A World of Books 2000: Internnational Classics

The struggle to express experience and ideas through language transcends cultures, boundaries and eras. It is a struggle common to all peoples, from the beginning of communication. As a universal enterprise it is both personal and dramatic, requiring skill and critical reasoning. Despite its consequence, however, we often tend to focus on related aspects of the expressive process, rather than on the effort itself. For example, modes of expression easily capture our attention because of their increasing sophistication. From ancient, stylus-impressed clay tablets to the computer's subliminal digits in radiant character strings–tools of the expressive process capture the imagination by their compelling evolutionary story.

Modes of expression, however, can not evoke our admiration as profoundly as the effort to convey experience and thought through words. It is a struggle of continually recurring complexity and challenge as conditions change and require adaptation. While the achievement of success in expression is prized, it is recognized at different levels: perceived sometimes as only the effective telling of a message, it occasionally receives distinction as art. A World of Books: International Perspectives, 2001 is a celebration of the expressive struggle constantly taking place around the world. Whether coming to terms with issues, ideas, or experiences, the works cited in this survey typify a universal effort of the human spirit, an effort we can appreciate for its commonalities.

This is the fourth in a series of pamphlets, first started in 1998, that seeks to share brief insights into other cultures and nations. The series began when the Library of Congress asked its foreign area specialists to identify some of the most important and interesting books recently published abroad that an American public may have overlooked. The yearly results have been fascinating and well-received. The short, annotated selections are a small--but intriguing--fraction of materials that staff routinely encounter in their daily work of choosing materials for the Library's collections or providing reference to the Library's patrons.

This year we focus on the theme "emerging talents." It is often easy to miss that which is becoming important, especially if it is taking place in another culture and in a foreign language. It is even easier to be unaware or to neglect new trends and emerging personalities. With a staff of specialists who monitor the various regions and nations of the world, the Library of Congress is well-situated to inform others about growing areas of interest, emerging themes, and newly influential people. Most of the titles assembled here are works of fiction, developed by creative imaginations; some are works of nonfiction which have influenced public affairs and scholarship. Most of the works have been cited in translation, to make them more accessible to American readers. All of the works demonstrate the enduring value of the productive and free human spirit.

The list is meant to suggest the wealth of ideas and creative activities found abroad, and inclusion only indicates that a given work provides a representative perspective that may broaden American understanding of the world and enrich the global dialogue of ideas. As in earlier lists, appearance does not imply that the staff as individuals or the Library as an institution endorses the views expressed. A list of the countries represented in this and earlier brochures is appended.

Once again, the Library of Congress hopes this list will stimulate interest in its outstanding international collections and serve as an invitation to further reading and research. The texts of the earlier brochures are available on the newly developed Library of Congress International Collections web site, at the address: http://www.loc.gov/rr/international. Copies of previous brochures are available in limited quantities, by writing to the Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20540-4860.

Piglia, Ricardo. The Absent City [Ciudad ausente]. Translated by Sergio Gabriel Waisman. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000. (Pagination unavailable) ISBN: 0822325578. LC Call No.: PQ7798.26.I4C5813 2000 (Not yet in LC)

At first glance this novel appears to be a collection of stories written by a police/political reporter in Buenos Aires and the Argentine prairie or pampas. The ambiguity of the reporter's position allows the characters to work out their personal histories as they wander back and forth between contemporary reality and their own individual brand of illusions. The style here pays homage to the innovators of Argentine prose such as Julio Cortázar and especially Macedonio Fernández. The narrator relates folk tales interspersed with macabre discoveries during the times of hatred, violence, and unjustifiable repression. In the meantime, Piglia gives us his opinions on governments and the Argentine political class' willingness to develop megalomaniacal policies based on the advice of pseudo-scientific experts. He also criticizes those who ignore intellectuals and pay no attention to the hopes and dreams of generations of Argentines. [Nora Luaces]

Tsiolkas, Christos. Loaded. Milsons Point, NSW: Vintage, 1995. 151 p. ISBN: 0091831083. LC Call No.: PR9619.3.T786L63 1995

In his controversial first novel, author Christos Tsiolkas depicts a day and night in the life of Ari, an alienated young Greek-Australian who careens through the suburbs of Melbourne in a series of family conflicts, sexual encounters with both men and women, and drug-fueled nightclub sessions. In a nonstop monologue, by turns lyrical and profane (and sometimes both at once), Ari tries to grapple with what it means to be an outsider–unemployed, bisexual, disaffected, a drug user, neither wholly Greek nor Australian–amidst the often harsh cultural and economic realities of contemporary Australia. Tsiolkas portrays his confused and angry young protagonist in vivid, uncompromising, and often shocking language, summing up his dilemma neatly: "There is no dignity without choice and there is no choice." The novel has been adapted for the screen as Head On (1998), directed by Ana Kokkinos. Himself a gay Greek-Australian, Tsiolkas discusses his own search for identity in Jump Cuts (with Sasha Soldatow, 1996). [Art Emerson]

Ribeiro, João Ubaldo. The Lizard's Smile [Sorriso do lagarto]. Translated from the Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers. New York: Atheneum : Maxwell Macmillan International, 1994. 355 p. ISBN: 0689121253. LC Call No.: PQ9698.28.I165S613 1994

Lawyer, university professor and journalist, João Ubaldo, in spite of severe health problems, has written some of the best Brazilian fiction in recent years. Translating the book was no easy task since much of the conversation is conducted in typical Northeastern Portuguese, but Landers' version retains the sheer pleasure and fun of witnessing the adventures of a representative of humanity. Indeed, for those who know the area, Ubaldo's depiction of daily lives of ordinary people in Bahia sounds and even smells true. For those who have never been to this most exotic of Brazilian states, Ubaldo recounts what may appear as eccentricities but in reality are commonplace events and which, in his masterful retelling, keeps the reader both enthralled and amused. With a powerful mix of superstition, spirit worship, and the infinite possibilities of biogenetic engineering, The Lizard's Smile was made into a highly popular television miniseries. Through a succession of characters, both Brazilian and foreign, Ubaldo focused on human foibles, political corruption, love and treachery; yet, at every page, the reader, like his nearly mythical lizard, cannot help but smile. [Iêda Siqueira Wiarda]

Serrano, Marcela. Antigua and My Life Before: A Novel [Antigua vida mía]. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. New York: Doubleday, 2000. 352 p. ISBN: 0385498012. LC Call No.: PQ8098.29.E725A5813 2000

Serrano is one of the rising younger writers of Chile. In 1994 she won the Literary Prize of Santiago. Noted Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes proclaimed that, in her brilliant new novel Antigua and My Life Before, Serrano is a successor to the mythic Scherezade: "a woman again saves our lives by telling stories, every night a new story." The novel is set in Chile in the small town of Antigua and deals with two very different women, Josefa, a famous singer and her friend Violeta, who has been involved in an act of violence. Violeta committed murder to save her daughter. The author portrays how the demands of a woman's many roles frequently conflict with one another. The novel deals with friendship, loyalty, tragedy, and death in a seamless collection of the stories of the women's lives and that of their families. This is the first translation of a Serrano novel into English, and award-winning translator Margaret Peden has crafted a superb rendition of this major new novel. [Georgette M. Dorn]

Jin, Ha. Waiting. New York: Pantheon Books, 1999. 308 p. ISBN: 0375406530. LC Call No.: PS3560.I6W34 1999

Ha Jin left his native China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He is the author of two books of poetry; two previous collections of stories, Ocean of Words, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award, and Under the Red Flag, which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. The author also wrote two novels, In the Pond and Waiting, which won both the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Waiting provides a crash course in Chinese society during and since the Cultural Revolution, and for this reason the book is presently banned in China. Through a style which is rich in detail and earthy grace, the author depicts a simple love story that transcends cultural barriers; a love affair that creates conflict in Chinese rural family relationships and the complex fabric of provincial life. [Judy S. Lu]

Mutis, Alvaro. The Adventures of Maqroll: Four Novellas. Translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman. New York: Harper Collins, 1995. 369 p. ISBN: 0060170042. LC Call No.: PQ8180.23U8A24 1995

Major Colombian writer Alvaro Mutis, who was born in 1923, has spent most of his life in Mexico. He began his literary career as a poet and published many volumes in which his major character Maqroll el Gaviero ("Maqroll the lookout") describes a decaying and defeated landscape. In 1986, Mutis published his first novel La nieve del almirante (The Snow of the Admiral) and has continued in that genre ever since. Once again tales of Maqroll and of his closest companion Abdul Bashur are featured, narrated with the same ironic detachment and glorification of failure that had been celebrated in the previous poems. This translated collection, the second by Grossman, contains four short novels relating yet more stories of Mutis' antihero and companion. Mutis inhabits the same universe as fellow Colombian and Nobel laureate García Márquez, sharing an inheritance of grand ideas and programs that always seem to produce the all-too-familar dismal results. Reading Mutis is an excellent way of understanding how thoughtful Latin Americans internalize their countries' struggle for greater democracy and economic development. [Barbara A. Tenenbaum]

Topol, Jáchym. City, Sister, Silver [Sestra]. Translated from the Czech by Alex Tucker. North Haven, CT: Catbird Press, 2000. 508 p. ISBN: 0945774435. LC Call No.: PG5039.3.O648S4713 2000

The author of this book, Jáchym Topol, is the son of a renowned Czech playwright, and was 27 years old when Communism collapsed in Czechoslovakia in 1989. His experiences during the first years of the post-Communist era provide the stuff for this remarkable book written in a style as turbulent as the events which shook Czech society. Topol's novel defies conventional writing and paradoxically mixes myth and reality, fantasy and keen observation, pastoral imagery and scenes of urban destitution. The young hero, named Potok, and a group of his friends, hungrily use and misuse the new way of life without controls and prohibitions. They engage in schemes and rackets, earn a fortune and lose it. They are, in the author's words, "thieves and entrepreneurs, drunks and junkies, artists and wheeler-dealers." But with their longing for authentic happiness, symbolized by Potok's constant search for his vanished girlfriend, they can also be viewed as wandering seekers of better goals. The tale of their adventures in the world of changed or changing values is a great parable of both the promises and risks of individual freedom. [George Kovtun]

Alvarez, Julia. In the Time of the Butterflies. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 1994. 325 p. ISBN: 1565120388. LC Call No.: PS3551.L845I5 1994

In many Latin American countries, November 25th is observed as the International Day Against Violence Towards Women. That date happens to mark the murder of the Mirabals, three Dominican sisters killed for their husbands' and their own participation in plots to overthrow Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo, an enduring, clever, yet murderous dictator. Alvarez recounts the lives of these "butterflies," the code name for those in the underground, with an imaginative and loving touch that is a skillful blend of fact and fiction as a novel--not as an historical document–and as a way to travel through the human heart. She is careful not to turn the sisters into larger-than-life, intangible martyrs, as has often been the case, with monuments and museums dedicated to them. Alvarez understands them as fellow Dominicans, as unique women who led ordinary lives in a tropical, if tainted, paradise. [Iêda Siqueira Wiarda]

Argueta, Manlio. A Place Called Milagro de La Paz [Milagro de la Paz]. Translated by Michael B. Miller. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 2000. 206 p. ISBN: 18800684322. LC Call No.: PQ7539.2.A68M5513 2000

The most important issues facing Salvadoran society are exposed in this work which is an excellent English translation of the 1994 Milagro de la Paz. In his most recent and novel, Argueta focuses on the legacy of civil strife in the lives of a family of women who live in a small village in El Salvador. The courageous mother, Latina, struggles for her family's survival. One daughter, Magdalena, is murdered during the civil war. After a while an ethereal being, a girl with butterflies in her hair, arrives at Latina's home and becomes part of the household. This beautiful tale, by a Latin American master not yet well known in the United States, illustrates lyrically the struggle by villagers to persevere and prevail in a violent world. [Tracy North]

Bernard Werber. Empire of the Ants [Fourmis]. Translated by Margaret Rocques. New York: Bantam Books, 1998. 262 p. ISBN: 0553096133. LC Call No.: PQ2683.E65F6813 1998

Born in 1961 in Toulouse, France, Werber wrote his first story at age 7. "Les Aventures d'une puce" (The Adventures of a Flea) was a 4-page story describing the daily life of humans from a flea's point of view. Werber would later develop the themes and literary devices of this first story into both a career as a science reporter for Le nouvel observateur (1983-1990) and as the author of a fictional trilogy featuring ants. The Empire of the Ants, set in the 21st century, tells the story of a family that moves into a newly inherited house, thereby threatening the existence of the longtime resident and very vigorous ant colony. Werber, who cites American authors Edgar Allen Poe and Philip K. Dick as important literary influences, writes an entomological thriller with philosophical implications. A work of pacifist advocacy, it examines civilizations large and small, calling into question their supremacy and endurance. Empire of the Ants soon became a cult favorite in France. As it was translated into seventeen languages around the world, it was eventually assigned to philosophy and natural science classes. The ant trilogy was completed with Le Jour des Fourmis (1992) and La Révolution des fourmis (1995). Werber's latest book, L'Empire des anges (2000) is the second volume of his second trilogy, a view of human civilization from a life beyond this one. [Carol Armbruster]

Krasznahorkai, László. The Melancholy of Resistance [Ellenállás melankóliája]. Translated by George Szirtes. New York: New Directions Press, 2000. (Pagination unavailable) ISBN: 0811214508. LC Call No.: PH3281.K8866E3413 2000

The Melancholy of Resistance is the second of László Krasznahorkai's five novels and the first to be translated into English. Krasznahorkai, born in Gyula, Hungary, in 1954, took six years to write this novel and it took George Szirtes four years to translate it. In the work, a sense of impending catastrophe besets a provincial Hungarian town. Government and society are falling apart: trains fail to show up, streetlights are not turned on, garbage and packs of stray animals litter the streets. Even the weather hints at doom; it is only late fall but already the temperature has dropped down to five above zero. Then a circus boasting "The Biggest Whale in the World" arrives in town. It is not the whale that attracts the public's attention but rather "The Prince," a mysterious, deformed character who accompanies the whale but remains in the background, and whose followers have turned up on the streets ("silent and immobile crowds, who seemed to have taken possession of the whole town. . ."). With a first sentence of over 170 words setting the stylistic tone for this work (the reader will find no paragraphs, only chapters), the humor and fascinating descriptions of people and events within this black comedy presents a world where, as one critic put it, "[t]he darker it gets the more wildly funny it becomes." [Kenneth Nyirady]

Sivasankarapilla, Takali. Kayar = Coir [Kayer]. Translated from Malayalam by N. Sreekantan Nair. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1997. 736 p. ISBN: 8126003200. LC Call No.: PL4718.9.S57K3813 1997

Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai's epic novel takes in a century of wrenching social changes, the gradual shift from a feudal system under maharajas tributary to British colonial government through the independence movement and other social reform movements, to independence, the abolition of the monarchy and introduction of democracy, land reform, and the fierce challenge of communism. Among anthropologists, the Kerala region of India is noted for the unusual system of inheritance of wealth and social identity in the female line, combined with temporary marriage, that used to prevail among its martial nobility, the Nayars. The abolition of this system by the law of the maharajas is one of the social transformations chronicled by the book. [Allen W. Thrasher]

Smith, Holly S. (Holly Susan) Aceh: Art and Culture. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1997. 75 p. ISBN: 9835600163. LC Call No.: NX580.A3A268 1997

Aceh, a northern Indonesian province, is an area that was once intimately connected with the early period of the American Republic. In April 1788, Captain Jonathan Carnes of Salem, Massachusetts, first visited Aceh and opened it up to trade. Soon, Salem became a major trade center for pepper, for a time contributing five percent of the entire national income of the United States. It was through its exclusive connections with Aceh that Salem thrived in the pepper trade. It was to Aceh that the United States dispatched the frigate Potomac in 1830, along with a detachment of the U.S. Marines, an event that marked the first U.S. military intervention in Asia. Nowadays memories of Aceh are practically forgotten, except in historical documents (kept at both the Library of Congress and the Peabody Museum of Salem). The publication of this book therefore fills a void. It covers the background of the Acehnese people, their history, culture, and society. It includes discussion of their art and architecture, literature and performing arts, and is well illustrated with beautiful color photographs and historical drawings of Acehnese by early Western explorers. For those interested in further reading, a concise bibliography of published materials in English and Indonesian is included. [Kohar Roni]

Yoshimi, Yoshiaki. Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military [Jugun ianfu]. Translated by Suzanne O'Brien. New York: Columbia University Press, November 2000. (Pagination unavailable) ISBN: 023112032X. LC Call No.: D810.C698Y6713 2000

Until the scholar Yoshimi Yoshiaki discovered official documents at the Japanese Self Defense Forces Agency Library in 1992, linking the Japanese government to the system that forced women throughout Asia to perform sexual services for the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War, the Japanese government had denied any official involvement in such activities. The documents Yoshimi uncovered proved that it was not just private entrepreneurs who supplied "comfort women" but that the military had directed the recruitment of young women for that purpose. As a result, the government subsequently acknowledged its involvement. It was that revelation that led Japanese feminists to join other feminists elsewhere in Asia in demanding that the Japanese government provide an official public apology and monetary compensation to the former sex slaves. Today, estimates of the numbers of sexual slaves range from 80,000 to 200,000 and the issue remains highly contentious. Yoshimi's important book describes the institutional formation of the comfort women system, its expansion throughout Asia, the testimonies of former sexual slaves, their lives, the recollections of soldiers, international law and the war crimes trials, and the postwar circumstances surrounding the issue of sexual slavery. [Beth Katzoff]

Chamoiseau, Patrick. Texaco. Translated from the French and Creole by Rose-Myriam Réjouis and Val Vinokurov. New York: Pantheon Books, 1997. 401 p. ISBN: 0679432353. LC Call No.: PQ3949.2.C45T4913 1997

In 1992, Patrick Chamoiseau of Martinique won the Prix Goncourt for a surreal epic, written in French and Creole, that celebrates the vibrant African, Indian, European, Chinese and Levantine melange of cultures present in his island and in the broader Caribbean. Within his novel Chamoiseau creates the disheveled urban district of Texaco. Its inhabitants--who are representative of the grass-roots culture of Martinique, a culture that has been in formation since the abolition of slavery in1848--confront the outside urban planner who has been sent to level their district. Their conflict has deeper meaning, since we are told that from the time of slavery and colonialism, the effort by slaves to conquer the city represented escape to freedom. "These multiple assaults will end with the fractious creation of the district of Texaco and the ominous reign of a boundless city." As the story approaches its conclusion a narrator says "That heap of asbestos and concrete was developing very clear vibrations. They came from afar, from the concert of our histories." Valorizing cultural differences and their refusal to be effaced, Chamoiseau shapes and champions a literature he first described, with others, in Eloge de la créolité (Paris: Gallimard/Presses Universitaires Créoles, 1989). Fundamental to the important and evolving Creolite Movement, this literature shifts the focus upon Africa found in Negritude to a broader spectrum of races and cultures. It finds within Creole the linguistic mirror of a complex historical process and the language of a new society. [Joan F. Higbee]

Boullosa, Carmen. They're Cows, We're Pigs [Son vacas, somos puercos]. Translated from the Spanish by Leland H. Chambers. New York: Grove Press, 1997. 180 p. ISBN: 0802116108. LC Call No.: PQ7298.12.O76S613 1997

Carmen Boullosa is one of the most prolific of the post-Boom generation of Latin American writers. She has published ten novels, nine books of poetry, three collections of essays, several plays and has been translated into many languages, including Chinese. In They're Cows, We're Pigs, she reinvents the genre of pirate literature that has enraptured readers for the past 400 years. Through her narrator Smeeks, (the real name of Alexandre Olivier Exquemelin, presumed author of the 1678 book The Buccaneers of America) who sells himself into slavery, Boullosa describes life among the outlaws and their attempts to build their own utopias from the vantage point of the oppressed, both male and female. At the same time, she also uses the novel to express her disappointment with the most recent failed utopia in the Caribbean, Castro's Cuba.
[Barbara A. Tenenbaum]

Roaring Recitals: Five Nepali Poets. Edited & translated from the Nepali by Yuyutsu R.D. New Delhi : Nirala, 1999. 99 p. ISBN: 8185693951. LC Call No.: (Not yet assigned; cataloging in process)

Gopal Prasad Rimal, Bhupi Sherchan, Banira Giri, Shailendra Sakar and Bimal Nibha are the five poets collected in this volume. Literature in Nepal as in the rest of the South Asian subcontinent tends to be far more politically engaged than in the United States. In Nepal, poets--while dealing with personal life, nature, and religion--have often been intensely involved in the struggles of the century just past: protest against the repressive regime of the Rana family of hereditary prime ministers; the restoration of power to the king; later protests against the guided democracy system of the restored monarchy; and finally, the installation of a democratic constitutional monarchy with freedom of speech, as well as ongoing economic conflicts. These vivid and readable translations show the poets' coming to terms both with political development and with the influence of Western modernism in literature. Among the five are poets already deceased and other still active. [Allen W. Thrasher]

Möring, Marcel. In Babylon. Translated from the Dutch by Stacey Knecht. New York: William Morrow, 2000. 417 p. ISBN: 0688176453. LC Call No.: PT5881.23.O75I513 2000

Marcel Möring came to the notice of the Dutch public with the publication of his first novel in 1990. His second novel, Het Grote Verlangen, appeared in 1992 and brought the young writer (born in 1957) even more acclaim. It was awarded a major Dutch literary prize and sold more than 100,000 copies in the Netherlands alone. Möring gained a foreign readership when this novel was translated into other languages (in English as The Great Longing). Möring's latest novel, In Babylon, was published in 1997 and the following year won The Golden Owl, a prestigious Flemish prize for fiction. It is the story of a Jewish family, from its founding in the Netherlands by a Polish clockmaker in the latter seventeenth century, down to the present day. Told by Nathan Hollander (perhaps the last surviving member of the family), the account does not proceed chronologically but swerves back and forth across centuries and continents. The reader meets an amazing array of historical personages who figure in the family's history, including physicist Enrico Fermi, entertainer Gene Kelly, the 17th century pseudo-messiah Shabbetai Zevi, and the Dutch winner of the 1902 Nobel Prize for Physics, Hendrik Antoon Lorentz. Möring uses the family's founder, Magnus Levi, and his uncle Chaim (killed by Cossacks in 1648) as active, albeit ghostly, participants in chronicling the Hollander clan. By doing so, Möring adds the element of magical realism to a novel already rich in incident, character, and reflection. Möring has said that he seeks to break fresh ground with each new work and that he plans to spend ten years writing his next novel. Readers entranced and dazzled by In Babylon can only wonder what his next book will bring. [Eric Solsten]

Hansen, Erik Fosnes. Psalm at Journey's End [Salme ved reisens slutt]. Translated by Joan Tate. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996. 371 p. ISBN: 0374238685. LC Call No.: PT8951.18.A569S2513 1996

The story of the ocean liner Titanic fascinates us on a number of levels. Erik Fosnes Hansen's best seller Psalm at Journey's End conjures up the ship and its orchestra while engaging us in a meditation on the meaning of life, art, and human endeavor. The seven fictional musicians who come together on the doomed vessel have all experienced loss, sorrow, and shame. Unlike Job who was plagued but ultimately redeemed, the best these characters can hope for is a tormented relationship with their art, while a final cataclysm is only days away. In addition to disaster on an individual level, the various national backgrounds of the protagonists act as reminders of the horrors of World War I yet to come. Despite its serious themes, the work is rich with humor and compelling vignettes. Hansen's remarkable storytelling talent was evident in his first work, Falcon Tower [Falketårnet] in which a young medieval nobleman retires with his falcons to a tower where mysterious figures visit him. Tales of Protection [Beretninger om Beskyttelse], Hansen's latest, and critically acclaimed work, is a series of stories about people whose lives are changed by divine intervention. Hansen is one of Norway's most highly regarded young authors. Born in New York in 1965, he debuted in 1985 and has since been the recipient of several literary prizes. [Taru Spiegel]

Roa Bastos, Augusto Antonio. I, the Supreme [Yo, El Supremo]. Translated by Helen Lane. Normal, IL; Dalkey Archive Press, 2000. 433 p. ISBN: 1564782476. LC Call No.: (Not yet in LC)

This excellent translation of Yo, El Supremo, first published in 1987, is one of the great Latin American novels that deserves to be much better known. The book is based on the life of nineteenth-century dictator José Gaspar de Francia who ruled Paraguay from 1814 until 1840. He eliminated all those who opposed him and completely isolated Paraguay from outside influences. During his rule Paraguay tried to become an insular utopia. Roa Bastos' masterful narrative portrays Francia as a ruthless dictator who destroyed the power of the elites and the Catholic Church, encouraging social revolution and promoting economic development. Using the device of magic realism, Roa Bastos, who was awarded the prestigious Cervantes Prize of Spain, analyzes and describes Francia's rule and the development of a society newly independent from Spain. The novel is highly recommended to those interested in Paraguay and in the emergence of autocratic rule in Latin America. [Kaydee McCann]

Vitug, Marites Dañguilan and Glenda M. Gloria. Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao. Quezon City, Philippines: Ateneo Center for Social Policy & Public Affairs : Institute for Popular Democracy, 2000. 327 p. ISBN: 9719167971. LC Call No: DS688.M2 V57 2000

This is the story of the contemporary Muslim secessionist rebellion in Mindanao, the southern-most of the Philippines' three-island group. It is not an historical account of the Moros' struggle for a separate Islamic homeland, one that dates back to the Spanish era. Rather, it is a portrayal of the current Muslim separatist movement carried out by the Moro National Liberation Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and a spin-off faction called the Abu Sayyaf and successive Philippine administrations' difficulties in dealing with it. The rebellion poses a continuing threat to the integrity of a Philippine Republic whose government and society is predominantly Christian. [John Reyes]

Santiago, Esmeralda. Almost a Woman [Casi una mujer]. Reading, Mass.: Perseus Books, 1998. 313 p. ISBN: 0738200433. LC Call No.: F128.9.P85S267 1998

In her earlier work When I was Puerto Rican, Esmeralda Santiago told about her childhood in the Puerto Rican countryside, her move to the city of Santurce, and her family's eventual migration to Brooklyn. In Almost a Woman, Santiago describes her life after arrival in New York at the age of 13, when she faces and overcomes both culture shock and her lack of English. Despite being placed in a class for slow learners, she perseveres and is accepted at the prestigious Performing Arts High School. During this time she remains torn between the life she leads in a two-bedroom apartment with her mother, ten siblings, grandmother, and Uncle Santiago (known as "Negi") and her dreams of being the ideal American teenager as described in the "Archie Comic Books" that she borrows from her cousin. As with her first book, Almost a Woman ends abruptly, with the author in her twenties, unmarried, and still living at home. Santiago's writing overflows with Puerto Rican jargon as she portrays the life of a poor immigrant to New York, from the beating she gets at the hands of schoolmates, to the frustration of an aspiring actress who is ‘too dark to be white, too white to be black.' [Ana Kurland]

Pelevin, Victor. Buddha's Little Finger [Chapaev i Pustota]. Translated by Andrew Bromfield. New York: Viking, 2000. 335 p. ISBN: 0670891681. LC Call No.: PG3485.E38C 4813 2000

Victor Pelevin is rightfully deemed one of the most promising young authors in Russia. A prolific writer, Pelevin has elicited praise world-wide and twice has received the prestigious Russian Booker Prize. He is often compared favorably to such renowned writers as Kafka and Bulgakov (the latter being one of his literary heroes) and has been called "the Russian Joseph Heller." One is hard-pressed to define Pelevin's style or assign genres, though he is usually categorized as a satirist, grappling with the impact of the Soviet era as well as fundamental questions about human existence. His other novels include The Yellow Arrow, Oman Ra, The Blue Lantern and Other Stories, The Life of Insects, A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia and Other Stories. In Buddha's Little Finger, he traces the experiences of a mentally unstable man who appears to be alternately a patient in an insane asylum or a commissar in the Red Army. The lines of reality are blurred and conversations frequently address doubts about the very existence of an objective reality. The novel shares the refreshingly raw quality of Pelevin's previous works as well as the element of fantasy. His graphic descriptions offer potent images that can be both unsavory and sublimely delicate. When Pyotr fancies himself fighting in the Civil War, he recalls his life confined in the psychiatric ward as a strange dream. Both environments are conducive to the thought-provoking dialogues that take place. It is during his struggle to define "self" in a world viewed as largely illusionary that some of the influence from Eastern philosophies are detectable because Pelevin himself has long been a student of Buddhist teachings. [Hope E. Nelsen]

Ramphele, Mamphela. Across Boundaries: the Journey of a South African Woman Leader. New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1997. 244 p. ISBN: 1558611657. LC Call No.: DT1949.R36A3 1996

In this noteworthy autobiography, Mamphela Ramphele provides both a personal and political memoir of anti-apartheid activism in South Africa in the 1960s. Ramphele was among the first to be detained and then banished by a South African government decree to a remote corner of the Transvaal. Across Boundaries tells of her rural childhood, her daily experiences with apartheid, her determination to become a doctor despite being black and female. It also describes her time as a political activist with her lover, Steve Biko, leader of the Black Consciousness Movement. And finally, the work talks about her present position as the first black Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cape Town and her efforts to foster her nation's transitions to a free society. [Angel Batiste]

Traditional Thai Ways: References Collected from the Story of Khun Chang - Khun Paen [Prapheni Thai nai Khun Chang - Khun Phaen]. Bangkok: Office of the Private Secretary to Her Majesty the Queen, 1995. 91 p. (Lacks ISBN. LC Call No.: Not yet assigned; cataloging in process)

Her admiration for Thai literature inspired Queen Sirikit of Thailand to commission this book on the epic romance based on the folklore of two men, the comedic squire, Khun Chang and the heroic warrior, Khun Phaen, who were childhood friends and competitors. The story follows their tragic love triangle with the heroine named Wanthong. Excerpts from various poetic versions of this story examine traditional Thai culture and life cycle rituals of the Thai people during the Ayutthaya period (roughly between the 14th and 18th centuries). The illustrations in the book are 18th and 19th century mural paintings from several Buddhist temples in central Thailand. This book was originally presented to the Library of Congress by the Thai Ambassador as one of the "Gifts to the Nation" a project held in celebration of the Library's bicentennial. [Sinya Schaeffer]

Andrukhovych, Yuri. Recreations [Rekreatsii]. Translated by Marko Pavlyshyn. Toronto: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 1998. 132 p. ISBN: 1895571219. LC Call No.: (Not yet in LC)

Nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2000, Yuri Andrukhovych is arguably the leading prose writer in Ukraine today. Born in 1960, Andrukhovych began his career as a poet and his first collection of poems, The Sky and City Squares, was published in 1985. Despite the increasing critical acclaim his poems received, in 1991 Andrukhovych decided to turn to prose. In addition to Recreations (1992), his prose works include Perversiia [Perversion], published in 1998. Andrukhovych's books have been seen as revolutionary in Ukraine. They break with the country's traditional viewpoint that serious works of literature should serve certain social functions, like keeping Ukrainian national consciousness alive. Andrukovych contends that this tradition ended with the death in the Soviet gulag in 1985 of Vasyl Stus, the last great poet and prophet of Ukrainian national literature. Instead, Andrukhovych regards literature's first duty as serving language, with all its nuances. Recreations, a lively satirical novel, is the story of four drunken Ukrainian poets at a village folk festival. Stumbling against each other and colliding with other festival-goers, each of the four discovers something of the village's history. The novel becomes increasingly surreal as it progresses, yet Andrukhovych's skill is such that readers come to feel sympathy for the quartet of soused bards and want to follow their adventures. When excerpts of the novel appeared in a literary journal in 1991 a major scandal erupted. Enraged readers accused Andrukovych of besmirching Ukrainian national ideals and of polluting the Ukrainian language with his occasionally ribald prose. Other readers, however, rejoiced at the novel's subtle portrayal of reality in post-Soviet Ukraine. [Ihor Gawdiak]

Writing the Wind: A Celtic Resurgence, the New Celtic Poetry. Edited by Thomas Rain Crowe with Gwendal Denez & Tom Hubbard. Cullowhee, NC: New Native Press, 1997. 335 p. ISBN: 1883197120. LC Call No.: PB1100.W75 1997

Poetry is enjoying an enormous surge of popularity in the United States in recent years as demonstrated by the extraordinary response to the Poet Laureate's "favorite poem" millennium project and a nationwide excitement about poetry publications, readings, slams, poetry translations from many countries, and poetry on the Internet. The ancient bardic tradition of Celtic-speaking peoples, updated into a modern flourishing poetry culture, has not always been accessible to English speakers. Writing the Wind: A Celtic Resurgence is an anthology of new Celtic poetry translated into English from Welsh, Breton, Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, and Manx. Editor Thomas Rain Crowe has ably accomplished his goal stated in the introduction of providing "... a volume of Celtic language-based material that would stand as something of a touchstone or perchance a lightning rod for English-only readers to become acquainted with some of the Celtic world's most contemporary, prominent and promising poets." With an introduction to each language/country, as well as a brief biographical entry for each poet, this volume provides a beautiful collection of poems exhibiting the linguistic richness of the Gaelic languages and the talent of these diverse writers. The only frustration will be to discover that many of these poets' individual collections have not yet been translated into English. [Abby Yochelson]


Schlink, Bernhard. Liebesfluchten. Zurich: Diogenes, 2000. 308 p. ISBN: 3257062303. LC Call No.: (Not yet in LC)

When he is not writing best-selling fiction, Bernhard Schlink works as a judge and professor of constitutional law. Perhaps that is why his work is refreshingly distant from the current debate in Germany between those writers who remain attached to the use of literature as a consciousness-raising tool to address Germany's Nazi legacy and those who want to emulate the success of their Anglo-Saxon colleagues and simply tell good stories. Schlink's work can have Germany's past as an undercurrent, but any "message" that emerges is all the more powerful because the reader must infer it from a variety of possible choices. Schlink's respect for the imagination of his readers has been well-received. When Der Vorleser [The Reader] was published in 1995, it became the first German book to top the New York Times bestseller list, was translated into twenty-five languages, and won numerous awards for its author. Schlink is also a genuine storyteller, and Liebesfluchten (which can mean either "escapes from love" or "escapes into love") is an excellent example of his talent. The book is a group of seven stories in which the characters, mostly middle-aged members of Germany's educated classes, are compelled to reexamine the course of their lives and loves, often with devastating results. Schlink tells his stories in a precise and polished prose, but beneath the economy of style lies a lyrical voice, deployed with unerring dexterity to highlight decisive moments in the development of events and characters. The result is a compelling narrative with passages of searing emotional power. [David B. Morris]

Frankétienne. Dézafi: roman. Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Edision Fardin, 1975. 312 p. (Lacks ISBN. LC Call No.: Not yet assigned; cataloging in process)

A major literary figure in Haiti, esteemed in Europe and Haitian-American circles, Frankétienne is a contemporary seminal author of works in both French and Creole. A painter and a Voodoo priest, he imbues language with spiritual, supernatural and fantastic dimensions imparted through visual references and Voodoo mythology. This writing he calls "Spiralism." As the Creolite Movement flourishes in Martinique, with authors becoming prominent in France and better known in the United States, a rich vein of literature in Haitian Creole remains largely confined to the Creolophone world. Dézafi, the first novel written in Haitian Creole, has transcended many of these limits. The title signals struggle and defiance. The text projects life unfolding in the face of death, zombies toiling and abused, submissive responses to dominance and orders. A story of the struggle for consciousness and revolt in a time of zombi makers, the work is an assertion and revivification of Creole as a vital language fully capable of expressing a world view within a novel's form. "Kalé pasé loray, Lang janbé lantouray." ("More penetrating than thunder, language breaches the walls") [Joan F. Higbee]

Tokarczuk, Olga. House of Day, House of Night [Dom dzienny, dom nocny] Wa brzych, Poland: RUTA, 1999. 277 p. ISBN: 839002814X. LC Call No.: PG7179.O37D66 1999

During the decade of the 1990s, Olga Tokarczuk (born in 1962) emerged as one of Poland's most gifted and provocative young writers. Her stories and novels have won critical acclaim, literary awards, and commercial success in her native country and have been greeted enthusiastically elsewhere. The English-speaking public soon will become acquainted with Tokarczuk's work when her novel Immemorial and Other Ages [Prawiek i inne czasy] debuts in the United Kingdom. Many critics believe that her latest novel, House of Day, House of Night [Dom dzienny, dom nocny], which first appeared in 1998, is her finest work. It is set in the small Sudeten town of Nowa Ruda and surroundings, a mountainous region of Central Europe where Slavic, Germanic, and Jewish cultural influences have intermingled over the centuries. Tokarczuk explains, "This is first of all a book about a place, a place that belongs to no one, that no one has tamed, and that many have had to abandon, but a place that all have loved." Tokarczuk presents this history, not as a linear chronology, but as a seemingly random album of vignettes of the daily lives of the German and Polish inhabitants of a single house in a small town. As her appreciative audiences in Europe have discovered, Tokarczuk writes about important themes, but she does so in such a deceptively simple, poetic language that both entertains and challenges the reader. [Ronald D. Bachman]

Sánchez, Clara. Últimas noticias del paraíso. Madrid: Alfaguara/Santillana, 2000. 289 p. ISBN: 8420441724. LC CALL No.: PQ 6669.A6125 U58 2000

Clara Sánchez is one of the stellar young authors of Spain. While not yet translated into English, this book, her fifth, merits special attention. Winner of the prestigious Alfaguara Prize, this novel recounts the adolescence of the narrator, Fran, as he, wide-eyed, describes relationships and eventual estrangement from his friends and neighbors in Spain. His desire to learn more about everything blossoms into love for Yu, a Chinese girl. This work interweaves a modern urban setting into the perceptions of a youth seeking a world apart from that in which the narrator was born. [Everette Larson]

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