RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksElvira Navarro is a deft practitioner of metafiction—writing stories that slither back on and within themselves as they progress—and she’s a virtuoso at triangulating a reader ... The hyper-pronounced sensations that Navarro’s characters experience often communicate the precarity of their balance between reality and delusion ... a gorgeous, unnerving, and scary follow-up for English readers to Navarro’s 2017 translation of A Working Woman, and both books represent a movement of some of the most electric work happening in translation ... Navarro writes in the gritty spirit of Baudelaire ... Dissolution is at near-constant concern in Navarro’s writing, which makes the stakes quite frantic and high.
Marie Ndiaye, tr. Jordan Stump
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books... a thrilling new entry in NDiaye’s catalog in English ... combines elements she has been turning over and honing throughout her career ... NDiaye’s psychologically unnerving touch conjures, among others, Shirley Jackson.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... in the guise of a medical research study, smashes together art, science and philosophy in a fast-moving 124 pages ... With pitch-black comedy, Ornamental, nimbly translated by Lizzie Davis, channels the ways that egomaniacs in science and art — in any field — rise to the top, up the pyramid of capitalism ... Cárdenas briskly considers the balance between utility and embellishment ... The novel combines gestures of traditional storytelling with unexpected divergences that sometimes feel electric and other times feel, well, like ornaments. Monologues from the narrator’s favored study participant, for example, contain moments of profundity and also meander. But even when it stretches, the rhythm of Cárdenas’s writing compels and reassures, as if driven by the very humanity the lab has helped suppress.
Deb Olin Unferth
PositiveLos Angeles Review of BooksBarn 8 deftly weaves between...galactic scale and the gritty particulars ... Unferth captures the continuity between the individual unit and the churn of the universe ... Unferth excels at telling rich stories about ill-advised and partially self-generated disasters ... In Barn 8, Unferth again captures the hysteric effort of living.
PositiveLos Angeles Review of BooksThe background provided for Vitória is slim, yet each detail haunts with the way it solidly exists in the midst of a conjured dream world ... Indelicacy is stripped down ... There are earthly materials yet there is also the all-enveloping and eerie sense that no other world exists outside of this snow globe ... Cain’s writing feels otherworldly, yet she achieves an uncanny effect because she also perpetually roots it in a secular experience ... The conjured environment feels as though it appeared out of thin air, or that it is a shimmering dream between sleep and waking.
Johannes Anyuru, Trans by. Saskia Vogel
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksFrighteningly, Anyuru uses the world we’re pretty familiar with, where migrants escaping death are treated as though they’re enemies of the people living safely on the shores where they land ... a terror-fueled rollercoaster of a book, and it wrestles with the rampant fear that often flourishes alongside nationalism. The novel conjures the abandonment of humanity at places such as Abu Ghraib in Iraq — the way torture breaks a person down to mindlessness, to their raw and searing bodies — and then it takes it a step further ... In a novel that’s propulsive and compulsively readable in a multitude of ways, one of the most luscious elements is the lyrical union between Anyuru and his translator, Saskia Vogel ... the prose is buoyant and exact, wistful and hard-hitting ... Anyuru has done something impressive and subversive with this novel: he has created a thriller for a new era of contemporary terror and radicalism, a book that reflects on what it means to live within the constructed abstraction of nationality and to suffer because of it, to have your life put in jeopardy based on popular fear and politics ... a chilling book that wrestles with what might come after a person has been stripped of all hope and opportunity, already exhausted from the endless escape associated with exile, and stuck in an ambitiously constructed dream that has turned into a nightmare.
Alia Trabucco Zerán, Trans. by Sophie Hughes
PositiveLos Angeles Review of BooksTrabucco Zerán is one of several chillingly talented writers who are heirs to...late-20th-century Chilean trauma ... The Remainder is a book about what to do with inherited trauma—what good it might serve the next generation in terms of learning from previous atrocious horrors, and what paralysis it might trigger in terms of living in a world that’s materially different from the past and the muddled territory in between ... The Remainder is driven by immersion in visceral gratification as its characters flee the burdens of their lives. And while there is pleasure in this sort of running, there is fear in it, too.
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksHowe is a genre chemist, mixing disparate textual, visual, and auditory techniques to create singular narrative energy ... Among other things, Savage Conversations is an interrogation of the depth and rot of American racism ... One of the startling undertakings of Savage Conversations is realizing the darkness of Todd Lincoln’s mind and still finding a way to care and worry for her ... But Savage Conversations operates without sentimental nostalgia; it fixes its gaze on the horror that is omnipresent in American history, even by our favorite figures ... Savage Conversations operates with a savage intimacy that goes beneath the skin, that creeps and bleeds and transubstantiates back into something that haunts us, that reminds us in a Faulknerian sense that the past isn’t dead; it not even past.
Samanta Schweblin, Trans. by Megan McDowell
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksThe sense of the tangible world is central in Schweblin’s work ... Kafka conveyed the manner in which the world grinds people up with its meaninglessness, with its churn toward death; Schweblin finds dark comedy in this same trap ... quite funny in a slightly horrifying way ... Schweblin’s storytelling is so many things, among them cultural satire ... For English-speaking audiences, the match between Schweblin and her translator Megan McDowell is a thing of perfection ... The way Schweblin writes is luxurious, and also incredibly direct ... While Schweblin executes each narrative move with propulsive confidence, as though of course it would not go any other way, it is also impossible to guess where a Schweblin story is going. One of the greatest effects of Schweblin’s writing is the sensation of having a trapdoor kicked open in your own mind.
Roque Larraquy, Trans. by Heather Cleary
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books\"The nearly indescribable approach is part of the fun of Comemadre, especially given the confidence and poise of its delivery ... Comemadre shocks on each page, and it’s also very funny. It is absurd and straight-faced and frighteningly self-assured ... Part of the horrifying joy of this novel is how safely you can rest in the hands of a maniac as the narrative world is built and burned down around you.\
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksHelen DeWitt\'s story collection Some Trick...wields an immense intellectual palate that, in each of her books, she uses to cynically delight her readers ... DeWitt’s obsessions often involve business, and many of the stories in Some Trick feature the financial pressure that drives music, art, publishing, and more ... A recurring fixation in DeWitt’s work is how quickly commerce can destroy the creative spirit ... The DeWitt stories we have...present a uniquely brilliant and obsessive mind at work, the sort of performance that happens infrequently at the intersection of business and art.
Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
RaveLos Angeles Review of Books\"As the paramedics futilely try to bring Abbas Abbas Hosseini back to life, his daughter Zebra — last in a long line of valiant thinkers — stands in their New York apartment dizzily watching, feeling like she’s dissolving ... What Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts did for gender and sexuality, ,Call Me Zebra does for the experience of exile, deftly threading the narrative with theory while also using theory to pull the reader in. Though Call Me Zebra happens to be fiction, both books are stuffed with complex ideas made irresistible and lyric. Both symbiotically use philosophy to clarify and amplify the human story. \'The literature produced by exiles [is designed to] objectify and lend dignity to a condition designed to deny dignity,\' Zebra says, citing the postcolonial theorist Edward Said. \'By transcribing the literature of such writers we will be restoring dignity not only to literature, but also to ourselves.\' A person of no particular nation, Zebra is left situated in her own body and mind.\
Fleur Jaeggy, Trans. by Gini Alhadeff
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksSusan Sontag once admiringly called Jaeggy a savage writer. You need to be, to write these stories about loners and orphans with such levity. Fleur Jaeggy is like Edward Gorey without the monsters, or Lemony Snicket without the slapstick, though she can be funny, in a sinister way ... A genius of rich, terse prose, Jaeggy writes paragraphs that are gorgeous labyrinths. One sentence pulls ahead, the next circles back to reexamine something from earlier, and the next one might dead-end or take you somewhere entirely new — but to the characters and the reader by extension, it all happens simultaneously ... She achieves more in a paragraph than many can pull off in an entire story; there’s very little out there that resembles Jaeggy’s dark and surreal intensity.
PositiveElectric LitertureCamanchaca has one of the strongest novel openings I’ve read in years, a knockout vignette that disarms the reader ... Though the chronological jumps are frequent and the scenes are compact, Zúñiga deftly threads the storylines with evocative anchoring sensations ... ’ve read this short, poetic book several times and I still don’t entirely understand what happened to Uncle Neno?—?there’s a series of infidelities with the mother and father. There’s a bad accident out on a desert stretch of road?—?but maybe it’s better that way; maybe it’s more representative of the fragmented way a person might inherit trauma.
Patty Yumi Cottrell
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of Books...rich with dark humor ... The question of why Helen remains alive when her brother is dead is the book’s quiet obsession ... Late in the book, Helen discovers a document on her brother’s laptop — a calm, measured suicide note that basically details everything from the past year. In some ways, this late touch is perfect...Still, it’s a bit anti-climactic. It suggests a type of closure that feels a little too easy, and a little bit beside the point. But the novel recovers its brilliantly churlish drive in its return to Helen’s perspective, and her stubborn obtuseness ... just as her brother found meaning in death, Helen finds it in life — in returning to her urban teens, in her ongoing effort to maintain the peace, her own included.