PositiveAsymptote...if you read anything about [Melchor\'s] new novel Hurricane Season, from blurbs to reviews, the focus will almost always be violence, whether it’s how visceral the book is or how much pain its main characters have to endure throughout. But the cracks, and the vulnerability and tenderness they imbue the narrative with, are just as essential: they ensure that what could have been a gratuitous and voyeuristic tale is, in fact, a contemplation of the contradictory forces that give rise to violence ... In Hurricane Season the absence of love and affection feed violence. And they are exacerbated by precarious financial conditions, by misogynistic and homophobic traditions, and by an inability to accept vulnerability, which can get you killed. It is a novel about violence, to be sure, but also about survival. It asks us to recognize that when there are no Witches around, when there is no gold to be found, and when there are no spells or hurricane seasons to drive people mad, the real curse is what we do to each other.
Nino Haratischvili, Trans. by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin
RaveAsymptote... with all its exciting intricacies and the moving depth, The Eighth Life is not just the story of the trials and tribulations of one Georgian family over the red century ... Haratischwili is too astute a writer to imply that people have more power over history than history has over us. And her characters are not only shaped by history, they are also shaped by how others perceive and decide to tell their stories ... Haratischwili writes about women’s pain and anger in a way that is original in scope and yet echoes the themes of other contemporary female writers ... the transitions between the sections don’t feel harrowing. The stylistic progression is as natural as the passing of the years and the way characters’ taste in fashion and music begins to change with the times ... ultimately, regardless of the pain we often inherit, I think that The Eighth Life offers a more positive reading. It’s not about what others have made of us, but much more about the idea that while we cannot truly resurrect or correct the past, the present is still available.
Yasmina Reza, Trans. by Linda Asher
MixedAsymptoteBabylon...gives away its story early and belongs to that very popular category of books that use techniques of the thriller and mystery genre in what is essentially a character study ... in Babylon, Reza attempts to elevate what her characters experience in their limited domestic sphere to a universal tale about how certain fears unite and drive us toward inexplicable acts. It is this push for universality that makes the novel hypnotic, often poetic, but also uneven ...The question Reza raises through Babylon is how are ordinary people pushed to inconceivable acts of violence (in Jean Lino’s case) and stupidity (in Elisabeth’s) ... It is unclear whether Reza is consciously trying to warn us against Elisabeth’s predilection to romanticize the past, or rather is using it as a tool to remind us that youth, and life in general, are fleeting. To what extent then, is Elisabeth a foil for the author herself?