I love her, I am crazy about her, she is innocent and smashing like a Blake only new, and a lot of pathos under the deadpan sad funny stuff, a lot of true religion.—Thomas Merton on Stevie Smith's All the Poems
Fiction by Rafael Chirbes
translated by Margaret Jull Costa
with a contribution by Valerie Miles
On the Edge opens in a swamp on the outskirts of Olba, Spain, a town wracked by despair after the economic bubble bursts. Stuck in this corrupt, defeated town is Esteban—his small factory bankrupt and his investments stolen by a "friend." Much of the novel unfolds in Esteban's raw and tormented monologues. But other voices resound from the wreckage—soloists stepping forth from the choir with their own terse, hypnotic rants about debt, prostitution, and ruin. However, now and again, with his own majestic authorial voice, Chirbes interrupts the chorus, allowing a lyrical note to usher in profound if uncertain hopes. On the Edge, as Valerie Miles writes in her afterword, "is masterful, a centrifugal novel with sentences like sticky tentacles that clutch onto readers and suck them into a swirling, tempestuous, pulsating center."
Fiction by Rabee Jaber
translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
During the violence and chaos of the Lebanese Civil War, a car pulls up to a roadblock on a narrow side street in Beirut. After a brief and confused exchange, several rounds of bullets are fired into the car, killing everyone in the car except for a small boy of four or five. The boy is taken to the hospital, adopted by one of the assassins, and raised in a new family.
"My father used to kidnap and kill people..." begins this haunting tale of a child who was raised by the murderer of his real family. The narrator of Confessions doesn't shy away from the horrible truth of his murderous father—instead he confronts his troubled upbringing and seeks to understand the distortions and complexities of his memories, his war-torn country, and the quiet war that rages inside of him.
Available: March 21 2016
Fiction by Jenny Erpenbeck
translated by Susan Bernofsky
Winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Hans Fallada Prize, The End of Days, by the acclaimed German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, consists essentially of five “books,” each leading to a different death of the same unnamed female protagonist. How could it all have gone differently?—the narrator asks in the intermezzos. The first chapter begins with the death of a baby in the early twentieth-century Hapsburg Empire. In the next chapter, the same girl grows up in Vienna after World War I, but a pact she makes with a young man leads to a second death. In the next scenario, she survives adolescence and moves to Russia with her husband. Both are dedicated Communists, yet our heroine ends up in a labor camp. But her fate does not end there….
A novel of incredible breadth and amazing concision, The End of Days offers a unique overview of the twentieth century.
Fiction by Roberto Bolaño
translated by Natasha Wimmer
“Now I am a mother and a married woman, but not long ago I led a life of crime”: so Bianca begins her tale of growing up the hard way in Rome. Orphaned overnight as a teenager—“our parents died in a car crash on their first vacation without us”—she drops out of school, gets a crappy job, and drifts into bad company. Her younger brother brings home two petty criminals who need a place to stay. As the four of them share the family apartment and plot a strange crime, Bianca learns how low she can fall.
Electric and tense with foreboding, A Little Lumpen Novelita—the last novel Roberto Bolaño published in his lifetime—delivers a surprising, fractured tale of taking control of one’s fate.
Available: March 21 2016
Fiction by Nicola Gardini
translated by Michael F. Moore
Inside an apartment building on the outskirts of Milan, the working-class residents gossip, quarrel, and conspire against each other. Viewed through the eyes of Chino, an impressionable thirteen-year-old boy whose mother is the building's doorwoman, the world contained within these walls is tiny, hypocritical, and mean-spirited: a constant struggle.
A new resident, Amelia Lynd, moves in and quickly becomes an unlikely companion to Chino. Ms. Lynd—an elderly, erudite British woman—nurtures his taste in literature, introduces him to the life of the mind, and offers a counterpoint to the only version of reality he's known. On one level, Lost Words is an engrossing coming-of-age tale set in the '70s, when Italy was going through tumultuous social changes, and on another, it is a powerful meditation on language, literature, and culture.