RaveIrish Times (IRE)Spectral ... Deborah Levy is now regarded as a grande dame of literature, but she remains as vital as ever, and August Blue is a mistress-piece.
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)... the kind of book you open at your peril ... Things are already weird enough as it is with the regular intrusion of \'sponsored content\', the small black-and-white photographs reminiscent of WG Sebald (who is name-checked several times), the recurrence of swans and characters called Temple, not to mention the growing sense of psychosis and gradual dissolution of all ontological certainty ... Once the rollicking narrative has caught up with itself, the novel implodes in real-time. It becomes increasingly obvious that transgressive, S&M fantasies from the Robbe-Grillet book Vanessa was translating at the beginning have been contaminating the rest of her life, and that her world is now awash with simulacra and doppelgängers ... Hilarious, exhilarating and mind-blowing, Bad Eminence is this year’s cult classic.
PositiveThe Irish Times (IRE)The unfolding of the plot...is interspersed with complex descriptions of the wind tunnels and motion-capture techniques deployed behind the scenes. These are so meticulously detailed that they take on a hypnotic, almost hallucinatory quality ... The novel, however, does not end with the blinding light of revelation, but a \'blackness neither rays nor traces penetrate\' ... The truth is out there: Tom McCarthy has worked his magic once again.
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)The Netanyahus demonstrates what can still be done within the relatively conventional yet capacious parameters of literary fiction. It veers from mid-century comedy of manners to campus caper by way of social, political and religious satire. Bravura displays—such as the hilarious scene where Edith’s mother harangues Ruben while her husband unburdens himself, most indiscreetly, in the adjoining toilet—are legion. Dialogue is deftly handled throughout: the banter between Ruben and Edith, in particular, is pitch perfect. Cohen’s style—inventive but elegantly understated—is a class act that few of his contemporaries can follow. All in all, this is a veritable triumph.
RaveThe London Magazine (UK)... thrilling ... Power has a canny eye for the uncanny ... Ambiguous networks of gazes allegorise the struggle for narrative mastery at the heart of A Lonely Man. (Power’s close third-person voice allowing Robert a semblance of control)
PositiveThe Irish Times (IRE)Tim Etchells’s characters navigate a hostile environment that remains remarkably unchanged – uniformly bleak – from first to last. This is a society that is haunted by its past ... Everything, including language, has been taken over by corporations: formulaic expressions are thus always accompanied by the copyright symbol. One character even dreams that somebody is trying \'to bar-code scan his eyes\'. I would not put it past them ... All manner of horrors may be going on in the background...but this never prevents the author’s imagination from running riot ... The orality of these morality tales is absolutely thrilling: the conversational tone...the textspeak-style abbreviations and liberal use of expletives; the poetic malapropisms...and frequent phonetic spelling conjure up a dialect that seems to be in the process of becoming – one that is close to the \'morning of language\' to quote Anne Carson. Our dystopian times are estranged through the childlike innocence of this narrative voice – with its flashes of tender whimsy that recall Richard Brautigan – as though the chronicles of Endland were being told by the BFG.
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)Lean and mean – whittled down to their very viscera – the 40 stories assembled in The Dominant Animal are certainly close to the bone ... Scanlan seems to proceed not by addition but subtraction, like a sculptor chipping away at a slab of marble ... Scanlan’s fiction never strays far from this point of origin that always threatens to reclaim it, as in this mystifying coup de théâtre ... The young American author’s audacious deployment of lacunae is a measure of her singular artistry ... The author’s focus on this scattered self and life stripped back to its essence does not result in a defamiliarisation of the world but, on the contrary, in its refamiliarisation – as though we were emerging from a coma. It also lends these tales a timeless quality, enhanced by a style that tends to the irrefutable. These are sentences written in stone – to be read out loud or learned by heart.
RaveThe Irish TimesBerg Ann Quin’s gloriously twisted debut, is the kind of novel Patrick Hamilton or Graham Greene might have composed had they been French existentialists – on acid ... At times ...her prose enters a fugue state that simply takes your breath away. The evocation of what appears to be a near-drowning episode, in the antepenultimate chapter, has at once the hyperreal clarity and baffling opacity of a dream ... For Berg, pain \'overrules everything\' until it becomes an \'inanimate object\' to be contemplated. I wonder if that object, for Quin, was this book – a triumph of post-war literature. A classic of social surrealism.
MixedThe Irish TimesThis collision between western modernity and oriental traditionalism—literary realism and age-old storytelling—lies at the heart of Isabella Hammad’s often breathtaking debut ... Isabella Hammad establishes herself here as a literary force to be reckoned with. The Parisian is, in many ways, an extraordinary achievement, but is it really \'realism in the tradition of Flaubert,\' as Zadie Smith claims in her blurb, or rather a beautifully executed pastiche? (Has Smith forgotten her own Two Paths for the Novel?) At times Hammad gestures towards realism’s imperialist ambitions—its colonization of as-yet-unnamed realms of experience—but her own work retains little, if anything, of that spirit of experimentation. For all its brilliance, The Parisian belongs to a genre that was already outdated when the events it describes were set.
Laurent Binet, Trans. by Sam Taylor
MixedThe Financial TimesThe first part of the book, set in Paris and featuring a roll call of intellectual luminaries, is pitch-perfect in its evocation of early-1980s French society — and contains hilarious, often polyphonic, set pieces ... The picaresque plot begins to flag, however, when the two protagonists hook up with Umberto Eco in Bologna and at Cornell University, where Jacques Derrida is torn asunder by dogs and Sollers castrated ... The strands of the plot are skilfully interwoven through a dual process of fictionalisation of the real and realisation of the fictional ... Although highly entertaining at times, The 7th Function of Language fails to live up to its title. Everything, including the most obvious allusions (like the ubiquitous Citroën DS that Barthes compared to a Gothic cathedral) is spelt out. After all, what is the point of a roman à clef if the author provides us with all the keys?
RaveThe Guardian\"One of the most striking aspects of this extraordinary book is how well we get to know the narrator – whose brain and body we inhabit – yet how little we know about her. We don’t even learn her name ... What Bennett aims at is nothing short of a re-enchantment of the world. Everyday objects take on a luminous, almost numinous, quality ... This is a truly stunning debut, beautifully written and profoundly witty.\