Benjamin Lytal reviews Imre Kertész’s Detective Story for the New York Sun:
“Detective Story” (1977) is another sort of tale altogether — except that, then again, it isn’t. Set in an unnamed Latin American country, the new novel, which was Mr. Kertész’s third in Hungarian, spins a deeply self-conscious web of psychological drama that should be familiar to any of Mr. Kertész’s readers. Like them, it is a very brief book, one that you could breeze through, if you wanted, without noticing its delicacy. As we learn from the opening chapter, “Detective Story” presents the testimony of a low-level intelligence agent, brought to justice now that the dictator he served has fallen. Antonio Martens presumably faces death for crimes against humanity, and most specifically for the deaths of Federigo and Enrique Salinas, father and son, two famous industrialists executed, without evidence, by Martens and his colleagues.
Benjamin Lytal is at it again, this time reviewing José Maria Eça de Queirós’ The Maias. He is considered the greatest Portuguese writer, and I was just thinking about checking into him; Agualusa kept bringing him up in The Book of Chameleons. As usual, New Directions is way ahead of me. I wish they weren’t quite so good, but it’s nice to know somebody out there is looking after my interests.
But as I read on, into the long straightaway that, comprising only two years of the novel’s 70-year narrative, takes up the majority of its pages, I began to appreciate Eça’s emotional point. Where a character such as Homais, Flaubert’s pedantic pharmacist, stays face up, a fool, in reader’s minds, Eça’s aristocratic fools have a flip side: Their civic and national damnation. Ridiculous as they may be, they always have the excuse of whistling in the darkness. In Eça’s hands, a Flaubertian fool becomes a tragic symbol.
It’s not exactly a rave from Mr. Lytal—“But, as a builder of novels, Eça may deserve some immortality. “The Maias,” in its 600-page heave, does go somewhere.”—but it’s definitely going on the reading list.
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .