RaveThe New York Review of BooksThe presence of the author is so vivid in Afterparties, Anthony Veasna So’s collection of stories, he seems to be at your elbow as you read ... The personality that animates Afterparties is unmistakably youthful, and the stories themselves are mainly built around conditions of youth—vexed and tender relationships with parents, awkward romances, nebulous worries about the future. But from his vantage on the evanescent bridge to maturity, So is puzzling out some big questions, ones that might be exigent from different vantages at any age. The stories are great fun to read—brimming over with life and energy and comic insight and deep feeling.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksAs you finish one of these stories you might have the sensation that you’ve awakened abruptly in unfamiliar territory, far afield from where you thought you were headed, and that while you were busy reading, something was done to you—that, for instance, you were implanted with some device that resonates to the frequencies of the cosmos. At least that’s what happens to me ... the stories are sumptuously pictorial. They share certain highly original formal and stylistic eccentricities—which Cole takes effective pains to render into English—but there is nothing flashy about them. On the contrary, they are stately and reticent, the elements of their narratives are almost bizarrely simple, the characters are largely devoid of distinctive personalities, and until and unless one is thunderstruck by their transporting and ineffable mystery, they might seem not all that different from fairy tales, without the fairies ... Although their ingredients are, so to speak, pantry staples, the finished concoctions, with their stealth oddness and enigmatic reverberations, foil practiced responses ... The word that comes irrepressibly to mind regarding Motley Stones is \'sublime,\' in its now rather archaic sense that encompasses vastness and violence as well as extreme beauty.
Tove Ditlevsen, trans. by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman
RaveThe New York Review of BooksThe Copenhagen Trilogy and The Faces are very different books, but they draw on the same material—Ditlevsen’s life—and both display a distinctive style; an uncanny vividness; a gift for conveying atmospheres and mental sensations and personalities with remarkable dispatch; the originality and deadpan, trapdoor humor of the significantly estranged; a startling frankness; and a terrible commotion of unresolved conflicts and torments. Both books also accelerate from zero to sixty before anyone has a chance to buckle up ... The Copenhagen Trilogy is fastidiously unjudgmental toward those who people it, including its author, though an autobiographical account is an ideal vehicle of complaint. The reader of autobiographical material more or less expects allocations of blame, at least implicit ones, often neatly dovetailing with lurid confession—in other words, a satisfyingly simple, easily understood way to interpret a life, though nothing of that sort can be entirely accurate or honest ... The narrative of The Copenhagen Trilogy is governed, like the narratives of other memoirs, by the exigencies of memory within the fluid time of the mind—and also by the fact that in reality, as opposed to fiction, it’s reality, not some writer, that gets to decide what comes first and what next ... The language is elegant—as natural, responsive, and true as wet clay—and the observations provide the pleasurable shock of precision, rather than the sort of approximation we have more reason to expect when reading. Ditlevsen stays remarkably faithful to the unformulated consciousness of the moment.
Natalia Ginzberg, Trans. by Frances Frenaye
RaveNew York Review of Books... [Ginsburg\'s] observations are swift and exact, usually irradiated by an unruly and often satirical humor. The instrument with which she writes is fine, wonderfully flexible and keen, and the quality of her attention is singular. The voice is pure and unmannered, both entrancing and alarming, elegantly streamlined by the authority of a powerful intelligence. Her work is so consistently surprising that reading it is something like being confronted with a brilliant child, innocent in the sense of being uncorrupted by habit, instruction, or propriety. Ginzburg wastes no time, and the narratives can zoom around destabilizing hairpin turns. And yet the violence at the heart of each of these books is obdurate—immovable and unassimilable ... How quickly the author has presented us with an entire character! ... While the narrator’s miseries are fertile ground for sentimentality and melodrama, Ginzburg’s uncompromising vision shears the story of both ... The narrator makes no claims on us; we are not wheedled into \'identifying\' with her or despising her dreadful husband. We observe the protagonists with the equilibrium of clarity—the wife in her barren cage of isolation and irremediable grief, and the husband in his barren cage of self.
Magda Szabo, Trans. by Len Rix
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksIt won’t do to say much more about the plot of the book, first because the rather white-knuckled experience of reading it depends largely on Szabó’s finely calibrated parceling out of information, and second because the plot, although it conveys the essence of the book, is a conveyance only, to which the essence—in this case a penumbra of reflections, questions, and sensations—clings ... The narrator’s tone of controlled exasperation—the feeling that within the pages there’s an insufficient margin of comfort—is elegantly expressed in the wonderful translation by Len Rix. It’s as though the story must at all costs be dragged from the darkness, and at times the brittle precision and airlessness create an atmosphere that’s feverishly hallucinatory and even horribly comic.