11 July 13 | Kaija Straumanis

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is by P.T. Smith on Kafka’s Hat by Patrice Martin, from Talon.

Patrick is pumping out these book reviews for us, and has much to say about Kafka’s Hat, the title of which, I’ll admit, makes me want to giggle. As does Wigrum. I don’t think I can explain why. Though it may have something to do with the fact that I’ve been up before 06.30 every morning for the past week and had to sit through my first ever jury duty pooling. SPOILER ALERT: I made it to the penultimate round and was sent home in the end. And now it’ll be another eight years before I can make my high school mock trial dreams come true. In Monroe County, at least.

ANYWAY! Here’s the beginning of Patrick’s review, on a book that definitely seems worth checking out (and not just out of jury duty boredom):

Quebecois author Patrice Martin’s first book, translated into English by Chantal Bilodeau as Kafka’s Hat and published by Talon, is strongly influenced by Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, and Paul Auster. I’m putting this up front because it is something Martin really, really wants you to know. These authors are named in the jacket copy, all three are quoted for epigraphs, all three are repeatedly mentioned, quoted, or read during the course of the book, and, in the end, all three make their own parodic appearances. There is also, of course, Martin’s claim to Kafka, with the hat of the title playing the MacGuffin and a single initial protagonist, P. However, a stronger comparison, though with less claim to groundbreaking heights, would be Murakami—strange things happen to characters for no reason; their boring, private, structured lives are broken and exchanged with interesting, surprising ones; characters repeatedly make sudden decisions “without knowing exactly what is motivating [them]”; and, of course, love is found suddenly, by chance. It is this last reference point that says the most about what Martin accomplishes, rather than what he aspires to accomplish.

The first and longest of the book’s three sections focuses on the protagonist P. Set up as an analogue to Kafka’s Ks, he instead begins as something more interesting, and anxiety-inducing. His is a world of the mundane—when he enters a cab, he “exchang[es] a few banalities with the driver about the weather, chronic traffic jams and the New York tourist season”—so when he is given a mission by the Boss at Stuff & Things, Co., his one thought is to accomplish this business in order to be a good, successful, productive, and eventually rewarded employee. P. is not particularly interested in the importance of the hat of a famous writer, in fact he cannot remember who the writer is. His only interest comes from wondering why the Boss could want such a hat, what importance a writer could have to such an important business man. The mission and its strange interruptions begin P.’s break from what he believes about himself.

For the rest of the view, click through here.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
Morse, My Deaf Friend
Morse, My Deaf Friend by Miloš Djurdjević
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in _Morse, My Deaf Friend_— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .

Read More >

The Crimson Thread of Abandon
The Crimson Thread of Abandon by Terayama Shūji
Reviewed by Robert Anthony Siegel

The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .

Read More >

Life Embitters
Life Embitters by Josep Pla
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .

Read More >

The Physics of Sorrow
The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov
Reviewed by Izidora Angel

“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .

Read More >

Vano and Niko
Vano and Niko by Erlom Akhvlediani
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .

Read More >

The Indian
The Indian by Jón Gnarr
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The opening of Jón Gnarr’s novel/memoir The Indian is a playful bit of extravagant ego, telling the traditional story of creation, where the “Let there be light!” moment is also the moment of his birth on January 2nd, 1967. Then. . .

Read More >

Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories
Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories by Mahasweta Devi
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Mahasweta Devi is not only one of the most prolific Bengali authors, but she’s also an important activist. In fact, for Devi, the two seem to go together. As you can probably tell from the titles, she writes about women. . .

Read More >

Tristana
Tristana by Benito Pérez Galdós
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

The prolific Spanish author Benito Pérez Galdós wrote his short novel, Tristana, during the closing years of the nineteenth century, a time when very few options were available to women of limited financial means who did not want a husband.. . .

Read More >

The History of Silence
The History of Silence by Pedro Zarraluki
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .

Read More >

Flesh-Coloured Dominoes
Flesh-Coloured Dominoes by Zigmunds Skujiņš
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .

Read More >