PositiveFinancial TimesHistory of Violence can likewise pack total immersion and cool detachment into a single page. As translator, Lorin Stein keeps faith with its rawness — and its refinement. Even in his panic, Édouard must analyse ... A novelist as much as a memoirist, Louis can even imagine the life of the rapist ... As a fictionalised record of a rape, Louis’ novel addresses the particular harm inflicted by sexual violence and its official aftermath.
PositiveThe Financial TimesA novel of grand ideas, powered by a ravenous curiosity about the role of the technological revolution in our private and public woes, Phone nonetheless bristles with anxiety about the abuse of 'intelligence' — in medicine, in warfare, in software, in love ... For some readers, Self has a reputation as the scarily esoteric Mycroft Holmes of fiction. Never fear: his hurricane of eloquence blows in terrific passages of satire, comedy, even suspense — not to mention his pitch-perfect ear for the jargons and lingoes of modernity. Besides, from the closeted warrior to the eccentric doctor bonded with his on-the-spectrum grandson, Phone deploys several motifs that might feel at home in an upscale TV drama ... Everything flows into everything else. Yet Self’s refusal to lay down anchors in this sea of words may let inattentive passengers drift over buried treasure ... Phone is a glorious trove of sinister marvels, but it might send the incautious user slightly mad.
Mario Vargas Llosa, Trans. by Edith Grossman
MixedThe Financial TimesEver since Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977), Vargas Llosa has ingeniously deployed the erotic intrigues, high-society secrets, and pot-boiling plot twists of the Latin American telenovela. He spices this latest brew as robustly as ever. The wives’ transgressive trysts betray a soft-porn sensibility ... By no means his subtlest work, The Neighbourhood — punchily translated by the ever-excellent Edith Grossman — still pulses along with a zest and cunning not commonly found among octogenarian Nobel laureates.
Michelle de Kretser
PositiveThe Financial TimesHer writing captures, with unflagging wit, grace and subtlety, the spiritual as well as physical journeys of people on the move — between cultures, mindsets and stages of growth ... Devotees of the tight-knit, linear plot will, as often with De Kretser, trip over her loose ends. Sentence by sentence, though, she sustains a unity of voice and eye ... De Kretser’s writing can drive that wedge into the most ordinary of scenes.
RaveFinancial TimesJoseph Cassara, an American writer much too young to know first-hand the scene he resurrects, pitches his debut novel as a period piece that rescues a lost world from condescension, contempt or outright oblivion ... For all his immersion in the ball scene of the 1980s, Cassara never overdoes the period costumery of sequins, glitter and gold lamé.
RaveThe Financial TimesEclectic in her tastes, centrifugal in her style, Smith as an essayist loves to stretch her frame. Moving from wit towards wisdom, she explores the rolling hinterland behind our fads and trends ... Her bracing pluralism mandates respect for the art of freedom that crosses borders and, fearlessly, creates all sorts of other people ... the category of 'classic English essayist' — in the vein of Hazlitt and Orwell, Virginia Woolf and Angela Carter — may well look as quaint to the digital natives she strives to understand as that of, say, 'leading Byzantine silversmith.' No matter. Beyond doubt, she has joined their company.
RaveThe Financial TimesHarris excels in close-focus scenes of history being written — or rather, scrawled, ripped up and redrafted — in a blur of small-hours wrangles, whispered rumours, midnight phone calls, sleepless vigils and cross-town dashes, amid a tobacco fug of fear, panic and confusion … We know what took place at Munich — Harris sticks close to the facts, cleverly inserting his fictitious backroom duo into the corners and corridors of power — and we know its outcomes...Defying hindsight, Harris generates a galloping sense of excitement and doom as the betrayal of the Czechs — their delegates forbidden even to witness their nation’s dismemberment — emerges as the price tag for Europe’s stay of execution … With moral subtlety as well as storytelling skill, Harris makes us regret the better past that never happened — while mournfully accepting the bitter one that did.
RaveThe Financial TimesThis second novel in her quartet of seasonal fictions mines down through the ‘tangled-up messed-up farce’ of headline news, first to recent history, then deeper into a bedrock of myth … Smith...never becomes a slave to topicality. Her many-layered artistry softens rage or sorrow. These novels seek to bring our time and deep time together … If Ali Smith’s four quartets in, and about, time do not endure to rank among the most original, consoling and inspiring of artistic responses to ‘this mad and bitter mess’ of the present, then we will have plunged into an even bleaker midwinter than people often fear.
RaveThe Financial Times...both a wide-angled panorama of American life between 1947 and 1971 and a vastly magnified chamber-piece ... [the] crowning glory of Auster’s career ... Riddling and playful, Auster scatters these shards of autobiography among his band of parallel personae. Crucially, he also widens his reach and broadens his horizons. His trademark post-modern sorcery and irony coincide with full-throated, open-hearted social realism in a classic American vein ... 4321 fizzes with the sheer pleasure of a writer routinely praised or censured as a coterie puzzler, an existentialist dandy, showing that he can out-Roth, out-Updike and out-Franzen the greatest as a richly textured chronicler of modern America in flux, in transit and in crisis ... Does 4321 live up to this embedded manifesto? It does, and on a heroic scale. Like avant-garde composer John Cage (whom he quotes), Auster insists that 'The world is teeming: anything can happen.' In times of 'menace, despondency, and hatred,' the music of chance can be the sound of hope.
RaveFinancial TimesOut of his protracted torment Matar has forged a memoir that in its nuance and nobility bears unforgettable witness to love, to courage and to humanity. The Return is also a subtle and nimble work of art. It shifts elegantly between past and present, between dialogue and soliloquy, between urgent, even suspenseful action and probing meditations on exile, grief and loss...The Return deserves a place in the exalted company of those who 'hope against hope' — as Nadezhda Mandelstam called her great testimony of the loss of her husband, the poet Osip Mandelstam, to Stalin’s gulag.