble when composing his debut novel "HHhH," a unique blend of WWII history, personal memoir and postmodern experimentation.

Nichita Stanescu’s “Wheel with a Single Spoke and Other Poems”

Part physicist and part naturalist, Romanian poet Nichita Stănescu was always a consonant lyricist.

Andrés Neuman’s “Traveler of the Century”

"Traveler of the Century" is a novel of collisions: of intellectual idealism and cruel reality; of originals and translations; of complacency and unrest

Adania Shibli’s “We Are All Equally Far from Love”

"We Are All Equally Far From Love" is hypnotically visceral in its accrual of mundane details

Abdellah Taia’s “An Arab Melancholia”

Yet, it is not homosexuality or an Islamic culture that torments the narrator of "An Arab Melancholia"; rather, love is the tyrant in this brief, emotional saga.

Etgar Keret’s “Suddenly, a Knock on the Door”

If a man comes knocking at your door to steal your magic goldfish, what do you do?

Andrey Kurkov’s “The General’s Thumb”

A retired general is found dead in central Kiev—hanged, apparently, from a giant Coca-Cola advertising balloon.

Osamu Dazai’s “Schoolgirl”

Hardly anything about this book seems to have aged, least of all the narrator herself, who is perfectly preserved somewhere along the road to adolescence.

Jan Phillip Sendker’s “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats”

Sendker tells the story of an incorruptible love, forged by two kindred spirits, set against the rustic yet lushly exotic backdrop of Southeast Asia

Friedrich Christian Delius’s “Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman”

Christian Delius confirms his facility with experimental form and skillfully creates a varied and textured experience for the reader

César Aira’s “Varamo”

What is it that we do, really, when we write? And why can’t a fish be embalmed to look like it’s playing a tiny piano?

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s “The Letter Killers Club”

To the members of the Letter Killers Club, letters of the alphabet are the prison cells of concepts, and they need to be destroyed.

Admiel Kosman’s “Approaching You in English”

Sitting in any of the rooms that is each poem in "Approaching You In English" you’ll notice a tear in the ceiling; none of these poems are sealed shut

Alexandra Chreiteh’s “Always Coca-Cola”

"Always Coca-Cola" comes off as a work of searing intensity that powerfully conjures the atmosphere of contemporary Beirut.

Dubravka Ugresic’s “Karaoke Culture”

Part of the allure is for the amateur to wrest the microphone away from the stars and, for a moment, to take their place in the limelight.

Tomás Eloy Martínez’s “Purgatory”

On a certain level, "Purgatory" is a metaphorical ghost story—a meditation on loss, invisibility, and vanishing

Abdourahman Waberi’s “Passage of Tears”

On its most immediate level, "Passage of Tears" is coiled tight with the tensions of a thriller.

Jose Donoso’s “The Lizard’s Tale”

In many ways, "The Lizard’s Tale" is an exercise in concealment through regeneration, or adaptation

Zoran Drvenkar’s “Sorry”

Rare is the thriller that surpasses the limits of genre fiction. But Zoran Drvenkar’s Sorry is one such book: a thriller on its face, but also a thoughtful study in guilt and innocence, violence and redemption.

Anja Utler’s “engulf – enkindle”

Utler’s volume snares readers with a haunted, elliptical syntax. The words walk through these poems as in a preserve

Juan Pablo Villalobos’s “Down the Rabbit Hole”

"Down the Rabbit Hole" is told from the point of view not of a gangster, a cop or a prostitute, but that of a young child.

Meir Shalev’s “My Russian Grandmother and her American Vacuum Cleaner”

Happily for psychological posterity and for us, Tonia Ben-Barak and her never-ending battle against grime have been commemorated by her grandson

Eduardo Chirinos’s “Reasons for Writing Poetry”

At the heart of "Reasons for Writing Poetry," there is a figure: ostensibly, it’s all zebra from the waist down, but from there up, the Okapi, as it’s called, looks like a giraffe

Sergio Chejfec’s “My Two Worlds”

Technology, for one, has begun to batter life’s perfect syntax

Raymond Roussel’s “Impressions of Africa”

Imagine an extravagant pageant during which a marksman shoots off the top of a soft-boiled egg

Quim Monzó‘s “Guadalajara”

Monzó is a master of the open-ended conclusion; his characters are often left hovering either on the brink of breakthrough, or of a perfect replay of their previous errors

Lars Kepler’s “The Hypnotist”

Certain aberrations of human behavior seem guaranteed to provoke widespread fascination, and perhaps none more so than a mother-child bond gone terribly awry. How else to account for people traveling thousands of miles to fight for (literally, in one instance) courtroom seats in the Casey Anthony trial?… more »

Laszlo Krasznahorkai and Max Neumann’s “Animalinside”

"Animalinside" is a cultural event in itself.

Antonio Lobo Antunes’s “The Land at the End of the World

There’s a feral quality to this particular novel’s narration, with sentences that furiously push forward for entire paragraphs.

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