This unique book is a graphic novel and performance poem, a mixed-media musical cartoon, an animated feature film come to life. Lee Breuer’s La Divina Caricatura is in the pataphysical tradition of Alfred Jarry—if Jarry had been a Dante fan. In this play we meet unforgettable characters: Rose the Dog, who thinks she is a woman; her lover John, a junkie filmmaker; Ponzi Porco, PhD, a pig in love with the New York Times; and the Warrior Ant, who, to impress his father, Trotsky the Termite, declares the “perpetual revolution” of the bugs of the fifth world. Each a soul on its own pilgrimage, seldom with a Virgil or a Beatrice to guide them, they often try to guide each other, only to get more lost. A dazzling, comic, potent mix of ideas and character, invention and reality, the plays in La Divina Caricatura reinvigorate the stage for our time.
Cairo 1925, Haret al-Yahud, the old Jewish Quarter. Esther, a beautiful young woman believed to be possessed by demons, longs to give birth after seven blissful years of marriage. Her husband, blind since childhood, does not object when, in her effort to conceive, she participates in Muslim zar rituals. Zohar, the novel’s narrator, comes into the world, but because his mother’s breasts are dry, he is nursed by a Muslim peasant—also believed to be possessed—who has just given birth to a girl, Masreya. Suckled at the same breasts and united by a rabbi’s amulet, the milk-twins will be consumed by a passionate, earth-shaking love.
Part fantastical fable, part realistic history, A Land Like You draws on ethno-psychiatrist Tobie Nathan’s deep knowledge of North African folk beliefs to create a glittering tapestry in which spirit possession and religious mysticism exist side by side with sober facts about the British occupation of Egypt and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Free Officers’ Movement. Historical figures such as Gamel Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and King Farouk mingle with Nathan’s fictional characters in this riveting and revealing tale of an Egypt caught between tradition and modernity, multiculturalism and nationalism, oppression and freedom.
“RuvenPreukstands apart from the village, on an August day in 1911, and listens.” Thus begins an epic bildungsroman about the life of Ruven Preuk, son of the wainwright, child of a sleepy village in Germany’s north, where life is both simple and harsh.
Ruven, though, is neither. He has the ability to see sounds, leading him to discover an uncanny gift for the violin. When he meets a talented teacher in the Jewish quarter, Ruven falls under the spell of a prodigious future. But as the twentieth century looms, Ruven’s pursuit of his craft takes a turn. In The Last Country, Svenja Leiber spins a tale that moves from the mansions of a disappearing aristocracy to a communist rebellion, from a joyous village wedding to a Nazi official’s threats, from the First World War to the Second. As the world Ruven knows disappears, the gifted musician must grapple with an important question: to what end has he devoted himself to his art?
The year is 1938. The great Russian poet and essayist Osip Mandelstam is forty-seven years old and is dying in a transit camp near Vladivostok after having been arrested by Stalin’s government during the repression of the 1930s and sent into exile with his wife. Stalin, “the Kremlin mountaineer, murderer, and peasant-slayer,” is undoubtedly responsible for his fatal decline. From the depths of his prison cell, lost in a world full of ghosts, Mandelstam sees scenes from his life pass before him: constant hunger, living hand to mouth, relying on the assistance of sympathetic friends, shunned by others, four decades of creation and struggle, alongside his beloved wife Nadezhda, and his contemporaries Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva, Boris Pasternak, and many others.
With her sensitive prose and innate sense of drama, French-Lebanese writer Vénus Khoury-Ghata brings Mandelstam back to life and allows him to have the last word—proving that literature is one of the surest means to fight against barbarism.
This lyrical novel tells the story of a young man living in Egypt in the 1990s, a time of great turmoil. We see student riots at Cairo University, radical politics, and the first steps towards the making of a writer. But his story is not told in isolation: through his experiences and memories Yasser Abdellatif also unfolds the experiences of his Nubian family through the epochal changes the country underwent in the twentieth-century.
The symphonic four-part text presents us with narratives of Egyptian identity, a constant knitting and unravelling that moves us back and forth through time, as the reader slides and leaps across the shifting tectonic plates of Abdellatif’s vignettes, his immaculately limpid prose poetry bringing forth the same questions. Nobody quite belongs in Cairo, it seems, but at the same time none of them belongs anywhere else: a relative emigrates from his Nubian village to the Cairo of the 1930s, where Italian fascists chase him through the streets and into a Maltese exile, only for him to return and make his way back South to the homeland he left. Another relative falls into religious esotericism and later madness, spinning away from Cairo and back to the wasteland of a village relocated after it had been flooded by the Aswan Dam. Meanwhile, in the 1990s, students fight security forces and binge on pills amid the dysfunctional remnants of a centralized state whose gravitational pull uprooted their parents and offered the possibility of assimilation into a national identity.
Through the clear sky of Abdellatif’s novel his characters, the spaces they call home, their way-stations, and even the nation that contains them all are a murmuration of starlings, held together and apart forever.
Bengali writer Riza Rahman is the author of more than fifty novels, as well as countless short stories, set in Bangladesh and bringing to life the difficult, mostly forgotten lives of its poorest and most disadvantaged citizens. Letters of Blood is set in the often violent world of prostitution in Bangladesh. Rahman brings great sensitivity and insight to her chronicles of the lives of women trapped in that bleak world as they face the constant risk of physical abuse, disease, and pregnancy, while also all too often struggling with drug addiction. A powerful, unforgettable story, Letters of Blood shows readers a hard way of life, imbuing the stories of these women with unforgettable empathy and compassion.
When Life in Peactime opens, on May 29, 2015, engineer Ivo Brandani is sixty-nine years old. He’s disillusioned and angry—but morbidly attached to life. As he makes a day-long trip home from his job in Sharm el Sheik reconstructing the coral reefs of the Red Sea using synthetics, he reflects on both the brief time he sees remaining ahead and on everything that has happened already in his life to which he can never quite resign himself. We see his slow bureaucratic trudge as a civil servant, long summer vacations on a Greek island, his twisted relationship with his first boss, the turmoil and panic attacks he faced during the student uprisings in 1968 that pushed him away from philosophy and into engineering, and his fearful childhood as a postwar evacuee.
A close-up portrait of an ordinary existence, Life in Peacetime offers a new look at the postwar era in Italy and the fundamental contradictions of a secure, middle-class life.
Toby Litt Seagull Books, 2014 Library of Congress PR6062.I827L55 2014
Emotionally compelling and formally innovative, Life-Like is Toby Litt’s most ambitious collection of short stories to date, bringing to fruition themes first aired in his previous books, Adventures in Capitalism, Exhibitionism, and I Play the Drums in a Band CalledOkay. Life-Like is a book about our globalizing and atomizing world—with stories set in India, Sweden, Australia, and Iran—that also looks at how we meet and fail to meet and what connects us to one another, as well as waste and communication, and, in turn, communication through waste.
The twenty-six stories begin with Paddy and Agatha, an English couple last seen in Litt’s Ghost Story. Following the stillbirth of their second child, their marriage has gently begun to collapse. Paddy and Agatha both meet someone else. First, Paddy meets Kavita, and Agatha meets John. Then each of these four engages with a different new person—and so on, through a doubling and redoubling of intimately interconnected stories. The remaining short stories exemplify Litt’s impressive, unflinching prose.
One of the central figures from a remarkable generation of French-language poets, Pierre Chappuis has thus far only been represented in English translation in fragments: a few poems here and there in magazines, online reviews, and anthologies. Like Bits of Wind rights that wrong, offering a generous selection of Chappuis’s poetry and prose from the past forty years, drawn from several of his books. In these pages, Chappuis delves into long-standing questions of the essence of life, our relationship to landscape, the role of the perceiving self, and much more. His skeletal, haiku-like verse starkly contrasts with his more overtly poetic prose, which revels in sinuous lines and interpolated parentheticals. Together, the different forms are invigorating and exciting, the perfect introduction for English-language readers.
Richard I (1157–99) was king of England from 1189 until his death, but he is best known as a soldier, not a monarch. He earned his moniker Richard the Lionheart as a knight and military leader, and his revolt against his father Henry II and his conquest of Cyprus as part of the Crusades helped to solidify his historical legend. In Lionheart, Norwegian author Thorvald Steen, celebrated for his historical novels, brings his characteristic accuracy and artistic vision to the life of Richard I.
Lionheart is the story of a man living in the shadow of his own myth, also a fanatic general who wants to conquer the world’s greatest sanctum and a king that is suddenly vulnerable. At the age of fifteen he leads an army against his father. Fourteen years later he is the Pope’s obvious choice to lead the third Crusade. But the Richard of Steen’s novel is less sure of himself and his role—is it true that he is God’s chosen one, like his mother says? Built on extensive research, Steen paints a dark and conflicted, yet credible and convincing, portrait of a man who has engrossed historians, poets, novelists and readers for centuries. "Thorvald Steen’s new novel Lionheart is a fascinating read. . . . Steen manages to give flesh and blood to a historical icon, and creates a story with energy, dressed in sober yet sublime language."—Dagsavisen, on the Norwegian edition
For distinguished philosopher Hans Blumenberg, lions were a life-long obsession. Lions, translated by Kári Driscoll, collects thirty-two of Blumenberg’s philosophical vignettes to reveal that the figure of the lion unites two of his other great preoccupations: metaphors and anecdotes as non-philosophical forms of knowledge.
Each of these short texts, sparkling with erudition and humor, is devoted to a peculiar leonine presence—or, in many cases, absence—in literature, art, philosophy, religion, and politics. From Ecclesiastes to the New Testament Apocrypha, Dürer to Henri Rousseau, Aesop and La Fontaine to Rilke and Thomas Mann, the extraordinary breadth of Blumenberg’s knowledge and intellectual curiosity is on full display. Lions has much to offer readers, both those already familiar with Blumenberg’s oeuvre and newcomers looking for an introduction to the thought of one of Germany’s most important postwar philosophers.
For a fifteen-year-old, falling in love can eclipse everything else in the world, and make a few short weeks feel like a lifetime of experience. In Love Writ Large, Navid Kermani captures those intense feelings, from the emotional explosion of a first kiss to the staggering loss of a first breakup. As his teenage protagonist is wrapped up in these all-consuming feelings, however, Germany is in the crosshairs of the Cold War—and even the personal dramas of a small-town grammar school are shadowed by the threat of the nuclear arms race. Kermani’s novel manages to capture these social tensions without sacrificing any of the all-consuming passion of a first love and, in a unique touch, sets the boy’s struggles within the larger frame of the stories and lives of numerous Arabic and Persian mystics. His becomes a timeless a tale that reflects on the multiple ways love, loss, and risk weigh on our everyday lives.
Annemarie Schwarzenbach Seagull Books, 2011 Library of Congress PT2605.L25L9713 2011
Annemarie Schwarzenbach—journalist, novelist, antifascist, archaeologist, and traveler—has become a European cult figure for bohemian free spirits since the rediscovery of her works in the late 1980s. Lyric Novella is her story of a young man’s obsession with a Berlin variété actress. Despite having his future career mapped out for him in the diplomatic service, the young man begins to question all his family values under Sibylle’s spell. His family, future, and social standing become irrelevant when set against his overriding compulsion to pick her up every night from the theater so they can go for a drive.
Schwarzenbach’s clear, psychologically acute prose makes this novella an evocative narrative, with many intriguing parallels to her own life. In fact, she admitted after publication that her hero was in fact a young woman, not a man, leaving little doubt that Lyric Novella is a literary tale of lesbian love during socially and politically turbulent times.
Praise for the German Edition
“The subject of Annemarie Schwarzenbach’s story is not failed love— Sibylle’s apparent emotional coldness—but the failure of love—the protagonist’s helpless inability, in the crucial moment, to accept his human responsibility toward the beloved.”— Neue Zürcher Zeitung
“The work bears the face of its time, but it is so gentle, silent and veiled that one can barely exclude the person behind the mask. A mask is in fact this face, because the hero is a heroine who does not want to be seen.”—Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung