The Deer Wedding by Penny Simpson
Set in Split, Zagreb and Hvar in the Forties and the Nineties, sculptor Antun and student Dagmar are separately seeking truths about their parents. The novel explores how a country like Croatia could implode into violence; how history is still a living (and unspent) force for many, and how, when so much has been destroyed, may a future re-emerge.
Stillness of the Sea by Nicol Ljubic
The still surface of a sea is both menacing and calmly beautiful: a perfect metaphor for this reflective novel. The narrator’s unassuming, thoughtful voice dampens but cannot conceal the forces driving his story of love and war and the boundless suffering of innocence. The narrator is a young historian, preoccupied with a case on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. The prosecution argues that the Serb defendant played an active part in the incarceration and later death by arson of a Muslim family during the Balkan civil war. As witnesses are cross-examined in court, perspectives on the accused shift between the extremes of a crazed killer and a pitiable man of peace, deranged by abnormal pressures. But we gradually learn that the present-day trial does insufficient justice to the past. While the narrator tells us through long flashbacks about his love for the possible war criminal’s daughter, we come to understand more of the agonies suffered by everyone touched by the crucial incident – this murder of an extended family. The connection between his trial reports and his recollections is inexplicable at first, but gradually open up yet another perspective on the case of his beloved Ana’s father. The love affair is moving and utterly believable: charming at first, then intense and finally ripped apart by the conflict between the past and the present. The darkness inside Ana, so young and pretty and happy, stems from a wartime incident in which she, too, was violated. The end, which cannot be revealed, is an exquisite balance between bitter realism and forgiveness: Nicol Ljubi ‘s book is an outstanding achievement in human as well as literary terms.
On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry
Sebastian Barry returns with the extraordinary story of Lilly Bere, the youngest daughter of the Dunne family. Forced to flee Ireland with her fiancé as a teenager under threat of death from the IRA, Lilly discovers herself in America. Her rich and tragic life takes her from Chicago, where her fiancé is brutally murdered, to Cleveland where she marries and finds happiness even as she survives the Great Depression and World War II. Joyfully pregnant at forty-three, Lilly moves to Washington, D.C., her husband mysteriously disappears, and she finds work as a cook for one of the most prominent families in the country. Lilly follows the family to Bridgehampton, New York, and there she brings up her son, Ed, who at eighteen is called up to Vietnam and vanishes on his return to America. Mr. Nolan, a close friend, is dispatched to find him and returns from the Smoky Mountain wilderness not with Ed but with Ed’s young son, Bill, whom Lilly will raise and adore until tragedy strikes.
Caroline by Cornelius Medvei
Mr Shaw works for an insurance company, at a desk, in an office, in a city. One year, during his family summer holiday, his world is turned upside down when he meets Caroline. Caroline, whose eyes a man could drown in. Caroline, who likes a spring onion or two. Caroline, who is in fact a donkey.
All the Lights by Clemens Meyer
A man bets all he has on a horserace to pay for an expensive operation for his dog. A young refugee wants to box her way straight off the boat to the top of the sport. Old friends talk all night after meeting up by chance. She imagines their future together…Stories about people who have lost out in life and in love, and about their hopes for one really big win, the chance to make something of their lives. In silent apartments, desolate warehouses, prisons and down by the river, Meyer strikes the tone of our harsh times, and finds the grace notes, the bright lights shining in the dark.
Fado by Andrzej Stasiuk
Inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Andrzej Stasiuk, Poland’s most accomplished living prose writer, takes readers into the “forgotten Europe.” In this delightful collection of essays—by turns wry and reflective, wistful and witty—contemporary Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk turns his attention to the villages and small towns of Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Albania, and of course his native Poland. Stasiuk travels to places no tourist would think of visiting, and in his characteristically lyrical prose, lays out his own unique and challenging perspective on the fascinating, unknown heart of Central Europe. He reminds us of the area’s extraordinarily rich cultural and ethnic makeup, explores its literature, and shows how its history is inscribed permanently in its landscapes. Above all, he describes with fascination how past, present, and future co-exist and intertwine along the highways and back roads of the region.
The Dubious Salvation of Jack V. by Jacques Strauss
Jack Viljee’s hometown of Johannesburg is still divided by apartheid, though the old order is starting to crumble. According to eleven-year-old Jack, the world is a rational and simple place. But if life doesn’t conform to Jack’s expectations, there is always the sympathy and approval of the family’s maid to console him. Not that Susie is a pushover. She believes violence, of the nondisfiguring variety, is a healthy form of affection—hence her not infrequent expression “Jack, I love you so much. I will hit you.” Jack himself is not above socking his best friend in the eye or scamming his little sister into picking up the dog mess. The Viljee household, in its small way, mirrors the politics of the country.
This noisy domesticity is upset by the arrival of Susie’s fifteen-year-old son. Percy is bored, idle, and full of rage. When Percy catches Jack in an indelibly shameful moment, Jack learns that the smallest act of revenge has consequences beyond his imagining. The world, it turns out, is not so simple.
The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald
“Ostensibly a record of a journey on foot through coastal East Anglia,” as Robert McCrum in the London Observer noted, The Rings of Saturn “is also a brilliantly allusive study of England’s imperial past and the nature of decline and fall, of loss and decay.
. . . The Rings of Saturn is exhilarating, you might say hypnotically, readable. . . . It is hard to imagine a stranger or more compelling work.” The Rings of Saturn – with its curious archive of photographs – chronicles a tour across epochs as well as countryside. On his way, the narrator meets lonely eccentrics inhabiting tumble-down mansions and links them to Rembrandt’s “Anatomy Lesson,”
the natural history of the herring, a matchstick model of the Temple of Jerusalem, the travels of Sir Thomas Browne’s skull, and the massive bombings of WWII. Cataloging change, oblivion, and memories, he connects sugar fortunes, Joseph Conrad, and the horrors of colonizing the Belgian Congo. The narrator finds threads which run from an abandoned bridge over the River Blyth to the terrible dowager Empress Tzu Hsi and the silk industry in Norwich.
The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians revelled in death and detection and created modern crime by Judith Flanders
“We are a trading community, a commercial people. Murder is doubtless a very shocking offence, nevertheless as what is done is not to be undone, let us make our money out of it.” Punch Murder in the 19th century was rare. But murder as sensation and entertainment began and became ubiquitous — transformed into novels, into broadsides and ballads, into theatre and melodrama and opera — even into puppet shows and performing dog-acts. In this meticulously researched and compelling book, Judith Flanders — author of ‘The Victorian House’ — retells the gruesome stories of many different types of murder — both famous and obscure. From the crimes (and myths) of Sweeny Todd and Jack the Ripper, to the tragedies of the murdered Marr family in London’s East End, Burke and Hare and their bodysnatching business in Edinburgh, to Greenacre who transported his dismembered fiancée around town by omnibus. With an irresistible cast of swindlers, forgers, and poisoners, the mad, the bad and the dangerous to know, ‘The Invention of Murder’ is both a gripping tale of crime and punishment, and history at its most readable.
Best European Fiction 2011
“Best European Fiction is an exhilarating read.”—Time The launch of Dalkey’s Best European Fiction series was nothing short of phenomenal, with wide-ranging coverage in international media such as Time magazine, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Financial Times, and the Guardian; glowing reviews and interviews in print and online magazines such as the Believer, Bookslut, Paste, and the Huffington Post; radio interviews with editor Aleksandar Hemon on NPR stations in the US and BBC Radio 3 and 4 in the UK; and a terrific response from booksellers, who made Best European Fiction 2010 an “Indie Next” pick and created table displays and special promotions throughout the US and UK.
For 2011, Aleksandar Hemon is back as editor, along with a new preface by Colum McCann, and with a whole new cast of authors and stories, including work from countries not included in Best European Fiction 2010.
Can the Gods Cry? by Allan Cameron
This collection of radical, now humorous now dark and pessimistic short stories was conceived as a whole, and some characters populate more than one story. Stylistically bold and varied, the books challenges the conformism that dominates so much writing in this consumerist age.
Hunger by Knut Hamsun
The story of a starving writer in Norway, Hunger is a pivotal masterpiece of European modernism. The protagonist is anonymous and the plot is meager. What holds the text together is the focus on the protagonist’s emotions. These emotions are reveled to the reader by the minute descriptions of the inner landscape of the mind, interspersed with the unnamed writer’s random encounters with strangers and acquaintances in the streets, or short meetings with various editors.
Things We didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam
In the first story, “What We Know Now”—set in the eve of the millennium, when the world as we know it is still recognizable—we meet the then-nine-year-old narrator fleeing the city with his parents, just ahead of a Y2K breakdown. The remaining stories capture the strange—sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes funny—circumstances he encounters in the no-longer-simple act of survival; trying to protect squatters against floods in a place where the rain never stops, being harassed (and possibly infected) by a man sick with a virulent flu, enduring a job interview with an unstable assessor who has access to all his thoughts, taking the gravely ill on adventure tours. But we see in each story that, despite the violence and brutality of his days, the narrator retains a hold on his essential humanity—and humor.
The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung
Truth is not an option…Beijing, sometime in the near future: a month has gone missing from official records. No one has any memory of it, and no one can care less. Except for a small circle of friends, who will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of the sinister cheerfulness and amnesia that has possessed the Chinese nation. When they kidnap a high-ranking official and force him to reveal all, what they learn – not only about their leaders, but also about their own people – stuns them to the core. It is a message that will rock the world…Terrifying methods of cunning, deception and terror are unveiled by the truth-seekers in this thriller-expose of the Communist Party’s stranglehold on China today.