Monday, April 20, 2009


This past week, I have received four books from Autumn Hill Books. AHB may be located in Iowa, but these authors come from Israel, Croatia, and France.

Clockwise from left:

Vassilis Alexakis's Foreign Words
Foreign Words, by Vassilis Alexakis, is an invitation au voyage, a book that takes us on a journey through time and space with the story teller as he travels from Paris where he lives as the book opens, to Greece where he grew up, and where his father has just died, to the Central African Republic as he undertakes the study of Sango. . .

The work is a profound meditation on language and loss, on the language of loss, and also on the power and magic of words — their power to change the way we see ourselves, their magic to renew our lives after hardship, loss, and death. The story is simultaneously filled with delicate suspense and emotional honesty, while the narration is full of humor, tender self-deprecation, and subtle irony.

Suzane Adam's Laundry
Laundry is a novel of psychological suspense that focuses on family relationships and the aftermath of childhood trauma. It is not a novel of the Holocaust, but like much Israeli literature, Laundry is driven by characters whose lives were shaped by the Holocaust-so much so that those events become a silent character in the novel. In 1960s Transylvania, where the novel begins, the main character, five-year-old Ildiko, experiences psychological abuse at the hands of an older girl, Yutzi, whom she worships and follows everywhere. Though Ildiko's family emigrates to Israel soon after, Ildiko's life continues to be shaped by the secret of the trauma that she carries with her. Ildiko tells her story in flashback to her worried husband, who at the novel's start is nearly hysterical with worry about a recent mysterious and possibly violent incident. Only as Ildiko's story unfolds-and with it the parallel stories of her family and her husband-do we come to understand what has taken place, and how Ildiko's story has come full circle.

Igor Ć tiks's A Castle in Romagna
In eleven tightly woven chapters that alternate between Renaissance Italy and Tito's Yugoslavia, this novel weaves a double spiral of love, intrigue and betrayal at one and the same time. Here it is Rimini, 1535, and the Croatian island of Rab, 1948, just days after Tito's momentous break with Stalin. Lives and fates are intertwined, history repeats itself, nostalgia for home is bittersweet and undying.

Slobodan Novak's Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
Dispossessed of her vast property on the island of Rab by the Communist authorities of Yugoslavia, 100-year-old Madonna lies on her death bed. She is finicky, frail and foul-smelling, a "miracle of nature," according to the narrator Mali, because her body continues to function at all. Mali looks after her, patient and exasperated. His identity is never made clear. He may or may not be a relative. He stands to gain little or nothing when she passes on. He waits, performing his duty, remembering and reflecting on his life and the life of the island, his country. In the finely honed lyrical prose of a mid-20th-century masterpiece, Slobodan Novak explores family, religion, the individual, the state, duty, memory, and love in a manner reminiscent of Chekhov, Beckett, Borges and Kis. Madonna's passing is the passing of the way of life and thought of an entire age.

For more Mailbox Monday, click here.

Note: This blog is still relatively new, so this isn't something I'm going to be able to do every week. But hopefully that will soon change!


Blodeuedd said...

They sound good :)
Have fun reading

bermudaonion said...

Oh my gosh, all of those books are beautiful. I hope you enjoy them.

Mary said...

Such a good variety. Enjoy!

E. L. Fay said...

Thanks everybody! I'm almost finished with Laundry and I really am enjoying it. I'm sure I'll like the others as well.

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