Category: Book Reviews

July, 2015

New Youth and Old Nightmares

2015 has been a good year so far when it comes to contemporary Chinese literature in translation, thanks to the publication of English-language editions of novels by two of China’s most important contemporary writers: Yan Lianke and Yu Hua. Yan’s The Four Books, very ably...

September, 2012

A Review of Edouard Levé‘s “Autoportrait”

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Self-portraiture occupied the French photographer and novelist Edouard Levé throughout his career, but his third novel, Autoportrait, remains his most thorough and sustained attempt in that direction. Levé was the author of only four works of fiction – Oeuvres (2002),...

April, 2011

The Explosion of the Radiator Hose by Jean Rolin

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The connection that a reader forges with a first-person narrator varies tremendously from book to book, depending on the degree of intimacy or detachment elicited, on how convincing or charming or grating we find the voice, on how seduced, manipulated, or outraged we find ourselves....

January, 2011

A Confucian Celerity: On “Angina Day: Selected Poems” by Günter Eich

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Throughout his years of exile, Bertolt Brecht carried little with him: his manuscripts, his smoker's paraphernalia, and a black scroll containing a painting of Confucius, which he would hang somewhere near his desk by the window. East Asian themes had always fascinated Brecht. In...

November, 2010

Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig

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In his memoir, The World of Yesterday, published the year after his suicide in 1942 at age 60, Stefan Zweig wistfully recalls the sense of security that “made life seem worthwhile” and that defined his parents’ and grandparents’ generation. Pre-WWI Europe, it...

September, 2010

Chekhov’s mongoose

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You don’t always realize the art that goes into a good memoir until you read one that isn’t so good. I came to Anton Chekhov: A Brother’s Memoir with high hopes, but had to admit after the first fifty pages or so that the book (through no fault of the translator) is a...

June, 2010

“The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris” by Leïla Marouane

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As first lines go, that of Leïla Marouane’s second novel and debut in English, The Abductor (2000, translated by Felicity McNab), is a masterpiece of concision and intrigue: “My father lay helpless on the sofa while my mother was being joined to Youssef Allouchi in...

April, 2010

“Purge” by Sofi Oksanen

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Aliide Truu, the warped murderess and tragic victim at the center of Sofi Oksansen’s astoundingly ambitious novel Purge, is an elderly woman when we meet her in the opening chapter. Living alone in the Estonian countryside in 1992, she has recently witnessed her nation’s...

January, 2010

“The Patience Stone” by Atiq Rahimi

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In Afghanistan—where, eight years after the toppling of the Taliban by US and allied troops, women are still routinely arrested and jailed for “running away” or for adultery, where current law does not recognize the crime of rape, and where 70 to 80 per cent of...

October, 2009

Three Kilos of Coffee

Manu Dibango is a jazz saxophonist with an international reputation. His song “Soul Makossa” is sometimes credited with being the first disco tune. Dibango was born in Cameroon in 1933. At the age of fifteen he left the country for a boarding school in France. His father...

The fun of de Nerval’s The Salt Smugglers

"This is not a novel," wrote Diderot repeatedly, in his Quixotic, polyphonic Jacques the Fatalist and his Master. You could say he was ripping off Sterne, who ripped off Rabelais in the grand tradition of Swift; you could even go as far back as Homer, as Gérard de Nerval suggests...

Chain of Voices

Although André Brink is one of South Africa’s leading Afrikaans-language writers, and although his work has appeared in English, at least one article has questioned whether we can categorize those works as African literature in translation. By his own admission Brink...

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