This is the eighth Reading the World 2008 title we’re covering. Write-ups of the other titles can be found here. And information about the Reading the World program—a special collaboration between publishers and independent booksellers to promote literature in translation throughout the month of June—is available at the official RTW website.
Feverish and hallucinatory, this early novel of Antunes centers around a psychiatrist who participated in the war between Portugal and Angola and hates the practice of psychiatry. Very intense, vitriolic, and occasionally funny (well, at least in one section), this novel is very representative of Antunes, especially early in his career before he became more comfortable with varying his tone, working in more black humor, etc.
I wrote a full review of this back when it came out, and stand by my statement that it’s not his best book. (This recent review in Quarterly Conversation echoes those sentiments. It really is like Faulkner without the funny.)
Ben Lytal’s review in the New York Sun is more forgiving:
But finally, in the long haul of Mr. Antunes’s demanding and effectively overwritten screed, we realize that his narrator is hallucinating, flopping from one memory to the other with such radical accompanying sensory disorientation for the sheer bitter irony of it. To go a little crazy: It’s his ultimate rebellion against psychiatry — or at least it’s his weekend release. Typically Portuguese, perhaps, the literary art of Mr. Antunes turns his point-blank negativity into a refined, self-consuming protest: the psychological novel that can’t believe in itself.
Nevertheless, Antunes is an amazing writer—one of the most important Portuguese writers of all-time, and one of the most talented working today.
There is another book of Antunes’s coming out this fall— What Can I Do When Everything’s on Fire? which is coming out from W.W. Norton in September. And as a special bonus, Antunes is going to be coming to America for the first time in years. He’s going to be in New York—at NYU and the NY Public Library, I believe—around September 22nd, and will be in Washington D.C. on the 26th. I’ll post more about this—including the flap copy—in the near future, after I start reading the book. . . .
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
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. . .