Clowns are not just the stuff of backyard children’s parties anymore. These days, clown doctors see patients—especially children—to introduce humor and imagination into an anxiety-filled and painful experience. The origins of medical clowning can be traced to the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit at the Infants and Children’s Hospital of New York, established about thirty years ago. Since that time, the practice has developed extensively and medical clowns now work in hospitals around the world. Over the past ten years, the number of scientific studies on medical clowning has increased, with findings showing the important contribution of medical clowns to children and adults suffering from mild to incurable illnesses.
Medical Clowning is the first guide to this phenomenon, summing up decades of research, education, and practice to give readers a comprehensive look into this innovative field. Amnon Raviv analyzes the performance of medical clowns, looking at research and case studies, and goes on to propose a training and evaluation model, including hands-on exercises to train experienced clowns for work in hospitals.
This gripping novel brilliantly straddles the divide between thrillers and literature. Moinul Ahsan Saber here tells the story of Kobej Lethel, a ruthless soldier of fortune employed by a corrupt village chief. Lethel has never had a problem with the job before: he gets an assignment and handles it, even if that entails violence. But during Bangladesh’s War of Independence, the chief sides with the Pakistani army as it carries out unspeakable atrocities. Suddenly, Lethel can no longer accept his role—he refuses, and rebels. But the transformation proves temporary: by the end of the war, he’s back to his old ways, fighting for nothing more than a paycheck, on nothing more than an order.
A powerful novel of war, history, and the deadly draw of violence, The Mercenary is an unforgettable look into the mind of a man who cannot escape the killing that has become his occupation.
It’s the mid-to-late 1800s and the British have banished Wajid Ali Shah—the nawab of Awadh in Lucknow—to Calcutta. To the sound of the soulful melody of the sarangi, the mercurial courtesan Laayl-e Aasman is playing a dangerous game of love, loyalty, deception, and betrayal. Bajrangi and Kundan, bound by their love for each other and for Laayl-e, struggle to keep their balance. Ranging across generations and geography, the scale of Laayl-e’s story sweeps the devil, a crime lord, and many other remarkable characters into a heady mix.
Mirror of the Darkest Night is almost an aberration in Mahasweta Devi’s oeuvre. Known for her activism and hard-hitting indictment of social inequalities, she pays close attention to detail in this sparkling novel. It offers a rare glimpse of Devi’s talent for telling the sort of story she normally eschewed—and it’s a cracker of a tale.
The “Modern Sovereign,” a notion indebted both to Hobbes’s Leviathan and Marx’s conception of capital, refers to the power that governed the African multitudes from the earliest colonial days to the post-colonial era. It is an internalized power, responsible for the multiform violence exerted on bodies and imaginations. Joseph Tonda contends that in Central Africa—and particularly in Gabon and the Congo—the body is at the heart of political, religious, sexual, economic, and ritual power. This, he argues, is confirmed by the strong link between corporeal and political matters, and by the ostentatious display of bodies in African life. The body of power asserts itself as both matter and spirit, and it incorporates the seductive force of money, commodities, sex, and knowledge. Tonda’s incisive analysis reveals how this sovereign power is a social relation, historically constituted by the violence of the African cultural Imaginary and the realities of State, Market, and Church. It is to be understood, he asserts, through a generalized theory economic, political, and religious fetishism. By introducing this crucial critical voice from contemporary Africa into the English language, The Modern Sovereign makes a significant contribution to field of anthropology, political science, and African studies.
Two men talk in Tokyo. One, a Belgian, is a diplomat. The other, Dutch, is a photographer. What, they wonder, is the real face of Japan? How can they get beyond the European idea of the nation and its people—with its exoticism—and see Japan as it truly is? The Belgian has an idea: he helps the photographer find a model to shoot in front of Mount Fuji as the “typical Japanese.” The plan works better than either had imagined—in fact, it works too well: the photographer falls in love, neglects his friend and his career, and, feeling out of place and disillusioned in Holland, returns to Japan as often as possible over the next five years. A reunion is planned: the three will meet again at Mount Fuji. Time, it seems, has stood still . . . except the woman has a secret, and plans of her own.
This moving novel of obsession and difference is the latest masterwork from one of the greatest European writers working today, redolent with the power of desire and alive to the limits of our understanding of others.
Gunther Geltinger Seagull Books, 2017 Library of Congress PT2707.E58M6613 2017 | Dewey Decimal 833.92
It’s the early 1970s and Dion Katthusen, thirteen, is growing up fatherless in a small village in northern Germany. An only child plagued with a devastating stutter, Dion is ostracized by his peers and finds solace in the company of nature, collecting dragonflies in a moor filled with myths and legends. On the precipice of adulthood, Dion begins to spill the secrets of his heart—his burning desire for faultless speech and his abiding relationship with his mother, a failed painter with secrets of her own. Even as Dion spins his story, his speech is filled with fissures and holes—much like the swampy earth that surrounds him. Nature, though so often sublime, can also be terribly cruel.
Moor is Dion’s story—a story of escaping the quicksand of loneliness and of the demands we make on love, even as those surrounding us are hurt in their misguided attempts to bear our suffering. Powerfully tuned to the relationship between human and nature, mother and son, Moor is a mysterious and experimental portrait of childhood. Written by up-and-coming German novelist Gunther Geltinger, the novel received critical acclaim in Germany and is now presented in English for the first time by translator Alexander Booth. Evocative and bold, Dion’s story emerges from the forces of nature, his voice rising from the ground beneath the reader’s feet, not soon to be forgotten.
Urs Widmer Seagull Books, 2019 Library of Congress PT2685.I24H4713 2015
The day is Friday, May 22, 2032. On this day, the day after his ninety-fourth birthday, a man is sitting in a beautiful garden. It is a paradise where he often played during his childhood, and it is here that he is recording the story of his adventures with Mr. Adamson. In the course of this compelling novel from Swiss author Urs Widmer, this man narrates his unusual story to his granddaughter, Anni. While he recounts his life, he is also waiting—waiting for the arrival of this very Mr. Adamson, whom he has not seen since the age of eight. Even then it was a mysterious encounter—a glimpse into realms that normally remain concealed to the living. For Mr. Adamson died at the very moment when our narrator was born, and he will soon return to escort the ninety-four-year-old narrator into another paradise.
Told with Urs Widmer’s signature humor, genius, and lively imagination, Mr Adamson is a superb story and a spellbinding book. With its vitality and zest for life, it manages to hold at bay that scandal we must all face in our lives: death.
Praise for Widmer
“One of the best representatives of Swiss literature.”—Le Monde
Mirroring Romania’s drastic transition from totalitarianism to Western-style freedom in the late 1980s, Mr. K Released captures the disturbingly surreal feeling that many newly liberated prisoners face when they leave captivity. Employing his trademark playful absurdity, Matéi Visniec introduces us to Mr. K, a Kafkaesque figure who has been imprisoned for years for an undisclosed crime in a penitentiary with mysterious tunnels.
One day, Mr. K finds himself unexpectedly released. Unable to comprehend his sudden liberation, he becomes traumatized by the realities of freedom—more so than the familiar trauma of captivity or imprisonment. In the hope of obtaining some clarification, Mr. K keeps waiting for an appointment with the prison governor, however, their meeting is constantly being delayed. During this endless process of waiting, Mr. K gets caught up in a clinical exploration of his physical surroundings. He does not have the courage or indeed inclination to leave, but can move unrestricted within the prison compound, charting endless series of absurd circles in which readers might paradoxically recognize themselves.
Any new book by poet, essayist, writer, and translator Hans Magnus Enzensberger, one of the most influential and internationally renowned German intellectuals, is cause for notice, and Mr. Zed’s Reflections is no exception. Every afternoon for almost a year, a plump man named Mr. Zed comes to the same spot in the city park and engages passersby with quick-witted repartee. Those who pass ask, who is this man? A wisecracker, a clown, a belligerent philosopher? Many shake their heads and move on; others listen to him, engage with him, and, again and again, end up at the same place. He doesn’t write anything down, but his listeners often take notes. With subversive energy and masterful brevity, Mr. Zed undermines arrogance, megalomania, and false authority. A determined speaker who doesn’t care for ambitions, he forces topics that others would rather keep to themselves. Reluctant to trust institutions and seeing absolutely nothing as “non-negotiable,” he admits mistakes and does away with judgment. He is no mere ventriloquist dummy for his creator—he is too stubborn for that. And at the end of the season, when it becomes too cold and uncomfortable in the park, he disappears, never to be seen again.
Collected in this thought-provoking and unique work are the considerations and provocations of this squat, park-bench philosopher, giving us a volume of truths and conversations that are clear-cut, skeptical, and fiercely illuminating.
Our contemporary celebration of difference, respect for pluralism, and avowal of identity politics have come to be regarded as the hallmarks of a progressive, modern democracy. Yet despite embracing many of its values, we have at the same time become wary of multiculturalism in recent years.
In the wake of September 11, 2001 and the many terrorist attacks that have occurred since then, there has been much debate about the degree of diversity that Western nations can tolerate. In Multiculturalism and its Discontents, Kenan Malik looks closely at the role of multiculturalism within terrorism and societal discontent. He examines whether it is possible—or desirable—to try to build a cohesive society bound by common values and he delves into the increasing anxiety about the presence of the Other within our borders.
Multiculturalism and its Discontents not only explores the relationship between multiculturalism and terrorism, but it analyzes the history of the idea of multiculturalism alongside its political roots and social consequences.
Toby Litt is best known for his “hip-lit” fiction, which, in its sharing of characters and themes across numerous stories and novels, has always taken an unusual, hybrid form. In Mutants, he applies his restless creativity to nonfiction. The book brings together twenty-six essays on a range of diverse topics, including writers and writing, and the technological world that informs and underpins it. Each essay is marked by Litt’s distinct voice, heedless of formal conventions and driven by a curiosity and a determination to give even the shortest piece enough conceptual heft to make it come alive. Taken as a whole, these pieces unexpectedly cohere into a manifesto of sorts, for a weirder, wilder, more willful fiction.
Praise for Toby Litt
“A genuinely individual talent with a positive relish for dealing with the contemporary aspects of the modern world.”—Scotsman
“Toby Litt is awfully good—he gives something new every time he writes.”—Muriel Spark
“He has invented a fresh, contemporary style—it will sing in the ears of this generation.”—Malcolm Bradbury
In this companion to Urs Widmer’s novel My Mother’s Lover, the narrator is again the son who pieces together the fragments of his parents’ stories. Since the age of twelve, Karl, the father, has observed the family tradition of recording his life in a single notebook, but when his book is lost soon after his death, his son resolves to rewrite it. Here, we get to know Karl’s friends—a collection of anti-fascist painters and architects known as Group 33. We learn of the early years of Karl’s marriage and follow his military service as the Swiss fear a German invasion during World War II, his political activity for the Communist Party, and his brief career as a teacher.
Widmer brilliantly combines family history and historical events to tell the story of a man more at home in the world of the imagination than in the real world, a father who grows on the reader, just as he grows on his son.
My Mother's Lover
Urs Widmer Seagull Books, 2018 Library of Congress PT2685.I24G4513 2011 | Dewey Decimal 833.914
It’s Switzerland in the 1920s when the two lovers first meet. She is young, beautiful, and rich. In contrast, he can barely support himself and is interested only in music. By the end of their lives, he is a famous conductor and the richest man in the country, but she is penniless. And most important of all, no one knows of her love for him; it is a secret he took to his grave. Here begins Urs Widmer’s novel My Mother’s Lover.
Based on a real-life affair, My Mother’s Lover is the story of a lifelong and unspoken love for a man—recorded by the woman’s son, who begins this novel on the day his mother’s lover dies. Set against the backdrop of the Depression and World War II, it is a story of sacrifice and betrayal, passionate devotion, and inevitable suffering. Yet in Widmer’s hands, it is always entertaining and surprisingly comic—a unique kind of fairy tale.
With subtle, bemused humor and an unerring eye for human frailty, Michel Layaz writes about the hidden tensions within families, the awkwardness of adolescence, and the drama of intimacy between friends and lovers. His fifth novel, My Mother’s Tears, is his most poignant yet.
The adult narrator of My Mother’s Tears has returned to clean out his childhood home after his mother’s death. In thirty short chapters, each focused on a talismanic object or resonant episode from his childhood, the narrator tries to solve the mystery behind the flood of tears with which his strikingly beautiful, intelligent, and inscrutable mother greeted his birth. Like insects preserved in amber, these objects—an artificial orchid, a statue, a pair of green pumps, a steak knife, a fishing rod and reel, among others—are surrounded by an aura that permeates the narrator’s life. Interspersed with these chapters are fragments from the narrator’s conversation with his present lover, a woman who demands that he verbally confront his past. This difficult conversation charts his gradual liberation from the psychological wounds he suffered growing up.
Not only an account of a son’s attempt to understand his enigmatic mother, My Mother’s Tears is also a moving novel about language and memory that explores the ambivalent power of words to hurt and to heal, to revive the past and to put childhood demons to rest.
While presenting the Nobel Prize in Literature to J. M. G. Le Clézio in 2008, the Nobel Committee called him the “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.” In Mydriasis, the author proves himself to be precisely that as he takes us on a phantasmagoric journey into parallel worlds and whirling visions. Dwelling on darkness, light, and human vision, Le Clézio’s richly poetic prose composes a mesmerizing song and a dizzying exploration of the universe—a universe not unlike the abysses explored by the highly idiosyncratic Belgian poet Henri Michaux.
Michaux is, in fact, at the heart of To the Icebergs. Fascinated by his writing, Le Clézio includes Michaux’s "poem of the poem," "Iniji," thereby allowing the poet’s voice to emerge by itself. What follows is much more than a simple analysis of the poem; rather, it is an act of complete insight and understanding, a personal appropriation and elevation of the work. Written originally in the 1970s and now translated into English for the first time, these two brief, incisive and haunting texts will further strengthen the reputation of one of the world’s greatest and most visionary living writers.