June 17, 2022
These books feature both imagined worlds and characters who recreate themselves in new worlds. From medieval times to modern times, you’ll experience fabulism, rediscovered sci-fi, a haunting Metro ride in Paris, reissued trans literature set in the American West and a deep dive into the breathtaking realms of classic French literature. There’s a lot to marvel at here.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Ottessa Moshfegh
Published by Penguin Press
Moshfegh’s fictional style this time lies squarely within the fantastic. Here in a medieval village a 13-year-old misshapen shepherd boy tangles with his abusive father, an absent mother (he often visits her grave and lies down, “placing his body crosswise as though he was a babe in her dead arms through the dirt”), the beloved midwife with spiritual powers, a corrupt governor and a complicit priest. It is a dark, but riveting, psychologically profound book of fiction, grappling with nature and nurture and the forces of good and evil.
By Marlen Haushofer
Published by New Directions
Translated by Shaun Whiteside
An excellent rediscovery, this novel by an Austrian feminist was originally published in 1963. The new edition comes with an afterword by the wonderful Irish writer Claire-Louise Bennett (The Wall is given a shout out in her novel Pond). An acknowledged tour de force of sci-fi, Haushofer’s novel posits a world in which a woman finds herself the last person alive, cut off from whatever remains of humanity behind an invisible obstruction she calls ‘the wall,’ with only animals as companions. It reads like a nightmare and feels ahead of its time, resonating with today’s popular dystopias that border on apocalyptic horror..
By Imogen Binnie
Published by MCD
Binnie’s first novel was published by the now defunct Topside Press in 2013. Almost a decade on it feels au courant and essential to the growing body of work in trans literature. Meet Maria, a punk-ish floundering trans woman unhappily working in a NYC bookstore. She’s spirited (and full of spirits), tough on the outside, softer on the inside. Life is “never being sure who knows you’re trans or what that knowledge would ever mean to them.” She heads to Nevada after a heartbreak to figure it out. There are drugs, alcohol, a Walmart clerk and a lot more to entertain. Thanks goes to FSG for rescuing the novel from oblivion.
Published by New Directions
Translated by Nguyễn An Lý
Thuận’s haunting novel is centered around a mesmerizing interior monologue delivered by a Vietnamese single mother who grew up in Hanoi, studied in Leningrad and now teaches in Paris. While sitting in a stalled Paris Metro car, her mind embarks on a journey of self-reflection. A novel within the novel is written by her missing husband, a Chinese-Vietnamese man whose suffering under the disapproving eyes of society led them to part ways—he to Saigon’s Chinatown and she to Paris with their child. The author calls this novel a story of ‘star-crossed lovers.’ It is also a story of displacement, and, ultimately, memory, in the great French Proustian literary tradition that Thuận cites as an influence..
Living and Dying with Marcel Proust
By Christopher Prendergast
Published by Europa Compass
Memory and time are primary obsessions of Proust’s masterwork, the six-part In Search of Lost Time. Here a respected Cambridge scholar of Proust reexamines the volumes’ many preoccupations, with a focus on the medical—insomnia, addiction and asthma. Prendergast speaks of the ‘splendid madness’ of reading Proust, as anyone going down the rabbit hole of his work can attest. His novels continue to fascinate readers and re-readers alike. (Our reading groups based on his work always sell out.) This accessible, astute reconsideration offers a journey into one of the greatest pieces of 20th century literature well worth taking as we mark the 100th anniversary of the author’s death.