The new issue of Quarterly Conversation is now available, and full of interesting pieces including reviews of Lydie Salvayre’s The Power of Flies, Dorothea Dieckmann’s Guantanamo (which won our inaugural Best Translation of 2007 award), and Yousef Al-Mohaimeed’s Wolves of the Crescent Moon. There’s also a longer essay by François Monti on the fascinating and strange fiction of Eric Chevillard.
A really cool feature is the Overrated/Underrated list in which each of the issue’s contributors selects one overrated and one underrated book. Interesting in and of itself, but really, I only got as far as this entry, which made me giddy with anticipation:
Underrated: Doctor Pasavento by Enrique Vila-Matas
Maybe it’s problematic to consider an award-winning book under-rated, but quite a few reviewers of Enrique Vila-Matas’s Doctor Pasavento complained that it was just the same book as the previous one, and the one before. Surface-reading at its worst: if Doctor Pasavento, the third volume of Vila-Matas’s metaliterary trilogy, indeed reiterates things that were said in Bartleby & Co. and Montano’s Malady, it does so with much more depth, addressing a very different theme: the difficulty of being nobody. It is the pinnacle of Vila-Matas’s body of work thus far, and it should appeal to readers of Sebald and Walser.
I really hope New Directions publishes this sometime soon . . .
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. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .