Negoyan is one of the great characters in modern fiction, a charming monster of selfishness and self-delusion. And for all his failings, his life poses a question for the rest of us: Where in the modern world is there a home except in illusion?
Bon vivant, Francophile, visionary, Negoyan spent the first half of his life building houses he loved and even gave names to — Juliana, Christina, Agatha — making his hometown of Belgrade into a modern city to be proud of. The second half of his life, after World War II and the Nazi occupation, he has spent in one of those houses, being looked after by his wife and a nurse, in hiding. Now, on the last day of his life, Negoyan has decided to go out at last to see what he has wrought.
Building can be seen as a master metaphor for modernity, which some great irresistible force, be it fascism or communism or capitalism, is always busy building anew, and Houses is a book about a man, Arseniev Negoyan, who has devoted his life and his dreams to building.
From an early age, Jean Giono roamed the hills of his native Provence. He absorbed oral traditions and, at the same time, devoured the Greek and Roman classics. , his first novel and the first winner of the Prix Brentano, comes fully back to life in Paul Eprile’s poetic translation.
The four houses have a dozen residents — and then there is Gagou, a mute drifter. Janet, the eldest of the men, is bedridden; he feels snakes writhing in his fingers and speaks in tongues. Even so, all is well until the village fountain suddenly stops running. From this point on, humans and the natural world are locked in a life-and-death struggle. All the elements — fire, water, earth, and air — come into play.
Deep in Provence, a century ago, four stone houses perch on a hillside. Wildness presses in from all sides. Beyond a patchwork of fields, a mass of green threatens to overwhelm the village. The animal world — a miming cat, a malevolent boar — displays a mind of its own.
Blam lives. The war he survived will never be over for him.
, Aleksandar Tišma’s “extended kaddish. . [his] masterpiece” (Kirkus Reviews), is a modern-day retelling of the book of Job. The war is over. Miroslav Blam walks along the former Jew Street, and he remembers. He remembers Aaron Grün, the hunchbacked watchmaker; and Eduard Fiker, a lamp merchant; and Jakob Mentele, a stove fitter; and Arthur Spitzer, a grocer, who played amateur soccer and had non-Jewish friends; and Sándor Vértes, a lawyer who was a Communist. All dead. As are his younger sister and his best friend, a Serb, both of whom joined the resistance movement; and his mother and father in the infamous Novi Sad raid in January 1942—when the Hungarian Arrow Cross executed 1,400 Jews and Serbs on the banks of the Danube and tossed them into the river.
Odile and Louis are leading a happy, bucolic life with their two children in the French countryside near the Swiss mountains. It is Odile’s thirty-fifth birthday, and Louis’s thirty-fifth birthday is a few weeks away. Then the story shifts back to their early years: Louis, just freed from his military service and at loose ends, taken up by a shady character who brings him to Paris to do some work for a friend who manages a garage; Odile, an aspiring singer, at the mercy of the kindness and unkindness of strangers. They move through a Paris saturated with the crimes and secrets of the past but breathing hopes for the future; they find each other and struggle together to create what, looking back, will have been their youth.
is a crucial book in the career of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano. It was his breakthrough novel, in which he stripped away the difficulties of his earlier work and found a clear, mysteriously moving voice for his haunting stories of love, nostalgia, and grief. It has also been called “the most gripping Modiano book of all” ().
In the Café of Lost Youth is vintage Patrick Modiano, an absorbing evocation of a particular Paris of the 1950s, shadowy and shady, a secret world of writers, criminals, drinkers, and drifters. The novel, inspired in part by the circle (depicted in the photographs of Ed van der Elsken) of the notorious and charismatic Guy Debord, centers on the enigmatic, waiflike figure of Louki, who catches everyone’s attention even as she eludes possession or comprehension. Through the eyes of four very different narrators, including Louki herself, we contemplate her character and her fate, while Modiano explores the themes of identity, memory, time, and forgetting that are at the heart of his spellbinding and deeply moving art.
is an illuminating compendium from a brilliant and quirky writer and an exemplary global voice.
gathers the finest of Leys’s essays for an American audience for the first time. On subjects ranging from China to Orwell and from Quixotism to the sea, Leys feuds with Christopher Hitchens, ponders the popularity of Victor Hugo, and considers whether Vladimir Nabokov’s posthumous novel should ever have been published. He dissects Mao’s Cultural Revolution and the Khmer Rouge regime, and discusses the legacies of Waugh, Chesterton, Simenon, and Confucius. He discusses Chinese art, culture, and politics; the joys of literary translation; and the fate of the university.
Simon Leys is a Renaissance man for the era of globalization: a distinguished scholar of classical Chinese art and literature, he was one of the first Westerners to expose the horrors of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Leys’s interests and expertise are not, however, confined to China: he also writes about European art, literature, history, and politics, and is an unflinching observer of the way we live now. No matter the topic he writes with unfailing elegance and intelligence, seriousness and acerbic wit. Leys is, in short, not simply a critic or commentator but an essayist, and one of the most outstanding ones of our time.
Of the colors, blue and green have the greatest emotional range. Sad reds and melancholy yellows are difficult to turn up. Among the ancient elements, blue occurs everywhere: in ice and water, in the flame as purely as in the flower, overhead and inside caves, covering fruit and oozing out of clay. Although green enlivens the earth and mixes in the ocean, and we find it, copperish, in fire; green air, green skies, are rare. Gray and brown are widely distributed, but there are no joyful swatches of either, or any of the exuberant black, sullen pink, or acquiescent orange. Blue is therefore most suitable as the color of interior life. Whether slick light sharp high bright think quick sour new and cool or low deep sweet dark soft slow smooth heavy old and warm: blue moves easily among them all, and all profoundly qualify our states of feeling.
is a book about everything blue — sex and sleaze and sadness, among other things — and about everything else. It brings us the world in a word as only William H. Gass, among contemporary American writers, can do.
Henry Duchemin and His Shadows is the perfect introduction to Bove’s world, with its cast of stubborn isolatoes who call to mind Herman Melville’s Bartleby, Robert Walser’s “little men,” and Jean Rhys’s lost women. The poet of the flophouse and the dive, the park bench and the pigeon’s crumb, Bove is also a deeply empathetic writer for whom no defeat is so great as to silence desire.
Emmanuel Bove was one of the most original writers to come out of twentieth-century France and a popular success in his day. Discovered by Colette, who arranged for the publication of his first novel, My Friends, Bove enjoyed a busy literary career, until the German occupation silenced him. During his lifetime, Bove’s novels and stories were admired by Rainer Maria Rilke, the surrealists, Albert Camus, and Samuel Beckett, who said of him that “more than anyone else he has an instinct for the essential detail.”
Seemingly the simplest of stories — a passing anecdote of village life — opens up into a tale of almost unendurable suspense. This jewel-like novella by the writer that Thomas Mann praised as "one of the most extraordinary, the most enigmatic, the most secretly daring and the most strangely gripping narrators in world literature" is among the most unusual, moving, and memorable of Christmas stories. Two children — Conrad and his little sister, Sanna — set out from their village high up in the Alps to visit their grandparents in the neighboring valley. It is the day before Christmas but the weather is mild, though of course night falls early in December and the children are warned not to linger. The grandparents welcome the children with presents and pack them off with kisses. Then snow begins to fall, ever more thickly and steadily. Undaunted, the children press on, only to take a wrong turn. The snow rises higher and higher, time passes: it is deep night when the sky clears and Conrad and Sanna discover themselves out on a glacier, terrifying and beautiful, the heart of the void. Adalbert Stifter's rapt and enigmatic tale, beautifully translated by Elizabeth Mayer and Marianne Moore, explores what can be found between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day — or on any night of the year.
This book is both a work of memory and a work about memory. Miron Bialoszewski (1922-83), the great avant-garde Polish poet, memorializes the doomed uprising of the Polish population against their Nazi masters which began on August 1, 1944, and was eventually abandoned on October 2, 1944, with the physical destruction of Warsaw, street by street and house by house, and the slaughter of 200,000 civilians.