World Literature

Grace Kim

Most literature coming out of South Africa that deals with racial issues focuses on apartheid. Yet the country's problems with race are set deeper in its history. The enslavement of black Africans by European colonizers in South Africa is a story not often told. Enter Yvette Christiansë and her debut novel, UnconfessedGrace Kim reviews the tumultuous story of a slave, Sila, who is based on an historical character sentenced to prison for the heinous crime of infanticide. 

Karl Fotovat

Thomas Pynchon is an enigmatic figure, to say nothing of his novels. Many a reader have gotten lost navigating his notoriously dense fiction. Yet, Pynchon is not impossible. In this meditation on the current bookends of his literary career, Karl Fotovat discovers in V. and Inherent Vice the nexus where psychology, reality, politics, superfluity and fantasy converge to create the world of Pynchon.

Grace Kim

What role does literature play in the healing process? A necessary one argues reviewer Grace Kim. In 1998 Boubacar Boris Diop was one of ten African writers to participate in the Rwanda: écrire par devoir de mémoire project (Rwanda: To Write Against Oblivion). The result, Murambi, The Book of Bones, is a haunting literary tribute that seeks to honor the 800,000 genocide victims and to ensure that we must never forget the inhumanity that beset the African country for 100 bloody days.

Shaun Randol

Warning: plot spoilers below

Let’s get it out of the way right now! All those who want to shake their heads or poke fun or talk down or do anything less than complimentary for eagerly devouring Dan Brown’s new novel, The Lost Symbol, do it now.

I’ll wait…

Marianne LeNabat

"The first and main impulse was to write about music," Eva Hoffman said of Appassionata. Growing up, Hoffman aspired to be a musician, but life, as so often happens, intervened. Taking up the pen instead, her latest novel explores politics and romance from the perspective of a path forsaken—that of a professional pianist. Marianne LeNabat reviews.

Shaun Randol

Sex. Violence. Existential crises. Power. Corruption. These themes, and more, are tackled in Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North, a moving portait of post-colonial Sudan in the 1960s. In this review, Shaun Randol explores the author's take on the ideas of the Self and Other, and the difficulties of moving on.

Shaun Randol

Voices of Time: A Life in Stories is a compilation of ~330 vignettes, most delivered in one page and many in just a paragraph or two. As such, Voices is a colorful collection of fleeting, but not trivial, thoughts from Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano. It is, in turns, poetic, whimsical, political, and reverential.

Shaun Randol

A “true masterpiece” said Vanguardia about this novel. It must be the case that Vanguardia doesn’t get out to the bookstores that often, because for me Distant Star is consistently less than stellar. It is not an entire disaster: the story is book-ended by twenty exciting pages on either side. But for the most part, the middle of the book sagged under its own boring weight. Many of the sentences just zipped past my eyes, like cockroaches skittering across dirty floors.

Shaun Randol

Having confined myself to reading non-Western authors this year, those familiar with Vladimir Nabokov and Lolita may question my pick. After all, the book was written in English and it takes place in the Westernest of all Western cultures: the U.S. of A. Rest assured, however, that I am—or was—unschooled in Nabokovism.

Shaun Randol

By switching between flashbacks and the present, and sprinkling in some gritty scenes (child rape) and colorful detail (quoting John Wayne) Chris Abani builds a compelling narrative through the first half Graceland, like the beginning of a roller coaster ride clacking you to the top of the first big hill.

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