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

The Emissary by Yoko Tawada translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani

I don’t really understand this book. But I enjoyed it; it touched me; it’s my new favorite book. The story concerns Yoshiro and his great-grandson. They live near Tokyo in the not-too-distant future. Things have gone wrong. Not one big thing, but many small things over a period of generations. Honestly, I can’t tell you what happened to society, but things are a mess. Japan … Continue reading The Emissary by Yoko Tawada translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani

The Madman of Bergerac by Georges Simenon for Novellas in November 2022

At 144 pages The Madman of Bergerac just fits the 150-page definition of a novella over at the Novellas in November reading challenge. It was first published in 1932 which makes it old and therefore a classic which is the challenge category for this week. It’s also a fun read for fans of Inspector Maigret. I’m not sure I’d send it along to anyone else. … Continue reading The Madman of Bergerac by Georges Simenon for Novellas in November 2022

How long is too long? 480 Pages. That’s how long.

This book is an entertainment. It’s the kind of book I used to buy in the airport bookshop, something that I could read before the plane landed in New York and leave in the seat pocket afterwards. It really shouldn’t be judged by the standards used for other types of books. It is entertaining? Does it provide the promised thrills. Yes. For about 300 pages. … Continue reading How long is too long? 480 Pages. That’s how long.

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

A novel that is also a haiku. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata takes place on the western coast of northern Japan where geography and climate conspire to create a mountainous landscape that gets more snow than any other place on earth.  The small townships along the railway tracks that cut through the mountains survive on income from the few tourists who visit the local hot springs … Continue reading Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

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

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

My Life by Anton Chekov

Sometimes it can really help to have a professor guide your reading. This was one of those times.  I was well over halfway through Anton Chekhov’s novella My Life translated by Constance Garnett before I could decide just how satirical it was. To be honest before I could decide if it satirical or not. There is a lot of Russian literature from Mr. Chekhov’s day dealing with the … Continue reading My Life by Anton Chekov

HHhH by Laurent Binet

Is it insulting to turn a real person into a character in a book? The nature of historical fiction and the inherent trustworthiness of it is foregrounded in HHhH by Laurent Binet.  Mr. Binet wants to tell the story of two men, Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík,  who carried out an assassination attempt on the life of Reinhard Heydrich, second in command of the Nazi SS … Continue reading HHhH by Laurent Binet

Ema, the Captive by Cesar Aira

 It’s been over a week since I finished reading Cesar Aira’s novel Ema the Captive, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews, but I still don’t know quite what to make of it. I can’t even recall how, or why, I came to own a copy.  I think I bought it while visiting Los Angeles this past spring at Book Soup in West Hollywood just down the street … Continue reading Ema, the Captive by Cesar Aira

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

I realize my sample size is basically two, but what is it about Japanese writers and cats? If you’re a fan of Haruki Murakami, then you know his interest in cats. They are such a strong presence in his novel The Wind-up Bird that they cast something of a shadow on the rest of his writing.  Do all his books feature a cat? No? The Guest … Continue reading The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

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