RaveWords Without BordersA new collection by the Danish writer, showcases her ability to use narrative blank spots and unresolved situations as devices to lure readers into her work ... One of the great joys of oral storytelling is the intimacy often forged between a talented speaker and an audience, which can transform any room into a two-person confessional, a late-night phone call, or a conversation with the stranger at the nearest barstool. I’ve been thinking about this kind of intimacy while reading and rereading Wild Swims ... Nors mixes first and third person perspectives, luring the reader with an intimate tone and a masterful handling of pace and plot construction. The result is a collection reminiscent of a magnetic speaker standing at a microphone, enthralling her audience while sharing a secret ... Yet is this a true intimacy, or are Nors’ deceptions merely crafted to mimic such connections? After all, a shared frame of reference may be impossible to establish when discussing fiction, itself a form based on the creativity of the lone storyteller ... Her commitment to leaving space for the reader to become part of the story creates its own sense of pleasure. There is never a point where her technique begins to show its seams, or where the author doesn’t craft with a sense of closeness, true or fabricated, toward her audience. These stories may be short in length, yet they all possess an abundance of depth.
Seong-Nan Ha, Trans. by Janet Hong
RaveThe Kenyon ReviewMisdirection abounds in the collection, a technique which naturally—and delightfully so—acts in juxtaposition to the author’s straightforward writing style. While beautifully crafted, most of Ha’s sentences are succinct in structure and detail, with only occasional pitstops for mischievous flourishes ... Upon first blush, the stories of Ha Seong-Nan appear both accessible and familiar in ambition. They rely on common narrative sparks and are presented without stylistic overkill. Yet this veneer permits Ha to shake each story like a snow globe, blurring the obvious and constructing something new and unpredicted ... We can all only hope that Janet Hong’s terrific translations continue and that they provide the English-speaking world opportunities for enchantment by a master storyteller for years to come.
Wang Anyi, Trans. by Howard Goldblatt
PositiveWords Without BordersIts narrative arc—that of a young girl who learns to challenge convention and follow her heart—may not be wholly original, but its presentation, full of detours and side stories, makes for a memorable, smart study of the lives of ordinary people in Shanghai in the 1960s, during the second decade of Communist rule in China. Wang’s frequent digressions create an engaging novel overflowing with narrative threads that succeeds both as a character-driven story and as a commentary on the shifting belief systems between generations over the first two decades of the People’s Republic of China ... One of Wang Anyi’s greatest feats in the novel is her ability to eschew narrative conventions and usher the background players surrounding her protagonist to the fore ... digressions inform the reader of secret relationships, landscapes, and histories around Fu Ping’s own journey, painting a tangible setting for each character to occupy. This lax sense of direction quietly builds a sympathetic and complex world that pays off once the author again narrows her focus to Fu Ping’s story arc for the novel’s second half. It also allows Wang to detail the everyday actions of blue-collar workers, vignettes that come to life via Howard Goldblatt’s skillful translation ... Fu Ping’s fragmented structure may not be for every reader, but it nevertheless is a fruitful, clever ode to China’s blue-collar population.
Duanwad Pimwana, Trans. by Mui Poopopsakul
RaveWords Without BordersRegardless of the periods in which they were composed, all of the narratives now available in English for the first time show a confident writer at the top of her game, evidence of Pimwana’s world-building strengths and her skill at conjuring unique personalities on the page ... a book worth recommending ... In these stories, Pimwana keenly works to mold characters who shun the simplicity of a black and white existence. As a result, the reader is left in the uncomfortable position of developing sympathy for Pimwana’s disagreeable protagonists ... Hers is a powerful voice deserving of worldwide attention. Thanks to the superb wareeork of translator Mui Poopoksakul, a whole new audience will now have the opportunity to discover these enticing landscapes filled with troubled, memorable characters.
Julián Herbert, Trans. by Christina MacSweeney
RaveKenyon ReviewThough the term has existed since the late 1970s, \'autofiction\' is experiencing a renaissance in contemporary literature...Essentially fictionalized autobiographies, these works permit the author to tell personal tales while amplifying details or toying with narrative form. Joining the ranks of notable new autofictions is Mexican scribe Julián Herbert’s absorbing Tomb Song, a novel that chronicles the author’s bedside vigils of his mother, Guadalupe, as leukemia slowly eats through her body. A mix of anecdotes and metafictional self-awareness, Herbert’s narrative—skillfully translated by Christina MacSweeney—rises above its gloomy premise to meditate on the idea of family while questioning the ways we engage reality and relate our experiences to others.
PositiveElectric Literature...despite a somewhat deflated conclusion, offers an engaging take on redemption narratives ... despite the somewhat rambling nature of her travels, Pilgrim’s narrative grabs the reader. So it’s a shock when, a little over halfway though her novel, Finn abandons her protagonist’s first-person, diary-like chapters to spend the rest of her book looking at the world through the eyes of those Pilgrim meets ... it’s hard to tell if this structural decision truly pays off. Yet there’s enough allurement throughout The Gloaming to stave off boredom. This is a pure example of a literary page-turner.