Utterly charming and simply sweet. A wonderful tale of the joy of reading and the community found among the shelves of well-loved and oft neglected books.
In her journal turned memoir, Ernaux reminds us of the love that lingers and the bittersweetness of being lost and continuously coming into oneself. In classic Annie fashion, Getting Lost is unflinchingly vulnerable and if you're anything like me, you'll devour it in less than 24 hours because you simply know from the first page that she'll punch you in the gut with the last page, and she sure did, so thank you, Annie. She's a goddamned writer, she's a lover, she's a mess like all of us — she's Annie!!!
I hate scary things. I don't get why one would choose to feel fear. But this little book got me. I was mesmerized by the discomfort these stories brought me, in small doses and somehow overwhelmingly. She leans into the eeriness of the everyday and the miniscule uncanniness that lingers in her juicy and transfixing prose. Dávila may have made me less fearful and hesitant of being afraid.
Zambra's novels can be cheeky and experimental, but there's always substance. Chilean Poet is an exquisite book about bad juvenilia (in the funniest ways), unconventional fatherhood, and how the most obscure realms of literature and bookstores can connect generations. His characters can be jerks who love books, but boy, aren't we all?
The Chilean writer, painter, art critic, and avant-garde surrealist Juan Emar has never been translated into English… but if Megan McDowell’s brilliant translation is any indication, we’ll all be Emar fanatics soon. (Many of your favorite Chilean writers probably grew up reading him.) In Yesterday’s most notable scene, an ostrich defecates a lion. I couldn’t tell you what else it’s about, but I found it all wonderful.
This novel, like a certain Canadian punk band’s debut studio album, is all killer, no filler. Rejean Ducharme, a virtual unknown in this country, was a reclusive Quebecois author known for his fluvial cynicism. Ducharme's Berenice is an over-intelligent and cantankerous 9-year-old, the sum of her environment and the whole cruel human ecosystem, and yet she delights in the first snow of winter, and experiences 'some kind of miracle' while hunting for bugs. Madeleine Stratford has translated Ducharme in a strange and most meaningful way—with conviction, with clarity, with a bit of finger-pointing in every sentence. A book that will endure, even if I'm the only one who reads it.
Jon Fosse's Septology cycle has been one of my most meaningful encounters of the pandemic. Hypnotic, soothing, intellectually reverent. Damion Searls is the perfect translator for Fosse's unending sentences, that repeat and circle back on themselves with mathematical beauty, creating some of the most significant literature I've read on alcoholism, faith, and artmaking I can remember. Septology could fill a hundred volumes, and I would read forever.
It's incredible what the Germans can do—disgust you, isolate you, toss you—the reader—to the curb and expect devotion in return. (Unfortunately, it works.) Wolfgang Hilbig's The Interim is the revered German writer's most complete and erudite of his works translated into English. Isabel Fargo Cole doesn't miss a beat of Hilbig's humor and disorientation. The Interim reads like literature crawling out of the drain; the novel's narrator, known only as C., is both loveable and inescapable in his singular history of two Germany's: East and West. As C. has it: "Literature that refused to serve the purpose of distraction was punished by being passed over on the market. . . the best distraction was what sold the best." The Interim is the opposite of such distraction; it also happens to be a damn good book.
The inaugural publication from Fern Books, AN IDEAL PRESENCE is a book about death, dying, care, and the cold logistics of it all. A work of fiction by an OuLiPian with the fatal energy of Alice Oswald's Memorial, I was as amazed by this polyphonic novel as I was humbled by its reverence for the profession of caregiving in our often unremarkable final hours. An instant favorite.
Our ill-fated narrator is Aurora Berro, who dies in the novel’s opening pages when a vinyl record, screaming across the sky like a “demented boomerang,” slices her jugular in unspectacular fashion. What ensues is a nightmare of vaudevillian overtones and magnificent solitude (think Carmen Boullosa meets Jon Fosse meets Marx Brothers). Out of the Cage made me feel uneasy in my skin, uneasy about the fact of my birth, and suddenly unsure of how my mother really felt about me.