The world as we know it is over. Man’s reign on earth has come to an end, and the reign of the animals has begun. The indifferently wise Cyrus Golden the Lion rules the three-city state that is now what remains of Europe. Yet, other forces stir while the king of beasts sleeps—the last struggling human resistance, the Atlanteans with their mysterious undersea plans; the factions of Badger, Fox and Lynx within the empire itself; and, in the jungles across the ocean, a ceramic form of postbiological life. Welcome to the setting of Dietmar Dath’s futuristic novel, The Abolition of Species, presenting an imaginative and highly original take on the decline and rebirth of civilization.
Cyrus the Lion sends the wolf Dmitri Stepanovich on a diplomatic mission, and in the course of his journey he discovers truths about natural history, war, and politics for which he was unprepared. The subsequent war that breaks out in The Abolition of Species will come to span three planets and thousands of years—encompassing treachery and massacres, music and mathematics, savagery and decadence, as well as the terraformation of Mars and Venus and the manipulation of time itself. By turns grandiose, horrific, erotic, scathing, and visionary, The Abolition of Species is a tale of love and war after the fall of man and an epic meditation on the theory of evolution unlike any other.
One of Germany’s most celebrated contemporary writers, Dath has distinguished himself through works that deftly combine popular culture—particularly music—with left-wing politics and the fantastic. The Abolition of Species embodies the best of what Dath is known for and will cement his reputation among English readers excited to discover one of the freshest voices in contemporary literature.
Pascal Quignard Seagull Books, 2015 Library of Congress PQ2677.U486A6413 2015
Prolific essayist, translator, and critic Pascal Quignard has described his Last Kingdom series as something unique. It consists, he says, “neither of philosophical argumentation, nor short learned essays, nor novelistic narration,” but comes, rather, from a phase of his work in which the very concept of genre has been allowed to fall away, leaving an entirely modern, secular, and abnormal vision of the world.
In Abysses, the newest addition to the series, Quignard brings us yet more of his troubling, questing characters—souls who are fascinated by what preceded and conceived them. He writes with a rich mix of anecdote and reflection, aphorism and quotation, offering enigmatic glimpses of the present, and confident, pointed borrowings from the past. But when he raids the murkier corners of the human record, he does so not as a historian but as an antiquarian. Quignard is most interested in pursuit of those stories that repeat and echo across the seasons in their timelessness.
Praise for Quignard “Quignard is undoubtedly the most iconoclastic of contemporary French authors.”—Catherine Argand, Lire
In contemporary Norwegian fiction Tomas Espedal’s work stands out as uniquely personal; it can be difficult to separate the fiction from Espedal’s own experiences. In that vein, his novel Against Art is not just the story of a boy growing up to be a writer, but it is also the story of writing. Specifically, it is about the profession of writing—the routines, responsibility, and obstacles. Yet, Against Art is also about being a father, a son, and a grandson; about a family and a family’s tales, and about how preceding generations mark their successors. It is at once about choices and changes, about motion and rest, about moving to a new place, and about living.
Praise for the Norwegian Edition
“One of the most beautiful, most important books I've read for years.”—Klassekampen
“Espedal has written an amazingly rich novel, which will assuredly stand out as one of the year’s best and will also further fortify the quality of Norwegian literature abroad.”— Adresseavisen
“Against Art attacks literature while at the same time being intensely literary. Our greatest sorrows and torments, the individual experiences often so anemic in art, find a voice of their own.”—Morgenbladet
“Against Art moves me with its maternal history and proves yet again that Tomas Espedal writes great novels.”—Dag og Tid
In contemporary Norwegian fiction Tomas Espedal’s work stands out as uniquely personal; it can be difficult to separate the fiction from Espedal’s own experiences. Against Nature, a companion volume to Espedal's earlier Against Art, is an examination of factory work, love’s labor, and the work of writing. Espedal dwells on the notion that working is required in order to live in compliance with society, but is this natural? And how can it be natural when he is drawn toward impossible things—impossible love, books, myths, and taboos? He is drawn into the stories of Abélard and Héloïse, of young Marguerite Duras and her Chinese lover, and soon realizes that he, too, is turning into a person who must choose to live against nature.
“A masterpiece of literary understatement. Everybody who has recently been thirsting for a new, unexhausted realism, like water in the desert, will love this book.”—Die Zeit, on the Norwegian edition
Hasan Azizul Huq is known for his stories that bring a powerful social consciousness to bear on the lives of ordinary people in contemporary Bangladesh—but doing so with surprising twists to what we think of as the typical grounds of realistic fiction. The Agony of the Ghost gathers twelve remarkable stories from his large oeuvre that offer a sense of the range of his insights and approaches. In “Without Name or Lineage,” a man returns home in search of his wife and son after the war, only to find them in ways both unexpected and expected. “The Sorcerer” finds a sorcerer dying without revealing his secrets to three brothers who had been trying to compel him to tell—and strange deaths follow. In “ Throughout the Afternoon,” a disarmingly simple story, a young boy awaits his grandfather’s death. In all the stories, the lives of the most disadvantaged people in Bengali society are revealed in harrowing, unforgettable detail.
Gustave Roud, perhaps the most beloved poet of Swiss Romandy, is widely considered the founder of modern francophone Swiss literature, along with Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz. Roud lived at his grandfather’s farm in Carrouge, Canton Vaud, for his entire life. In Air of Solitude, the first section of this two-part book, he stalks the structures and fields of his youth, composing memories out of his landscape. The narrator appears homegrown, expressing nostalgia for what is already in front of him. Yet, like an outsider, he remains distinctly elsewhere, unable to participate in the workday rituals of the men around him—a stalking shadow of unfulfilled yearning for affection and belonging. Air of Solitude explores the rural bodies and lives of the Vaudois, returning again and again to the desired male laborer Aimé.
Between each section of Air of Solitude, Roud inserts short vignettes that provide fleeting and lyrical images that resemble allusions to half-forgotten memories. However, Roud leaves the relationship between the titled sections and the interludes ambiguous. As the book concludes with Requiem, the remnants of narrative shatter, leaving behind only the spectral tatters of memory as Roud confronts the enigma of loss in peerless, jewel-studded elegiac prose. With these two tales, Roud revives the pastoral tradition and injects it with distinctly modernist anxiety and disillusionment.
The personal history of journalist Henri Alleg is tied inextricably to the history of the French-Algerian Conflict. Best known for his book The Question, a first-hand account of his torture by French troops during the Algerian war for independence, Alleg is famous both for having brought the issue of French torture to the public eye and for his passionate work as a writer, a newspaperman, and a communist activist.
Beginning with his arrival in Algiers in 1939, when he fell immediately in love with the vibrant city, to his departure in 1965, after Boumédienne seized power, this is a critical work of history made devastatingly personal. Algerian Memoirs recounts his experience under the Vichy regime and such watershed moments in colonial history as the infamous Battle of Algiers. In these pages, he relives the violence and the summary executions, the communist struggle, and his party’s strained relations with the National Liberation Front. And, of course, he revisits in stark detail his arrest and torture by the French, his years in prison, and eventual escape to Czechoslovakia.
In the telling of his own story, Alleg explores some of the key events in the history of Europe and North Africa and in the history of the radical press. This is an irreplaceable document of colonialism and its tragic aftermath.
In June 1939 Annemarie Schwarzenbach and fellow writer Ella Maillart set out from Geneva in a Ford, heading for Afghanistan. The first women to travel Afghanistan’s Northern Road, they fled the storm brewing in Europe to seek a place untouched by what they considered to be Western neuroses.
The Afghan journey documented in All the Roads Are Open is one of the most important episodes of Schwarzenbach’s turbulent life. Her incisive, lyrical essays offer a unique glimpse of an Afghanistan already touched by the “fateful laws known as progress,” a remote yet “sensitive nerve centre of world politics” caught amid great powers in upheaval. In her writings, Schwarzenbach conjures up the desolate beauty of landscapes both internal and external, reflecting on the longings and loneliness of travel as well as its grace.
Maillart’s account of their trip, The Cruel Way, stands as a classic of travel literature, and, now available for the first time in English, Schwarzenbach’s memoir rounds out the story of the adventure.
Praise for the German Edition
“Above all, [Schwarzenbach’s] discovery of the Orient was a personal one. But the author never loses sight of the historical and social context. . . . She shows no trace of colonialist arrogance. In fact, the pieces also reflect the experience of crisis, the loss of confidence which, in that decade, seized the long-arrogant culture of the West.”—Süddeutsche Zeitung
Young Hans arrives with one suitcase in a squalid village on the eastern edge of empire—a surreal postwar Austria. His uncle has died, and according to the tradition required by his people—the Bieresch—Hans must assume his uncle’s place for one year. In a series of interactions with the village’s tragicomic characters and their contradictory stories and scriptures, the reluctant Hans must face a world both familiar and alien.
Among the Bieresch is Hans’s story—one of bizarre customs, tangled relationships, and the struggle between two mystical sects. The novel, translated by Isabel Fargo Cole, is a German cult favorite and a masterwork of culture shock fiction that revels in exploring oppressive cultural baggage and assimilation. Readers will encounter here an amalgam drawing from Kafka, Borges, and Beckett, among others, combining to make Klaus Hoffer’s novel a world utterly its own.
“One of the few works that will loom from the dust of this century one day.”—Urs Widmer
Northern Spain is the only part of Western Europe where anarchism played a significant role in political life of the twentieth century. Enjoying wide-ranging support among both the urban and rural working class, its importance peaked during its “brief summer”—the civil war between the Republic and General Franco’s Falangists, during which anarchists even participated in the government of Catalonia.
Anarchy’s Brief Summer brings anarchism to life by focusing on the charismatic leader Buenaventura Durruti (1896–1936), who became a key figure in the Spanish Civil War after a militant and adventurous youth. The basis of the book is a compilation of texts: personal testimony, interviews with survivors, contemporary documents, memoirs, and academic assessments. They are all linked by Enzenberger’s own assessment in a series of glosses—a literary form that is somewhere between retelling and reconstruction—with the contradiction between fiction and fact reflecting the political contradictions of the Spanish Revolution. On the trail of forgotten, half-suppressed struggles, Anarchy’s Brief Summer offers a unique portrait of a revolutionary movement that is largely unknown outside Spain.
Widely considered the foremost French poet of his generation, Yves Bonnefoy has wowed the literary world for decades with his diffuse volumes. First published in France in 2008, The Anchor’s Long Chain is an indispensable addition to his oeuvre. Enriching Bonnefoy’s earlier work, the volume, translated by Beverley Bie Brahic, also innovates, including an unprecedented sequence of nineteen sonnets. These sonnets combine the strictness of the form with the freedom to vary line length and create evocative fragments. Compressed, emotionally powerful, and allusive, the poems are also autobiographical—but only in glimpses. Throughout, Bonnefoy conjures up life’s eternal questions with each new poem.
Longer, discursive pieces, including the title poem’s meditation on a prehistoric stone circle and a legend about a ship, are also part of this volume, as are a number of poetic prose pieces in which Bonnefoy, like several of his great French predecessors, excels. Long-time fans will find much to praise here, while newer readers will quickly find themselves under the spell of Bonnefoy’s powerful, discursive poetry.
Praise for Bonnefoy
“Few exceptions of contemporary French letters deserve the attention of the reading public in America more than Bonnefoy. . . . His writings are an important lighthouse on the contemporary cultural coastline.”—Hudson Review
“Bonnefoy’s poems, prose, texts, and penetrating essays have never ceased to stimulate both the writing of French poetry and the discussion of what its deepest purpose should be. . . . He is one of the rare contemporary authors for whom writing does not—or should not—conclude in utter despair, but rather in the tendering of hope.”— France Magazine
“I think in pictures. Poems help me with this. They are like buoys in the sea. I swim to them, from one to the other. In between, without them, I am lost. They are the handholds where something masses together in the infinite expanse.”—Anselm Kiefer
The only visual artist to have won the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, Anselm Kiefer is a profoundly literary painter. In the ten conversations with the writer and theologian Klaus Dermutz collected here, Kiefer returns to the essential elements of his art, his aesthetics, and his creative processes.
Kiefer describes how the central materials of his art—lead, sand, water, fire, ashes, plants, clothing, oil paint, watercolor, and ink—influence the act of creation. No less decisive are his intellectual and artistic touchstones: the sixteenth-century Jewish mystic Isaac Luria, the German Romantic poet Novalis, Ingeborg Bachmann, Paul Celan, Martin Heidegger, Marcel Proust, Adalbert Stifter, the operas of Richard Wagner, the Catholic liturgy, and the innovative theater director and artist Tadeusz Kantor. Kiefer and Dermutz discuss all of these influential thinkers, as well as Kiefer’s own status as a controversial figure. His relentless examination of German history, the themes of guilt, suffering, communal memory, and the seductions of destruction have earned him equal amounts of criticism and praise. The conversations in this book offer a rare insight into the mind of a gifted creator, appealing to artists, critics, art historians, cultural journalists, and anyone interested in the visual arts and the literature and history of the twentieth century.
Alexander Kluge’s work has long grappled with the Third Reich and its aftermath, and the extermination of the Jews forms its gravitational center. Kluge is forever reminding us to keep our present catastrophes in perspective—“calibrated”—against this historical monstrosity. Kluge’s newest work is a book about bitter fates, both already known and yet to unfold. Above all, it is about the many kinds of organized machinery built to destroy people. These forty-eight stories of justice and injustice are dedicated to the memory of Fritz Bauer, determined fighter for justice and district attorney of Hesse during the Auschwitz Trials. “The moment they come into existence, monstrous crimes have a unique ability,” Bauer once said, “to ensure their own repetition.” Kluge takes heed, and in these pages reminds us of the importance of keeping our powers of observation and memory razor sharp.
Sibylle Lewitscharoff Seagull Books, 2019 Library of Congress MLCS 2014/01660 (P)
“Gone, finito, The End, I say. A father who puts an end to it all before he wears down the whole family deserves more praise than damnation.”
Two sisters travel to Sofia—in a convoy of luxury limousines arranged by a fellow Bulgarian exile—to bury their less-than-beloved father. Like tourists, they are chauffeured by the ever-charming Ruben Apostoloff—one sister in the back seat, one in the passenger seat, one sharp-tongued and aggressive, the other polite and considerate. In a caustic voice, Apostoloff shows them the treasures of his beloved country: the peacock-eye pottery (which contains poisonous dye), the Black Sea coast (which is utterly destroyed), the architecture (a twentieth-century crime). His attempts to win them over seem doomed to fail, as the sisters’ Bulgarian heritage is a heavy burden—their father, a successful doctor and melancholy immigrant, appears in their dreams still dragging the rope with which he hanged himself.
An account of a daughter’s bitterly funny reckoning with her father and his country, laden with linguistic wit and black humor, Apostoloff will introduce the unique voice of Sibylle Lewitscharoff to a new and eager audience.
In The Atlas of an Anxious Man, Christoph Ransmayr offers a mesmerizing travel diary—a sprawling tale of earthly wonders seen by a wandering eye. This is an exquisite, lyrically told travel story.
Translated by Simon Pare, this unique account follows Ransmayr across the globe: from the shadow of Java’s volcanoes to the rapids of the Mekong and Danube Rivers, from the drift ice of the Arctic Circle to Himalayan passes, and on to the disenchanted islands of the South Pacific. Ransmayr begins again and again with, “I saw. . .” recounting to the reader the stories of continents, eras, and landscapes of the soul. Like maps, the episodes come together to become a book of the world—one that charts the life and death, happiness and fate of people bound up in images of breathtaking beauty.
“One of the German language’s most gifted young novelists.”—Library Journal, on The Terrors of Ice and Darkness
Christa Wolf Seagull Books, 2019 Library of Congress PT2685.O36A9513 2014 | Dewey Decimal 833.914
Christa Wolf was arguably the best-known and most influential writer in the former East Germany. Having grown up during the Nazi regime, she and her family were forced to flee their home like many others, nearly starving to death in the process. Her earliest novels were controversial because they contained veiled criticisms of the Communist regime which landed her on government watch lists. Her past continued to permeate her work and her life, as she said, “You can only fight sorrow when you look it in the eye.”
August is Christa Wolf’s last piece of fiction, written in a single sitting as an anniversary gift to her husband. In it, she revisits her stay at a tuberculosis hospital in the winter of 1946, a real life event that was the inspiration for the closing scenes of her 1976 novel Patterns of Childhood. This time, however, her fictional perspective is very different. The story unfolds through the eyes of August, a young patient who has lost both his parents to the war. He adores an older girl, Lilo, a rebellious teenager who controls the wards. Sixty years later, August reflects on his life and the things that she taught him.
Written in taut, affectionate prose, August offers a new entry into Christa Wolf’s work and, incidentally, her first and only male protagonist. More than a literary artifact, this new novel is a perfectly constructed story of a quiet life well lived. For both August and Christa Wolf, the past never dies.