German novelist Daniel Kehlmann has a penchant for the figure who wakes with relief from one dream only to discover he has passed into another. In Kehlmann’s excellent historical novel Measuring the World (2006), the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss finds himself “lying on the plank bed and
Portuguese novelist José Saramago specializes in bold moves. In The Stone Raft (1986), the grand fabulist wrenched the Iberian Peninsula from its moorings; in Blindness (1995), he rendered an entire population sightless. A spry demiurge, indeed. Now well past eighty, with his Death with Interruptions
Even more than its neighbors, Belarus remains chained to its past. Landlocked by Russia and the Baltic states, the country was decimated in the 1940s by the Nazis; over the next two decades, it was absorbed into the Soviet Union, its language and culture suppressed. The majority of postwar poets
Noir, Olivier Pauvert’s debut novel, is an examination of crippling paranoia within a future France, governed by a democratically elected fascist National Party and where a daylight curfew forces nonwhites to live in near seclusion. It is a cheerless vision, explored with great vim, that grows
Just over one hundred pages long, Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine is a document that could, with a little effort, be ripped from its spine, stuffed inside a large bottle, and tossed end over end into the sea. The publishing history of Stanley Crawford’s sad, serene fiction resembles the fate
Laney Brooks is a woman in agony, suffering from an undefined malady that makes standard housewife ennui—boredom from carpooling or picking up dry cleaning—look like a picnic. Laney’s despair, ably depicted by Amy Koppelman in her affecting second novel, I Smile Back, is rooted in childhood.
Anyone who saw the 2005 film Old Joy, which is based on the lead story in Livability, will immediately understand what I mean when I say that Jon Raymond is a master at re-creating those feelings of unease and confusion that arise when relationships are at their most precarious. Most of the nine
When Evan Dara’s first novel, The Lost Scrapbook, was chosen in a national fiction competition judged by William Vollmann, then published by Fiction Collective Two in 1995, the only review in the mainstream press compared the book to William Gaddis’s famously ambitious and demanding debut, The