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
The king’s fool has had a distinct, privileged and vital role to play at royal courts throughout history. Mahi Binebine’s fool is contemporary, even though the story reads as though it happened in a distant past, since it is inspired by the fate of the author’s father and brother at the court of King Hassan II of Morocco. Continue reading Review | The King’s Fool, Mahi Binebine | MacLehose Press
Pierre Lemaitre, the Prix Goncourt-winning French novelist and screenwriter behind the Paris Crime Files a.k.a. Verhœven series, is brought to English-language readers by the publisher behind Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbø. So much for having a shrewd eye for genuinely original storytelling and talent-spotting big hitters from foreign climes, not just once but again and again and again . . . chapeau!
Rosy & John, translated by word wizard Frank Wynne, is published today. It is the fourth and last book in the Verhœven series. The opening description of an eight year old boy seeing “the body of his father soar into the air as though a giant hand has punched him in the solar plexus” when a bomb explodes in a Paris street, evoking the November 2015 Paris attacks, is both globally apocalyptic and highly personal. Continue reading Spotlight | Rosy & John, Pierre Lemaitre #FrenchNoir | MacLehose Press
Kokoschka’s Doll is a surreal, poignant and sometimes dizzying reflection on the nature of the universe, life’s coincidences and, of course, the human condition.
“I’m writing a new book.”
“What’s it about?” Isaac Dresner asked.
“Who knows. About love or hate, the human condition, that sort of thing. What is any book about?” (pp. 99-100)
The narrative contains stories within stories within stories and different timelines shift and align and become revealed to us as the book progresses. There are frequent philosophical musings and many tales so unlikely they simply must be true. Chance, fate, destiny, divine intervention, call it how you will, weaves together an improbable cast across decades and continents to deliver us this Russian doll of a novel. Continue reading Guest Review | Andrew McDougall | Kokoschka’s Doll, Afonso Cruz (trs. Rahul Bery) | MacLehose Press
Look who’s back! Vernon Subutex: DJ guru of the nineteenth arrondissement. He is still homeless in Paris and more Peter Pan than ever. We first met him at the turn of the millenium as he was losing his record shop, flat and material possessions after his friend and benefactor, the rock star Alex Bleach, died of a drug overdose in a hotel bedroom.
Film producer turned sex predator, Laurent Dropalet, is desperate to find compromising videos revealing the truth about the death of his porn-star mistress recorded by Alex Bleach. He hires the Hyena, a tech whiz and ravening lesbian to track down the tapes (and therefore Vernon who has them); she switches allegiances to join the DJ and his cohorts.
Continue reading Review | Vernon Subutex 3, Virginie Despentes | MacLehose Press