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
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
In the Company of Men – The Ebola Tales by Véronqiue Tadjo is a beautifully written and translated, stark collection of concise narratives about the Ebola epidemic of 2014. A short but unforgettable novel, it offers a poetic vision of sustained horror, fear, and excruciating pain. It questions the blindness of humanity in the face of potential catastrophic collapse as rampant greed, willful ignorance and avoidable self-destruction threaten to decimate planet earth.
Originally published in France in 2017, there is something prophetic about these tales in light of today’s coronavirus pandemic, and the grim topicality of potential or ongoing infectious disease threats.
Continue reading Review | In the Company of Men – The Ebola Tales, Véronqiue Tadjo | HopeRoad Publishing
The selected poems of Wanda Coleman, edited by the American poet Terrance Hayes, and published in the UK under the title Wicked Enchantment, has brought her back into the spotlight. Considered to be the unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles, she died in 2013 age sixty-seven.
“Wanda Coleman, like Gwendolyn Brooks before her, has much to tell us about what it is like to be a poor black woman in America,” Tony Magistrale, Black American Literature Forum Continue reading Review | Wicked Enchantment selected poems by Wanda Coleman (Ed.) Terrance Hayes
Anne Serre is a remarkable and unusual writer; her pen a scalpel dissecting the human condition with painful precision. The Fool & Other Moral Tales – three novellas – is lyrical and disturbing, wonderful and terrible, arousing and devastating. The hallucinatory, and at times nightmarish quality, is beautifully rendered by translator Mark Hutchinson.
All three tales adventure through the multiple guises and meanings of The Fool. Is he a fallen angel, a grotesque carrier of vice and folly bringing wisdom in his wake as a consequence of blind faith, hopeless romance and reckless desire, or is he an abortive saint, a mistaken revolutionary? The ultimate shapeshifter, he can lead you to Heaven or Hell or, if you get stuck, into the abyss.
Continue reading Review | The Fool & Other Moral Tales, Anne Serre | Les Fugitives