Translating what became “Under a Cruel Star” by Heda Kovaly was a labor of love as well as a work of feminism. There were few memoirs around of a life that spanned Nazism and Stalinism. None was written by a woman.
Balancing the domestic and the tragic, The Wrong Blood explores the ways in which political history and personal histories intertwine: the novel is an invaluable reminder of how, in the midst of war, love and continuity preserve the potential for a richer life despite the disaster.
Call it anarchistic boorishness, an artist chomping on the hand that feeds him. But at least in this book Thomas Bernhard is honest about why he welcomes awards — he wants the money, especially because the amounts, given European largess to its culture-makers, are considerable.
That Jenny Erpenbeck’s latest novel, Visitation, is ambitious is unmistakable, for it is undeniably difficult and precisely crafted. Following in the footsteps of T.S. Eliot, who suggested that a difficult world as ours calls for a difficult literature, I think it a moot point as to whether the novel ultimately succeeds in its being difficult. Is it really difficult for difficulty’s sake? After finishing this novel I have to admit my own ambivalence, not based on, admittedly, its philosophical import, but because of the way it reads.
Thankfully, these fascinating short novels, while they provide plenty of genuine scares, transcend the grisly genre of “ghost stories” or “tales of madness,” partly because their authors self-consciously manipulate staid spine-tingling formulas.
The title of Chinese-American writer Gish Jen’s latest novel, World And Town, suggests the story’s international resonance. Set in a small town in New England, the book examines the growing pressures — global and local, religious and technological — on the rural American experience. World Books editor Bill Marx spoke to Jen about what her novel says about the impact of the world on the American small town in the new millennium.
Catastrophic, consummate, and above all, cryptic
For all of the faults of this novel, which is on the shortlist for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, one can’t help but keep turning the pages. Author Tom McCarthy explores a darkness that is unpleasant, tedious, and disturbing, but also timely and fascinating. >>Read Tommy Wallach’s review
Winner of this year’s prestigious International Ibsen Award, Norwegian writer Jon Fosse is considered one of Europe’s finest living playwrights. Yet he is virtually unknown in America. Judging from this compelling novella, the neglect is not deserved.
Israeli novelist David Grossman’s new book is rooted in a reality so vivid, is so radiant with life, and is so precise in its delineation of its characters that it would be an important addition to the world’s literature at any time. But its publication now, when leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Territories are trying to broker a lasting peace, makes it required reading in a way few novels ever are.
In his most recent collection of essays on the intersection of politics and literature, Israeli novelist David Grossman fears his country is losing its soul, its cultural responses are hardening, its spiritual resources weakening dangerously.
In this story collection mostly made up of tales written early in his career, Spain’s greatest living author, Javier Marías, wears his influences, particularly Jorge Luis Borges, on his sleeve.
Bi Feiyu’s satiric novel about village life during the Cultural Revolution is uneven, but he displays an uncanny understanding of young women and the way they use their sexuality to try to take control of their lives.