This past weekend (yes, I’m still catching up), The Independent ran an interview with Polish author Pawel Huelle under the intriguing title, “Why cult Polish author Pawel Huelle thinks he’s a camel.”
That’s explained away pretty quickly—he has two humps—and most of the interview focuses on Huelle’s new novel Castorp, just out from Serpent’s Tail and based on a throwaway line from The Magic Mountain.
“When I first read Mann’s The Magic Mountain, the story of a young German called Hans Castorp, it had a hypnotic effect on me. I was 16 and extremely ill, and had to lie in bed for several weeks. So my mother brought me books to read; unfortunately, in spite of my illness, I still read so fast she couldn’t keep up. No sooner had she found me another novel than I’d finished it. One day, however, she brought in this great, fat book and said triumphantly ‘I think this’ll last you for at least 10 days.’ Secretly I think she hoped I’d find it such heavy going I’d get better before I finished it. But I read it in five days, simultaneously becoming even more feverish and, although I didn’t understand everything in it, that book cast a spell on me. One sentence in particular stuck in my mind; it was the start point for my own novel.” He picks up his copy of Castorp and reads the quotation at the beginning: “‘He had spent four semesters at the Danzig Polytechnic.’”
“I grew up in Gdansk – Danzig, as it used to be called. Just imagine a writer you really, really like creating a literary hero who you discover may have lived in the house next door to you. Your imagination goes crazy: where did he live? Where did he go? Where did he get his hair cut? For years I wondered: what did Castorp do in Gdansk?”
Overall, Huelle, who used to be published in the States by Harcourt, sounds like a writer worth looking into. Especially since Hrabal and Sabato are two of his literary idols.
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .
The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .