Several years ago Han Kang, the South Korean author of the beautiful and disquieting new novel The Vegetarian, gave up driving and sold her car. Why? “To be honest,” she writes drolly during an email discussion about her life and her novel, “when I used to drive, it was sometimes dangerous because I had too many thoughts in my head.”
In Love in Lowercase, Samuel lives a quiet life based on routine. He’s a loner in every sense of the word: His family interactions are perfunctory, not pleasant. A professor, he teaches about great stories and tortured characters, but his own life is quite shallow and plotless—until a cat wanders through the front door of his Barcelona apartment and changes his life, inviting in love, friendship and even a little bit of adventure.
Few novels manage to be both coy and brusquely honest, uproarious and profoundly affecting. Even fewer are about teeth—and yet Mexican author Valeria Luiselli’s second work of fiction, The Story of My Teeth, is all of the above. But even more so, this eccentric work is about stories themselves.
Susan Barker’s daring new novel, The Incarnations, begins in 2008, just months before the opening of the Beijing Olympics. The city is grimy and polluted behind the burst of new construction. After nights spent in the dense traffic of the city’s multiple ring roads, taxi driver Wang returns home exhausted to his wife and daughter. A rare visit with his invalid father and vicious stepmother, an aging femme fatale, doesn’t add much pleasure to Wang’s already lonely existence, but things take a turn for the bizarre when an anonymous letter, tucked into the visor of his cab, assures Wang that he is the reincarnated soul mate of the sender.
Czech writer Heda Margolius Kovály, best known for her memoir chronicling her time in Auschwitz (Under a Cruel Star), drew from her later harrowing experiences in 1950s Soviet Prague for her only work of fiction, Innocence. This espionage thriller follows the chilling and stifling atmosphere of political oppression during the post-WWII days of Communist Czechoslovakia. Neighbor and friends are suddenly not to be trusted, as govenrment informants are hidden everywhere, and innocence begins to lose meaning to those in the government. Innocence is available in an English translation for the first time due to award-winning literary translator and co-chair of the PEN America Translation Committee, Alex Zucker. We asked Zucker a few questions about his translation process for Innnocence, the Czech language and more.
Jean Perdu is a self-described literary apothecary. From his barge-turned-bookshop on the Seine, he doesn’t just sell books; he prescribes them as a pharmacist prescribes medicines, matching books to their perfect readers to help customers overcome life’s difficulties. And he does so with near perfect success. The only exception to the rule is Perdu himself.
Three highly-acclaimed novels from 2014 are now in paperback and are sure to make for great group discussion this month.
What happens when a book meets its perfect reader at precisely the right moment? For the narrator of The Library of Unrequited Love, a librarian who has witnessed many such encounters during her lifetime, her heart flutters.
A victim of a violent post-apartheid attack narrates from beyond the grave Miranda Sherry's unnerving debut novel Black Dog Summer, named for the "black dog" as an ill omen in local folklore.
When Maija, her husband Paavo, and her daughters, Frederika and Dorotea, pack up their lives in Finland and head west to the Swedish Lapland in 1717, they were hoping for a fresh start, a clean break from the losses and the disappointments in their homeland.