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Book Reviews

July 2016

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

Reviewed by Carolyn Silveira

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

“Among Strange Victims” by Daniel Saldaña París

Reviewed by Petrina Crockford

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

June 2016

“Infidels”  by Abdellah Taïa

Reviewed by Gordon Slater

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

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

Reviewed by Gordon Slater

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

May 2016

“Orthokostá” by Thanassis Valtinos

Reviewed by Thomas Michael Duncan

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”

Reviewed by Emma Garman

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

April 2016

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

Reviewed by Kate Prengel

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”

Reviewed by John W. W. Zeiser

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

March 2016

Raja Alem’s “The Dove’s Necklace”

Reviewed by Lori Feathers

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

Olja Savičević’s “Adios, Cowboy”

Reviewed by Ratik Asokan

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”

Reviewed by Wenguang Huang

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

January 2016

Sergei Lebedev’s “Oblivion”

Reviewed by Ratik Asokan

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”

Reviewed by Ellen Elias-Bursać

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

Tahar Ben Jelloun’s “The Happy Marriage”

Reviewed by Tony Malone

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?

December 2015

Daniel Sada’s “One Out of Two”

Reviewed by Anne Posten

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

November 2015

Wolfgang Hilbig’s “The Sleep of the Righteous”

Reviewed by Dustin Illingworth

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”

Reviewed by A. M. Bakalar

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

Liu Xia’s “Empty Chairs”

Reviewed by Lizzie Tribone

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

October 2015

Andrus Kivirähk’s “The Man Who Spoke Snakish”

Reviewed by Dustin Illingworth

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.

Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s “Tram 83”

Reviewed by Adrian Nathan West

Mujila has given a curious twist to a timeworn genre: Tram 83 is a picaresque novel in stasis, its hero waylaid by adventures he is constantly hoping to avoid. The language ranges from slangy to poignant, with philosophical asides and frequent pastiches of received ideas of Africa in the west.

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