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Book Reviews

December 2017

In “Using Life,” Ahmed Naji Imagined a Riveting Ride across a Dystopian Cairo, Then He Was Arrested

Reviewed by Mary Catherine Ford

The trial and sentence condemning Naji to prison for his work sparked protests in Egypt last year and brought his work international attention.

November 2017

From Excess to Ascesis: Ryszard Krynicki’s Verses Confront the Perils and Ruins of History

Reviewed by Sean Gasper Bye

Even as the early raging poet's later work opened to a broader set of concerns, it's clear he never lost his desire to challenge simplistic narratives and to ask difficult questions.

October 2017

The Well-Stocked Mind: In Juan Benet’s Essays, a Magisterial and Daunting Exploration of the Form

Reviewed by Anne Posten

In "The Construction of the Tower of Babel," the Spanish writer tackles Bruegel, the Bible, and the necessity of treason

Beyond the Rice Fields: A Sweeping Look at the History of Slavery and Modernization in Madagascar

Reviewed by Kate Prengel

Malagasy writer Naivo's ambitious historical novel grapples with love, colonialism, and the transformation of a society.

September 2017

Solid but Yielding: Ursula Andkjær Olsen’s “Third-Millennium Heart”

Reviewed by Allison Grimaldi-Donahue

Olsen and Jensen create a world in which humans, reconfigured as animal machines, somehow assume their most human form.

A Tale of Displacement and Dissolution: Rodrigo Hasbún’s “Affections”

Reviewed by David Varno

Is it ever possible to leave the past behind and restart one’s life?

July 2017

“Black Moses” by Alain Mabanckou

Reviewed by Emily Lever

The story of the life of a Congolese orphan.

June 2017

“A Fortune Foretold” by Agneta Pleijel

Reviewed by Allison Grimaldi-Donahue

A prophecy is received by a beloved aunt, a prophecy that her young niece eagerly waits to see fulfilled.

“Inheritance from Mother” by Minae Mizumura

Reviewed by Michelle Kyoko Crowson

Minae Mizumura’s Inheritance from Mother is a literature lover’s novel and a translator’s novel.

“The Hunger in Plain View: Selected Poems” by Ester Naomi Perquin

Reviewed by John W. W. Zeiser

A Dutch poet laureate offers her unique, subtle, fascinating, sometimes weird, and sometimes creepy voice for our consideration.

May 2017

“The Revolution of the Moon” by Andrea Camilleri

Reviewed by J. A. Tyler

A tragicomic parable of justice.

April 2017

“The Accusation” by Bandi

Reviewed by John W. W. Zeiser

Stories that shine a light on the dark half of the Korean peninsula.

March 2017

“The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love” by Per J. Andersson

Reviewed by Camila M. Santos

An against-all-odds love story from India, by way of Sweden.

“The Impossible Fairy Tale” by Han Yujoo

Reviewed by Ariell Cacciola

A fresh and terrifying exploration of the ethics of art making and of the stinging consequences of neglect.

February 2017

“Frontier” by Can Xue

Reviewed by Kate Prengel

Explores the borderlands between barbarism and civilization, spiritual and material, mundane and sublime, beauty and death, Eastern and Western.

January 2017

“Dance on the Volcano” Marie Vieux-Chauvet

Reviewed by Juliet Grames

The backdrop of the story of Minette’s meteoric rise to opera stardom is the “volcano” of the title: the escalating tensions of the brutal racial war that is about to explode.

“Savage Theories” by Pola Oloixarac

Reviewed by David Varno

Fear and violence, war and sex, eroticism and philosophy, and flawed characters grappling with the messiness of life in a fragmented digital world.

December 2016

“Seed in Snow” by Knuts Skujenieks & “Andes” by Tomaž Šalamun

Reviewed by Kate Prengel

Two new translations of poetry, one from Slovenia, the other from Latvia, both very different, both well worth the effort.

“Memoirs of a Polar Bear” by Yoko Tawada

Reviewed by Thomas Michael Duncan

A meditation on foreignness, alienation, and the nature of consciousness, as told through the experiences of three anthropomorphized polar bears.

November 2016

“The Midwife” by Katja Kettu

Reviewed by Gordon Slater

A juxtaposition of brutal and tender moments evoking the stark and rapidly shifting paradoxes of a world at war.

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