Book Reviews

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.

Shigeru Mizuki’s “Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths”

"Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths" fictionalizes the real-life experiences of the author while he was stationed on the Pacific island of New Britain

Carlos Franz’s “The Absent Sea”

After twenty years of self-imposed exile, Laura has returned for a reckoning of her own.

Enrique Vila-Matas’s “Never Any End to Paris”

“Am I a lecture or a novel?” the narrator asks himself

Mihail Sebastian’s “The Accident”

Eerily prophetic in its title, "The Accident" was the last work Sebastian published under his own name

Georges Perec’s “The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise

The English-language Perec enjoys a certain sartorial charm—an ink-and-paper analog of the author’s legendary formal brio.

David Albahari’s “Leeches”

As one clue unravels into another, flirtations with chaos and order form the backdrop for a reflection on post-war Serbia and anti-Semitism.

Ludvik Vaculik’s “The Guinea Pigs”

Ludvík Vaculík’s novel The Guinea Pigs is charming and unsettling at the same time.

Marcelo Figueras’s “Kamchatka”

Figueras chooses to capture the drumbeat of history in the small, offbeat details of a boy’s life.

Darina Al-Joundi and Mohammed Kacimi’s “The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing

All the more startling, then, to read "The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing," a sizzling, beautiful, and maddening memoir

Modern Poetry of Pakistan

For a country often drawn in newspapers as the backdrop of mosque and market bombings, troubled politics, and underdevelopment, poetry seems to waft through every aspect of Pakistani life.

Kotaro Isaka’s “Remote Control

But for Isaka and his protagonists there is no way home, and no escape from this world and its global order.

Andrzej Sosnowski’s “Lodgings”

When asked how he responds to the weight of certain preconceptions about Polish poetry, Sosnowksi´s answer is simple: “I’m not sure that I do.”

The Selected Stories of Mercè Rodoreda

Rodoreda’s characters struggle with the crushing realities of life—airless marriages, the shrinking of dreams and horizons brought on by war and poverty, illness and grief, separations and departures.

Dezsö Kosztolányi’s “Kornel Esti: A Novel”

Esti is not a classic, Gothic doppelganger, not Jekyll to the narrator's Hyde, but more of a magician who can seem to lift a house by playing a magic flute.

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