PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewWith the fervor of a true language person, Lahiri dives into the dictionaries. She savors unexpected etymologies. She offers lists of near-synonyms. She dedicates an entire essay to the optative mood in ancient Greek...Above all, she makes herself at home in the unhomey — unheimlich, eerie, uncanny — borderlands between languages ... she does not dwell on what one might call the postcolonial or political aspects of her own biography. Neither is she encumbered by the pieties that often surround writing on translation...The book, instead, is about the consequences of the apparently simple act of choosing one’s own words ... contains a hope for the liberating power of language.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... monumental ... Pessoa, who had few intimates in life, is lucky to have found this posthumous friend. Zenith’s book is long, though not much longer than the biography published 71 years ago, and if it includes facts that were already known as well as facts that have come to light, its real merits lie elsewhere ... Zenith brings a nuanced understanding to this question, and describes how the poet finally sublimated his erotic yearnings into a mystical chastity ... The poet’s struggles with his sexuality, his inability to finish projects, his swings between grandiosity and depression, his splintered sense of self: All of this sounds awfully familiar to anyone who has studied alcoholism. So, of course, does Pessoa’s death at 47, as an old man, his body wasted by drink. Yet in a book filled with so much highly informed psychological speculation, Zenith mostly steers clear of this aspect ... Unlike so many writers, who built a nicely furnished house or even a neighborhood, Pessoa really did build an entire city. Incomplete — hieratic — chaotic: but a city nonetheless. It was a city that needed a guide. Thanks to Zenith, it has one at last.
PositiveThe New York TimesIn an age of so many books about identity, An I-Novel stands out for the tough questions it poses. It’s not difficult to read, since Mizumura is a fluent and entertaining writer ... Mizumura’s books reclaim the particularity, the untranslatability, of her own language. And they do so without the slightest whiff of nationalism ... What’s difficult about her work is the questions it raises. How to be national without being chauvinistic? How to be local without being provincial? How to use identity as the beginning of the discussion rather than — as it is so often today — the final word? In Mizumura’s works, the question is always open. She knows, from the very beginning of her American story, that this is not her country, not her language. But it’s one thing to realize that. It’s another thing to get back home.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewOne of the many risks of imbibing too much Barthes is that his writing is as notable for fudging and preciosity as it is for insight, and Briggs shares with him a tendency to imprecise language: \'We need translations,\' she writes. \'The world, the English-speaking world, needs translations. Clearly and urgently it does; we do. And this has to be a compelling argument for doing them.\' But this is not an argument. It is an assertion, and Briggs misses the opportunity to examine it ... Despite her tone, these are good questions; like many others in this book, they dangle unanswered.