Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Finds (17 July 2009)

Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading

This week's Friday Finds all come from the same website, Three Percent listed the books that its Best Translated Book Award panelists would recommend. And here are some of them:

Crossing the Hudson by Peter Stephan Jungk
Gustav Rubin, a fur dealer in Vienna, flies to New York to spend the summer with his wife and two young children in a lake house north of the city. When he arrives late at JFK, he is met by his opinionated, unrelenting mother, Rosa. They rent a car and set out for Lake Gilead. But Gustav loses his way, and son and mother end up on the wrong side of the river. Trying to find the right route north, they become trapped on the Tappan Zee Bridge in the traffic jam of all traffic jams- a truck transporting toxic chemicals has turned over-and Gustav and Mother remain gridlocked high above the Hudson River. Gustav begins to think of his beloved father, a renowned intellectual, now eleven months dead. Then, in a surprising, highly original twist worthy of Kafka, both Gustav and Mother see the body - the colossal, golem-like father body- of Ludwig David Rubin floating naked in the waters below.

Jungk gives a profound meditation on a Jewish family and its past, especially the lasting distorting effects on a son of a famous, vital father and a clinging, overwhelming mother, and of the differences between the generation of European intellectual refugees who arrived in the United States during the Second World War and the children of that generation.

Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin
A strange plague appears in a large city. Rejected by family and friends, some of the sick have nowhere to finish out their days until a hair stylist decides to offer refuge. He ends up converting his beauty shop, which he’s filled with tanks of exotic fish, into a sort of medieval hospice. As his “guests” continue to arrive and to die, his isolation becomes more and more complete in this dream-hazy parable by one of Mexico’s cutting-edge literary stars.

News from the Empire by Fernando Del Paso
"Operatic and beautiful, del Paso's lush cautionary tale of empire building chronicles the brief and disastrous reign of Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria and Marie Charlotte (Carlota) of Belgium, emperor and empress of Mexico from 1863 to 1867. Seeking to redefine herself, Carlota embraces her new role as empress while Max flounders. They are usurpers, and while Benito Juarez, rightful ruler of the republic, abandons the capital to them, the seat of power stays with him as he watches from the periphery and refuses to acknowledge European rule. Desperate, spiraling into madness and wary of impending disaster, Carlota sails to Europe and begs the European monarchies for help that will never arrive. Outliving everyone, Carlota, elderly and insane, still in love with both her lost husband and her lost empire, is left to lament of Mexico, 'I am mother to them all because, Maximilian, I am their history and I am mad.' This moving and engaging epic about the twilight of European monarchy and the struggles of the people they imposed themselves on may be considered a Mexican War and Peace." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

The She-Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya
Laura Rivera can't believe what has happened. Her best friend has been killed in cold blood in the living room of her home, in front of her two young daughters Nobody knows who pulled the trigger, but Laura will not rest easy until she finds out. Her dizzying, delirious, hilarious, and blood-curdling one-sided dialogue carries the reader on a rough and tumble ride through the social, political, economic, and sexual chaos of post-civil war San Salvador. A detective story of pulse-quickening suspense, The She-Devil in the Mirror is also a sober reminder that justice and truth are more often than not illusive. Castellanos Moya's relentless, obsessive narrator-female, rich, paranoid, wonderfully perceptive, and, in the end, fabulously unreliable-paints with frivolous profundity a society in a state of collapse. Castellanos Moya's Senselessness was acclaimed an innovative and invigoratingly twisted piece of art and a brilliantly crafted moral fable, as if Kafka had gone to Latin America for his source materials .

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