• print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2007

    Shining at the Bottom of the Sea, the second novel by Stephen Marche, purports to be a compendium of Sanjanian literature, Sanjania being “little more than an invisible dot in the middle of the North Atlantic, almost in danger of becoming a phantom island.” Introduced by a scholar named Stephen Marche, this “anthology” illustrates Sanjanian literary development over several hundred years, from the distribution of pirate narratives and morality tales in the eighteenth century, to fiction’s engagement with the struggles of the colony under British rule, to the flowering of narrative that came

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2007

    In Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s stories, the subjectivity of perception is often dramatized. His principal subjects—the gap between society and self; the conflict between tradition and modernity, religion and enlightenment—are transformed via various renderings. Mandarins, his latest collection, features fifteen tales, including three new English translations. In the title story, a man’s spell of apathy and ennui is momentarily broken when he witnesses the young peasant woman he’s been observing on a train throwing mandarins, “the color of the warm sun” and a symbol of Japanese daily life and hope,

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2007

    SEEKING IN TONGUES

    A beautiful man with violet eyes sequesters himself in a language lab and masters ten tongues yet barely has a word to say for himself. Abel Nema, whose last name, we’re told, translates as “the mute” or “the barbarian,” is a fugitive from a land that no longer exists, living a hand-to-mouth existence in an unnamed European country. Often lost, Abel is periodically deranged, bisexual in his appeal, and a magnet for mayhem; his natural state is ambiguity. In Day In Day Out, Terézia Mora—a fiction writer, playwright, and translator born in Hungary in 1971 who’s lived in Germany since 1990— has

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2007

    STRANGER ZONE

    Among the pleasures to be found in reading Christian Oster’s books, surprise may not numbered. The unnamed protagonist of his new novel, The Unforeseen, will be all too familiar to readers of his other works in English—this is the third of his eight novels to be translated from the French. Like the narrators of A Cleaning Woman (2001) and My Big Apartment (which won the 1999 Medicis Prize), this one is a neurotic. Like them, he is a lonely Parisian of indeterminate white-collar employment; like them, he must recover from a romance that has gone sour for no particular reason. Like them, he meets

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2007

    In the post–James Frey world, there is much debate about where to draw the line between nonfiction and fiction. The essential argument concerns literature’s responsibility to the facts: Can a memoir engage in a degree of imagining in the service of telling an emotional truth? Is an autobiographical novel really a memoir trying to pass as a work of fiction? And what of poetry, a genre in which fact and fantasy commingle? C. D. Wright’s One Big Self—the poetic half of her collaboration with photographer Deborah Luster (the photographic version was published as a limited edition in 2003)—attempts

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2006

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