Imperfect, but one of the best introductions to non-Western writers there is.

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WORDS WITHOUT BORDERS

THE WORLD THROUGH THE EYES OF WRITERS: AN ANTHOLOGY

Wide-ranging, politically charged collection of 27 narratives from around the globe.

This collection opens with an astonishing fact: “50 percent of all the books in translation now published worldwide are translated from English, but only 6 percent are translated into English.” In conjunction with the well-known ignorance of most Americans about global politics—or even global geography—that statistic is reason enough for this absorbing book. Composed of poems, short stories and excerpts from novels, the anthology gathers the work of writers from Iran, India, China, Korea, Romania, Iraq and Palestine, among others. Each text is introduced by a writer more likely to be known to a U.S. audience, including a handful of relatively well-known ones like Cynthia Ozick and Jonathan Safran Foer, but many more by internationally acclaimed writers like the Nobelists Naguib Mahfouz and Günter Grass. And while this is a rich and impressive anthology, it is also uneven. This is less the fault of the primary text than of the introductions. Many of them strain to describe the qualities of the writer they introduce, lingering over images and themes in abstract, self-involved language. Some show a real flair for identifying the cultural and historical resonance of the writer they’re presenting; those who do this well (Wole Soyinka, for example) drop the reader right into the center of the narrative. The pieces themselves are all gems. Of special note: the wrenching work of Chinese writer Ma Jian; the beautiful prose of Indonesian writer Seno Gumira Ajidarma; and the acute social eye of Iranian writer Goli Taraghi.

Imperfect, but one of the best introductions to non-Western writers there is.

Pub Date: March 13, 2007

ISBN: 1-4000-7975-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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