Like Esterhazy’s books, the speech is playful and intelligent, and engaged with ideas of History. Here’s a sample of an interesting bit from the end:
Europe is the land of variety – of various people, various languages, various traditions. Today’s individual sees a lot of the world, and when he does, he sees that his domestic customs, habits, ideals and myths are not necessarily superior to the others. As Henry James said, a person turns into a citizen of the world when all manner of customs appear equally shallow in his eyes. On the other hand, a tourist – and most of us are tourists – is not suited for getting to know things; a tourist is a man wedded to superficiality; a tourist sees only clichés: the Italians are loud and eat cats, the French are arrogant and eat snails, the Germans are fat and eat cabbage, and the Hungarians… but let’s not go into that, plus they eat gulyás. As for the Swiss, they don’t even exist.
The one thing that definitely exists is fiction. Only the implausible is real. A novel, words. A world made up of words says more about ourselves and others than all the accurate information gathered by a conscientious tourist. The real accuracy is the novel’s accuracy; it is knowledge that can be put to good use, the knowledge of the Dutch horsts and the knowledge of the Swiss plains. Writing a Hungarian novel about these things this could be the so-called Lucerne Plan, to look at the world with this lack of constraint, this freedom, and with this constraint and boundary. – with this beautiful European complexity.
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. . .