Nota Benes, September 2017

The cover to David Bergen's Stranger

David Bergen


The Overlook Press

Canadian writer David Bergen’s Stranger follows a Guatemalan woman who carves a path to the United States through a hostile world steeped in disparity and exploitation in order to retrieve her daughter. Bergen crafts a world not too far removed from our own, neither in time nor condition, through unflinching, intimate prose.



The cover to Kamau Brathwaite's Strange Fruit

Kamau Brathwaite

Strange Fruit

Peepal Tree

This challenging collection of poetry marks Kamau Brathwaite’s departure from the United States back to his native Barbados—a cultural “lynching” that references the collection’s evocative title. With typography, layout, graphics, syntax, and spelling all on the table as fair game for play, each poem in Strange Fruit demands slow consumption and digestion before moving on to the next.


The cover to The Architecture of Loss by Z.P. Dala

Z. P. Dala

The Architecture of Loss

Pegasus Books

When Afroze receives word that her estranged mother is on death’s door, she leaves her home in Cape Town to visit Zululand. As the daughter and mother wade through their pasts to reach reconciliation, they must also navigate the scars and secrets left behind by the country’s Apartheid era. South African author Z. P. Dala’s crisp writing exhumes the festering pieces of the past in a story that strives toward hope and forgiveness.


The cover to The Redemption of Galen Pike by Carys Davies

Carys Davies

The Redemption of Galen Pike


Australian author Carys Davies pieces together this collection of short stories with a myriad of characters from all over the globe, detailing their experiences with suffocating isolation. Davies explores each new environment with a precision of language that fully fleshes out the unique environment of every story and makes the characters dynamic and compelling in such a short space.



The cover to Elle by Philippe Dijan

Philippe Djian


Trans. Michael Katims

Other Press

Michèle wakes up on the floor of her living room after having been raped, and the fallout settles on top of a life already tangled into knots. French author Philippe Djian steps into the mind of this independent and caustically sarcastic woman as she maneuvers a web of complex relationships while refusing to become reduced to a victim. His spare, biting prose captures the nuances of strength and weakness, challenging their perceived duality.


The cover to Lighthouse for the Drowning by Jawdat Fahkreddine

Jawdat Fakhreddine

Lighthouse for the Drowning

Trans. Huda Fakhreddine & Jayson Iwen

BOA Editions

This bilingual collection of Lebanese poet Jawdat Fakhreddine’s poetry (originally published in Arabic in 1996) offers a tantalizing bridge between modernist poetry and the classical Arabic verse tradition. Fakhreddine’s verses are open and intimate yet possess innumerable layers of interpretation in conversation with poets in both the European and Near Eastern tradition.


The cover to Gulag Letters by Arsenii Formakov

Arsenii Formakov

Gulag Letters

Trans. Emily D. Johnson

Yale University Press

This translation of letters that Latvian poet and novelist Arsenii Formakov wrote to his family provides a lucid firsthand account of life within the Russian gulags. Risking his safety with each letter, he supplements descriptions of his hardships with his own poetry stemming from the incarceration. Gulag Letters is a piece of history and art plucked out of the stream of time and placed into the present.


The cover to The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán

Rodrigo Fresán

The Invented Part

Trans. Will Vanderhyden

Open Letter

The Invented Part chronicles the journey of an author who, dissatisfied with the state of modern literature, decides that in order to rectify the situation he must use the Hadron Collider to become a metaphysical writer capable of rewriting the world into his own story. Argentine author Rodrigo Fresán’s manic prose propels readers from one page to the next.


The cover to Open Couplets by Torsa Ghosal

Torsa Ghosal

Open Couplets

Yoda Press

Torsa Ghosal, a PhD candidate in English at Ohio State University, writes her debut novel of an ethnographer named Ira Chatterjee, whose searches for those who have been forgotten bring her back to her hometown of Kolkata. Constructing the narrative primarily through a series of emails, Ghosal brings readers in with powerful concision.



The cover to Nomadologies by Erdağ Göknar

Erdağ Göknar


Turtle Point Press

Erdağ Göknar draws heavily upon his family’s emigration from Turkey to fill this volume of poems that maps out the distances, both physical and conceptual, spanning where we’ve come from to where we are. Rich with history, Nomadologies digs deep into the foundations of notions of home in verses that linger in the mind with the same grace with which they dance across the page.


The cover to The Discovery of Honey by Terry Griggs

Terry Griggs

The Discovery of Honey


The aptly named protagonist of The Discovery of Honey, Hero, is a force to be reckoned with from the day she is born. An omnipotent narrator who revels in disclosing others’ secrets, Hero dashes through a myriad of small-town adventures. Quirky and comedic, Terry Griggs’s work brings a cast of characters to life in rural Canada.



The cover to Zainab by Mohammed Hussein Haikal

Mohammed Hussein Haikal


Trans. John Mohammed Grinsted


While there is predictable controversy over whether Zainab is the first Arabic novel or the first Egyptian novel, this novel’s powerful critique of the treatment of women near the turn of the twentieth century resonates across the years. Haikal’s depiction of rural Egyptian life is a value-added bonus, ensuring Zainab a central place in the library of any serious admirer of Arab literature.


The cover to The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton

Omar Robert Hamilton

The City Always Wins

MCD / Farrar, Straus & Giroux

During the 2011 revolution in Egypt, Mariam and Khalil are at the core of the action, fighting for their ideals, their city, and each other, but all that becomes jeopardized when the regime begins to unravel. Omar Robert Hamilton crafts the crackling atmosphere of being at the cusp of a dramatic, historical change.



The cover to Treasury of Childhood Memories by Akinwumi Isola

Akinwumi Isola

Treasury of Childhood Memories

Trans. Pamela J. Olubunmi Smith

Pan-African University Press

Akinwumi Isola steps back into his childhood in Yoruba to recount thirteen stories of the antics and adventures of the adolescent boys with whom he spent his youth. His lyrical prose re-creates the memories of friendship and community that have been buried underneath the passing years and changing times, teasing out a better understanding of his world in the process.


The cover to Blumenberg by Sibylle Lewitscharoff

Sibylle Lewitscharoff


Trans. Wieland Hoban

University of Chicago Press

Blumenberg is the story of a German philosopher by the same name and a handful of his students who all come face to face with the sudden appearance of a lion nobody else seems able to notice. Translated from German, Sibylle Lewitscharoff’s work is filled with a likable cast of characters pulled along by the flowing, poetic prose.


The cover to Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli

Valeria Luiselli

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions

Coffee House Press

In Tell Me How It Ends, Valeria Luiselli sits down to ask undocumented Latin American children in the United States forty questions. Using their responses, she creates this essay to shine a light on them, forcing people to confront the stark reality these children face every day. Sharp and compelling, Tell Me How It Ends demands that they be seen.



The cover to The Nine of Diamonds: Surroial Mordantless by MacGillivray


The Nine of Diamonds: Surroial Mordantless

Bloodaxe Books (Dufour Editions, distr.)

As much an act of magic as a volume of poetry, The Nine of Diamonds is a psychogeographic collection of poems that asserts MacGillivray’s pride in her Scots heritage. Chock full of death, magic, rage, and power, The Nine of Diamonds jumps off the page like an uncontrollable howl against the unyielding tides of history.



The cover to Blameless by Claudio Magris

Claudio Magris


Trans. Anne Milano Appel

Yale University Press

In Blameless, Italian author Claudio Magris centers his story on a collector with an obsessive fervor for relics of war and the inner turmoil of his curator, who cannot tell if her work is revealing the horrors of war or simply deifying them. Magris’s stream of prose braids these pieces of history together into a story that brings the horrors of the past uncomfortably close to the present.


The cover to Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab by Shani Mootoo

Shani Mootoo

Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab

Akashic Books

Jonathan Lewis-Adey’s mother left when he was nine, but when he finds his estranged parent again, he is surprised to find that the person he knew as his mother has become a man named Sydney. Set in the Trinidad of her upbringing, Shani Mootoo’s vivid writing explores the pain and confusion Jonathan experiences as a result of Sydney’s choices.



 The cover to Atlantic Hotel by João Gilberto NollJoão Gilberto Noll

Atlantic Hotel

Trans. Adam Morris

Two Lines Press

The narrator of Brazilian writer João Gilberto Noll’s Atlantic Hotel tears his way through Brazil, adopting personas and crafting backstories to suit whatever he sets his sights on, until his wandering and deception place him in a situation where he is unable to slink away. Leaping forward at a breakneck pace, the narrator’s chaotic journey, wrapped in uncertainty, carries readers along with him.



The cover to Nihil by Alfredo de PalchiAlfredo de Palchi


Trans. John Taylor

Xenos Books / Chelsea Editions

This stunning collection by Italian poet Alfredo de Palchi pairs autobiographical poetic prose with short poems inspired by a trip to his childhood home. Enlivened with themes that range from the erotic to the deeply mystical, Nihil is both a representative cross-sampling of de Palchi’s work as a poet and an impressive testament to more than a decade’s worth of writing begun more than seven decades into a poet’s life.


The cover of Wolf Hunt by Ivailo PetrovIvailo Petrov

Wolf Hunt

Trans. Angela Rodel

Archipelago Books

Set against the backdrop of a Bulgaria under Soviet communism, six neighbors embark on a hunting trip that becomes a collision of passions and histories. With powerfully pragmatic prose, Ivailo Petrov’s tragic work details the deep wounds inflicted on rural Bulgarian communities by the Soviet regime, using the stories of these six men as an intensely personal example.


The cover to The Magician of Vienna by Sergio Pitol

Sergio Pitol

The Magician of Vienna

Trans. George Henson

Deep Vellum

The final volume in his “Trilogy of Memory,” The Magician of Vienna is Mexican author Sergio Pitol’s partly fictional autobiography of a life steeped in literature. Through lyrical prose that spins with all the mastery of an acrobat, this book is a rebellion against a degenerative neurological condition that affects him even as he writes it.


The cover to Understanding Biographies by Birgitte PossingBirgitte Possing

Understanding Biographies: On Biographies in History and Stories in Biography

Trans. Gaye Kynoch

University Press of Southern Denmark

In light of a surge of interest in biographies in recent years, Danish historian Birgitte Possing examines the genre to reveal the multiplicity of styles and methods within the field. Wielding her expertise in history and precise language, Possing digs to the center of biography and its place in society, both currently and historically.


The cover to For the Love of the Dollar by J.M.ServinJ. M. Servin

For Love of the Dollar: A Portrait of the Artist as an Undocumented Immigrant

Trans. Anthony Seidman

Unnamed Press

Mexican journalist J. M. Servin recounts his nearly ten years in the United States as an illegal immigrant in For Love of the Dollar. Through his critical, cynical, and often humorous prose, Servin reconstructs stories that lend a raw, human element to the discourse of immigration, undocumented workers, and the very concept of being Mexican or American.


The cover to History of a Disappearance by Filip SpringerFilip Springer

History of a Disappearance: The Story of a Forgotten Polish Town

Trans. Sean Gasper Bye

Restless Books

In Poland, the ruins of a small town bury a history of war, displacement, and uranium mining so intense that the town degraded into a shell of itself. Polish journalist Filip Springer fleshes out the history of the town known as Kupferberg, and then Miedzianka, exploring not only the town’s global significance but also adding a human element to the history by looking at the lives of individuals who comprised the town.


The cover to Sweet Bean Paste by Durian SukegawaDurian Sukegawa

Sweet Bean Paste

Trans. Alison Watts


Down on his luck and his dreams out of reach, Sentaro passes his days in a confectionary shop making dorayaki, a Japanese pancake filled with sweet bean paste, until an elderly woman named Tokue changes his life forever. Durian Sukegawa’s concise prose results in a warm tale of human connection.


The cover to Another Morocco by Abdellah TaïaAbdellah Taїa

Another Morocco

Trans. Rachael Small


Moroccan writer Abdellah Taїa’s Another Morocco compiles stories from his first two books, creating a selection of stories that paints a picture of working-class Morocco and the strength of those who suffer under oppression. The first openly gay writer to be published in Morocco, Taїa employs his patient, composed prose to explore the maturation of self (see WLT, Sept. 2013, 45–47).


The cover to An Eternity in Tangiers by Faustin Titi & Eyoum NganguéFaustin Titi & Eyoum Nganguè

An Eternity in Tangiers

Trans. André Naffis-Sahely

Phoneme Media

This compact but powerful graphic novel details one young man’s journey from his home in West Africa toward what he hopes will be a new life in Europe, only to find himself stranded in Tangiers. Artist Faustin Titi’s sensitive line and watercolor finishes bring Eyoum Nganguè’s scenes to life and personalize this eternal story that offers a glimpse into the life of so many African refugees.


The cover to A River, One-Woman Deep by Linda Ty-CasperLinda Ty-Casper

A River, One-Woman Deep: Stories

Philippine American Literary House

In this collection of stories, Filipina American Linda Ty-Casper runs her fingers along the scars left behind in the wake of historical events in the Philippines, parsing out what it means to live through and after the trauma of dictatorships and war. Her sobering descriptions of the intersection of the global and personal create a moving narrative, brimming with strength and humanity.



The cover to To Each Unfolding Leaf by Pierre VoélinPierre Voélin

To Each Unfolding Leaf: Selected Poems (1976–2015)

Trans. John Taylor

Bitter Oleander Press

This edition brings the major works of Swiss poet and essayist Pierre Voélin to anglophone readers for the first time. Presented en face, Voélin’s poetry confronts the inhumanity of man to man while navigating the complex relationships between humanity and the natural systems that produced such a complex and conflicted animal.



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