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Book Reviews

October 2019

Huzama Habayeb Challenges Myths of Motherhood and Exile in “Velvet”

Reviewed by M. Lynx Qualey

Distinguished with the 2017 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, this multi-generational novel confronts traditional taboos to tell a late-in-life love story between two Palestinian refugees living in Jordan’s Baqa’a camp.

September 2019

A Family Drama Unfolds in Silence in Linda Boström Knausgård’s “Welcome to America”

Reviewed by Deborah Bragan-Turner

A Stockholm apartment where two children live with their mother is the main setting for this book, an intimate portrait of a family in crisis that won the prestigious Swedish August Prize and has been described as a chamber play.

Wang Anyi’s “Fu Ping”: An Ode to Ordinary People

Reviewed by Benjamin Woodard

In Fu Ping, one of Wang Anyi’s great feats is her ability to eschew narrative conventions and usher the background players to the fore.

August 2019

Nabarun Bhattacharya Conjures Ghosts of Revolutionary Dreams in His Masterful Novel “Harbart”

Reviewed by Arka Chattopadhyay

Conversations with the dead bring up explosive memories of Communist insurgency in this cult classic of Indian literature.

July 2019

Sparse, Monochrome Scenes in Selva Almada’s Debut Create a Believable and Powerfully Visual World

Reviewed by Frances Riddle and Mariano Vespa

With The Wind That Lays Waste, Almada may have invented an entirely new literary genre, something that could be called Southern Cone Gothic.

“Lisbon Tales” Captures Various Angles of Portugal’s Capital, with a Focus on Salazar’s Dictatorship

Reviewed by David Frier

A new anthology collects a wide range of writing inspired by the Portuguese city, from Fernando Pessoa and José Saramago to authors from former colonies like Kalaf Angelo and Orlanda Amarílis, but it leaves out some key short-story writers.

Lives and Deaths Imagined: A Review of Gabriela Ybarra’s “The Dinner Guest”

Reviewed by Craig Epplin

The Spanish author and Man Booker International nominee elides the distance between novel and memoir in a book that confronts the killing of her grandfather by the ETA and her mother's death from cancer.

June 2019

Selahattin Demirtas, Jailed in Turkey since 2016, Makes His Fiction Debut with “Dawn”

Reviewed by Rafia Zakaria

The Turkish writer of Kurdish descent has been jailed since 2016. The stories in Dawn can be read as a series of missives written by Demirtas from the inside, home to so many of the Turkey's best and brightest, dissenters who have refused to bow down to Erdogan’s demands.

“Keeping / the window open” Brings Together a Fascinating Trove of Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop’s Work

Reviewed by Allison Grimaldi-Donahue

From interview to collage, from poetry to prose, from the 1950s to the 2000s, this volume edited by Ben Lerner combines a generous compendium of the Waldrops' work as poets, translators and publishers with a selection of essays and interviews in which they meditate on their craft.

May 2019

Disagreeable, Memorable Characters People Duanwad Pimwana’s “Bright” and “Arid Dreams”

Reviewed by Benjamin Woodard

A novel first published in Thailand in 2003 and a collection of short-stories stretching back to the mid-1990s, both now available in English for the first time, show a confident writer at the top of her game, with a distinctive skill to conjure unique personalities on the page.

April 2019

“Broken Stars,” a New Anthology Edited by Ken Liu, Casts a Fresh Look at Chinese Sci-Fi

Reviewed by Anjie Zheng

From sharp-edged social criticism to extravagant and alluring imagery, this collection of short-stories displays the wide range of the genre in contemporary China

March 2019

Biljana Jovanović‘s Daring “Dogs And Others”: Growing Up as a Queer Woman in Communist Yugoslavia

Reviewed by Hannah Weber

Since its original publication in 1980, this genre-defying book has gained a cult reputation that established Jovanović as an important counterculture figure in Serbia. Written in a highly experimental style, the book follows a woman’s coming of age in 1970s Belgrade, creating a fragmentary amalgam of life in socialist Belgrade, intense sexual relationships, and family conflicts in the shadow of old age.

February 2019

Narrative Missteps, Unconvincing Characters Plague Lina Wolff’s “The Polyglot Lovers”

Reviewed by Lily Meyer

A new novel by the Swedish author reads like a caricature of sexism in the literary world that ends up being as sexist as its misogynous protagonist.

January 2019

In “HELL,” Alasdair Gray Creates a Celtic, Wind-lashed Translation of Dante’s “Inferno”

Reviewed by Jamie Mackay

By fusing a dialect-laden verse with knowledge and respect for Dante’s original, the Scottish writer and illustrator has built a bridge across borders and nations.

November 2018

One-third Women, “The Milk Bowl of Feathers” Adds Provocative New Voices to the Surrealist Canon

Reviewed by Susan Aberth

Edited by Mary Ann Caws, this anthology delivers new insights into this radical movement and rectifies past omissions to its canon with more intellectually daring and provocative non-French and female voices.

“The April 3rd Incident” Showcases Yu Hua’s Daring and Unconventional Style

Reviewed by Andrew Hungate

This collection of early stories by the celebrated Chinese author shows a writer determined to make a name for himself in a literary world that at the time was rife with experimentation.

October 2018

Atrocity at a Distance, Absurdity Up Close in Dubravka Ugresic’s “American Fictionary”

Reviewed by Jeff Tompkins

In this book of essays, Ugresic juxtaposes reflections on the fate of her country with observations on everyday life in America.

In “Resistance,” Julián Fuks Takes the Fiction of Failed Writing a Step Further

Reviewed by Lily Meyer

The Brazilian-Argentine writer's novel resists drama. It resists the impulse to exaggerate, maybe even the impulse to tell stories.

September 2018

“What’s Left of the Night,” by Ersi Sotiropoulos, Reimagines C.P. Cavafy’s Feverish Days in Paris

Reviewed by Lynne Diamond-Nigh

In this fictional account of the last days of a long journey through Europe undertaken by Cavafy in 1897, the Greek poet's struggle against conventions, social and personal, takes center stage.

“Do You Hear in the Mountains…,” by Maïssa Bey, Probes the Untold Pasts of Algerian History

Reviewed by Jocelyn Frelier

In this charged work of autofiction, Bey explores her ties with the Algerian War for Independence, during which her father was killed.

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