Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann (1926–73) is recognized as one of the most important novelists, poets, and playwrights of postwar German literature. As befitting such a versatile writer, her War Diary is not a day-by-day journal but a series of sketches, depicting the last months of World War II and the first year of the subsequent British occupation of Austria. These articulate and powerful entries—all the more remarkable taking into account Bachmann’s young age at the time—reveal the eighteen-year-old’s hatred of both war and Nazism as she avoids the fanatics’ determination to “defend Klagenfurt to the last man and the last woman.”
The British occupation leads to her incredible meeting with a British officer, Jack Hamesh, a Jew who had originally fled Vienna for England in 1938. He is astonished to find in Austria a young girl who has read banned authors such as Mann, Schnitzler, and Hofmannsthal. Their relationship is captured here in the emotional and moving letters Hamesh writes to Bachmann when he travels to Israel in 1946. In his correspondence, he describes how in his new home of Israel, he still suffers from the rootlessness affecting so many of those who lost parents, family, friends, and homes in the war.
War Diary provides unusual insight into the formation of Bachmann as a writer and will be cherished by the many fans of her work. But it is also a poignant glimpse into life in Austria in the immediate aftermath of the war, and the reflections of both Bachmann and Hamesh speak to a significant and larger story beyond their personal experiences.
Johnny is from New Jersey, and Kari is from Oslo. They meet in New York in the late 1950s and soon fall in love, get married, and move to Asbury Park, where their life unfolds like a dream: Kari gives birth to two beautiful daughters, and Johnny is a wildly successful entrepreneur. Everything begins to unravel, though, when Johnny’s business partner commits suicide and their company plunges into bankruptcy. Then a deadly accident claims their daughters. Reeling from the tragedy and seeking a new beginning, Johnny and Kari move to Norway. But they can’t escape their trauma as it continues to take a toll on their marriage, especially as Johnny struggles to find his place in a foreign country. The Weather Changed, Summer Came and So On is a haunting novel about love, loss, and identity that focuses on the survival of trauma. Translated beautifully from its original Norwegian by Diane Oatley, it constructs and inhabits a liminal world as the protagonists seek to stay afloat amid grief and estrangement. This is a gripping, heartbreaking story that will move readers with its timelessness and universal relevance.
Maryse Condé is one of the best-known and most beloved French Caribbean literary voices. The author of more than twenty novels, she was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2015 and has long been recognized as a giant of black feminist literature. While Condé has previously published an autobiography of her childhood, What Is Africa to Me? tells for the first time the story of her early adult years in Africa—years formative not only for her, but also for African colonies appealing for their own independence.
What Is Africa to Me? traces the late 1950s to 1968, chronicling Condé’s life in Sékou Touré’s Guinea to her time in Kwame N’Krumah’s Ghana, where she rubbed shoulders with Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Julius Nyerere, and Maya Angelou. Accusations of subversive activity resulted in Condé’s deportation from Ghana. Settling down in Sénégal, Condé ended her African years with close friends in Dakar, including filmmakers, activists, and Haitian exiles, before putting down more permanent roots in Paris.
Condé’s story is more than one of political upheaval, however; it is also the story of a mother raising four children as she battles steep obstacles, of a Guadeloupean seeking her identity in Africa, and of a young woman searching for her freedom and vocation as a writer. What Is Africa to Me? is a searing portrait of a literary genius—it should not be missed.
Martin Mosebach’s novel What Was Before opens with a young couple enjoying a moment of carefree intimacy. Then the young woman, turning slightly more serious, asks her lover that fateful question, one that sounds so innocent but carries toxic seeds of jealousy: What was your life like before you met me? The answer grows into an entire book, an elaborate house of cards, filled with intrigue, sex, betrayal, exotic birds, and far-flung locations.
Set against the backdrop of Frankfurt’s affluent suburbs, this elliptical tale of coincidence and necessity unfolds through a series of masterly constructed vignettes, which gradually come together to form a scintillating portrait of the funny, tender, and destructive guises that love between two people can assume and the effect it has on everyone around them. Hailed in Germany as the first great social novel of the twenty-first century, What Was Before is an Elective Affinities for our time.
This lyrical novel, set in the surroundings of the Palestinian village of Zakariyya, weaves a narrative rich in sensory detail yet troubled by the porousness of memory. It tells the story of the relationship between two figures of deep mythical resonance in the region, Yahya and Zakariyya, figures who live in the present but bear the names—and many traits—of two saints. Ranging from today into back to pre-1948 Palestine, the book presents both a compelling portrait of a contemporary village and a sacred geography that lies beyond and beneath the present state of the world. Sensual, rich in allusion, yet at the same time focused on the struggles of today, Where the Bird Disappeared is a powerful novel of both connection and dispossession.
This spirited and engaging conversation between two of America’s foremost and influential cultural critics and international theorists of the last decade explores what both Enlightenment and contemporary philosophers have to say about the idea of the nation-state, who exercises power in today’s world, whether there is such a thing as a right to rights, and the past, present, and future of the state in a time of globalization. In a world of migration and shifting allegiances caused by cultural, economic, military, and climatic change, the nation-state, as Judith Butler and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak argue, has become a more provisional place—and its inhabitants, more stateless.
Europe's turn of fortune is humbling, humiliating and, perhaps, irreversible. What went wrong, and when? Europe's most audacious moment occurred sometime between 1989 and 1991, a brief period that encapsulated both the demise of communism in Central and Eastern Europe and the bold steps forward on the path towards an 'ever-closer union' in Western Europe. Twenty years later, the dramatic failures of economic and political integration have forced Europeans to re-consider the underpinnings of their project. The economic crisis of 2010-11 also manifested itself as a crisis of European democracy. Old questions acquired new meaning: Is it possible to maintain conditions for self-government while undermining the nation-state? What are the limits of solidarity? Can Europe be truly united through its common history, or its common currency? Is further unity in Europe even desirable?
In Whose Liberty Is It Anyway? Stefan Auer exposes the limits of the current European project by interrogating some of its many incongruities, particularly when it comes to its commitment to freedom. The author argues that the calls for more European solidarity are not convincing when Europe's poor are asked to pay for the mistakes of those who are more fortunate. Europe's unity, Auer asserts, can only be maintained by accepting its limitations and by beginning to fulfill some of its many promises.
In Winter Stories, Norwegian author Ingrid H. Rishøi gives us three contemporary tales about personal resilience in the face of adversity. We meet a teenager on the run from social services with her younger half-sister and half-brother in tow; a young single mother struggling to provide adequately for her daughter; and an ex-convict striving to overcome personal shortcomings and build a relationship with his son.
Driven by a fundamental need to secure and protect relationships with loved ones, Rishøi’s characters stumble, fall, and climb to their feet again—even though the deck inevitably seems to be stacked against them. Seemingly minor snags in their best-laid plans carry the risk of undermining everything with potentially life-altering consequences. What these stories illustrate, however, is how small victories and the unexpected compassion of virtual strangers can have a far-reaching and profound impact. With empathy and sensitivity, the poetic sensibility of Rishøi’s literary voice beautifully illuminates the fragile vulnerability of the human condition. In a time when the level of skepticism and distrust between people is rising, these stories remind us of the humanity that unites us all.
First published in Italian in 1968, The World Saved by Kids was written in the aftermath of deep personal change and in the context of what Elsa Morante called the “great youth movement exploding against the funereal machinations of the organized contemporary world.” Morante believed that it was only the youth who could truly hear her revolutionary call. With the fiftieth anniversary of the tumultuous events of 1968 approaching, there couldn’t be a more timely moment for this first English translation of Morante’s work to appear.
Greeted by Antonio Porta as one of the most important books of its decade, The World Saved by Kids showcases Morante’s true mastery of tone, rhythm, and imagery as she works elegy, parody, storytelling, song, and more into an act of linguistic magic through which Gramsci and Rimbaud, Christ and Antigone, Mozart and Simone Weil, and a host of other figures join the sassy, vulnerable neighborhood kids in a renewal of the word’s timeless, revolutionary power to explore and celebrate life’s insoluble paradox.
Morante gained international recognition and critical acclaim for her novels History, Arturo’s Island, and Aracoeli, and The World Saved By Kids may be her best book and the one that most closely represents her spirit.