Daniel Brunet for The Last Fire, a play by Dea Loher that examines the devastation wrought on a small community by the accidental death of a child. Following its premiere in Hamburg in 2008, it won both the 2008 Play of the Year award from Theater Heute and the 2008 Mülheim Drama Prize. (No publisher)
Alexander Dawe for a collection of short stories by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpmar (1901-1962), “the most surprising writer of 20th-century Turkish literature.” Opulent and lyrical in tone, Tanpmar’s stories orchestrate Western and Eastern influences to speak of ordinary people torn by their allegiances to the past. (No publisher)
Peter Golub for a collection of flash fictions by Linor Goralik, an underground Russian author beginning to make a name for herself in the literary mainstream. These very short stories catch their characters in midflight, like strangers on an airplane, combining the mythic with the banal to startling effect, as when the wolf, disobeying doctor’s orders, steps out for one last visit to the three little pigs. (No publisher)
Piotr Gwiazda for Kopenhaga by Grzegorz Wroblewski, a Polish poet who has lived in Copenhagen since 1985, “far from Poland and far from Denmark.” Intimate, sarcastic, lucid, and uncompromising, Kopenhaga addresses the immigrant experience in post-Cold War Europe with documentary evidence and intellectual rigor. (No publisher)
David Hull for Waverings, a novel by Mao Dun (1896-1981), who joined the nascent Chinese Communist Party in 1921. A depiction of the failed revolution of 1927 set among workers, peasants, and Communist Party officials in an unnamed county seat in Hubei Province, Waverings won its author great acclaim, but its pessimism drew criticism from doctrinaire Communists. Hull’s translation is based on both the 1928 edition, published immediately after the events the novel describes, and the 1958 edition, significantly altered by the author. (No publisher)
Akinloye A. Ojo for Afaimo and other Poems (1972) the only poetry collection by Akinwumi Isola, a novelist, playwright, and one of the foremost figures in Yorùbá literature. Moving between exhortatory matter-of-factness and ecstatic incantation, these poems are a love song to the language they were written in. “Is it really my fault? / The bug that ate the vegetable isn’t guilty. / There is a limit to a plant’s beauty. Whoever pursues Àsúnlé is guiltless.” (No U.S. publisher)
Angela Rodel for Holy Light, stories by Georgi Tenev, a Bulgarian playwright, novelist, film/TV screenwriter, and talk show host. Alloying political sci-fi with striking eroticism, the stories in Holy Light depict a world of endless, wearying revolution and apocalypse, where bodies have succumbed to a sinister bio-politics of relentless cruelty and perversion. “In first class they offered easy emancipation, perhaps even electrocution, but he was traveling economy class where they wouldn’t even serve him food.” (No publisher)
Margo Rosen for Poetry and Untruth, a novel by Anatoly Naiman. Juxtaposing the fates of four Russian poets of the early 20th century (Akhmatova, Pasternak, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva) with those of the generation that came of age during Khrushchev’s thaw, this is part novel, part historical document. It draws from the writings of Russia’s greatest poets and the author’s own experience (he was Akhmatova’s literary secretary from 1962-1966) to convey a century of creative life that transcends the direness of Soviet history. (No publisher)
Chip Rossetti for Animals in Our Days, short stories by Mohamad Makhzangi, an Egyptian psychiatrist, journalist and fiction writer who was studying alternative medicine in Kiev during the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Drawing on Arabic traditions of animal fables, these stories, written with “translucent poetic sensibility,” use animals to comment on political oppression and the human capacity for encountering the magical and the inexplicable. (To be published by the American University in Cairo Press.)
Bilal Tanweer for Love in Chikiwara (And Other Such Adventures), a 1964 novel by Muhammad Khalid Akhtar (1920-2002)that has long been considered a masterpiece of Urdu humor. Our narrator, a genial, gullible bakery owner, makes the serious mistake of befriending Qurban Ali Kattar, the “Thomas Hardy of Urdu Literature,” who shamelessly exploits his hero-worship of all writers. A supporting cast of religious scam artists, bookbinders, restaurant owners, butchers, and minor deities make this novel something new and strange and warmly welcoming. (No publisher)
Diane Thiel for The Great Green, a 1987 novel by Eugenia Fakinou. Hugely popular in Greece (where it is now in its 43rd reprint), The Great Green portrays a woman escaping the constrictions of family and societal expectations. It interweaves the whole span of Greek history, from the Minoans and Homer’s Achaeans to the late Byzantine and early 19th-century periods, into the story of a single day in our own time, when an unknown woman mysteriously appears in a Greek village.
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. . .