Book Reviews

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.

Margarita Karapanou’s “The Sleepwalker”

Part dystopia part satire, this surreal tale of lost souls, and a dethroned deity, is not so much a murder mystery as it is a murderer's mystery

Belen Gopegui’s “The Scale of Maps”

“Trembling” is how protagonist Sergio Prim first appears to the reader. “His hands fluttered like a bashful magician’s,” the Spaniard Belen Gopegui writes of her fictional creation.

Nathacha Appanah’s “The Last Brother”

The Last Brother, by young French-Mauritian author Nathacha Appanah, is a quiet, lyrical coming-of-age novel set against one of the least-known chapters of World War II

Jenny Erpenbeck’s “Visitation”

Like the storied estates of Brideshead and Manderley, the house in Jenny Erpenbeck’s unsettling, inventive novel Visitation has a hold on everyone who passes through it.

Atiq Rahimi’s “A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear”

To traverse the fractured mind of Farhad, the protagonist and narrator of Atiq Rahimi’s latest novel, is to glimpse the broken soul of a battered and confused country.

Mathias Énard’s “Zone”

The novel is billed as a modern-day Iliad and has the same number of chapters as the Iliad has books.

Manoel de Barros’s “Birds for a Demolition”

Barros's poems are all at once small bestiaries and collections of aphorisms

Aharon Shabtai’s “War & Love, Love & War”

Aharon Shabtai’s new poetry collection War & Love, Love & War is, as its title suggests, a book full of reversals and inversions.

Emilio Lascano Tegui’s “On Elegance While Sleeping

“A book is a slow, unavoidable catastrophe,” we read in a late entry to On Elegance While Sleeping, Viscount Lascano Tegui’s fictional 1925 diary.  The book is constantly accounting for itself.   And though it ambles back and forth between sexual anecdote and aesthetic,… more »

Tristan Garcia’s “Hate: A Romance”

Elizabeth believes in pills, has been called “pretty” enough to believe it, is a self-professed bitch, and has terrible taste in men.

Ranko Marinkovic’s “Cyclops”

Cyclops is a semi-autobiographical, modernist tour de force by novelist and playwright Ranko Marinkovic, and it may be one of the most outstanding Croatian novels of the postwar period. It swiftly became a bestseller when it was first published in 1965, turning the already notorious author of the controversial… more »

Orly Castel-Bloom’s “Dolly City”

In Dolly City, “the most demented city in the world,” all the cars are Volkswagen Beetles, and all the trains lead to Dachau (“Not that Dachau, just some old plank with the name Dachau written on it, a kind of memorial”).  It’s a city of “chaos and ugliness,”… more »

Mahmoud Darwish’s “Journal of an Ordinary Grief”

Every artist, particularly if they happen to be a good one, is in a sense posthumous

Buddhadeva Bose’s “My Kind of Girl”

A brief encounter with a young couple in love inspires the men to pass the time by telling stories of love from their own lives.

Ingrid Winterbach’s “To Hell with Cronje”

If two books can be said to constitute a trend (or even the whiff of a trend) then we might just be in the midst of something of an Afrikaans literary boom.

Jerzy Pilch’s “A Thousand Peaceful Cities”

The acclaimed satirist and newspaper columnist Jerzy Pilch once again weaves fact and fiction in a memorable absurdist tale of flawed political resistance.

Mela Hartwig’s “Am I a Redundant Human Being?”

It is as if the narrator takes her own self, puts it under a microscope and probes it without flinching.

Laurence Cossé’s “A Novel Bookstore”

A new bookstore opens in Paris and stirs up a culture war.

Camilla Ceder’s “Frozen Moment”

On a bleak winter day in 2006 a body is found, shot execution-style and crushed by a car.

Taslima Nasrin’s “Revenge”

A stalwart advocate for freedom of speech, Taslima Nasrin is an exiled political and artistic refugee who has had her share of literary revenge.

Per Petterson’s “I Curse the River of Time”

Newly diagnosed with stomach cancer, Arvid’s mother has left Norway for her hometown in Denmark, and Arvid, burdened with a host of ailments of his own, has followed her, his intentions unclear

Jean-Christophe Valtat’s “03”

A lyric from The Smiths sums up the narrator’s attitude toward feelings: “And if the day came when I felt a natural emotion/ I’d get such a shock I’d probably lie/ in the middle of the street and die”

Mauricio Segura’s “Black Alley”

Good things rarely happen in alleys. They are the sites of illicit exchange—of violence and unsavory trafficking.

Alejandro Zambra’s “The Private Lives of Trees”

In 2007’s The Private Lives of Trees, Zambra returns to the intersection of art, life and the botanical

Agop J. Hacikyan and Jean-Yves Soucy’s “A Summer Without Dawn”

This sweeping work of historical fiction begins in moral anguish. The novel’s protagonist, Vartan Balian, cannot decide whether to flee with his family on the eve of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.

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