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.
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. . .
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. . .
In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .
I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .
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.. . .