Review: 77 by Guillermo Saccomanno, trans. by Andrea G. Labinger

77 by Guillermo Saccomanno, trans. by Andrea G. Labinger (Open Letter 2019)

Reviewed by Allison McCausland

Fear makes people do crazy things. When a country is in turmoil politically, its hard to distinguish the clear-cut actions of people as heroic or survivalist. In the case of Professor Gomez, the protagonist of Guillermo Saccomanno’s latest translated work, 77, he acts as more of an active bystander, drawing in the reader through his retrospective narration of his time in Buenos Aires during the Jorge Videla coup d’état in 1977. Saccomanno captures the uncertainty and day-to-day dangers of living in this era with visceral scenes and inner longing for a better life. Translator Andrea G. Labinger keeps the rhetoric in line with Saccomanno’s vision to ground readers in both terrifying and startlingly mundane situations.

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Review: The Wind That Lays Waste by Selva Almada

The Wind That Lays Waste by Selva Almada, trans. by Chris Andrews (Graywolf Press, 2019)

Reviewed by Allison McCausland

There is an old saying that one can tell the character of a person not by how long they have known them, but based on a single gesture. These view sinuously weaves together four characters of Selva Almada’s 2012 novel The Wind That Lays Waste. Translated by Chris Andrews in 2019, both author and translator create a character study of four individuals at a roadside garage in Argentina.

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Review: Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami (Europa Editions 2020)

Reviewed by Megan Foster

Three women in Japan wrestle with the nature of the body and the self. 

Natsuko is a struggling writer when her older sister, Makiko, and Makiko’s teenage daughter, Midoriko, come to visit for a few days. Makiko has made the journey to Tokyo to explore affordable options for breast enhancements. Midoriko, who hasn’t spoken a word to her mother in six months, privately wrestles with her own changing body and turns to her journal for companionship. A climactic clash occurs between Makiko and Midorko before the two return home, and the narrative flashes forward in time ten years. Natsuko has managed to publish one collection of stories but, even more than her struggle to write a novel, wrestles with her desire to have a child.  Without a partner, Natsuko seeks other possible means to fulfill her deepest wish to be a mother as she continues to grow older alone. 

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Review: My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree by Yi Lei

My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree by Yi Lei, trans. by Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf Press 2020)

Reviewed by Elizabeth Kudlacz

Who was Yi Lei?

For many in the Western world, this leading figure in contemporary Chinese poetry is probably unknown. Thanks to the efforts of Tracy K. Smith and Changtai Bi, English-speaking readers can appreciate the richness of Yi Lei’s bilingual collection of poems My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree

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Review of Shahr-e-Jaanaan: The City of the Beloved by Adeeba Shahid Talukder

Shahr-e-Jaanaan: The City of the Beloved by Adeeba Shahid Talukder (Tupelo Press 2020)

Reviewed by Leonora Simonovis

Winner of the Kundiman Prize Honoring Exceptional Work by Asian American Poets, this collection is a multilayered imaginary where the author converses with Urdu poetic tradition and poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mirza Ghalib, and Ibn-e-Insha, among others. Talukder is also a translator, which, as she explains in the preface, allows for transcreation “Based on the way the particular verses converse with the themes of my poems.” The interplay is not only between two languages, but also between two –or more– different ways of perception and experience.

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Review: The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann

The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann, trans. by Jen Calleja (Coach House Books 2020)

Reviewed by Aramis Grant

The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann, translated by Jen Calleja from German, follows middle-aged German professor Gilbert Silvester. Silvester is a researcher on beard styles in film, who, after dreaming of his wife cheating on him, reacts in his waking life as if his dream reveals an unquestionable truth. He allows his anger and disappointment to carry him overseas to Japan, where he meets a suicidal young man named Yosa Tamagotchi.

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Review: Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang

Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang, trans. by Ken Liu (Saga Press 2020)

Reviewed by Allison McCausland

Slow burn stories rarely find their place in modern storytelling. It is even rarer when a slow burn has so much thought and detail in its world-building that it warrants dissection of the most minute details. The novel Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang achieves this feat by taking its time revealing Jingfang’s extensive research of physics, economics, and social systems.

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Review: Sea, Land, Shadow by Kazuko Shiraishi

Sea, Land, Shadow by Kazuko Shiraishi, trans. by Yumiko Tsumara (New Directions Books, 2017)

Reviewed by Clara Guyton

Nicknamed “the Alan Ginsberg of Japan” by Kenneth Rexroth, Kazuko Shiraishi brings readers a sight-seeing drive through the mystical mountains of Japan in her collection Sea, Land, Shadow, complete with sharp turns and curves, moments of awe-inspiring depth and darkness, and instants of effervescent lightheartedness.

“on a mountain road in a traffic jam

I have poetry, so I’m fine…” (8)

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Review: Who Killed My Father by Edouard Louis

Who Killed My Father by Edouard Louis (New Directions, 2019)

Reviewed by Aaron Scobie

There is a woe filling in the white space of these pages. A woe spoken incredibly soft. Who Killed My Father is a short memoir by the French writer Édouard Louis. Simultaneously literal and metaphorical, the book approaches the unique and distant relationship between Louis and his father.

“You apologized. These apologies are a new thing with you, I have to get used to them”

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