Invaluable—a rigorously skeptical and a profoundly visionary poet, a writer whose demystifying intelligence is matched by a passionate embrace of poetry’s rejuvenating power.—John Palattella, The Boston Review on Susan Howe's Debths
Fiction by Mathias Énard
translated by Charlotte Mandell
As night falls over Vienna, Franz Ritter, an insomniac musicologist, takes to his sickbed with an unspecified illness and spends a restless night drifting between dreams and memories, revisiting the important chapters of his life: his ongoing fascination with the Middle East and his numerous travels to Istanbul, Aleppo, Damascus, and Tehran, as well as the various writers, artists, musicians, academics, orientalists, and explorers who populate this vast dreamscape. At the center of these memories is his elusive love, Sarah, a fiercely intelligent French scholar caught in the intricate tension between Europe and the Middle East.
With exhilarating prose and sweeping erudition, Mathias Énard pulls astonishing elements from disparate sources—nineteenth-century composers and esoteric orientalists, Balzac and Agatha Christie—and binds them together in a most magical way.
On the shortlist for the 2017 International Man Booker Prize.
Fiction by César Aira
translated by Nick Caistor
The Little Buddhist Monk is a story of Asian invention gone wild, as a diminutive Korean Buddhist monk acts as a tour guide to an increasingly distraught French couple on a working vacation in the Far East. The Proof brings us quickly back to the West, where two punks, plus a new recruit (“Wannafuck?”is the opening line as the two punk lesbians accost the chubby and shy Marcia on a quiet street in Buenos Aires), take control of a local supermarket with dire consequences for the hostages. These two fast-paced, edgy works are as different as night and day. Nevertheless—as well as sex, identity, and
modern-day economics figuring deeply in both—deep currents connect the two novellas: our little Buddhist monk remarks, “I told you it was easy. When something is easy, it is completely easy. But no one believes it. Not even the proof convinces them.”
Fiction by Raymond Roussel
translated by Rupert Copeland Cunningham
The wealthy scientist Martial Canterel guides a group of visitors through his expansive estate, Locus Solus, where he displays his various deranged inventions, each more spectacular than the last. First, he introduces a machine propelled by the weather, which constructs a mosaic out of varying hues of human teeth, then shows a hairless cat charged with a powerful electric battery, and next a bizarre theater in which corpses are reanimated with a special serum to enact the most important movements of their past lives.
Wondrously imaginative and narrated with Roussel’s deadpan wit, Locus Solus is unlike anything else ever written.
Fiction by Osama Alomar
translated by Osama Alomar and C. J. Collins
Personified animals (snakes, wolves, sheep), natural things (a swamp, a lake, a rainbow, trees), mankind’s creations (trucks, swords, zeroes) are all characters in The Teeth of the Comb. They aspire, they plot, they hope, they destroy, they fail, they love. These wonderful small stories animate new realities and make us see our reality anew. Reading Alomar’s sly moral fables and sharp political allegories, the reader always sits up a little straighter, and a little wiser. Here is the title story:
Some of the teeth of the comb were envious of the class differences that exist between humans. They strived desperately to increase their height, and, when they succeeded, began to look with disdain on their colleagues below.
After a little while the comb’s owner felt a desire to comb his hair. But when he found the comb in this state he threw it in the garbage.
Fiction by Nathaniel Mackey
Nathaniel Mackey’s Late Arcade opens in Los Angeles. A musician known only as N. writes the first of a series of letters to the enigmatic Angel of Dust. N.’s jazz sextet, Molimo m’Atet, has just rehearsed a new tune: the horn players read from The Egyptian Book of the Dead with lips clothespinned shut, while the rest of the band struts and saunters in a cosmic hymn to the sun god Ra. N. ends this breathless session by sending the Angel of Dust a cassette tape of their rehearsal.
Over the next nine months, N.’s epistolary narration follows the musical goings-on of the ensemble. N. suffers from what he calls “cowrie shell attacks”—oil spills, N.’s memory of his mother’s melancholy musical Sundays—which all becomes the source of fresh artistic invention.
Here is the newest installment of the National Book Award-winner Nathaniel Mackey’s From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, the great American jazz novel of “exquisite rhythmic lyricism” (Bookforum).
Fiction by Franz Kafka
translated by Michael Hofmann
Animals, strange beasts, bureaucrats, businessmen, and nightmares populate this collection of stories by Franz Kafka. These matchless short works, all unpublished during Kafka’s lifetime, range from the brief dialogue between a cat and a mouse in “Little Fable” to the absurd humor of “Investigations of a Dog,” from the elaborate waking nightmare of “Building the Great Wall of China” to the creeping unease of “The Burrow,” where a nameless creature’s labyrinthine hiding place turns into a trap of fear and paranoia.
“Oh,” said the mouse, “the world gets narrower with each passing day. It used to be so wide that I was terri ed, and I ran on and felt happy when at last I could see walls in the distance to either side of me—but these long walls are converging so quickly that already I’m in the last room and there in the corner is the trap I’m running into.” “You only have to change your direction,” said the cat, and ate it up.
—Franz Kafka (“LITTLE FABLE”)
"I think of a Kafka story as a perfect work of literary art, as approachable as
it is strange, and as strange as it is approachable."