So here are some things that I’ve reviewed, will review, or will do something with in some way at some point that I think are strong contenders for the 2013 BTBA.
First up: The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico García Lorca Ascends to Hell by Carlos Rojas. Yep, that’s the title, and it’s a damn good book. It’s very hard to summarize what this book does—or how it does it—so I’m going to encourage you to just read the review. Suffice to say, I like fiction that appropriates historical characters and/or incidents in interesting ways, and that’s just what Rojas does here.
Hypothermia by Álvaro Enrigue. I have a review of this one in this week’s Times Literary Supplement. Enrigue was someone whom I first discovered in Dalkey Archive’s Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction. His “On the Death of the Author” was the best thing in the book (which, I’m pretty sure, I wrote in my review of that book). Hypothermia was the book from which it came, and I’ve been eager to read it ever since. Well, now I have, and it’s a very strong book.
Seiobo There Below by Laszlo Krasznahorkai. I’ll have a review of this publishing soon. It’s my frontrunner at the moment for the BTBA. That’s kind of a bold thing to say since we gave Krasznahorkai the award last year, but, god damn, this book is incredible. It’s not fair. Maybe we should ban him for a few years if he takes the award two years running.
The End of Love by Marcos Giralt Torrente. I first found out about this book when Ethan Nosowsky of McSweeney’s Press (and now back to Graywolf) asked me to write a report on it. I recommended it without reservation, and it’s one of the best books I’ve ever reported on. These four long stories (or maybe they’re novellas) have a little of a Javier Marías thing going, a little Joseph Conrad, a little Henry James. They’re remarkable. On Oct 22 I’m going to be discussing just how great they are with their translator, the incredible Katie Silver at City Lights in San Francisco.
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?),. . .
From the late 1940s to the early 1950s, Egypt was going through a period of transition. The country’s people were growing unhappy with the corruption of power in the government, which had been under British rule for decades. The Egyptians’. . .
Miruna is a novella written in the voice of an adult who remembers the summer he (then, seven) and his sister, Miruna (then, six) spent in the Evil Vale with their grandfather (sometimes referred to as “Grandfather,” other times as. . .
Kamal Jann by the Lebanese born author Dominique Eddé is a tale of familial and political intrigue, a murky stew of byzantine alliances, betrayals, and hostilities. It is a well-told story of revenge and, what’s more, a serious novel that. . .
While looking back at an episode in his life, twenty-year-old Taguchi Hiro remembers what his friend Kumamoto Akira said about poetry.
Its perfection arises precisely from its imperfection . . . . I have an image in my head. I see. . .
The central concern of Sorj Chalandon’s novel Return to Killybegs appears to be explaining how a person of staunch political activism can be lead to betray his cause, his country, his people. Truth be told, the real theme of the. . .
Spoiler alert: acclaimed writer Stefan Zweig and his wife Lotte kill themselves at the end of Lauren Seksik’s 2010 novel, The Last Days.
It’s hard to avoid spoiling this mystery. Zweig’s suicide actually happened, in Brazil in 1942, and since then. . .