PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Kundera’s plea – that central Europe \'should fight not only against [the USSR] but also against the subtle, relentless pressure of time, which is leaving the era of culture in its wake\' – is newly relevant today.
RaveThe Times Literary SupplementIsabel Waidner’s third novel... takes its cue from Franz Kafka to portray, in sharp-edged prose, institutional violence and non-conformist resistance ... Sterling Karat Gold is not an easy read: it isn’t meant to be. Waidner is subverting conventions on behalf of the marginalized. The result is as impressive in its execution as it is urgent in its themes.
RaveTimes Literary Supplement (UK)The language of this tale...is what makes it sing ... Running through this allegory is the idea that oppression takes different forms, but whether grounded in racial, gender or ecological prejudices, it always stems from the oppressor’s insecurities. Feminist motifs are amplified through role reversals and literary parallels ... Aycayia makes them – and us – newly aware of historical injustice, capturing it in a flash of her tail.
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)... audacious ... Snyckers’s undertaking is incredibly bold; she must have braced herself for comparisons. Yet she has produced an impressive piece of fiction in a voice that is resolutely her own.
MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)... this feels a bit overdone. The borders, bodies, quarantine, chaos, crime, arrests, protests, a prime minister addressing the nation and other more or less realistic details do little for our willing suspension of disbelief. As society collapses under the plague, on page after page, Hall’s dystopia feels at once familiar and hard to relate to ... the obvious parallels with the events of the past eighteen months inevitably leave us with the impression that now is not the time for the Great Pandemic Novel: too late for the sense of urgency, too early for historical perspective ... Sex in Hall’s work used to be dark and unpredictably exciting...but these descriptions of \'the wet map of intimacy\' leave the reader cold ... Hall is at her best when exploring—often in fragmentary, non-linear prose—the mysterious ways in which art moves. We are reminded that trauma being channelled into art really is the oldest story ... But art in the time of plague requires the same attention—and that also means it has to wait for its moment to be launched into the world.
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)If Quin had to be filed under a single heading, it would be the 1960s era, a time of radical change that many hoped would bring about unconditional freedom. The main forces behind that era – sex and violence – are omnipresent in Quin’s work. In Passages intimacy always implies something sinister ... The motif of surveillance runs through Passages too ... A [...] desire for self-reinvention is evident ... Some of the notes in Passages draw on the myths of Dionysus, that ancient symbol of liberation erupting into destruction ... The boundaries of possibility may be easier to cross in literature than in life, and yet few writers have ever dared to follow Ann Quin all the way to the horizon.
PositiveThe Times Literary SupplementThose familiar with Williams’s writing won’t be surprised to find that her characters are also in love with words ... Reading The Liar’s Dictionary, I spotted just one thing that initially looked like a \'bleurgh of vocabulary\': \'I is for inventiveness (adj.)\'. I felt like the proverbial cleaner in an art gallery, unsure whether a strange object is a piece of rubbish or part of the exhibition. And then I realized, to my joy, that this so-called \'adjective\' must be a fictitious entry: not a copyright trap but a hoax played by the author on the reader (with or without the editor’s blessing). We might call it an experimental mountweazel.
Yoko Ogawa, Trans. by Stephen Snyder
PositiveThe SpectatorIt’s tempting to see the book as a remake of Nineteen Eighty-Four although here the regime is more humane: there are no betrayals or torture, and brainwashing is not entirely the fault of the police ... In Stephen Snyder’s fluid translation, the names of vanished things are sometimes italicised, sometimes put in quotation marks. The things themselves are sometimes completely forgotten, sometimes not ... When it comes to human memory, it seems, no one — not even those trying to police it — can ever remember everything.
Jean Frémon, Trans. by Cole Swensen
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement... [a] perfectly pitched medley of fact and fiction ... It is this distinctive voice that Cole Swensen’s whimsical translation emulates, leaving the occasional phrase untouched, all the better to get inside the head of someone living between two worlds.
Norah Lange Trans. by, Charlotte Whittle
PositiveThe Guardian...darkly irresistible ... Read on another level, the book, first published in 1950, anticipates the nouveau roman, an \'anti-novel\' style where the narrator is given full control over the plot and characters ... As for its literary precedents, they can be traced to Jorge Luis Borges’ 1940s short stories ... When mere observation is no longer enough, the dose of magic realism has to be boosted, and the girl’s fantasies grow more feverish ... There are moments when this unceasing hallucinatory state resembles someone else’s dreams, compulsively recounted, but the sheer drive of imagery compels you to listen.
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)... filled with prose so intense it manages to paint a comprehensive picture of our times in six short stories. There are personal histories and universal themes here, but also urgent subjects such as migration and climate change, corporate greed and the dangers of the internet, all outlined in the subtlest of tones yet vividly recognizable, even – or not least – when told as parables ... Eisenberg impresses on many levels, especially when portraying her characters by proxy.
MixedThe Financial TimesThese photographs in the lavishly produced Blind Spot feel far removed from the blurry pictures that feature in books by WG Sebald, a constant influence on the work of Teju Cole. The accompanying texts are another matter. Each pair — a short piece and a photo — is dedicated to a particular place, and the links that [Cole] discovers between them can be as unexpected as those found in Sebald’s writings … This volume confirms that photography as a genre doesn’t serve as a simple illustration to literature … There are few people in Cole’s works, and even fewer faces. His own persona, however, is prominent. Occasionally he recounts his dreams, in one of which he has lunch with Diana (presumably the Princess of Wales) and fails to take a selfie with her. His confessions can smack of oversharing … Whatever all this personal stuff might signify, the book gives you a chance to glimpse things that might have slipped your attention otherwise.
PositiveThe Financial TimesThis gripping account is a re-enactment of the Russian Revolution, month by month, by an author who has used the fantasy genre to convey political messages ... The book’s conception is in line with its dramatic (occasionally melodramatic) style: Miéville confesses to have done no original research here, instead distilling his sources into an informative page-turner. If he occasionally gets his facts wrong (the new-style date of the October Revolution, for instance, is November 7, not November 5 as mentioned), that feels unavoidable in such an enterprise. Revolutions rarely go without a hitch.