“I now no longer use the better words.”
Ilse Aichinger (1921–2016) was one of the most important writers of postwar Austrian and German literature. Born in 1921 to a Jewish mother, she survived World War II in Vienna, while her twin sister Helga escaped with one of the last Kindertransporte to England in 1938. Many of their relatives were deported and murdered.
Those losses make themselves felt throughout Aichinger’s writing, which since her first and only novel, The Greater Hope, in 1948, has highlighted displacement, estrangement, and a sharp skepticism toward language. By 1976, when she published Bad Words in German, her writing had become powerfully poetic, dense, and experimental. This volume presents the whole of the original Bad Words in English for the first time, along with a selection of Aichinger’s other short stories of the period; together, they demonstrate her courageous effort to create and deploy a language unmarred by misleading certainties, preconceived rules, or implicit ideologies.
Iraqi poet Salah Al Hamdani has lived a remarkable life. The author of some forty books in French and Arabic, he began life as a child laborer, with little or no education. As a political prisoner under Saddam Hussein, he learned to read and write Arabic; once he was released form prison, he continued to work against the regime, ultimately, at age twenty-one, choosing exile in Paris. He now writes in French, but he remains a poet of exile, of memory, wounded by the loss of his homeland and those dear to him.
This landmark collection gathers thirty-five years of his writings, from his first volume in Arabic, Memory of Embers, to his latest collection, written originally in French, For You I Dream. It offers English-language readers their first substantial overview of Al Hamdani’s work, fired by the fight against injustice and shot through with longing for the home to which he can never return.
From cannibalism to light-calligraphy, from self-harming to animal sacrifice, from meat entwined with sex toys to a commodity-embedded ice wall, the idiosyncratic output of Chinese time-based art over the past twenty-five years has invigorated contemporary global art movements and conversation. In Beijing Xingwei, Meiling Cheng engages with such artworks created to mark China's rapid social, economical, cultural, intellectual, and environmental transformations in its post-Deng era.
Beijing Xingwei—itself a critical artwork with text and images unfolding through the author’s experiences with the mutable medium—contemplates the conundrum of creating site-specific ephemeral and performance-based artworks for global consumption. Here, Cheng shows us how art can reflect, construct, confound, and enrich us. And at a moment when time is explicitly linked with speed and profit, Beijing Xingwei provides multiple alternative possibilities for how people with imagination can spend, recycle, and invent their own time.
Bergeners is a love letter to a writer’s hometown. The book opens in New York City at the swanky Standard Hotel and closes in Berlin at Askanischer Hof, a hotel that has seen better days. But between these two global metropolises we find Bergen, Norway—its streets and buildings and the people who walk those streets and live in those buildings.
Using James Joyce’s Dubliners as a discrete guide, celebrated Norwegian writer Tomas Espedal wanders the streets of his hometown. On the journey, he takes notes, reflects, writes a diary, and draws portraits of the city and its inhabitants. Espedal writes tales and short stories, meets fellow writers, and listens to their anecdotes. In a way that anyone from a small town can relate to, he is drawn away from Bergen but at the same time he can’t seem to stay away. Espedal’s Bergeners is a book not just about Bergen, but about life—in a way no one else could have captured.
Their voices come from Bethlehem and Hebron. You can hear them from Jerusalem to Nazareth, and witness their protests in Gaza and Ramallah. From the refugee camps in the West Bank, you can hear the voices of the Palestinian people call out to demand self-determination and a better quality of life. But outside of Israel and the occupied territories, these individual voices are rarely heard—until now.
In Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path through Palestine, internationally renowned feminist critic and writer Bidisha collects the testimonies of an occupied people—ordinary citizens, activists, children—alongside those of international aid workers and foreign visitors for a revelatory look at a population on the margins.
Called “beautifully belligerent, [and] fiercely intelligent” by The Independent and a “dazzlingly creative writer” by the LondonTimes, Bidisha amplifies the voices of the Palestinian people in this book and lends to them her own considerable strength.
In this novel by celebrated South African writer Zakes Mda, Kristin Uys, a tough magistrate who lives alone with her cat in the Roodepoort district of Johannesburg, goes on a one-woman crusade to wipe out prostitution in her town. Her reasons are personal, and her zeal is fierce. Her main targets are the Visagie Brothers, Stevo and Shortie, who run a brothel, and although she fails to take down the entire establishment, she manages to nail Stevo for contempt of court, serving him a six-month sentence. From Diepkloof Prison, the outraged Stevo orchestrates his revenge against the magistrate, aided and abetted by the rather inept Shortie and his former nanny, Aunt Magda.
Kristin receives menacing phone calls and her home is invaded and vandalized—even her cat isn’t spared the threats—and the chief magistrate has no choice but to assign a bodyguard to protect her. To Kristin’s consternation, security guard Don Mateza moves into her home and trails her everywhere. This new arrangement doesn’t suit Don’s longtime girlfriend Tumi, a former model and successful businesswoman, who is intent on turning Don into a Black Diamond—a member of the wealthy new black South African middle class. And Don soon finds that his new assignment has unexpected complications that Tumi simply does not understand.
In Black Diamond, Mda tackles every conceivable South African stereotype, skillfully turning them upside down and exposing their ironies—often hilariously. This is a clever, quirky novel, in which Mda captures the essence of contemporary life in a fast-changing urban world.
Today, we believe that the map is a copy of the Earth, without realizing that the opposite is true: in our culture the Earth has assumed the form of a map. In Blinding Polyphemus, Franco Farinelli elucidates the philosophical correlation between cultural evolution and shifting cartographies of modern society, giving readers an interdisciplinary study that attempts to understand and redefine the fundamental structures of cartography, architecture, and the notion of “space.”
Following the lessons of nineteenth-century critical German geography, this is a manual of geography without any map. To indicate where things are means already responding, in implicit and unreflective ways, to prior questions about their nature. Blinding Polyphemus not only takes account of the present state of the Earth and of human geography, it redefines the principal models we possess for the description of the world: the map, above all, as well as the landscape, subject, place, city, and space.
‘Blue jewellery’ is private property. Not to be seen. Not to be talked about. It is worn like a bracelet around the wrists, on ribs, legs, arms. Blue jewellery is another name for the marks left on women’s bodies, inflicted by the men around them.
This novel tells the story of Filiz and Yunus. When Filiz meets Yunus, he is young and beautiful, and Filiz is proud that he wants her. Against her father’s wishes, they marry when she is thirteen. Yunus is her entire universe, all encompassing, all powerful. Soon after the wedding, Filiz’s dream of living in the West with her husband, of escaping their small village in Anatolia for freedom and autonomy, comes crashing down around her. Yunus, only a few years older than his bride, turns their marriage into a prison of dependency and violence. Trapped in her mother-in-law’s house, Filiz is subjected to physical and mental abuse, forced to veil herself and treated as a house slave. When she becomes pregnant, Filiz seems to have reached her breaking point. But she endures. When Yunus moves his young family first to Istanbul and then to Austria, the life he had once promised her seems to be within reach. But there is no escaping the spiral of violence and love, which, to Filiz, have become inseparable.
Katharina Winkler’s powerful story of a marriage dominated by violence gives voice to a tenacious young woman whose will to survive is never broken.
In the wildly entertaining novel The Blue Soda Siphon, the narrator unexpectedly finds himself back in the world of his childhood: Switzerland in the 1940s. He returns to his childhood home to find his parents frantic because their son is missing. Then, in another switch, the young boy that he was back then turns up in the present of the early 1990s, during the Gulf War, where he meets himself as an older man, and meets his adult self’s young daughter. These head-scratching, hilarious time shifts happen when both the adult narrator and his childhood self go to the cinema and see films, the subjects of which echo their own lives.
Translated into English for the first time by Donal McLaughlin, this novel, in which the eponymous blue soda siphon bottle is a recurring symbol, is a magnificent example of Urs Widmer’s characteristic humor, literary genius, and unparalleled imagination.
Bangladesh in 1971 showed vividly, and terribly, the deadly effects of war. Piles of corpses, torture cells, ash and destruction everywhere in the wake of the Pakistani army’s attacks on Bengali people. Blue Venom and Forbidden Incense, two novellas by Bangladeshi writer Syed Shamsul Haq, bear bleak witness to the mindless violence and death of that period. Blue Venom tells of a middle-aged middle manager who is arrested and taken to a cell, where he is slowly tortured to death for being a namesake of a rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. Forbidden Incense, meanwhile, tells of a woman’s return to her paternal village after her husband was taken by the army. In the village, she meets a boy with a Muslim name whose entire family has been killed; as they attempt together to gather and bury scattered corpses, they, too, are caught by the killers.
What is sleep? How can this most unproductive of human states—metaphorically called death’s shadow or considered the very pinnacle of indolence—be envisioned as action and agency? And what do we become in sleep? What happens to the waking selves we understand ourselves to be?
Written in the spring of 2013, as the Egyptian government of President Mohammed Morsi was unravelling in the face of widespread protests, The Book of Sleep is a landmark in contemporary Arabic literature. Drawing on the devices and forms of poetry, philosophical reflection, political analysis, and storytelling, this genre-defying work presents us with an assemblage of fragments which combine and recombine, circling around their central theme but refusing to fall into its gravity.
“My concern was not to create a literary product in the conventional sense, but to try and use literature as a methodology for thinking,” El Wardany explains. In this volume, sleep shapes sentences and distorts conventions. Its protean instability throws out memoir and memory, dreams and hallucinatory reverie, Sufi fables and capitalist parables, in the quest to shape a question. The Book of Sleep is a generous and generative attempt to reimagine possibility and hope in a world of stifling dualities and constrictions.
The inner workings of the European Union are as much a mystery to those living within its confines as they are to those of us who reside elsewhere. The Brussels bureaucracy that sets many of the EU’s policies feels remote to its citizens, yet the influence of its decisions can extend worldwide and throughout the global marketplace.
In this timely and insightful essay, Hans Magnus Enzensberger blends reportage, argument, and analysis in order to make sense of the EU’s present political and economic roles and examine the EU’s origins and inherent contradictions. In Enzensberger’s view, Europe is involved in a project without precedent—the first non-violent form of post-democratic governance, which is trying to abolish the diversity of Europe and impose a regime that is not accountable to its citizens. Its often bizarre and arbitrary rules amount to a soft but relentless guardianship, dictating how half a billion people should live their lives regardless of their own political opinions and traditions. Enzensberger here offers a strategy for approaching this modern monster—at once gentle and giant, friend and foe.
Praise for Enzensberger
“How should one cope with Germany? Let’s ask Hans Magnus Enzensberger. . . . One can only marvel at his permanent alertness, his tone of cold enragement, the dimensions of his hunger for experience, most of all however, one can only marvel at his sense of important issues. For 50 years, time and again Enzensberger has posed the right questions to German society. . . . No one should ever believe Enzensberger is on his side. Whenever someone makes a clear distinction between Good and Evil, Enzensberger will jump out of his cover and shout: It’s not that simple.”—Florian Illies, Die Zeit