The Inquisitors' Manual by Antonio Lobo Antunes,
Translated by Richard Zenith (Grove Press) In his eleventh novel, Antonio Lobo
Antunes, one of the great European literary masters, chronicles the decadence
not just of a family but of an entire society -- a society morally and
spiritually vitiated by four decades of totalitarian rule. Senhor Francisco, a
once powerful state minister and a personal friend of the Portuguese dictator
Salazar, is incapacitated by a stroke, and as he spends his last days in a
nursing home in
by Boris Vian, translated by Stanley Chapman (Dalkey
Archive Press) Set in a bizarre and slightly sinister town where the elderly are
auctioned off at an Old Folks Fair, the townspeople assail the priest in hopes
of making it rain, and the official town scapegoat bears the shame of the
citizens by fishing junk out of the river with his teeth,
is Boris Vian’s most playful and most serious work. The main character is
Clementine, a mother who punishes her husband for causing her the excruciating
pain of giving birth to three babies. As they age, she becomes increasingly
obsessed with protecting them, going so far as to build an invisible wall around
All of these events are observed by Timortis, an elegant
psychiatrist appalled by the town’s oddities, who searches for someone to
psychoanalyze in order to fill the void in his own personality. Unsuccessful, he
settles for a neutered cat and a maid who thinks “psychoanalyze” is a euphemism
As witty and strange as the best of Raymond Queneau and
is the last book Vian completed before his death in 1959.
Although best known as a novelist and playwright, during
his brief lifetime Boris Vian was also an engineer, poet, songwriter, actor,
scriptwriter, translator, painter, composer, jazz trumpeter, and a member of the
by Gerard Donovan (Counterpoint)
Part love story, part moral treatise, part theatre of the absurd, this brilliant
first novel is an examination of the complexity of the human spirit. In
Schopenhauer's Telescope, Donovan, poet and English teacher, creates a
chilling, international novel, a new myth for our age.
In an unnamed European village, in the middle of a civil war, one man, a baker,
digs while another watches over him. Slowly, they begin to talk. Over the course
of the afternoon, as snow falls and truckloads of villagers are corralled in the
next field, we discover why they are there – not just who they are but also how
sinister events in the country have led them to be separated by a deepening
grave, and why the history of civilization is inseparable from the history of
Schopenhauer, the history teacher tells the baker, has a theory about creating a
type of instant perspective. If you find yourself in a crisis, go fifty years
into the future and view yourself through the wrong end of a telescope. Observe
your situation, and then decide what you would do in that situation with the
benefit of hindsight. Then come back to the present and act on your decision. It
may be that Schopenhauer said ten or one hundred years, or maybe Schopenhauer
said nothing of the kind. However the history teacher believes it to be so, and
anyone can check on this theory. The beauty of this story is that it is left in
the capable hands of the history teacher and the baker.
Beautifully written, with a poet's eye for detail together with a compelling
Schopenhauer's Telescope is up-to-date in the best sense – this is not an
You're an Animal, Viskovitz! by Alessandro Boffa
(Knopf) From Italy, a wildly modern riff on Ovid’s Metamorphoses—a
whirlwind of ironic fables in which the central hero, Viskovitz, continually
changes identities in pursuit of his one true love.
A snail with two sexes, a parrot who speaks of love, a dormouse who has erotic dreams, a police dog who’s a Buddhist, a microbe with an inferiority complex, a lion in love with a gazelle, a chameleon hoping to find himself, an intestinal worm, a dung beetle . . . Viskovitz is each of these animals and many more, possessed by their behaviors, their neuroses, their vanities. And the gorgeous and impossible Ljuba, the object of Viskovitz’s desire, is in turn a sow, a bitch, a gazelle. There is an animal passion between them that lasts from story to story, but it is the fullness of the human condition that is portrayed most vividly in these hilarious metamorphoses.
Dazzling beginnings lead into plots full of surprises, ranging from slapstick to Western, from cautionary tale to thriller. Scientific jargon is turned into wordplay and witty aphorism; theatrical reversals and philosophical insights abound.
You're an Animal, Viskovitz! is a triumph of comic inventiveness and intelligence unlike anything we’ve seen before.
Berg by Ann Quin (Dalkey Archive) "A man called Berg, who changed his name to Greb, came to a seaside town intending to kill his father. . . . " So begins Ann Quin's first novel (1964), a bleak and gritty story of three characters--Alastair Berg, his father, and their mistress. Written in a style that vacillates between dirty realism and surreal comedy, Berg chronicles the interrelations between these three characters as they slowly circle one another in an ascending spiral of violence. A wonderful complex weave of words and imagery always gripping in sentiment.
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