RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)Nguyen’s narrator is forensically devastating on the evasiveness of white privilege and the infinitely receding horizon of racial assimilation ... The criminal underworld of 1980s Paris provides the backdrop for a number of brilliant set-pieces in this metaphysical thriller in which Nguyen both feeds off and subverts received images of violence ... The satire throughout is abrasive and unrelenting ... Nguyen does not always avoid the pitfalls of a certain didacticism in these moments, the telling badgering the showing, and occasionally falls victim to Tripadvisor truisms about French culture (hygiene, taxes) that can feel tired. But these are minor faults in the context of a novel that is conclusive evidence of Nguyen’s standing as one of the most distinctive and committed voices writing in English today.
Judith Schalansky, trans. By Jackie Smith
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)Ranging from lost islands and extinct species to the lost poems of Sappho, the incinerated scribblings of an eccentric and the lost biography of an amateur astronomer, An Inventory of Losses uses the fine detail of what no longer is to explore the world of what might have been ... exquisitely rendered ... Schalansky is marvellously adept at enabling \'everything to be experienced\' but most especially from the point of view of those who are lost to view. As translators are often among those lost to view this is a moment to hail the singular achievement of Jackie Smith in rendering An Inventory of Losses into English. Her translation of Griefswald Harbour, for example, is a miracle of exactness. If loss abounds in this book, translation loss is not one of them. As we deal with the consequences, emotional and material, of a pandemic, it is hard to imagine a better guide to the resources of hope than Schalansky’s deeply engaging inventory.
RaveThe Irish Times (UK)There are no words, at times, to describe what Kevin Barry does with words. In this latest novel, the Irish writer has almost invented a new genre, a fascinating hybrid of poetry, prose and drama ... draws on the terrific vernacular energy in Irish English that is animating the best of Irish writing at present by the likes of Rob Doyle, Lisa McInerney and Colin Barrett. This is a remarkably achieved novel which shows a writer in full command of the possibilities of the form.
Robert Menasse, Trans. by Jamie Bulloch
PositiveThe Irish Times (IRELAND)Menasse assembles his cast from the different member states – an ambitious Cyrpiot, a melancholy Austrian, a fanatical Pole, a patrician Italian, a wry Belgian – but he gives their inner lives a complexity that belies the satirical shorthand of simple labels ... He is brilliantly comic on the gladiatorial combats of careerist ambition and barely disguised national self-interest which engage the lives of Fenia Xenopolou, Kai-Uwe Frigge, George Morland and Romolo Strozzi in the Commission ... The crime story, a somewhat lurid Dan Brownesque yoking together of the Vatican and foreign intelligence services to track down and assassinate Islamic terrorists, does not convince. It does, however, give Menasse the opportunity to create two of the more memorable characters in the novel ... Robert Menasse has written an important and timely book, ably abetted and assisted in English by his translator, Jamie Bulloch. He is the latest in a long line of Austrian writers who put satire at the service of higher and more urgent truths.
Jokha Alharthi, trans. by Marilyn Booth
RaveThe Irish Times (IRELAND)...the novel is a beautifully achieved account of lives pulling at the edges of change ... The writing is teasingly elliptical throughout and there is a kind of poetic understatement that draws the reader into the domestic settings and public tribulations of the three sisters ... Celestial Bodies deftly undermines recurrent stereotypes about Arab language and cultures but most importantly brings a distinctive and important new voice to world literature.
Olga Tokarczuk, Trans. by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
RaveThe Irish TimesThis mixture of graphic realism...and broad speculation are characteristic of the style of Olga Tokarczuk, one of the most distinctive and original voices in contemporary European literature ... Tokarczuk’s singular achievement is to show how the marginalised, the disregarded, the despised have access to ways of knowing that are outside the perimeters of conventional thinking ... Like her heroine, who sees everything as connected to everything else and every event bound up by a \'complex cosmos of correspondences,\' Tokarczuk has a compelling capacity to seek out parallels or juxtapose stories or experiences that constantly draw the reader off trail ... Tokarczuk has every reason too to be grateful for the linguistic friendship of another translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones who has once again done a remarkable job of capturing the uncanny distinction of Tokarczuk’s prose in English. There is much to admire in this book and even more to learn.
Gunnar Decker, Trans. by Peter Lewis
PanThe Irish TimesHesse’s reputation has fluctuated greatly since his death in 1962 and the translation of this new biography of Hesse by Gunnar Decker is unlikely to win the writer any new admirers. Decker insists on being the life and soul of the biographical party and the narrative is dogged by portentous, self-regarding comments that try the patience of even the most accommodating reader ... The text is stuffed with exclamation marks which, as the poet W.H. Auden once remarked, is like laughing at your own jokes and the metaphors on occasion are hobbled by their own unrepentant banality[.]