RaveThe Guardian (UK)... a rollicking, rumbustious and slyly mischievous Candide for our times ... the scattergun satire of this scurrilous picaresque takes no prisoners ... Condé spares no one. The rug is repeatedly jerked from under us with a mixture of awkward truths and ironic swipes ... Condé’s provocative fun cloaks a challenge: is there not more than a little bad faith in the way the west earnestly seeks the roots of jihadi radicalism while turning a blind eye to the flagrant ills that add rocket fuel to its meretricious allure? The novel’s parting shot, \'you can take it or leave it\', leaves the ball squarely in our court.
Nino Haratischvili, Trans. by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin
RaveThe Guardian (UK)The Eighth Life (for Brilka), originally published in German in 2014, has the heft and sweep to overturn...misconceptions, while introducing the uninitiated to a beguiling culture. A subtle and compelling translation by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin (on the heels of a Georgian version earlier this year) should make this as great a literary phenomenon in English as it has been in German ... Niza’s narrative is an imaginative feat to set against the historical gaps and silences left by state propaganda and trauma ... Moments of melodrama are balanced by the novel’s psychological acuity ... Niza’s carnivalesque \'carpet\' is knotted together with the aid of such literary conventions as a family recipe for hot chocolate as accursed as it is addictive, and a grandmother visited by spirits. Yet these devices seem less convincing than the finely plotted correspondences and illuminating historical grasp. Patterns in the blood-red rug leap out at the reader long after this momentous book is closed.
Marie Ndiaye, trans. by John Fletcher
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Marie NDiaye, one of France\'s most exciting prose stylists and playwrights, succeeds with elegance, grit and some painful comedy in Three Strong Women, which won the Prix Goncourt in 2009. Moving mainly between France and Senegal, this novel explores survival, inheritance and the feared repetition of history – within families, as between peoples. Its three heroines have an unassailable sense of their own self-worth, while their psychological battles have an almost mythic resonance ... It can take a while to acclimatise to NDiaye\'s style, which incorporates a thread of hallucinatory symbolism about flowers and flight. John Fletcher\'s translation rightly preserves long sentences that can, at times, verge on awkwardness. But the prose compels with its astonishing range and precision.
Yuri Herrera, trans. by Lisa Dillman
RaveThe Guardian...a lyrical Mexican migrants\' tale ... From its opening pages, when gaping asphalt swallows a man, a car, a dog and \'even the screams of passersby,\' this marvellously rich, slim novel is working on many levels ... Herrera’s great achievement lies in elevating the harsh epic of \'crossing\' to the \'other side\' to soaring myth ... Translator Lisa Dillman has found a language both blunt and lyrical for Herrera’s many neologisms.
RaveThe Guardian[The Sound of Things Falling] confirms Vásquez's mastery of a sophisticated form of Latin American literary noir that leads the reader through Borgesian labyrinths. In navigating them, with guiding lights ranging from Conrad to Le Carré, his fiction also reveals the role of outsiders in a violent history … Although characters make flawed choices, the novel also hints at how little control they have, their lives ‘moulded by distant events, by other people's wills.’ Vásquez offers no polemic. Yet as debates on the legalisation of drugs remain weighted towards suffering in consumer countries, this novel affords a rare understanding of the inhuman costs on the other side.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
PositiveThe GuardianA novel that descends into dire hunger begins with Ugwu's devoted creativity in the kitchen, confecting pepper soup, spicy jollof rice and chicken boiled in herbs. Beer and brandy flow as he serves the Master's friends while absorbing snippets of intellectual debate in the era of Sharpeville, de Gaulle in Algeria and the struggle for US civil rights … A history of colonisation is alluded to, not least in the tragicomic figure of Richard's anglophile servant Harrison, who prides himself on serving roast beef and rhubarb crumble, but adapts in wartime to roasting lizards and bush rats ‘as though they were rack of lamb.' While Richard identifies with Biafra and intends to write the history of the war, it is Ugwu who takes up the pen and the mantle.
Alain Mabanckou, Trans. by Helen Stevenson
RaveThe GuardianIts ebullient humour recalls Tomorrow I’ll Be Twenty, Mabanckou’s fictionalised autobiography of growing up in the 1970s under a Marxist-Leninist regime. Yet unlike in that buoyantly mischievous child’s-eye satire, the laughter here has an undertow of grief, outrage and survivor’s guilt ... [a] picaresque tour-de-force ... Mabanckou’s indignation at times recalls Wizard of the Crow, Ng?g? wa Thiong’o’s grotesque satire on dictatorship and kleptocracy – together with its spirit of resistance and hope of salvation. Yet there is also a touching personal homage in this retelling of the lives of some of those unable to escape the asylum.
MixedThe Guardian[The Lacuna] probes, with only partial success, the source of the vexed historical relationship between art and politics in the United States, as well as the gap between a life lived and a life reported … The story comes to us in the elusive form of diaries and memoirs, letters and press cuttings. Locked for 50 years in a bank vault until all parties are dead, these fragments were saved by the novelist's stenographer, Violet Brown, from his despairing wish that they be burned … The novel's later sections are marred by overstated irony, the dialogue too often staged between characters who agree, making for an authorial soapbox. More satisfying is an unexpectedly touching coda.
PositiveThe GuardianWhile Property reveals the corrupting, dehumanising power of ownership on those who own, it also explores the jockeying intimacy of women forced to share a man – though with incomparable degrees of powerlessness. Manon persists in seeing Sarah as a sexual rival, despite her having resisted and been brutally subjugated, first by Manon's uncle, then by her husband. Sarah's life emerges between the lines of her mistress's self-regarding tale, as Manon prepares her ultimate act of vindictiveness and revenge … Martin is adept at maintaining dramatic irony. Yet though it is presented as uncensored, it seems curiously free of the south's cruder racial epithets. And…Property, for all its authorial irony, remains Manon's story.