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Showing posts from November, 2017

Antonio Moresco - Living in an abandoned village in order to “disappear,” an unnamed man encounters a mysterious light across a deep ravine

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Antonio Moresco, Distant Light, Trans. by Richard Dixon, Archipelago Books, 2016.






A man lives in total solitude in an abandoned mountain village. But a mystery disturbs his isolation: each night at the same hour a distant light appears on the far side of the valley. What is it? Someone in another deserted village? A forgotten street lamp? An alien being? Finally the man is driven to discover its source. There he finds a young boy who also lives alone in a house in the midst of the forest. But who really is this child? The answer at the secret heart of this novel is both uncanny and profoundly touching. Antonio Moresco’s work is a moving meditation on life and the universe we inhabit. Moresco reflects on the solitude and pain of existence, but also on what man shares with all around him, living and dead.


Living in an abandoned village in order to “disappear,” an unnamed man encounters a mysterious light across a deep ravine.
Italian author Moresco, in his English language debut, create…

J. J. Voskuil - ‘World’s longest novel’. Never before has the dry humour and occasional tragedy of office life been described as thoroughly as in this cycle of novels

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J.J. Voskuil (1926-2008) stands alone in Dutch literature. In 1963 he published Bij nader inzien (On Second Thoughts), a twelve-hundred-page novel which describes with photographic precision the lives of a group of students in Amsterdam between 1946 and 1953. For thirty-three years Voskuil was a one-book author and this book seemed to be attaining cult status, especially after its successful adaptation for television in 1991. Until 1990 Voskuil worked at the Bureau for Dialectology, Folklore and Onomastics. Following his retirement he wrote the novel cycle Het Bureau: seven books, a total of 5,500 pages, published between 1996 and 2000. Part two of the cycle, Vuile handen (Dirty Hands), has been shortlisted for the 1997 Libris Literature Prize. A year later Plankton, volume three of the cycle, was awarded the same Libris Prize.


Never before has the dry humour and occasional tragedy of office life been described as thoroughly as in this cycle of novels. The appearance of the first two…

Daisy Hildyard - To be a living thing is to exist in two bodies. You breathe something in, and what you breathe out is something else.

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Daisy Hildyard, The Second Body,Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017.


Every living thing has two bodies. To be an animal is to be in the possession of a physical body, a body which can eat, drink and sleep; it is also to be integrated within a local ecosystem which overlaps with ecosystems which are larger and further away. To be a living thing is to exist in two bodies. You breathe something in, and what you breathe out is something else. Your first body is the place you live in, made out of your own personal skin. Your second body is not so solid as the other one, but much larger. This second body is your own literal and physical biological existence - it is a version of you. It is not a concept, it is your own body. The language we have at the moment is weak: we might speak vaguely of global connections; of the emission and circulation of gases; of impacts. And yet, at some microscopic or intangible scale, bodies are breaking into one another. The concept of a global impact is not working f…

José Maria Eça de Queirós - His excellent prose glides through real experience and private dream in a manner that is leading on toward the achievements of Proust

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Eça de Queirós, The Illustrious House of Ramires. Trans. by Margaret Jull Costa, New Directions, 2017.


The Illustrious House of Ramires, presented here in a sparkling new translation by Margaret Jull Costa, is the favorite novel of many Eça de Queirós aficionados. This late masterpiece, wickedly funny and yet profoundly tender, centers on Gonçalo Ramires, heir to a family so aristocratic that it predates even the kings of Portugal. Gonçalo―charming but disastrously effete, idealistic but hopelessly weak―muddles through his pampered life, burdened by a grand ambition. He is determined to write a great historical novel based on the heroic deeds of his fierce medieval ancestors.  But “the record of their valor,” as The London Spectator remarked, “is ironically counterpointed by his own chicanery. A combination of Don Quixote and Walter Mitty, Ramires is continually humiliated but at the same time kindhearted. Ironic comedy is the keynote of the novel. Eça de Queirós has justly been compar…