Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was

 Sjόn

Trans. by Cribb, Victoria

Iceland: 2013 | JPV/Forlagio

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U.K.: June 2, 2016 | Sceptre

U.S.: Aug. 2, 2016 | FSG

Foreign_SjonThe fireworks of an erupting volcano, a devastating outbreak of the Spanish flu, and World War I provide the backdrop to this slim volume which swept up all Iceland’s literary prizes and is to be published in nine more languages. Máni Steinn—Moonstone—is a young cinema addict who earns a living by quietly selling sex to men until the deadly flu begins to annihilate Reykjavik’s inhabitants. Gay in a society that completely rejects homosexuality, Máni is an outsider who nonetheless begins to care for his sick community. Sjόn’s story is a tribute to an uncle who died of AIDS in 1993.

 

A Whole Life

 Seethaler, Robert

Trans. by Collins, Charlotte

Germany: July 28, 2014 | Hanser Berlin

U.K.: Oct. 8, 2015 | Picador

U.S.: Sept. 13, 2016 | FSG

Foreign_SeethalerThis short, moving novel recounts the life of one man, Andreas Egger, who moves at the age of 4 to the mountain valley where he will stay, taken in by a cruel relative who beats him and leaves him with a permanent limp. Despite his disability, Egger becomes a strong laborer, building and maintaining the cable car that will bring tourists to the valley. He falls in love and marries but loses his wife. The simple story of a life of endurance, love, loss, and survival, the novel’s power is in its quiet telling of dramatic episodes in Egger’s life—the moment he confronts his childhood tormenter, an arm slipping out of a falling coffin, the death of a goatherd, a devastating avalanche. It was shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker International Prize.

 

The Senility of Vladimir P.

Honig, Michael

U.K. Mar. 3, 2016 | Atlantic Books

U.S.: Aug. 2, 2016 | Pegasus

Foreign_Honig After five terms as president of post-Soviet Russia, Vladimir P. is in a country dacha, suffering from dementia and more or less abandoned by his family. His entire staff—the chef, the gardeners, the drivers, and the housekeeper—are exploiting his weakness for personal profit. Only Vladimir’s naïve nurse, Sheremetev, is untainted by the rampant corruption surrounding him. But then Sheremetev’s nephew is jailed after writing a trenchant article about the new president, and the prosecutor demands an enormous bribe. Vladimir’s past is revealed through delusional flashbacks; he fights the disembodied head of a Chechen in his bedroom and shares meals with former KGB colleagues, all of whom are dead. This offbeat satire is bitingly critical of modern Russia and alarmingly realistic in its description of senile dementia.

 

Blood Wedding
Lemaitre, Pierre

Trans. by Wynne, Frank

France : Jan. 20, 2010 | Le livre de poche

U.K.: July 7, 2016 | MacLehose Press

U.S.: Sept. 6, 2016 | MacLehose Press

Foreign_LeMaitre Sophie is a fugitive trying to escape her past and the crimes, including murder, that she doesn’t even remember committing. Her life had once been perfect: a loving husband, a great job, and the promise of a future family life. Then the strange memory lapses started to happen: at first little things like a misplaced birthday present or theater tickets for the wrong date. As her life escalates out of control, Sophie outfoxes the police by changing her identity. This fast-paced, noirer-than-noir psychological thriller maintains suspense throughout even if the evil mind behind Sophie’s fate stretches the bounds of credibility. Lemaitre won France’s Prix Goncourt in 2013 for The Great Swindle, a more recent novel set at the end of World War I and a departure from the crime fiction for which he is best known.

Catherine Hickley is a Berlin-based arts journalist. Her first book, The Munich Art Hoard: Hitler’s Dealer and His Secret Legacy, was published by Thames & Hudson (except in North America) in September 2015