PanThe New York Times Book Review... will feel comfortingly familiar to Anglophone readers. Narrated by a Mairal-esqeue novelist, whose thoughts tend not to stray far from his personal troubles and obsessions, this is recognizably a work of autofiction. The tone, too, is one we have heard before: clever, cosmopolitan, somewhat fey, vaguely troubled. Or perhaps that is the book Mairal set out to write, before he lost his nerve. Midway through, he turns a mood piece into a seedy thriller, bringing in sex, crime and intrigue. The result is an unfocused, lopsided story that packs far too much into 150 pages ... The contrast of intimacy and betrayal could have made for powerful drama, but Mairal does not fully commit to it ... Mairal’s award-winning translator Jennifer Croft relays the matey, cliché-ridden, and frequently crass language with little fuss ... draws on two energies that power the telenovela genre: misogyny and commerce. Pereyra is a standard-issue, literary beta male who objectifies women and ignores the female point of view but is shielded from outright monstrosity by the veneer of self-awareness. As for the money, Mairal has figured out that writers can now work up an account of their lives, no matter how banal or comfortable, into a kind of subfiction, with little concern for theme or structure, and find a ready audience. It’s good work, if you can get it. The Woman From Uruguay, originally published in 2016, was a best seller across Latin America.
Heinrich Von Kleist, trans. by Michael Hoffman
PositiveBookforumKleist’s two abiding concerns, politics and metaphysics, come together powerfully in Michael Kohlhaas, his longest and best-known narrative, which now appears in a lively new translation by Michael Hofmann ... Kleist follows the proceedings from a wry, unobtrusive third person, without overt comment or explanation, simply recounting one folly after another, so that the story develops an awful narrative velocity, a snowballing inevitability that the reader resists in vain. (The effect is not dissimilar to a Thomas Bernhard monologue.) For the translator, the challenge is to find a language that is pitched at the right distance, conveying an emotional closeness to Kohlhaas while underscoring his otherworldly messianism. Hofmann catches this balance brilliantly. Where earlier translators have tended to overexplain, he uses a colloquial, flexible diction and remains calm in the face of violence ... Yet it would be rash to read Michael Kohlhaas simply as a cautionary tale. While the mature Kleist might have grown distrustful of all systems, he never lost his youthful desire for reason, clarity, and order. This unresolved tension remains alive in the novella, which is pitched at a tenor—breathlessly urgent, absolutely bereft of irony—that seems to affirm Kohlhaas’s dignity, if not his tragic grandeur.
Sergio Chejfec, Trans. by Heather Cleary
Positive4Columns... ably translated into English by Heather Cleary, is both [Chejfec\'s] strangest and most directly political novel to make it into English so far ... Not all will find it compelling. For this reason, The Incompletes is probably not the place to begin with Chejfec. Yet the book is another reminder of how deeply Chejfec is thinking about the form of the novel, pushing its boundaries to let modern varieties of social malaise leak in, and thereby renewing the novel’s ability to reflect—and affect—our lives.
Sergio Chejfec, Trans. by Heather Cleary
Positive4Columns... ably translated into English by Heather Cleary, is both [Chejfec\'s] strangest and most directly political novel to make it into English so far ... there are shifty meditations on time, memory, space, writing: it is a Borgesian catalog...This goes on for a while, perhaps too long, before the story takes a turn ... Few readers are likely to \'relate\' to the extreme form of loneliness that Felix is suffering. Yet it is also true that the ascendance of this thing we call \'globalized corporate capitalism,\' bitterly traced via Felix’s wanderings through the decaying corpse of the Soviet experiment, has severely damaged our capacity for shared experience. Bringing these manifestly different stories together is then a kind of shock therapy ... Granted, this is a heavy concept. Not all will find it compelling. For this reason, The Incompletes is probably not the place to begin with Chejfec. Yet the book is another reminder of how deeply Chejfec is thinking about the form of the novel, pushing its boundaries to let modern varieties of social malaise leak in, and thereby renewing the novel’s ability to reflect—and affect—our lives.
Nabarun Bhattacharya, Trans. by Sunandini Banerjee
Positive4Columns... this scabrous book, long a cult favorite in India, might be classified as \'free-market parable\' ... Harbart himself is an exceedingly strange creation. Like some of César Aira’s heroes, he is less a rounded psychological being than a walking enigma, briskly drawn and liable to dissolve under close scrutiny, but perversely compelling for all that ... Is Harbart a \'great\' novel? Probably not. It lacks something of the essential mystery and human scope ... Is it an important novel? Absolutely ... What is needed...is a kind of novel that attends to how society is being organized by certain vested interests; a novel that goes to the heart—rather, goes for the jugular—of the economic system itself. Harbart is prophetic of this tradition to come.
Jorge Barón Biza, Trans. by Camilo Ramirez
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIt was decades before Biza crawled out from under his father’s shadow. After jobbing as an art critic and copy editor at various publications, he wrote The Desert and Its Seed, his only novel, in 1995. Rejected by publishers, it was ultimately self-published, in 1998 — three years before Biza, too, committed suicide. (His mother and sister also took their own lives.) The book, originally something of an underground hit, found a much wider audience when it was reissued in Argentina in 2013. It unfolds in the tragedy’s grim aftermath, hewing close to the facts (as Biza admitted in interviews). Nothing much happens on the level of plot.
RaveBookforum[The] phenomenon of internalizing national rot, of transforming economic hardship into a personal shortcoming, also points toward Something Will Happen’s biggest accomplishment. A political novelist’s first and most serious challenge is to humanize his subject matter, and in this Ikonomou succeeds completely. You will find no references to rising inflation rates or growing unemployment in his stories, or to the right-wing New Democracy or the left-wing Pasok. Politics—and politicians—remain a cruel and indifferent presence off-stage. Instead, we encounter ordinary people who are, despite skyrocketing unemployment rates, trying to negotiate a mounting pile of overdue bills.
John Berger, Ed. Tom Overton
RaveThe New RepublicThe enduring mystery and relevance of art; the lived experience, both of the free and the oppressed; by combining these interests, Berger’s art criticism transcends its genre to become a very rare thing—literature.