PositiveCleaver MagazineThe Females is a slim book, just 130 pages, with no chapter divisions and text that is sprinkled with ellipses and hyphens that emphasize the free-association quality of Herr C.’s ruminations ... Hilbig’s prose has been described as \'earthy,\' but this isn’t just a stylistic quality. His ability to use coarse physical description and imagery as a commentary on the individual’s relationship to the state is what I found most striking and artful ... Hilbig is not only transparent and sometimes grossly sharing-too-much in these passages; there are also moments of dark humor that made this reader chuckle ... The book kept my attention because of the philosophical insights and the quality of the questions that the narrator’s experience poses about state and gender, identity/physicality, historical memory and the individual.
Curzio Malaparte, Trans. by Jenny McPhee
PositiveCleaverLike George Orwell, Malaparte is not necessarily rejecting collectivist ideals outright, but as a keen observer of people he sees that human beings tend to be self-destructive, no matter what kind of government ideals they claim to be working toward. No one is innocent or idealized for Malaparte. This kind of even-handed criticism, combined with Malaparte’s journalistic style and his interactions with the most important people in Russia’s government and arts scene of the late 1920s, give The Kremlin Ball the feel of a salacious, courtly tell-all. Malaparte does not let anyone off the hook, and it seems that everyone who is anyone gets mentioned ... The use of magical realism emphasizes the grotesque hellishness of Marxist society as Malaparte encountered it. While the philosophical questions of the novel revolve around human nature and whether there is any capacity/potential for real revolution, the reader also wonders exactly which elements of Malaparte’s narrative are \'real\' and which are hyperbole ... I am not convinced that Malaparte is always joking about those fictions, but his ability to see them all simultaneously in play is what makes his writing intriguing and historically convincing ... in moments of cultural destitution, the way out is hope in an alternative vision.