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A Round-Up of Our Best Book Coverage for February 2017

A Round-Up of Our Best Book Coverage for February 2017

Picture of Michael Barron
Books and Digest Editor
Updated: 28 February 2017

Includes literature from the United States, Russia, Japan, China, South Africa, Egypt and elsewhere.



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“This list, then, is not a list of the best translators under 40, but a nod to a new generation that is helping the art of translation prosper, and an acknowledgement that more languages exist in literary translation than ever before.”

Michael Barron introduces Culture Trip’s “20 Translators Under 40”

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“2084 shows, fully, what had cautiously been argued in a few other works. Namely, that a totalitarian ideology is by definition religious, and that religions all contain the seeds of totalitarianism. Whatever the particular directing ‘truth,’ for both these systems the espoused doctrines are made to be the sole directors of society.”

Simon Leser on Boualem Sansal’s novel 2084

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“Despite the initial allusions to horror Darnielle gives to the novel, he has instead written a unique meditation on rural social mores, small town simplicity, and family grievances.”

Grant Gerald Miller on John Darnielle’s novel Universal Harvester

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“While I can’t tell you which of Du Fu or Li Bai, the innovator or the master, is the greater artist, that both are China’s literary heroes, and likely the country’s most influential poets, for 1,000-year old literature, this is no mean feat.”

Simon Leser on the enduring legacy of Li Bai and Du Fu

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“Alongside Trump’s admonishment of ‘fake news’ and Kellyanne Conway’s use of ‘alternative facts’ Erickson’s Shadowbahn has essentially presented us with a substitute America.”

Hayden Bennett on Steve Erickson’s novel Shadowbahn

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“Research was necessary to make sure everything came together properly in the translation. I combed through most of the prefectural and central police websites (I think all translators have very strange google histories), then government and media websites.”

Jonathan Lloyd-Davies on translating the Japanese crime thriller Six Four

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“There are many other gems in this collection that uncover this vital need for comic relief from the futility and mundanity of existence; while some reveal hidden depths of humor and poignancy only after successive readings, a few are immediately memorable—particularly for the sense of poem-like equivocation they leave behind.”

Jane Cahane on the new Michael Hofmann translation of Franz Kafka’s story collection The Burrow

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“Foreign writers are often called on to be emissaries and explainers of the worlds they come from; and of course those politics do infuse the book. But South African readers, I think, understand my writing as more focused – one chip of colour in a bigger mosaic, a voice from a specific place and background, in conversation with other writers.”

Henrietta Rose-Innes on being a South African writer 

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“In case you’ve yet to be sunk by the deluge of coverage, you should know that the 100th anniversary of Russia’s twin, momentous revolutions lands this year: The Russian Empire collapsed on March 8, 1917, and the Bolsheviks took power a few months later on November 7. To mark the events, we’ll be showcasing a number of works tied to the creation of the Soviet Union and its enduring influence.”

Simon Leser suggests literature for the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution

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“Kitamura directs the narrative without being swept up in its drama. And from the first paragraph, it’s made clear that this won’t be a novel that moves through a relationship’s disintegration, but a rather glacial analysis of its causes.”

Michael Barron on Katie Kitamura’s novel A Separation

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“Whether or not you’re taken in by its intense mood swings or nostalgic evocations of a lost city, there is no doubt the reading experience is unlike any other. Enough to fall in love with, I’d like to think.”

Simon Leser on the legacy of Lawrence Durrell’s novel Justine

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“4 3 2 1 may be Auster’s most ambitious novel to date, a clever re-imagining of the more traditional socio-realist novels of a bygone age. Engrossing, thoughtful, it is in a way celebratory of life, its endless possibilities, and of everything we can be.”

Reece Choules on Paul Auster’s novel 4 3 2 1