A challenging, compelling work for readers who are willing to give it the concentration it demands.

THE EXPEDITION TO THE BAOBAB TREE

An early-1980s South African novel about a female slave living in a tree receives American publication three decades after it was written.

Written in Afrikaans by a prolific playwright and poet (The Wisdom of Water, 2007, etc.), this belated appearance will likely attract most attention due to its translator, the Nobel Prize–winning novelist Coetzee (who translated the work in 1983). It’s a densely detailed novella, without chapters or named characters, narrated by a female slave who has passed through various owners and who plays chronological hopscotch while blurring the lines among reality, dreams and imagination. “My dreams fill me and help me eat time,” she says. “It no longer matters to me that I cannot neatly dispose of time and store it away and preferably forget it; for now I perceive that dreaming and waking do not damn each other, but are extensions of each other and flow into each other.” Thus, there’s a hallucinatory quality to the narrative, addressed to an unknown reader by a writer that reader only knows through what she reveals, some of which she dreams. “Only when I am asleep do I fully know who I am,” she says, “for I reign over my dreamtime and occupy my dreams contentedly. At such times I am necessary to myself.” As she moves from the tree in which she has come to live through her memories of the past, she tells of how she was sold into slavery, how her sexual attractiveness gave her some power, negated by her ultimate powerlessness, how babies she birthed were taken away from her, and how she ultimately ended up on an expedition that led to a slaughter that led to her home in a tree. The result is a meditation on humanity, mortality and time.

A challenging, compelling work for readers who are willing to give it the concentration it demands.

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-935744-92-4

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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