Book Reviews

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.

Patrick Ourednik’s “Case Closed”

What do you think is the biggest-selling Czech book of all time? Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being? The Good Soldier Svejk, by Jaroslav Hasek? Something by Havel, Hrabal, Klima, or Skvorecky?

Alex Epstein’s “Blue Has No South”

Epstein’s collection is something of a spatial triumph—microscopic stories (some are only single sentences long) with manifold compartments and a capaciousness belied by their slight appearance.

Quim Monzo’s “Gasoline”

Quim Monzó's Gasoline is a novel as an existential question: What happens when the idea of postmodernism becomes tangible reality?

Linda Ferri’s “Cecilia”

Cecilia, Linda Ferri’s latest novel, retells the myth of Saint Cecilia, the Roman nobleman’s daughter who would become the patron saint of music and a Christian martyr

Alain Mabanckou’s “Broken Glass”

Alain Mabanckou, the young Congolese author of African Pyscho, seems intent on subverting all the clichés about African writing

Durs Grünbein’s The Bars of Atlantis

Despite its brief history, East Germany held potent sway over the Western imagination

Olga Tokarczuk’s “Primeval and Other Times”

Then there is Primeval: protozoic, foundational, “the place at the centre of the universe.”

Romain Gary’s “Hocus Bogus”

In the 1970s the French writer and film director Romain Gary had grown, in his own words, “tired of being nothing but myself.”

Jo Nesbø’s “The Devil’s Star

Twenty-three-year-old Camilla Loen has been found dead in her Oslo apartment, her finger severed, a red diamond star under her eyelid.

Martin Page’s “The Discreet Pleasures of Rejection”

Virgil is a navel-gazing thirty-one-year-old who lives in Paris, works as an advertising copywriter, and always dresses in corduroys

Horacio Castellanos Moya’s “She-Devil in the Mirror”

She-Devil takes place entirely in the mind of a single protagonist who is on the precipice of madness.

Jorge Volpi’s “Season of Ash”

Season of Ash (originally published as No será la Tierra in 2006) may be only Jorge Volpi’s second book to be translated into English but, to my mind, he is as thrilling a discovery as Chilean Roberto Bolaño. This ambitious and complex novel covers some of the most significant events… more »

The Horse Has Six Legs: An Anthology of Serbian Poetry

Translation of poetry should always motivate two kinds of fidelity

Ernest Farrés’s “Edward Hopper”

American realist painting has long fascinated poets. Edward Hopper’s desolate landscapes, jewel-toned New York interiors, scenes of Cape Cod, and portraits of commuters on trains lend themselves especially well to commentary in verse;  his art has inspired The Poetry of Solitude, edited by… more »

Emmanuel Moses’s “He and I”

Emmanuel Moses makes his introductory appearance to an Anglo-American readership with a collection of poems, He and I, translated by Marilyn Hacker. He and I is in fact a compilation of writings that are scattered across three different books in their original French: L’Animal (Flammarion, 2010),… more »

Alicia Borinsky’s “Frivolous Women and Other Sinners/Frivolas y pecadoras”

Alicia Borinsky’s book Frivolous Women and Other Sinners (Frivolas y Pecadoras) consistently surprises with its verve and stamina

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