Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre My rating: 2 of 5 stars In the Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre's classic 1938 first novel, you can find many of the characteristics of the last decade or two's contemporary fiction: fragmentation, negative affect, indifference to plot or style, veiled autobiography, and a general conviction of ambient meaninglessness lit only by … Continue reading Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

Erich Auerbach, Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays

Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays by Erich Auerbach My rating: 5 of 5 stars [Elsewhere in the literary blogosphere—do people still say "blogosphere"?—Tom at Wuthering Expectations has wrapped up an informative and fun reading of Erich Auerbach's Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. This book was important to me at a phase in … Continue reading Erich Auerbach, Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays

Riyoko Ikeda, Claudine

Claudine by Riyoko Ikeda My rating: 4 of 5 stars This 2018 English translation of Riyoko Ikeda's 1978 shōjo manga about the brief life and tragic loves of the eponymous protagonist is being hailed, to quote Wikipedia, as "one of the earliest manga to feature a transgender protagonist." While I'm sure this is literally true, it … Continue reading Riyoko Ikeda, Claudine

Jean Giono, Melville

Melville: A Novel by Jean Giono My rating: 4 of 5 stars Twentieth-century French novelist Jean Giono is currently being introduced (or re-introduced by NYRB Classics) to American readers, and what better introduction than Giono's bio-fantasia about Herman Melville, now translated by Paul Eprile? Melville was published in 1941 in France, and written in the … Continue reading Jean Giono, Melville

Dante, Paradiso

Paradiso by Dante Alighieri My rating: 4 of 5 stars Here is what you've heard about the Divine Comedy: the Inferno, with its poignantly vivid tortures and its cacophony of wicked voices, is the most entertaining canticle, beloved of various and sundry; the Purgatorio, with its wistful focus on the lives and ambitions of poets and its … Continue reading Dante, Paradiso

Dante, Purgatorio

Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri My rating: 4 of 5 stars Allen Mandelbaum begins his introduction to his wonderful translation thusly:   For the Virgil of Dante's Purgatorio, "love is the seed in you of every virtue/and of all acts deserving punishment" (XVII, 104-105). To find one same source for all good and all evil is … Continue reading Dante, Purgatorio

Dante, Inferno

Inferno by Dante Alighieri My rating: 5 of 5 stars You know the story: a man in the middle of life is lost in a shadowy forest of ignorance and error, his path to wisdom blocked by impassable beasts. Then he is saved by the shade of the great poet, Virgil, sent to rescue the … Continue reading Dante, Inferno

César Aira, Ema, the Captive

Ema, the Captive by César Aira My rating: 4 of 5 stars Reading and rereading Wilde over the years, I note a fact that his panegyrists seem not even to have suspected: the elementary and demonstrable fact that Wilde is nearly always right. —Jorge Luis Borges, "On Oscar Wilde" (trans. Esther Allen) Art never expresses … Continue reading César Aira, Ema, the Captive

Valeria Luiselli, Faces in the Crowd

Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli My rating: 3 of 5 stars The honest critic must be content to find a VERY LITTLE contemporary work worth serious attention; but he must also be ready to RECOGNIZE that little, and to demote work of the past when a new work surpasses it. —Ezra Pound, ABC … Continue reading Valeria Luiselli, Faces in the Crowd