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.
When Geissler's narrator, a writer and translator, is unable to afford a life on freelance wages, she takes up a seasonal position at an Amazon fulfillment center. As a prose writer, Geissler is like a German Valeria Luiselli or Sheila Heti; like no other book I've read, she makes the humiliations of wage labor unavoidably clear. Read this if you've ever purchased a book from Amazon (or a shower curtain, or anything really). This book is not a journalist's hit piece on the megacorporation—it's a nightmare, an intellectual life subdued, a novel full of nuance and dread worthy of Kafka.
Selva Almada's novel lasts only a moment but echoes across deserts. She treats the subject of God with an honesty both skeptical and earnest. In this sharp translation by Chris Andrews, Almado is one of those mysterious debuts who has eschewed naivety, achieving perfect mood.
From the legendary Japenese author Osamu Dazai, father of Yuko Tsushima, comes this miserable book, hardly a novel at all, a book about extreme alienation and cruelty that somehow perfectly describes the discomfort and obscurity of coming of age.
These authors filled my imagination with textures and tales I thought I could only experience through extensive travel, and such beautiful prose and dreamlike destinations took my breath away. But most of all, these stories made it clear that all over the world we are asking the same questions: Can we still truly be at home with these earthly elements? Were we ever? And even if we can, will we jointly survive long enough to do so? And the only response I could come up with was to read the collection again, finding solace and wisdom in the convergence of such diverse works.
At a sanatorium just outside Buenos Aires, where patients are living out their last days, Dr. Quintana and his colleagues have signed up to participate in a medical research project, which concerns the minutes just after death. They just need a few volunteers. An excellent translation of a horror novel, which is also darkly funny.