New York Review of Books

JigsawJigsaw by Sybille Bedford ($23.95)

Bedford’s 4th and final novel was shortlisted for the Booker in 1989. As a novelist, she used “the ambiguous and inescapable stuff of her own life at the center of her fiction.” This unsentimental education focuses on her early life spanning the time spent alone with her father at a grand but decidedly impoverished chateau in the German countryside, her return to Italy and the dark secret consuming her mother’s life, to living with and learning from Aldous and Maria Huxley on the French Riviera.

 

Ivory PearlIvory Pearl by Jean-Patrick Manchette ($19.95)

Ivory Pearl was a child who survived the wreckage of WWII and became a multi-lingual mascot of British soldiers stationed in Berlin. There she meets an Intelligence officer who proposes to adopt her and help her become the photographer she always wanted to be while she provides him with a solid cover. Deal struck but by 1956 she’s sick of photographing every postwar conflict from Vietnam to East Berlin. That’s when she travels to Cuba for a break. Her timing for a vacation doesn’t take into account that the Cuban Revolution is just about to erupt…This was Manchette’s masterpiece of suspense and black comedy.

 

The Seventh CrossThe Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers ($22.95)

Seghers wrote this novel about a group of 7 German POWs who escape and their tense struggle to avoid capture in 1942. It was intended to alert the world to the grim realities of living in Nazi Germany by showing how ordinary Germans adapted to life under this totalitarian regime. This ranged from actively engaging and identifying with it, attempting to ignore it without drawing undue attention to themselves or by participating in some form of passive or active resistance. Hugely influential at the time of its publication, it remains a very suspenseful and timely story of life under totalitarian rule.

 

Memoirs from Beyond the GraveMemoirs From Beyond the Grave 1768-1800 by Francois Rene De Chateaubriand ($25.95)

This epic biography penned over 4 decades by a member of the French aristocracy recounts his days as a child playing in the woods near his father’s castle in Combourg, hunting with King Louis XVI at Versailles and watching the first wave of heads being carried on pikes through Paris at the start of the revolution. After these events and throughout his lengthy exile in England and eventual return to France he wrote his memoir with a unique sense of self-deprecating wit, whimsy and “memorable gloom” that influenced Baudelaire, Flaubert and Proust as well as being touted as the 1st truly modern autobiography by the likes of Roland Barthes and W.G. Sebald.

 

SandSand by Wolfgang Herrndorf ($24.95)

For the NYRB’s 500th publication it chose something special. This darkly comic literary thriller by one of Germany’s finest writers was completed just before his untimely death in 2013 and is now available in N.A. for the 1st time. Taking place in North Africa after the Munich Olympic massacre, 4 people are murdered in a hippie commune, a bag of money disappears and a pair of reluctant detectives are assigned to investigate. In the middle of all this, a man with no memory tries to evade his pursuers. Truly inspired mayhem ensues by a writer few know in this part of the world but will certainly remember after reading it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *