We chose to highlight Tyrant Memory because we’ve been fans of Horacio Castellanos Moya since the first sentence of Senselessness — a book that was a finalist for the Best Translated Book Award. He also came up here to Rochester for an event, and was fascinating, charming, and a good drinker. All of his books tend to deal with characters stuck in somewhat horrifying situations and the way they deal with this — through humor and insanity — is fascinating and compelling. A favorite among readers of international fiction, Moya is a perfect starting point for “Read This Next.”
We chose Jean Echenoz’s Lightning as this week’s Read This Next title for two reasons: it’s by Echenoz, and it’s about Tesla.
Approaching his fiftieth birthday, the narrator in My Two Worlds is wandering in an unfamiliar Brazilian city, in search of a park. A walker by inclination and habit, he has decided to explore the city after attending a literary conference—he was invited following the publication of his most recent novel, although, as he has been informed via anonymous e-mail, the novel is not receiving good reviews.
For anyone interested in Latin American literature, Julio Cortázar is a central figure. Hopscotch is considered by many to be one of the capital-g capital-b Great Books of the twentieth century, its ingenious form (if you follow the directions, you read many chapters out of sequence) a precursor of digital possibilities. His precise, post-Borgesian short stories (especially those in Blow-Up and Other Stories and All Fires the Fire) are a great counterparts to the more sprawling novels—very playful and innovative, oft centered around a single provocative metaphysical idea (like a man reading a book about a man just like him reading a book).
This week’s book, In Red by Magdalena Tulli takes place in the town of Stitchings in a fictional, and somewhat magical, fourth partition of Poland. With an ever-shifting yet reliable ensemble cast of its citizens and its objects, the book reveals through multiple interwoven narratives the unceasing and unrelenting life of a town in its entirety. War rages, bombs fall, people die, but Stitchings must go on.
Joseph Strauss (a dentist and bachelor, client of the Eleven Titties brothel and of Der Große Bär beer cellar) leaves Prussia in the spring of 1866 and follows a captain of dragoons to Bucharest, where the officer is to ascend the throne as prince of the United Principalities of Romania. War is imminent in central Europe, but the company of a special tomcat, a guardian angel of sorts, helps him to overcome all dangers.
In this set of novellas, a few facts are constant. Sergio is a young intellectual, poor and proud of his new membership in the Communist Party. Maurizio is handsome, rich, successful with women, and morally ambiguous. Sergio’s young, sensual lover becomes collateral damage in the struggle between these two men.
This week’s selection is from the New York Review of Books, the first in a trilogy of semi-autobiographical works by Gregor von Rezzori (The Snows of Yesteryear, Memoirs of an Anti-Semite).
We chose this book because of its unique and revealing perspective: von Rezzori works through the recollections of the eyes and ears of a group of children, using “we” almost exclusively, and it is through these children’s growing understanding and point-of-view that von Rezzori uses his power of description and imitation bring to life the discovery of a city and the entanglements of its citizens. Von Rezzori’s extensive vocabulary does not spare his young subjects, and so the reader has the pleasure and the advantage of innocent fascination without the language of innocence.
This huge anthology of more than thirty all-original Mexican science fiction and fantasy features ghost stories, supernatural folktales, alien incursions, and apocalyptic narratives, as well as science-based chronicles of highly unusual mental states in which the borders of fantasy and reality reach unprecedented levels of ambiguity. Stereotypes of Mexican identity are explored and transcended by the thoroughly cosmopolitan consciousnesses underlying these works. It is a landmark of contemporary North American fiction that deserves a wide readership.