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.
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. . .
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. . .
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!. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .