Dolph’s fine translation eases us through the dense paragraphs of this major addition to Saer’s oeuvre.

LA GRANDE

This final novel by the renowned Argentine writer (1937-2005) is a daring, idiosyncratic work that examines the idea of an individual person navigating the whirl of random events that helps shape everyone's lives.

Nula, 29, is a wine salesman, philosopher and philanderer, a combination which makes him a perfect subject for Saer’s scrutiny. He's working on a book about becoming, which, viewed as a lifelong project, is one of the novel’s animating concepts. As for wine and sex, both are portals to a heightened awareness of the self. While the novel ostensibly keeps to a linear narrative, stretching over six days, Saer subverts the form by placing the most important moments in the past. Five years earlier, on the street, Nula bumped into a beautiful girl in red, contingency (another key concept) at work. He became romantically obsessed by this Lucía, who was married to a doctor, but he couldn’t handle participating in their lovemaking when she invited him to. Soon after, he met and married the equally beautiful Diana, only to cheat on her with regularity. Sex is at the heart of the novel, not just the sweaty coupling but its prospect and, later, its memory, how they flood the consciousness. Memory is a third key concept. The past is ever present for Nula's witty, erudite, sexually permissive and loose-knit group of friends. Even at the end of the 20th century, the memory of Argentina’s nightmarish Dirty War still throbs; Nula’s father, a left-wing activist, was murdered during that war. Saer has challenged himself to reproduce life’s flux while arresting it, since “any object in the world can be of interest to a true philosopher.” This explains why a woman threading a needle merits the same absorbed attention as a hot date.

Dolph’s fine translation eases us through the dense paragraphs of this major addition to Saer’s oeuvre.

Pub Date: June 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-934824-21-4

Page Count: 501

Publisher: Open Letter

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 17

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

Unquestionably the finest novel of the present century—and we may be saying the same thing 92 years from now.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • National Book Critics Circle Winner

2666

Life and art, death and transfiguration reverberate with protean intensity in the late (1953–2003) Chilean author’s final work: a mystery and quest novel of unparalleled richness.

Published posthumously in a single volume, despite its author’s instruction that it appear as five distinct novels, it’s a symphonic envisioning of moral and societal collapse, which begins with a mordantly amusing account (“The Part About the Critics”) of the efforts of four literary scholars to discover the obscured personal history and unknown present whereabouts of German novelist Benno von Archimboldi, an itinerant recluse rumored to be a likely Nobel laureate. Their searches lead them to northern Mexico, in a desert area notorious for the unsolved murders of hundreds of Mexican women presumably seeking freedom by crossing the U.S. border. In the novel’s second book, a Spanish academic (Amalfitano) now living in Mexico fears a similar fate threatens his beautiful daughter Rosa. It’s followed by the story of a black American journalist whom Rosa encounters, in a subplot only imperfectly related to the main narrative. Then, in “The Part About the Crimes,” the stories of the murdered women and various people in their lives (which echo much of the content of Bolaño’s other late mega-novel The Savage Detectives) lead to a police investigation that gradually focuses on the fugitive Archimboldi. Finally, “The Part About Archimboldi” introduces the figure of Hans Reiter, an artistically inclined young German growing up in Hitler’s shadow, living what amounts to an allegorical representation of German culture in extremis, and experiencing transformations that will send him halfway around the world; bring him literary success, consuming love and intolerable loss; and culminate in a destiny best understood by Reiter’s weary, similarly bereaved and burdened sister Lotte: “He’s stopped existing.” Bolaño’s gripping, increasingly astonishing fiction echoes the world-encompassing masterpieces of Stendhal, Mann, Grass, Pynchon and García Márquez, in a consummate display of literary virtuosity powered by an emotional thrust that can rip your heart out.

Unquestionably the finest novel of the present century—and we may be saying the same thing 92 years from now.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-10014-8

Page Count: 912

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more