My latest review looks at finalist for this year's Best Translated Book Award, Valeria Luiselli's Faces in the Crowd (translated by Christina MacSweeney). This "haunting, intelligent masterpiece" introduces English readers to a boldly original voice in world literature. Not only does MacSweeney's deft handling of the narrative's braided voices, metafictional layering and inventive use of language signal that this translation is more than deserving of the award. Readers will also find themselves under the spell of the novel's shifting sands, pitching back and forth in time and place, in a narrative which steadily builds to a breathtaking conclusion.
Meet Erasmo Aragón, the anxious, self-deluding and extremely unreliable narrator of Horacio Castellanos Moya's The Dream of My Return (translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver), which I reviewed recently at The Mookse and the Gripes. Erasmo's torturous attempts to remember his past, all while planning a possibly foolhardy return to his native El Salvador, will leave the reader reeling. A "maddening yet provocative whirlwind" of a psychological novel which unsettles with its explorations into questions of memory, trauma and identity, The Dream of My Return is worth returning to again and again.
As the world reflects upon the outbreak of the First World War a century ago, I recommend viewing one of the standout films set during the war years and immediately following. My review of A Very Long Engagement (Un Long dimanche de finançailles, 2004), the film adaptation of Sébastien Japrisot's novel of the same name, joins other reviews of World War I works at The Mookse and the Gripes. Besides being a favorite film from a favorite director, A Very Long Engagement is remarkable for its scope, its cinematographic style, its performances and, particularly now, as we draw parallels between our present world and the complexities of 1914 Europe, its ability to make the past stirringly real. In short, even if you have already seen the film, it is worth another watch for its continued relevance. Yet it is so much more than a war film: it is, in fact, a timeless account of the battle between hope and despair.
I believe it is safe to say that Flann O'Brien's novels, in particular At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman, had a profound influence upon me and my writing. Therefore, I was thrilled to learn that Dalkey Archive had released further O'Brien fare, a collection of short fiction and the unfinished novel Slattery's Sago Saga, published under the title The Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien (ed. by Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper, with translations by Jack Fennell). Hallmarks of O'Brien's singular wit, his trenchant sociopolitical satire and wildly imaginative metafictional layering abound, comprising a poignant and hilarious "postmodern labyrinth" sure to appeal to both die-hard "Flanneurs" and newcomers alike.
This review marks my new role as regular contributor to the blog The Mookse and the Gripes. The book is Barbara Comyns' Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, a novel so darkly powerful yet "strewn with hidden gems of wry humor and glitter[ing] with flashes of tenderness." I hope you will check out the review - and then read this wonderful book.
Publication announcements, bookish items of note and the occasional literary musing.