Here’s the beginning of Chad’s review:
The author of more than twenty works of science fiction—both story collections and novels—Angélica Gorodischer was first introduced to English readers in 2003 with Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was, a patchwork novel that uses a variety of writing styles—fairy tales, oral histories, and political commentaries, among others—to depict the rise and fall of a nameless empire. Although Trafalgar works in the opposite direction—this book is a collection of intertwined stories wherein Trafalgar, merchant to all parts of the universe, tells stories about a cornucopia of strange worlds that he visits in his travels—the same literary touchstones are there: Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick. And although Trafalgar fails to surpass the best works of its literary forebearers, it is a really charming book that highlights Gorodischer’s incredible world-building abilities.
Each chapter takes the form of someone (usually the narrator) listening to one of Trafalgar’s wild tales about some unique world or other while he pounds gallons of coffee and digresses all over the place. Like something dreamt up by Kilgore Trout, these worlds often have strange societal arrangements—like in “By the Light of the Chaste Electronic Moon,” which describes a civilization ruled by 1,000 women who retain their power in part by having sex only once a year, via a virtual reality creating machine—that illuminate something interesting about human nature.
For the rest of the review, go here.
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. . .