22 October 12 | Chad W. Post | Comments

For those of you unable to make any of the upcoming Benjamin Stein & Brian Zumhagen events (they’re in NY at the Deutsches Haus tomorrow night at 6:30, then at Columbia University Bookstore on Thursday at 6pm, and at 57th Street Bookstore in Chicago on Sunday, October 28th at 3pm), you can listen to them talk about the book on this Table podcast.

In the mid-1990s, East German novelist Benjamin Stein crossed paths with then-celebrated Holocaust memoirist Binjamin Wilkomirski at a literary conference, in a pleasant enough encounter. Soon after, Wilkomirski was exposed as a fraud who had invented his identity as a child Holocaust survivor; in fact he was Christian, born and raised in Switzerland.

In The Canvas, a novel just translated from German into English, Stein takes that encounter and builds from it a riveting story, told in two parts, about two fictional men who become intimately involved in the rapid rise and subsequent fall of a Wilkomirski-like character named Minsky. One protagonist is Amnon Zichroni, who is sent away from his ultra Orthodox Jerusalem community after he’s discovered reading secular literature. Zichroni remains religious but also pursues training as a psychotherapist and later aids Minsky in delving into his traumatic past. The other protagonist is Jan Wechsler, the writer who exposes Minsky only, it seems, to then flee from his own past in a similar fashion. These two stories meet, literally (and dramatically), at the center of the book—you can begin either with Zichroni’s life or with Weschler’s and must turn the book over to get from one to the other.

Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry speaks with Benjamin Stein about this unusual novel and about the ruptures in his own past, first when as a teen he decided to become a practicing Jew (having been raised in a nonreligious, staunchly Communist family) and later with the fall of the Berlin wall. We also hear from the book’s translator, Brian Zumhagen, whose voice and name may be familiar to New York City listeners from his day job as a news anchor at WNYC.

You can listen to the conversation on the Table website or via iTunes.

....
Sphinx
Sphinx by Anne Garréta
Reviewed by Monica Carter

Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .

Read More >

Morse, My Deaf Friend
Morse, My Deaf Friend by Miloš Djurdjević
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .

Read More >

The Crimson Thread of Abandon
The Crimson Thread of Abandon by Terayama Shūji
Reviewed by Robert Anthony Siegel

The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .

Read More >

Life Embitters
Life Embitters by Josep Pla
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .

Read More >

The Physics of Sorrow
The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov
Reviewed by Izidora Angel

“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .

Read More >

Vano and Niko
Vano and Niko by Erlom Akhvlediani
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .

Read More >

The Indian
The Indian by Jón Gnarr
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The opening of Jón Gnarr’s novel/memoir The Indian is a playful bit of extravagant ego, telling the traditional story of creation, where the “Let there be light!” moment is also the moment of his birth on January 2nd, 1967. Then. . .

Read More >