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 . . .
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. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
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. . .
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. . .