Nota Benes, May 2018

Kazim Ali

Inquisition

Wesleyan University Press

Kazim Ali’s collection of eclectic poems examines the many facets of identity expected to arise during such a reflective eponymous activity. Both deeply evocative and widely varied in style, the pieces lend themselves to deep investment and engagement, taking the reader through the twists and turns of navigating today’s world.

 

A. M. Bakalar

Children of Our Age

Jantar

Children of Our Age is centered on the Polish community of London. The book is filled with a wide variety of characters, with different threads leading back to their pasts in Poland and tying them to their present lives in London. They become connected as their lives converge and their desires come into conflict. A thrilling story of exploitation and deceit, Children of Our Age is a powerful look at the immigrant experience.

 

 

Ishaq Imruh Bakari

Without Passport or Apology

Smokestack Books

Drawing on experiences of migration and African diaspora, Caribbean-born writer and filmmaker Ishaq Imruh Bakari unfolds his new book of poetry across many places, invoking figures like Marcus Garvey and Stuart Hall along the way. Bakari’s tight, multivocal verse makes frequent use of physical shape and space, the boundary-less flow of text hinting at the “new forms” that come from migration “without passport or apology.”

 

Bessora & Barroux

Alpha: Abidjan to Paris

Trans. Sarah Ardizzone

Bellevue Literary Press

Bessora’s prose and Barroux’s illustrations join to illuminate the heart-wrenching journey of a West African refugee on a quest to reunite with his family in Paris. The reader is drawn into the refugee’s experience and shares his agonizing odyssey via the graphic novel’s blunt yet poetic language.

 

Paul Colize

Back Up

Trans. Louise Rogers Lalaurie

Oneworld / Point Blank Books

A mystery thriller translated from the French, Belgian author Paul Colize’s novel follows a journalist’s investigation into the connection between deaths of a rock-and-roll band’s members and another death separated by forty years. The rock-and-roll aesthetic of the plot kerrangs through the swift and exciting prose.

 

 

Gerty Dambury

The Restless

Trans. Judith G. Miller

The Feminist Press at CUNY

Acting as witness to police violence in French Guadeloupe in the 1960s, this debut novel from English writer Gerty Dambury recalls the racial and class hierarchies that caused the massacre. Nine-year-old Émilienne deals with the disappearance of her teacher, while narrators both alive and dead recount the history of the protest through prose that brings culture and characters together in a probing investigation.

 

Anneli Furmark

Red Winter

Trans. Hanna Strömberg

Drawn & Quarterly

Swedish graphic novelist Anneli Furmark brings 1970s Sweden to life by intertwining the fierce political atmosphere with a forbidden love affair. Furmark’s raw, crude language nestles into the illustrations of a rugged, wintry backdrop, pulling the reader into the harsh realities and nuances of northern Sweden.

 

Linda LeGarde Grover

Onigamiising: Seasons of an Ojibwe Year

University of Minnesota Press

In this collection of essays, Native American writer Linda LeGarde Grover follows the Ojibwe over the course of a year and explores the ways they harmonize their lifestyle with the cycle of the four seasons. Grover’s well-researched, reflective, and descriptive storytelling captures the essence of Ojibwe culture amid the chaos of a rapidly changing modern society.

 

 

Ramin Jahanbegloo

On Forgiveness and Revenge: Lessons from an Iranian Prison

University of Regina Press

In his follow-up to Time Will Say Nothing: A Philosopher Survives an Iranian Prison, Ramin Jahanbegloo examines the politics, philosophy, and ethics of his experience after release from wrongful imprisonment in Iran’s Evin Prison. This philosophical treatise draws on multiple traditions to create a compact rhetorical polemic against violence.

 

 

Hristo Karastoyanov

The Same Night Awaits Us All

Trans. Izidora Angel

Open Letter

This historical novel translated from the Bulgarian is set in 1923, the year when Aleksandar Tsankov takes control of Bulgaria by means of a military coup. As his grip is tightening around the country, a pair of men named Geo Milev and Georgi Sheytanov create an incendiary literary magazine, for which they are assassinated. Karastoyanov has created a bold story of resistance that illustrates a tumultuous time in Bulgarian history.

 

Tehmina Khan

Things She Could Never Have

Mawenzi House

Through her short stories, Khan takes us into the complexities of the lives of modern Pakistanis, writing through lenses of class, race, gender, and sexuality. Charmingly modern language surrounds readers, soaking them in the culture of her world while demonstrating the subtleties of an often-misrepresented Muslim society.

 

 

Maria Laina

Rose Fear

Trans. Sarah McCann

World Poetry Books

Rose Fear is the first English collection from Greek poet Maria Laina, elegantly captured here in a dual translation that carries us through enchanting yet unsettling sections on “Time,” “Witches,” and “Travel.” Like a grim fairytale, Laina’s silvery lullaby lyricism morphs into beautifully dark chants and hanging, haikulike scenes as it moves between voices and scraps of stories, complicating and recoloring the feeling of fear itself.

 

Liu Zhenyun

Someone to Talk To

Trans. Howard Goldblatt & Sylvia Li-chun Lin

Duke University Press

Originally published in 2009, this novel won the prestigious Mao Dun Literary Prize. Translated into English for the first time, it tells the story of tofu peddler Yang Baishun, his kidnapped stepdaughter Qiaoling, and a man named Niu Aiguo, all connected through a mysterious bond. Liu meditates on loneliness and the importance of family through a third-person close narrator, allowing readers to walk a mile in another man’s shoes.

 

Luljeta Lleshanaku

Negative Space

Trans. Ani Gjika

New Directions

The peculiar magic of the almost unseen and the inner “negative spaces” in which both “rest” and “ruin” are born are just a few of the themes Albanian-born poet Luljeta Lleshanaku approaches in this scene-rich collection. Kicking off her poems with bold, declarative lines, Lleshanaku discloses autobiographical cut-scenes in cohesive stanzas that allow her to dip into raw political and historical content without losing a moment of personal vividness.

 

Donia Maher

Ganzeer & Ahmad Nady, illus.

The Apartment in Bab El-Louk

Trans. Elisabeth Jaquette

Darf

Written in the style of an expressive noir poem, The Apartment in Bab El-Louk was first published in 2014 by Dar Merit and went on to receive the Kahil Award in 2015 for the Graphic Novel Prize. It features “the reflections of an old recluse in busy downtown Cairo” with varied high-contrast, gothically minimalistic illustrations by superstar team Ganzeer and Ahmad Nady.

 

Migrant Shores: Irish, Moroccan and Galician Poetry

Ed. Manuela Palacios

Salmon Poetry

Pulling together poets from three different countries on the Atlantic to explore a shared experience of exile, Migrant Shores paints poetry as “a quintessentially migrant art.” Each Arabic and Galician poem is followed by a collaborative English translation and a response poem from one of fourteen Irish poets, creating poignant connections between these distinctly personal experiences.

 

 

Jo Nesbø

Macbeth

Trans. Don Bartlett

Hogarth

Translated from the Norwegian, Jo Nesbø’s Macbeth is a retelling of Shakespeare’s play set in a 1970s town cloaked in industrial drear and fraught with substance abuse. The intrigue for which the original play is known takes place amid the police force and the inner rings of the town’s drug trade, hinging on an ambitious Inspector Macbeth in this crime thriller packed with adrenaline, manipulation, and detailed prose.

 

Chuma Nwokolo

The Extinction of Menai

Ohio University Press

An unethical drug trial has beset the Niger village of Kreektown, causing the downfall of the entire Menai culture. Characters spanning the globe star in this novel alongside a spiritual leader trying to preserve the soul of his people. Nwokolo touches on bioethics and language extinction; his prose is steeped in imagery, surrounding readers in a fictional but representative time and place with shocking relevance to modern history.

 

Lidia Ostałowska

Watercolours: A Story from Auschwitz

Trans. Sean Gasper Bye

Zubaan

Journalist Lidia Ostałowska reconstructs the story of artist Dina Gottliebova-Babbitt’s time at Auschwitz in a haunting character study translated from Polish. SS doctor Josef Mengele takes a special interest in Dina, allowing readers to delve into the somber horrors of the concentration camp. Ostałowska writes in a way that is stark but compelling, and her matter-of-factness honors Dina’s legacy with poignant reflections on racism, history, and the way we’re all tied together.

 

Carl Phillips

Wild Is the Wind

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The fourteenth book of poetry from Carl Phillips, Wild Is the Wind takes its title as well as its indelible note of longing and persistence from the jazz standard. Phillips’s capacious verse suggests at times the fluid movement of prose as he embarks upon a progressive meditation on memory, weeping, and the impossibility of forgetting, his poems leaving behind a distinctly redemptive residue as they wash over the reader.

 

Mercedes Roffé

Ghost Opera

Trans. Judith Filc

co•im•press

Moving through scenes as ethereal as the title suggests, the logic of Ghost Opera seems to straddle two worlds, music and dreams seeping in at its edges. This book of poems from Argentine author Mercedes Roffé, presented here in dual translation, is typographically striking: Roffé’s poems become material as they skip across the page, sometimes facing off with their English translations in suggestive yet elusive patterns.

 

Moriel Rothman-Zecher

Sadness Is a White Bird

Atria Books

Seventeen-year-old Jonathan moves back to Israel, excited to join the army and have a place in his family’s tradition of securing and defending the Jewish state. He isn’t without his concerns, however, and after befriending a pair of Palestinian twins, he finds himself questioning his loyalty and his place in the historical conflict. Filled with poignant and lyrical prose, this book is a brilliant coming-of-age tale.

 

Del Samatar & Sofia Samatar

Monster Portraits

Rose Metal Press

Del and Sofia Samatar, a pair of Somali American siblings, combine their talents for drawing and writing, respectively, to create an examination of another world that, while strange, helps inform understanding of our own. Fantastical and grotesque, this mixing of text and sketches stokes the imagination.

 

 

Ghada Samman

Farewell Damascus

Trans. Nancy Roberts

Darf

Zain al-Khayyal is a university student in Damascus who sets out to get an illicit abortion behind her husband’s back, a journey that leads her to exile in a bordering country. Translated from the Arabic, Samman’s words brim with humor and pain as they explore issues faced by women around the world.

 

Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno

There Are No Dead Here

Nation Books

There Are No Dead Here follows the three Colombians—a human rights activist, a prosecutor, and a journalist—who worked to expose the political corruption of collusion between the Colombian government and paramilitary forces. Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno deftly guides the reader through the related events with a thorough and engaging hand.

 

 

Gábor Schein

The Book of Mordechai and Lazarus

Trans. Adam Z. Levy & Ottilie Mulzet

Seagull Books

In this two-volume collection, Hungarian writer Gábor Schein melds family drama and biblical teachings with Hungarian history by examining the significant moments of the Holocaust, World War II, and Communist rule. Schein’s fluid narrative style employs descriptive and probing language to capture the search for identity in a convoluted society marred by the unhealed pain of the past.

 


Short Circuits: Aphorisms, Fragments, and Literary Anomalies

Ed. James Lough & Alex Stein

Schaffner Press

Following James Lough and Alex Stein’s Short Flights, an anthology of short-form writing, Short Circuits has expanded its scope beyond that of its predecessor to include such writing as flash fiction, mini-essays, and concrete poetry. The collection strives to give readers a series of “little enlightenments” in an effort to rewire the brain for the reader’s own well-being.

 

 

Maria José Silveira

Her Mother’s Mother’s Mother and Her Daughters

Trans. Eric M. B. Becker

Open Letter

Translated from Portuguese, Her Mother’s Mother’s Mother and Her Daughters traces back five hundred years of Brazilian history and the history of a family through the women of that family, starting with a Tupiniquim warrior in 1500 and ending with a woman in 2001. While critical of the aspects of culture that oppress women, Silveira’s powerful, vivid prose details the ways in which these women are the bedrock of society.

 

Ana Simo

Heartland

Restless Books

Cuban-born novelist Ana Simo takes the reader on a surreal journey into a world of love, art, and betrayal. Simo’s wry and methodical writing provides a juxtaposition to the suspenseful, dystopian plot driven by an unhinged passion.

 

 

Tom Sleigh

The Land Between Two Rivers: Writing in an Age of Refugees

Graywolf Press

In this book of essays on the refugee crisis, Tom Sleigh recounts his experiences inside militarized war zones and refugee camps, demonstrating how writing explores the complexities of human experiences during this time while honoring the political emotions. He captures the nature of relationships while meditating on youth, restlessness, and illness.

 

 

Domenico Starnone

Trick

Trans. Jhumpa Lahiri

Europa Editions

Italian author Domenico Starnone tells a poignant, witty tale of the reimagining of purpose and happiness when an isolated old man in the twilight of his life is reunited with his energetic and disarming four-year-old grandson. Starnone’s intimate, emotional, and sharp writing unpacks a domestic drama that has the power to both define and change a man’s life.

 

Susanna Tamaro

The Tiger and the Acrobat

Trans. Nicoleugenia Prezzavento & Vicki Satlow

Oneworld

This English translation of Susanna Tamaro’s Italian novel tells a coming-of-age story from the perspective of a young tiger wishing for independence. Her prose is soft and welcoming while still indulging in the fantastical, which illuminates and enlivens this testament to the beauty and power of nature and innocence.

 

Roma Tearne

Brixton Beach

Aardvark Bureau

In the wake of a family tragedy, Alice Fonseka and her parents leave their home in Sri Lanka to live in England, where Alice finds that even as she begins to find a place for herself and her art, she is still dogged by her past. In Brixton Beach, Roma Tearne skillfully navigates the political and social waters of a tumultuous history.

 

 

Emmanuelle de Villepin

The Devil’s Reward

Trans. C. Jon Delogu

Other Press

The Devil’s Reward is a novel about family relationships. It explores eighty-six-year-old Christiane’s strained relationship with her daughter and granddaughter as they visit her in Paris, while weaving in stories from Christiane’s childhood with her father, a veteran of both world wars. The story’s lighthearted and approachable nature allows it to explore both the pain and joy of these connections in an honest way.

 

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