At The Literary Review, I explore Transit Books' epic new release, Kintu, by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. Conceived as a national mythology, Uganda's answer to Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, this ambitious novel, I argue, is a timely tale for all audiences, and thus, with this debut, Makumbi stands to become a powerful voice for our globalizing world. What is, ostensibly, a knitting together of multiple personal stories -- of seemingly disconnected characters whose individual searches for identity do not crystallize until they themselves converge -- becomes a collective tapestry of personal versus communal, national versus global, and the ripples of meaning colliding with unexpected beauty.
My review of Catalan modernist Mercè Rodoreda's War, So Much War was selected for publication in the summer issue of The Puritan. The novel, which I call "literary quicksilver" for its defiance of conventional literary forms, was published only three years before the prolific writer's death in 1983 and now appears, courtesy of Open Letter Books, in a "hypnotic" and "incandescent" English translation by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent. Tensely psychological, Rodoreda's deft manipulation of voice serves as a perfect vehicle of expression for the novel's existential themes, foregrounded in this nameless, place-less war which suggests an interior, rather than a geographical, landscape. Yet despite the vague setting, Rodoreda devotees will recognize the author's recurrent pastoral imagery, simultaneously violent and bucolic, and her provocative stream-of-conscious narration peopled with fascinating characters. Explore the enigmatic territory of the self with my review of a welcome addition to the Rodoreda corpus in English.
Today sees the English-language release of Mexican novelist Juan Pablo Villalobos' I'll Sell You a Dog (translated by Rosalind Harvey), which I reviewed for The Literary Review. Featuring a curmudgeonly narrator, Teo, who repeatedly disavows writing the novel you are reading, I'll Sell You a Dog is at once an uproarious satire and a poignant meditation upon art, frustrated ambition, aging, and the human need for meaning-making. Surrender to this "riotous ouroboros" of a novel, as Teo, heading a cast of quirky characters, flings you haphazardly through his life story.
At The Literary Review, I examine a "distinctive voice in contemporary fiction" with 101 Detectives, an ambitious story collection from South-African writer Ivan Vladislavić. The eleven, decidedly postmodern stories contained in this volume show a "technical dexterity" that is well-suited for the author's perennial themes: identity, otherness, and the commodification of art amidst globalization. Yet running through these complex conceits is the hidden vein of the interpersonal - those quotidian accounts of individuals reaching out to a vast, confounding world, desperate for a toe-hold, some connection - that resonates long after the multi-layered structure of the stories has been mined of its sociopolitical implications, thereby bringing the universal home.
My translation "Navarin," from contemporary French poet, translator and award-winning short-story writer Magali Duru, appears in The Cossack Review's Fall 2015 issue, now available in print and .pdf formats. An engrossing tale spanning three generations, "Navarin" unearths a family secret from the darkest depths of French history. It is a secret which can only be unlocked by the most surprising of keys: the Alexandrine couplet.
Come October, when readers' eyes turn toward the chilling and macabre, bookstores pull from the shelves their copies of Poe, Shelley, Stoker and Stevenson, to entice with plots, images and characters long identified with Halloween. But if your copy of Dracula is so well-worn you'd like to retire it for a year, consider starting with one of the titles below.
The Summer 2015 issue of MAYDAY Magazine is now live and includes my translation of Artur Azevedo's story, "Top-Down." Brisk, yet comical, this piece from Brazil's master of the comedy of manners comes alive by satirizing those power structures which prop up societies of every age. "Top-Down" appears in the company of award-winning fiction and poetry, as well as globe-spanning translations and reviews, all packed into this visually appealing, much-anticipated issue from New American Press.
Publication announcements, bookish items of note and the occasional literary musing.