7 April 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The most recent addition to our review section is Jenna Furman’s piece on Suzane Adam’s Laundry, a recent release from Autumn Hill Books translated by Becka Mara McKay.

Jenna is an intern with Open Letter, a former intern for literary agent Meredith Bernstein, and an incredibly good proofreader.

Her review opens:

Suzane Adam is an renowned author in Israel and received the Kugel Prize in 2006 for her novel, Janis’s Mother. Adam’s first novel, Laundry, her first novel to be translated from Hebrew into English, is a novel that captivates from the first page with a mysterious narrator and even more elusive plot.

The novel begins en media res with a narrative that hints towards a tragic event that has occurred and the confusion and concern that it has caused to those observing its aftermath. The structure of the novel progresses into a story told from the beginning, a story that will explain the recent tragic event, which is both the novel’s opening and its conclusion, but begins when the main character is a five-year-old with curious violet eyes. The narrative itself is clear and seems almost effortless in its moving pace and mesmerizing plot, a seamlessness which the reader may contribute to both Adam and her translator, Becka Mara McKay.

Click here for the rest.

7 April 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Suzane Adam is an renowned author in Israel and received the Kugel Prize in 2006 for her novel, Janis’s Mother. Adam’s first novel, Laundry, her first novel to be translated from Hebrew into English, is a novel that captivates from the first page with a mysterious narrator and even more elusive plot.

The novel begins en media res with a narrative that hints towards a tragic event that has occurred and the confusion and concern that it has caused to those observing its aftermath. The structure of the novel progresses into a story told from the beginning, a story that will explain the recent tragic event, which is both the novel’s opening and its conclusion, but begins when the main character is a five-year-old with curious violet eyes. The narrative itself is clear and seems almost effortless in its moving pace and mesmerizing plot, a seamlessness which the reader may contribute to both Adam and her translator, Becka Mara McKay.

The novel depicts Ildiko, a quiet, introspective woman, curled on her couch, unmoving and silent, after she returns home from the hospital under vague circumstances. The narrator states: “For two days I’ve been trying to persuade her to speak, but she won’t, she can’t. There is so much despair in her eyes.” The reader is already questioning what could have happened to this woman, but the reader soon learns that Ildiko does intend to speak, and more than she has ever done so:

She is making pleats in the edge of the blanket, fold upon fold, her hands shaking, I’ll tell everything, from the beginning, she says in a voice I don’t recognize. It’s not me she’s talking to. I’m afraid to move, I don’t want to disturb her concentration. Slowly, slowly, minutes pass, she lifts her head up, fixes her gaze on a corner of the ceiling. Syllables, letters. Sentences take shape from the words she is speaking. I hear; I don’t understand, wait, from the beginning? No, from the end, the end is so terrible, she should start at the end, what is she talking about? Words, flat, monotonous, one after the other. She’s reciting from inside herself, a story no one knows . . .

Her loved ones realize that Ildiko hid more in her quiet, unassuming manner than they could ever comprehend. Ildilko is an observer, first and foremost, highlighted by her interest in painting as a way for her to reflect on the world without actually engaging in it.

This novel is Ildiko’s breaking of the ever-present silence and submissiveness of her life, her inability to speak to others about her traumatic experience. Silence is a pervasive theme incorporated throughout the novel with all of the characters. Ildiko’s parents, survivors of the Holocaust, live their life by the motto: “What happened, happened.” They refrain from recounting their tragedies simply because they are in the past. In a similar fashion, Ildiko keeps silent about her horrific childhood incident of being dragged to the slaughterhouse by Yutzi, her family’s adored “foster-child.” Ildiko’s silent fear of Yutzi and her threats are mollified when her family emigrates from Transylvania to Israel, a mimicry of the author’s childhood emigration, when Yutzi’s reign of terror over Ildiko is forced to end. Ildiko and her parent’s silence is the silence of survivors, a silence that must be broken in order to truly leave the past in the past; a silence that threatens their very being until the internal has been manifested in a form that can be understood, so that people can understand that what happened, happened, but needs to be told, and from the beginning.

3 December 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The new issue of Words Without Borders is now online, and is entitled “The Home Front”:

This month we’re reporting on the war at home, with international dispatches on domestic conflicts. Here homeland security is both threatened and maintained, as couples tie the knot but long to cut the cord, and double lives are singled out. From Norwegian train stations to Greek port towns, in Armenian saga and Mayan myth, households are besieged but also defended as the family turns on its nuclear power. Kjell Askildsen, Constance Delaunay, Juan Forn, Espido Freire, Lena Kitsopoulou, Hagop Oshagan, Miguel Angel Oxlaj Cúmez, Mercè Rodoreda, Astrid Roemer, and Olga Tokarczuk keep the home fires burning (or burning down the house).

As usual, there are a number of great pieces included, such as the Rodoreda stories (Summer and Happiness) and the review of Suzane Adam’s Laundry, which was translated by Becka Mara McKay and published by Autumn Hill Books.

9 September 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The new issue of Words Without Borders is now available online, and this month’s theme is “Reversals”:

We’re prolonging summer with another month of flip-flops, as international writers contemplate the reversals of various fortunes. On the air in Sarajevo and under the radar in São Paulo, in chilly garrets and overheated classrooms, tables turn, lives go topsy-turvy, and the only order is “About-face!”

Some great authors featured in this issue, including Farewell to the Queue by Vladimir Sorokin (this is an afterword to The Queue, which is coming out this fall from NYRB, and which is fantastic), The Model by Danilo Kis, and Justice Unbalanced by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (I love, love, love repeating Machado de Assis’s name . . . just rolls off the tongue in a exotic, fun way).

There’s also an excerpt from Suzane Adam’s Laundry, which recently came out from Autumn Hill Books, and a review of Ana Maria Shua’s Quick Fix, from the ever interesting, White Pine Press.

There are a number of other pieces as well, all worth checking out.

....
Bye Bye Blondie
Bye Bye Blondie by Virginie Despentes
Reviewed by Emma Ramadan

Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .

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La Superba
La Superba by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer
Reviewed by Anna Alden

Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .

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Intervenir/Intervene
Intervenir/Intervene by Dolores Dorantes; Rodrigo Flores Sánchez
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .

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All Days Are Night
All Days Are Night by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .

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The Seven Good Years
The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .

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Human Acts
Human Acts by Han Kang
Reviewed by J.C. Sutcliffe

Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .

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Nowhere to Be Found
Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah
Reviewed by Pierce Alquist

It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .

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