sun 18/08/2019

fiction

The Collection: Nina Leger trans. Laura Francis – daring, direct and richly imagined

Jeanne – employment, age and appearance unknown, motives unknowable – is building a collection of penises. In street after street, she feigns dizziness; on the inevitable approach of a man eager to lend his help, she leads him to a hotel room. After...

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Ocean Vuong: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous review – the new avant-garde

Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is written as a letter to his mother, who cannot read. She cannot read because, when she was five, her schoolhouse was burnt to the ground in an American napalm raid. “Our mother tongue, then,” writes Vuong, is the “mark of...

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Vasily Grossman: Stalingrad review - a Soviet national epic

Stalingrad is the companion piece to Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, which on its (re)publication in English a decade ago was acclaimed as one of the greatest Russian (and not only Russian) novels of the 20th century. For its sense of the sheer...

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Ben Okri, Brighton Festival 2019 review - adventures in writing

If there’s one thing to learn from Ben Okri in this evening of conversation at Brighton Festival between the Famished Road writer and author Colin Grant it’s how to “upwake”.The phrase, coined in his new (11th) novel The Freedom Artist – a post-...

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Kristen Roupenian: You Know You Want This review - twisted tales

A one-night stand between a female college student, Margot, whose part-time job is selling snacks at the cinema, and thirtyish Robert, a customer, goes pathetically awry. It was disappointing, uneasy, perhaps more, and memorialised in all its edgy...

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Boris Akunin: Black City review - a novel to sharpen the wits

It is 1914 – a fateful year for assassinations, war and revolution. The fictional Erast Petrovich Fandorin, the protagonist of Boris Akunin’s series of historical thrillers, is an elegant, eccentric sometime government servant, spy and diplomat, as...

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Global fiction: the pick of 2018

If you believe the bulk of the “books of the year” features that drift like stray tinsel across the media at this time of year, Britain’s literary taste-makers only enjoy the flavours of the Anglosphere. With a handful of exceptions, the sort of...

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Barneys, Books and Bust Ups, BBC Four review - the Booker Prize at 50

You had to keep your eyes skinned. Was that Iris Murdoch or AS Byatt, Kingsley Amis or John Banville, Margaret Atwood or Val McDermid – maybe, even, Joanna Lumley? Tables as far as the eye can see, dressed with white tablecloths and crowded with...

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Barbara Kingsolver: Unsheltered review - too many issues

“When men fear the loss of what they know, they will follow any tyrant who promises to restore the old order.” Mary Treat, the real-life 19th-century botanist who is one of the characters in Barbara Kingsolver’s eighth novel, could be talking about...

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Katharine Kilalea: OK, Mr Field review - architecture and alienation on the Cape Town coast

Modern novels with an architectural theme have, to say the least, a mixed pedigree. At their finest, as in Thomas Bernhard’s Correction, the fluidity and ambiguity of prose fiction mitigates, even undermines, the obsessive planner’s or designer’s...

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Meg Wolitzer: The Female Persuasion review - the many faces of feminism

Meg Wolitzer’s 10th novel has been hailed as a breakthrough, a feminist blockbuster, an embodiment of the zeitgeist. (Nicole Kidman has bought the film rights, which goes to show.) But in all her fiction, she deftly explores motherhood, career,...

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William Trevor: Last Stories review - final intimations

An Irishman who spent more than half a century in London and then Devon, and a prolific writer – nearly 20 novels and novellas, some 20 collections of short stories in varying combinations – William Trevor (1928-2016) is often eulogised as a modern...

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