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Book Reviews

September 2021

“Psychedelic,” “Profound,” “a Feminist Classic”: Magda Cârneci’s “FEM” Challenges Definitions

Reviewed by Jozefina Komporaly

Blurring genre boundaries, Cârneci's debut novel brings to life a mesmerizing landscape of female desire and frustration. As the fragmented yet captivating narrative examines the twin subjects of love and loss, readers are confronted with the ultimate feminist agenda of a woman’s right to choose, together with the numerous hurdles and dilemmas associated with it

“Last Summer in the City,” Gianfranco Calligarich’s Ode to a Long-Gone Lifestyle, Hits a False Note

Reviewed by Allison Grimaldi-Donahue

Set in a deserted Rome during a hot and melancholy August, this 1973 novel now touted as a classic rehashes a familiar theme within Italian literature and film: a country and art of malaise. At turns beautiful and frustrating, it ultimately feels like a pastiche of the works it attempts to keep company with.

August 2021

Marina Jarre’s Stunning Memoir, “Distant Fathers,” Maps Its Author’s Peripatetic Search for Herself

Reviewed by Hannah Weber

“I’m Latvian, but I speak German and I don’t understand who Jesus Christ is,” wrote Jarre, who was born in Latvia to an Italian mother and a Latvian Jewish father, was sent as a child to live in a Francophone community in northern Italy, and later settled in Turin. Her memoir is a multilingual interior monologue which feels like the truest representation of memory (a flood of narratives, images, and dreams outside of time) and shows a woman fumbling for her identity while never feeling wholly at home anywhere.

July 2021

Returning Home in Palestine: On Sahar Khalifeh’s “My First and Only Love”

Reviewed by Max Radwin

A new novel by the celebrated Palestinian writer travels back and forth in time, across decades, examining the way family, politics, and friendship in her homeland are shaped by violence and war.

June 2021

A Pioneer of Decolonial Poetry, Jorgenrique Adoum Finally Gets His Book-length (Post)English Debut

Reviewed by Olivia Lott

Linguistic experimentation and political rebellion went hand in hand in the work of the Ecuadorian Adoum, a leading figure of the Latin American neo-avant-garde who wrote his verses in what he called "postspanish."

May 2021

“The Scar We Know” Shows How Lida Yusupova Shaped Russian Feminist Poetry

Reviewed by Josephine von Zitzewitz

With an unflinching gaze at physical and sexual violence, abundant profanity and a disregard for meter and rhyme, the poems in this collection expose the gruesome routine of gender hierarchy in a society that has turned the shoring up of patriarchal structures into government policy.

In the Stories of Kjell Askildsen, Stasis and Revelation Intertwine

Reviewed by Ben Goldman

The narratives of "Everything Like Before," only the second book by the Norwegian writer to be published in the US, bend toward the seemingly mundane, then sting with an act that might (or might not) change everything.

April 2021

Najwan Darwish’s Poems Turn Self-Doubt into Inner Resolve in “Exhausted on the Cross”

Reviewed by Kevin Blankinship

A feeling of resignation haunts the verses of this celebrated Palestinian writer, but weariness becomes an improbable source of strength in his work.

Dorthe Nors’ Stories Are Short, Concise, and Mysterious. Why Do They Also Feel so Weirdly Intimate?

Reviewed by Benjamin Woodard

"Wild Swims," a new collection by the Danish writer, showcases her ability to use narrative blank spots and unresolved situations as devices to lure readers into her work.

March 2021

A Precocious Teenager Faces a Rare Disease in Ae-ran Kim’s Touching Debut Novel, “My Brilliant Life”

Reviewed by Martha Anne Toll

A best seller in South Korea, where it was made into a movie, this fable-like book in the vein of Fitzgerald's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" features a sixteen-year-old trying to figure out his unlikely fate.

A French Writer Goes In Search of Lost Time, with a Little Help From Google

Reviewed by Kate Prengel

"In the internet there is a fountain of youth into which at first you drunkenly plunge your face, and then in the dawn light you see your reflection, battered by the years," writes Maël Renouard. In "Fragments of an Infinite Memory", he takes a step back to meditate on the effects of online browsing upon our lives.

From Fake Facebook Profiles to Cannibal Bunnies, It’s All Strange in “Rabbit Island”

Reviewed by Kevin Canfield

With a flair for the uncanny, the wonderfully weird stories in Elvira Navarro's new collection feature characters with a borderline grasp of reality and explore the exhilaration of feeling out of place.

January 2021

The Exact Number of Stars: André Naffis-Sahely Translates Ribka Sibhatu

Reviewed by Mona Kareem

The ongoing collaboration between Sibhatu and Naffis-Sahely confirms my belief that the connection between poet and translator is a lifetime commitment, to grow and write and think together.

December 2020

As American as Immigration: Małgorzata Szejnert Brings to Life the Many Stories of Ellis Island

Reviewed by Mauricio Ruiz

Drawing on unpublished letters and journals, the Polish journalist always keeps an eye on revealing details in her new book "Ellis Island: A People's History," the result of extensive research into the manifold trajectories of those who set foot on a new continent and helped forge the modern US.

November 2020

A Bereaved Soldier Looks for Revenge in David Diop’s Disturbing ‘At Night All Blood is Black’

Reviewed by Martha Anne Toll

Via a forceful monologue, Diop's novel creates a tale of revenge with biblical overtones as it looks at the relatively little-known story of Senegalese riflemen fighting in the French army in the First World War.

October 2020

A New Short Story Anthology Sheds Light on the Aftermath of War in Vietnam

Reviewed by Sarah Moore

Translated and edited by Quan Manh Ha and Joseph Babcock, "Other Moons" brings together twenty stories from different authors dealing with the lingering effects of what the Vietnamese call "the American War." It is a rare opportunity to discover a variety of esteemed writers coming from all three main geographic regions of the country.

What Turned Mexico Into a ‘Visceraless’ State? Cristina Rivera Garza Has a Few Ideas

Reviewed by Jeremy Klemin

In "Grieving," a collection of essays spanning over a decade, the talented author attempts to explain how her nation succumbed to a project that uses its citizens as "cannon fodder in exchange for maximum profit."

September 2020

In ‘The Death of Comrade President,’ A Sophisticated Portrait of a Country in Crisis

Reviewed by Kevin Canfield

Mabanckou imbues his narrative with the qualities of a minor epic, placing his young protagonist at the heart of a frightening yet wry tale about politics and murder, family and loyalty, necessary lies and storytelling itself.

Now Trending: How to Be a Fascist

Reviewed by Jamie Richards

In Murgia's book, fascism is presented as a form of semantic sleight of hand whereby anything goes under the right terminology.

Dan Beachy-Quick Casts an Elegiac Look at Ancient Greece in “Stone-Garland”

Reviewed by George Fragopoulos

How does one bring back to life the eroded fragments of authors we know next to nothing about? Gathering six lesser known figures of the Greek lyrical tradition, this anthology puts together translations in which a sense of loss goes hand in hand with the attempt to let these ancient poets sing again.

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