Book Reviews

“The Ropewalker: Between Three Plagues, Volume I” by Jaan Kross

A thoroughly modern man in an Early Modern world rises from humble origins to greatness through wit and learning.


“The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy” by Paulina Chiziane

The economics of love and marriage in a country burdened with a history of violent conflict.


“Among Strange Victims” by Daniel Saldaña París

A psychedelic slog through the pleasures and mysteries of slacking off and not measuring up.


“Infidels”  by Abdellah Taïa

Dreams of unraveling love and belonging on the path to Jihad.


“Scattering the Dark: An Anthology of Polish Women Poets” edited by Karen Kovacik

A lively selection of Poland’s women poets writing before and after the fall of communism.


“Orthokostá” by Thanassis Valtinos

Valtinos explores the twists and turns between perpetrating and being the victim of violence amid the confusions and contradictions of civil war.


Magdaléna Platzová’s “The Attempt”

A powerfully distilled meditation on the competing costs of freedom and dependence.


Pizarnik’s “Extracting the Stone of Madness” & Dabral’s “This Number Does Not Exist”

Pizarnik is a heroic voyager slaying demons and recovering lost languages . . . . Dabral returns again and again to childhood, to the difference between city and countryside, to a nagging sense of loss.


Kim Yideum’s “Cheer Up, Femme Fatale” & Oh Sae-young’s “Night-Sky Checkerboard”

The old to the new: recent Korean poetry in translation.


Raja Alem’s “The Dove’s Necklace”

A sensual, surreal, and challenging novel by the first woman to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.


Olja Savičević’s “Adios, Cowboy”

A gritty, down-and-out debut novel from one of Croatia's “lost generation.”


Ji Xianlin’s “The Cowshed - Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution”

A memoir calling attention to the tremendous injustices wrought during China's cultural revolution.


Sergei Lebedev’s “Oblivion”

In form, Oblivion is like a detective story. This investigation turns frighteningly political, however, when it leads him to Russia’s northern Tundra region, which once housed Stalin’s gulags.


The Return of the Narrative: Miljenko Jergović’s “The Walnut Mansion”

Jergović roots his stories firmly in local Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian turf. History is back.


Tahar Ben Jelloun’s “The Happy Marriage”

The reader is left with the question: in the case of an unhappy marriage, would it be better to follow the advice of Tolstoy or Ben Jelloun?


Daniel Sada’s “One Out of Two”

Daniel Sada’s One Out of Two is a sleeper agent of a book. . . . a brilliant, and welcome, act of literary sabotage.


Wolfgang Hilbig’s “The Sleep of the Righteous”

In prose that flashes like black fire, a seething hush gathering in pockets of remarkable beauty, Hilbig circles a renewal that outstrips both the ravages of history and the ruins of the present. That regeneration, he seems to suggest, belongs to literature.


Evald Flisar’s “My Father’s Dreams”

My Father's Dreams is considered by many critics to be Flisar's best novel.


Liu Xia’s “Empty Chairs”

Liu’s collection resides in a place of isolation, a place brimming with shadows, specters, and half-issued words.


Andrus Kivirähk’s “The Man Who Spoke Snakish”

Andrus Kivirähk’s The Man Who Spoke Snakish interrogates not only the literary logic of the allegorical mode but also the relationship we have—as individuals and as readers—to the dueling lures of tradition and change.


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