Review | Sarajevo Firewood, Saïd Khatibi (trs. Paul Starkey) | Banipal Books

Saïd Khatibi’s polyphonic novel, Sarajevo Firewood, pays homage to the victims of civil war in Algeria and Bosnia in the 1990s, and gives the survivors a voice. Scarred by erratic memories and traumatic recall – indicative of the psychological wounds of war – writing is a way to come to terms with what happened.

“We might find a mass grave with a café or restaurant in front of it, which changed at night into a dance floor, on which the living took turns to move their bodies while the dead opposite them looked on silently.” Continue reading Review | Sarajevo Firewood, Saïd Khatibi (trs. Paul Starkey) | Banipal Books

Review | The Intimate Resistance, Josep Maria Esquirol (trs. Douglas Suttle) | Fum d’Estampa Press

A profound reflection on the human condition, Intimate Resistance is a welcome alternative to those glib bestselling books by counsellors and guides who synthesize complicated intellectual, scientific and spiritual ideas for instant, easy consumption. Living in the present moment is, perhaps, one of the most overused concepts expounded by the advocates of Mindfulness with the likes of Deepak Chopra (a student of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation), Eckhart Tolle and the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh a.k.a. Osho, leading the way.

Society has found itself distanced from Sartrean interpretation and so plays with the idea of finding one’s own personal path to happiness – often only understood as achievement: in other words, success.” (page 13)

Josep Maria Esquirol’s study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence, is underpinned by sound academic argument entwined with the concepts of many the world’s most important and influential philosophers and thinkers – including Arendt, Patočka, Melville, Bachelard, Sartre, Husserl, Heidegger, Levinas, Pascal, Voltaire, Camus, Deleuze, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Freud and others – as he develops his own theories, all the while wearing his learning lightly. Intimate Resistance is a lyrical, lucid, poetic read of imaginative explorations and etymological musings conjuring visual vistas. Continue reading Review | The Intimate Resistance, Josep Maria Esquirol (trs. Douglas Suttle) | Fum d’Estampa Press

Guest Review | Turf Wars (2) Olivier Norek trs. Nick Caistor | MacLehose Press

Turf Wars is the second of Olivier Norek’s Captain Coste trilogy, set in the banlieues of Paris.

Spiralling Upwards

Norek has an unusual C.V. Born in Toulouse in 1975, he worked for a humanitarian charity in in the 1990s, and contributed to the re-construction of hospitals and refugee camps in Guyana and the former Yugoslavia. He then joined the French marines for two years, before becoming a policeman in 1997. After working in the police force in Paris for eighteen years, he started his fourth career: crime writer. To date, he’s published six novels and he was one of the writers for the sixth series of  Engrenages (Spiral).  Continue reading Guest Review | Turf Wars (2) Olivier Norek trs. Nick Caistor | MacLehose Press

Review | Love in Five Acts, Daniela Krien (trs. Jamie Bulloch) | MacLehose Press

Emerging from a time of great turmoil . . . all depending on your experiences over the past two years . . . Love in Five Acts could either strike a strong chord of recognition, inspire relief at being in a secure relationship, or prompt joy at being single and happy.  

The lives of five very different middle-aged women – Paula, Judith, Brida, Malika and Jorinde – loosely criss-cross over each other in a cat’s cradle of love and loss, desire, infidelity and torment. Luck and happenstance play a central role. Continue reading Review | Love in Five Acts, Daniela Krien (trs. Jamie Bulloch) | MacLehose Press

Guest Review | Sharif Gemie | The Dawn of Language: Axes, lies, midwifery and how we came to talk – Sverker Johansson | MacLehose Press

Sverker Johansson’s The Dawn of Language, adroitly translated by Frank Perry, weighs in at over 400 pages. We’re in the age of Great Simplifiers: each month produces a new crop of hefty volumes.

The Great Simplifiers
Each new volume aims to survey and simplify complex, important scientific arguments for a fairly well-educated reading public. These tomes resemble each other in their ambitions: they review tons of recent research; they give their readers an impression of the intensity and importance of debates; they’re stuffed with colourful examples to hold their reader’s attention; and
– usually – they conclude on a vaguely re-assuring, half-optimistic note. As you look closer, differences become apparent.
Continue reading Guest Review | Sharif Gemie | The Dawn of Language: Axes, lies, midwifery and how we came to talk – Sverker Johansson | MacLehose Press