The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky

A child is born during a very cold winter in early 20th century Germany. Her parents, a Catholic father and a Jewish mother, are not in the best of marriages. He is unable to rise above the 11th salary rank at work due to prejudice against his Jewish wife. She has been declared dead by her monied grandfather who actually sat shiva for her because … Continue reading The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky

Nazis in the Metro by Didier Daeninckx, translated from the French by Anna Moschovakis

On May 8, 1945, the day Nazi Germany surrendered, the French government began a massacre of Muslim nationalists in Algeria that ended with the deaths of 15,000 to 20,000 civilians. There were soldiers who fought for France in Germany who returned to Algeria only to find the families dead, and their homes destroyed. Not something I expected to learn in a gritty, noir detective novel … Continue reading Nazis in the Metro by Didier Daeninckx, translated from the French by Anna Moschovakis

Best Party Ever!! The Vampyre by John Polidori

In 1816 Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont and John Polidori spend a stormy week together in a villa near Lake Geneva, a party for the ages as they say. Stuck inside due to unseasonal rains and they pass their time together by telling each other scary stories. There was probably some drug-taking involved and everybody was basically lusting after everybody else but … Continue reading Best Party Ever!! The Vampyre by John Polidori

Murder and Glass in Medieval Venice. “The Eye Stone” by Roberto Tiraboschi, Translated by Katherine Gregor

First an admission. This book opens with the life of a 12th century cleric who spends his days copying the books in the monastery’s library reading them in his spare time. This is something of an escapist fantasy for me. That’s my confession. I’m betting that I’m not alone. It’s not something I would want to do for life, but for a long weekend… Sounds … Continue reading Murder and Glass in Medieval Venice. “The Eye Stone” by Roberto Tiraboschi, Translated by Katherine Gregor

The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller

How true is this opening line? When we don’t speak, we become unbearable, and when we do, we make fools of ourselves. Ms. Muller opens and closes her novel, The Land of Green Plums, with this line so she must thinks it’s important.  It must be the key her novel’s theme. What meaning can we find in it?  How different is the thought behind it … Continue reading The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

This is the most romantic book I have read in a long time. Maybe ever. It’s also the sexiest. Hubba, hubba. I’m a little embarrassed to admit just how much it all held my attention. I found myself both anxious to turn the page to find out what happened next and reluctant to move on because what was written was so intense I didn’t want … Continue reading Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

Two with Pictures: The Singing Bones and Yvain, the Knight of the Lion

I’ve been doing some reading for work. Since I teach 7th grade history and English reading for work takes me places it might not take other grown men. Not that I mind. Two strong contenders for actual classroom use this time around. The first is M.T. Anderson’s graphic novel (illustrations by Andrea Offermann) Yvain, The Night of the Lion based on the 12th century French epic … Continue reading Two with Pictures: The Singing Bones and Yvain, the Knight of the Lion

Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

A colleague at work asked me what I was reading last week. “I’m reading a novel about Russian polar bears written by a Japanese woman who lives in Berlin and writes in German.” “Oh.” You’ve probably never heard of this book, either. I found Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky, on the German shelves of the translated literature … Continue reading Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsk

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsk’s novel, The Letter Killers Club, opens when an un-named narrator informs us he has been invited to attend  the weekly meeting of seven well-respected authors.  The author’s have come to the conclusion, most of them late in their careers, that by writing down their ideas they  prevent others from having them.  So instead of writing, they now meet once a week to tell … Continue reading The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsk

Autumn by Ali Smith

This is a troublesome book. Ultimately, I enjoyed it, I was moved by it, I came to see its excellence. But it was a bumpy road getting there. I’ve been reading the Booker Long List blind for the most part.  I got as many of the books as my local library allows without reading anything about them, or much about them. (There are a few … Continue reading Autumn by Ali Smith

The Ides of March by Valerio Massimo Manfredi

Have you ever known the ending from page one and still been unable to put the book down? Since Italian novelists Valerio Massimo Manfredi’s novel The Ides of March is about the last few days of Julius Ceasar’s life, we all know how the book is going to end, at least we all know how Julius Ceasar is going to end.  The challenge for the … Continue reading The Ides of March by Valerio Massimo Manfredi

Acts of Passion by Georges Simenon

From the very first page, we know who the killer is; we know that he’ll be captured, found guilty and sentenced to prison; but we don’t know who his victim is. Georges Simenon’s novel Acts of Passion takes the form of a long letter, written by a killer to the judge who sentenced him.  The killer wants to explain why he did what he did; … Continue reading Acts of Passion by Georges Simenon