Considered, sometimes-stiff experiments enlivened by Albahari’s wordplay.



Expats, lovers and writers from Belgrade to Calgary wrestle with distance and loss in this pensive, postmodern story collection from the veteran Serbian author.

Albahari’s prior works in English translation (Götz and Meyer, 2005, etc.) emphasized the horrors of the Holocaust and Nazi rule. The 27 stories here are relatively gentle, more interior tales, though World War II remains on Albahari’s mind. In “Hitler in Chicago,” a writer meets a woman on a plane who claims to have met the dictator, delivering a final line that suggests his ghost isn’t leaving soon: “Everyone must see Hitler once in their life.” In “Tito in Zurich,” a woman takes practically orgasmic joy in a poster in her room of the Yugoslavian strongman, evoking a tension between security and surveillance. More typical, though, is the title story, in which a man teaching Cyrillic to Serbian children in a cold North American town befriends Thunder Cloud, a Blackfoot Indian; Thunder Cloud’s folk tales intermingle with the church’s and the narrator’s own Serbian background to make for a somber study of displacement. Metafictional gamesmanship abounds: Pieces like “The Basilica in Lyon” and “A Story With No Way Out” are stories about storytelling and the futility of applying order to our messy lives. (“I don’t know why I began this story, nor why my wife and I turned up in it.”) Though not exactly flash fiction, these stories tend to be brief, introducing a relationship and abstracted complication, and Albahari’s habitually open-ended conclusions can be unsatisfying. But sometimes the approach produces gems like the two-page “Squirrel, Peanut, Hat,” in which a squirrel at the narrator’s front door sparks a memory of his father’s stint in a Nazi camp. Albahari lives in a lively, quirky present, but a dark past is never far away.

Considered, sometimes-stiff experiments enlivened by Albahari’s wordplay.

Pub Date: Dec. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62897-090-6

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Superb stylist L’Amour returns (End of the Drive, 1997, etc.), albeit posthumously, with ten stories never seen before in book form—and narrated in his usual hard-edged, close-cropped sentences, jutting up from under fierce blue skies. This is the first of four collections of L’Amour material expected from Bantam, edited by his daughter Angelique, featuring an eclectic mix of early historicals and adventure stories set in China, on the high seas, and in the boxing ring, all drawing from the author’s exploits as a carnival barker and from his mysterious and sundry travels. During this period, L’Amour was trying to break away from being a writer only of westerns. Also included is something of an update on Angelique’s progress with her father’s biography: i.e., a stunningly varied list of her father’s acquaintances from around the world whom she’d like to contact for her research. Meanwhile, in the title story here, a missionary’s daughter who crashes in northern Asia during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War is taken captive by a nomadic leader and kept as his wife for 15 years, until his death. When a plane lands, she must choose between taking her teenaged son back to civilization or leaving him alone with the nomads. In “By the Waters of San Tadeo,” set on the southern coast of Chile, Julie Marrat, whose father has just perished, is trapped in San Esteban, a gold field surrounded by impassable mountains, with only one inlet available for anyone’s escape. “Meeting at Falmouth,” a historical, takes place in January 1794 during a dreadful Atlantic storm: “Volleys of rain rattled along the cobblestones like a scattering of broken teeth.” In this a notorious American, unnamed until the last paragraph, helps Talleyrand flee to America. A master storyteller only whets the appetite for his next three volumes.

Pub Date: May 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10963-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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