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
Turf Wars is the second of Olivier Norek’s Captain Coste trilogy, set in the banlieues of Paris.
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
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
Venetia Welby’s futuristic second novel, Dreamtime, has an altogether different atmosphere and resonance to her first, Mother of Darkness, set in London’s Soho. Both novels, however, feature central characters in crisis seeking to put themselves back together one way or another as they struggle with their instincts and the conscious/unconscious part of their personality. Both are super-charged and simmering narratives with a twist, which suck you right in. Dreamtime is an unusual novel that lingers in the mind.
The Law of contagion
“Nature is not dead but livid. Here she is thriving: alive with seething, uncontrollable rage. A devouring Mother Earth despairing of her children, washing them away with floods and burning them with electricity from the sky. And here are her minions, her monsters of the sea [. . .] A sea full of krakens.” Continue reading Review | Dreamtime, Venetia Welby | Salt Publishing
Imbued with her hallmark humour and heightened sensitivity, Faïza Guène’s Men Don’t Cry (Un homme, ça ne pleure pas) is her latest offering to lovers of good fiction in translation, deftly rendered into English by Sarah Ardizzone. We witness a family struggling with exile and integration as experienced by Mourad, born in Nice to Algerian parents.
He is keen to escape the clutches of his well-meaning but excessively controlling mother who imposes traditional ways of thinking and living on her three children – along with copious helpings of home-cooked food – handing down community values and morality in a bid to fend off the potentially corrupting influence of the host culture, and to impose order on the complexities of modern France. Continue reading Review | Men Don’t Cry, Faïza Guène | Cassava Republic Press