Novella-length fable from South African writer Brink (An Act of Terror, 1989, etc.) that playfully suggests a mythic origin for his country's entangled cultures. Brink first takes a classic Greek legend that recounts the tragic love of the Titan Adamastos for Thetis, Nymph and Princess of the Wave, whose attempts at consummation are followed by Zeus turning him into the ``jagged outcrop of the Cape peninsula''; he then adds a few refinements, suggested by the great Portuguese poet Camoes, who transformed Adamastos into Adamastor, the god of the Cape of Storms—it is this Adamastor who apocalyptically warned of storms that would leave a beautiful shipwrecked victim at the mercy of the indigenous peoples, one of whom would become her lover. Finally, Brink adds his own twist as he invents the story of the Portuguese woman who, left behind by sailors frightened by the natives' assaults, is loved by T`kama, chief of the Khoikhoin, the tribe that once lived at the Cape. T`kama, who will die many deaths over the centuries, leads his reluctant tribesmen—along with the woman—into the interior. Attempts to consummate his love are frustrated, as his member—despite the ministrations of a healer- -begins to assume a huge and uncomfortable size; meanwhile, the tribe is beset with unnatural disasters, and, holding the woman responsible, beg T`kama to leave her behind. Thanks to the intervention of a well-placed crocodile, however, love finally conquers all, a child is born, and the tribe's fortunes improve. This brief happiness will end when, back in the Cape, the woman is kidnapped by sailors, leaving the child behind—a child of mixed race who lives on as consolation for the grieving T`kama, who has learned ``how dangerous it is to love.'' Brink has wittily created a splendid new myth in which primal emotions expand in a magical landscape—one rich in local allusions and profound foreshadowing and, in keeping with the genre, suitably bawdy.

Pub Date: June 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-79907-X

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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