Matthew Ladd

  • Borges's Father

    When the first editor’s note appears early in Macedonio Fernández’s The Museum of Eterna’s Novel, you aren’t quite sure it wasn’t written by the author in one of his alternate guises. But this is only the beginning of such playfulness. To American readers, Macedonio is not the household name that his former student and self-confessed plagiarist, Borges, has become. Yet his works circle, gambol, and swerve in an eminently familiar way. Macedonio stands (or more likely cartwheels) at the beginning of the Ultraist literary movement that made Borges possible, and his impact on the young Argentinean

  • Running

    Jean Echenoz’s twelfth book, his second historical novel, throws into relief the difficult and remarkable life of Emil Zátopek, a Czech long-distance runner. The story might be merely inspirational if Echenoz did not tell it so truthfully: Though Zátopek is regarded as one of the greatest runners of the twentieth century, his famously brutal training techniques and graceless form suggested an expertise almost wrenched from his body: “He knows he can rely on himself and on his love of pain,” Echenoz writes.

    In fact, given not only Zátopek’s Herculean exercise regimen but also the punishing

  • In the United States of Africa

    To name your book In the United States of Africa, and to present readers with a vision of the world turned completely on its head, in which the urbane citizens of Rwanda, Nigeria, and the eastern Cape are given to fretting over a chronic glut of working-class immigrants from the war-torn and disease-ridden hamlets of Europe and North America, is to suggest a project barely containable in this volume’s hundred-odd pages. There’s too much history to reshape, too many explanations to offer.

    Thankfully, Djiboutian novelist Abdourahman A. Waberi isn’t much interested in offering explanations. The

  • Factory of Tears

    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 exported from the former Eastern bloc have been Polish (Herbert, Milosz, Szymborska), and Belarus, still crouching in Moscow’s long shadow, has yet to produce a bard of international stature. So when the press release for Valzhyna Mort’s Factory of Tears declares it “the first- ever Belarusian/English