In prismatic translation from the Italian, these tiny tales sparkle with wit and worldly wisdom.



Most of the 21 stories in this wide-ranging collection are only a few pages long, and they're jewels of intellect and compassion.

As if taking stock of life through the lens of European history, Swiss writer Jaeggy (S.S. Proleterka, 2003, etc.) finds poetry in the thoughts of characters who steal or desecrate, fall into depression, kill without knowing why, each fate revealing a hint about the soul, something from the core of life. In the gloomy title story, a man describes his love-hate relationship with his entrancing older sister. At age 8 he tells his grandmother all he wants to do when he grows up is die and, later, recalls how his mother’s coffin looked after someone placed flowers on it: “Little sweets, little strawberries, a flowery meadow on our mother’s skull.” There’s a story about a visit to a hospital burn unit (“The Aseptic Room”), an artwork that mirrors life (“Portrait of an Unknown Woman”), and a “puritanically serene” family with a Nazi past (“The Aviary”). Two stories focus on famous writers, Joseph Brodsky (“Negde”) and Ingeborg Bachmann (“The Salt Water House”). Jaeggy’s prose is silken, especially when violence occurs. In “The Heir,” an old woman collapses in a fire that may have been set by her servant, who notes in cold, heartbreaking detail how “her hands, like the claws of a crustacean, clutched a little mound of dust.” The wealthy, death-obsessed family in “The Last of the Line” lives out a fable of decadence in decay, where lakes dream and haunting portraits portend murder. And it’s a testament to Jaeggy’s skill that her gothic fiction can stand alongside a story such as “Names,” about a visit to Auschwitz, where, “the flowers before the Wall of Death are limp. During the night they freeze.”

In prismatic translation from the Italian, these tiny tales sparkle with wit and worldly wisdom.

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2598-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?



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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet