by Philip Roth
About the book: It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town, an aging classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would have astonished even his most virulent accuser.Coleman Silk has a secret, one which has been kept for fifty years from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman. It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk's secret and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled. And to understand also how Silk's astonishing private history is, in the words of The Wall Street Journal, "magnificently" interwoven with "the larger public history of modern America."
by Ivan KlímaGerald Turner
About the book: Ivan Klima has been acclaimed by The Boston Globe as "a literary gem who is too little appreciated in the West" and a "Czech master at the top of his game." In No Saints or Angels, a Washington Post Best Book of 2001, Klima takes us into the heart of contemporary Prague, where the Communist People's Militia of the Stalinist era marches headlong into the drug culture of the present. Kristyna is in her forties, the divorced mother of a rebellious fifteen-year-old daughter, Jana. She is beginning to love a man fifteen years her junior, but her joy is clouded by worry -- Jana has been cutting school, and perhaps using heroin. Meanwhile Kristyna's mother has forced on her a huge box of personal papers left by her dead father, a tyrant whose Stalinist ideals she despised. No Saints or Angels is a powerful book in which "Mr. Klima's keen sense of history, his deep compassion for the ordinary people caught up in its toils, and his abiding awareness of the fragility and resilience of human life shine through.... Like Anton Chekhov, Mr. Klima is a writer able to show us what's extraordinary about ordinary life." (The Washington Times). "Ultimately, it's Prague, with its centuries of glory and misery, that gives No Saints or Angels its humane power." -- Melvin Jules Bukiet, The Washington Post Book World" A compassionate realist, [Klima] unflinchingly presents the problems facing modern Prague and civilization in general ... [and] fills it with mercy." -- Jennie Yabroff, San Francisco Chronicle "Stirring and valuable." -- Jules Verdone, The Hartford Courant
by Petina Gappah
About the book: First published in Hungary in 1986 after a five-year battle with censors, Péter Nádas's A Book of Memories is a modern classic, a multi-layered narrative that tells three parallel stories of love and betrayal. The first takes place in East Berlin in the 1970s and features an unnamed Hungarian writer ensnared in a love triangle with a young German and a famous aging actress. The second, composed by the writer, is the story of a late nineteenth century German aesthete whose experiences mirror his own. And the third voice is that of a friend from the writer's childhood, who brings his own unexpected bearing to the story. Compared by critics to Proust, Mann, and Joyce, this sensuous tour de force is "unquestionably a masterpiece" (The New Republic).
by Janice Y. K. Lee
About the book: The most popular work from provocative Austrian Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek, The Piano Teacher is a searing portrait of a woman bound between a repressive society and her darkest desires. Erika Kohut is a piano teacher at the prestigious and formal Vienna Conservatory, who still lives with her domineering and possessive mother. Her life appears boring, but Erika, a quiet thirty-eight-year-old, secretly visits Turkish peep shows at night and watched sadomasochistic films. Meanwhile, a handsome, self-absorbed, seventeen-year-old student has become enamored with Erika and sets out to seduce her. She resists him at first—but then the dark passions roiling under the piano teacher’s subdued exterior explode in a release of perversity, violence, and degradation.
by Harold Pinter
About the book: In an old and slightly seedy house in North London there lives a family of men: Max, the aging but still aggressive patriarch; his younger, ineffectual brother Sam; and two of Max's three sons, neither of whom is married -- Lenny, a small-time pimp, and Joey, who dreams of success as a boxer. Into this sinister abode comes the eldest son, Teddy, who, having spent the past six years teaching philosophy in America, is now bringinghis wife, Ruth, home to visit the family she has never met. As the play progresses, the younger brothers make increasingly outrageous passes at their sister-in-law until they are practically making love to her in front of her stunned but strangely aloof husband.
by Haruki Murakami
About the book: Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from one-either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister-and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliciton and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall fromt he sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka ont he Shore displays one of the world's great storytellers at the peak of his powers.
by Yves Bonnefoy
About the book: Yves Bonnefoy is one of the greatest living voices of contemporary French poetry. In this, his sixth book published by Seagull Books, he explores in profound new ways the mysteries of human consciousness. Readers find snatches of conversations—overheard, dropped without any possible conclusion—each pregnant with half-hidden, half-visible meaning. Limpid, punctuated with silences, the poems of Ursa Major are like stones picked up, turned over and set back down on the edge of life. “Countless voices traverse us; endless, almost, as the meanders of dreams or the starry scintillations of summer nights. Only listen, and a few words rise from the murmur, referring to precise things, making allusions one would like to understand, offering opinions perhaps worth mulling over.” With these words Bonnefoy introduces the collection, newly rendered into English by the master translator Beverly Bie Brahic. This deeply moving sequence of prose poems invites readers to attend to the multitudinous voices that carry on their conversations within us, to trust them—“just as on summer nights we would lie down in the grass of the meadow, behind our houses, to go forth among the millions of stars with a feeling of falling.”
by Raymond Chandler
About the book: She has hair of ginger and lovely green eyes, and she has just been transported with her family from Terezín to Auschwitz. In short order, her father commits suicide, and her mother and younger brother are dispatched to the gas chambers, but young Hanka Kaudersová, working for Dr. Krueger, is still alive. Faced with the choice of death or working in a German military brothel on the eastern front, she chooses life, and passes as an Aryan. Hanka fights cold and hunger, fear and shame, sustained by her loathing of the men who visit her and by a fierce desire to live. This remarkable novel soars beyond nightmare to leave the reader with a transcendent sense of hope.
by Peter HandkeRalph ManheimJeffrey Eugenides
About the book: "The Sunday edition of the Kärntner Volkszeitung carried the following item under ‘Local News': ‘In the village of A. (G. township), a housewife, aged 51, committed suicide on Friday night by taking an overdose of sleeping pills.'"So opens A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, the eminent Austrian novelist and playwright Peter Handke's reckoning with his mother's life―which spanned the rise of the Nazis, World War II, and postwar suffering―and death. Both stark and lyrical, full of love, anger, admiration, and a keen sense of history, this slim book reveals Handke at his most lucid and direct. It is the most moving and accessible work in his distinguished career; it is "indispensable" (Bill Marx, The Boston Globe).
by Fr. John Bartunek
About the book: Havel, now president of the Czech Republic, addresses the legacy of Communism as the euphoria of the Velvet Revolution gives way to a more problematic reality. Yet even as he grapples with the challenges of political change, he affirms his belief in a politics motivated by moral responsibility; in an economy tempered by compassion; and in the central roles of art and culture in the transformation of society. Summer Meditations is not only a timely and necessary testament of events in Eastern Europe but a profound reflection upon the nature and practice of politics and a stirring call for morality, civility, and openness in public life throughout the world.
by John Banville
About the book: John Banville’s stunning powers of mimicry are brilliantly on display in this engrossing novel, the darkly compelling confession of an improbable murderer.Freddie Montgomery is a highly cultured man, a husband and father living the life of a dissolute exile on a Mediterranean island. When a debt comes due and his wife and child are held as collateral, he returns to Ireland to secure funds. That pursuit leads to murder. And here is his attempt to present evidence, not of his innocence, but of his life, of the events that lead to the murder he committed because he could. Like a hero out of Nabokov or Camus, Montgomery is a chillingly articulate, self-aware, and amoral being, whose humanity is painfully on display.
by Daniela Hodrová
About the book: Daniela Hodrova shares her unique perception of Prague, through playful poetic prose, and by imaginatively blending historical and cultural motifs with autobiographical moments. A Kingdom of Souls is the first volume of this author's literary journey - an unusual quest for self, for one's place in life and in the world; a world that for Hodrova is embodied in Prague. Translated by Veronique Firkusny and Elena Sokol.
by Amos Oz
About the book: Winner of the National Jewish Book AwardInternational Bestseller "[An] ingenious work that circles around the rise of a state, the tragic destiny of a mother, a boy’s creation of a new self." — The New YorkerA family saga and a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history. A Tale of Love and Darkness is the story of a boy who grows up in war-torn Jerusalem, in a small apartment crowded with books in twelve languages and relatives speaking nearly as many. The story of an adolescent whose life has been changed forever by his mother’s suicide. The story of a man who leaves the constraints of his family and community to join a kibbutz, change his name, marry, have children. The story of a writer who becomes an active participant in the political life of his nation."One of the most enchanting and deeply satisfying books that I have read in many years." — New Republic
by Yan Lianke
About the book: In the ninety-ninth district of a sprawling reeducation compound, freethinking artists and academics are detained to strengthen and affirm their loyalty to Communist ideologies. Here, in this isolated part of Henan province, the Musician and her lover, the Scholar—along with the Author and the Theologian—are forced to carry out grueling physical work and are encouraged to inform on each other for dissident behavior. The prize: winning political favor and the chance at freedom. They're overseen by preadolescent supervisor, the Child, who delights in draconian rules, reward systems, and excessive punishments, such as confiscating treasured books. But when the higher-ups raise the agricultural and industrial production quotas to an unattainable level, the ninety-ninth district dissolves into lawlessness and the intellectuals are soon abandoned by the regime to survive on their own. With his incisive, lyrical prose, Yan Lianke melds political satire and allegory in this riveting, formidable tale that portrays the absurd and grotesque oppression of the Great Leap Forward.
by Eduardo Mendoza
About the book: Anthony Whitelands, an English art historian, is invited to Madrid to value an aristocrat's collection. At a welcome lunch he encounters Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder and leader of the Falange, a nationalist party whose antics are bringing the country ever closer to civil war.The paintings turn out to be worthless, but before Whitelands can leave for London the duque's daughter Paquita reveals a secret and genuine treasure, held for years in the cellars of her ancestral home. Afraid that the duque will cash in his wealth to finance the Falange, the Spanish authorities resolve to keep a close eye on the Englishman, who is also being watched by his own embassy.As Whitelands--ever the fool for a pretty face--vies with Primo de Rivera for Paquita's affections, he learns of a final interested party: Madrid is crawling with Soviet spies, and Moscow will stop at nothing to secure the hidden prize.
by Claudio Magris
About the book: In this acclaimed international bestseller, Claudio Magris tracks the Danube River, setting his finger on the pulse of Central Europe, the crucible of a culture that draws on influences of East and West, Christianity and Islam. In each town he raises the ghosts that inhabit the houses and monuments, from Ovid and Marcus Aurelius to Kafka and Canetti, in "a fascinating blend of anecdote and history" (San Francisco Examiner).