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(01/26/2009) Madwomen: The Locas Mujeres Poems of Gabriela Mistral by Gabriela Mistral. Chicago. 2007. University Of Chicago Press. Translated From The Spanish & Edited By Randall Couch. keywords: Literature Poetry Women Latin America Chile Translated South America. 168 pages. Jacket illustration - Giuliano Bugiardini, 'Sua cuique persona,' portrait cover with mask and grotesques, ca. 1516. 9780226531908.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   A schoolteacher whose poetry catapulted her to early fame in her native Chile and an international diplomat whose boundary-defying sexuality still challenges scholars, Gabriela Mistral is one of the most important and enigmatic figures in Latin American literature of the last century. The LOCAS MUJERES poems collected here are among Mistral's most complex and compelling, exploring facets of the self in extremis--poems marked by the wound of blazing catastrophe and its aftermath of mourning. From disquieting humor to balladlike lyricism to folkloric wisdom, these pieces enact a tragic sense of life, depicting 'madwomen' who are anything but mad. Strong and intensely human, Mistral's poetic women confront impossible situations to which no sane response exists. This groundbreaking collection presents poems from Mistral's final published volume as well as new editions of posthumous work, featuring the first English-language appearance of many essential poems. MADWOMEN promises to reveal a profound poet to a new generation of Anglophone readers while reacquainting Spanish readers with a stranger, more complicated 'madwoman' than most have ever known.

Randall Couch is adjunct professor of English at Arcadia University and an administrator at the University of Pennsylvania. He received Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowships in poetry in 2000 and 2008.

 

 

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(01/25/2009) The Selected Prose Of Fernando Pessoa by Fernando Pessoa. New York. 2001. Grove Press. Translated From The Portuguese & Edited By Richard Zenith. keywords: Literature Portugal Translated Poetry. 342 pages. Jacket illustration - Portrait of Fernando Pessoa by Jose de Almida. Jacket design by Charles Rue Woods. 0802116949. July 2001.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

    Building on the wonderful FERNANDO PESSOA & CO. : SELECTED POEMS, which was acclaimed by Booklist as 'a beautiful one-volume course in the soul of the twentieth century,' preeminent translator Richard Zenith has now edited and translated selections from Pessoa's prose. The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa offers a second sparkling opportunity to rediscover a forgotten master, a truly unique figure of early modernism. Though known primarily as a poet, Fernando Pessoa wrote prose widely, in several languages and in every genre - the novel, short stories, letters, and essays. Drawing from the huge body of work that Pessoa left behind, THE SELECTED PROSE OF FERNANDO PESSOA is further testimony from a writer whose worst enemy was his own brilliance. These pieces span playful intellectual inquiry. Platonic dialogue, and bitter intellectual scrapping between Pessoa and his many literary alter egos Pessoa experiments with the surrealist technique of automatic writing and toys with the occult. The heteronyms launch movements and write manifestos, and one of them attempts to break up Pessoa's only known romantic relationship. There are appreciations of Shakespeare, Dickens, Wilde, and Joyce, critical essays in which one heteronym derides the work of another, and a love letter by Pessoa's only known female heteronym. Also included is a generous selection from Pessoa's masterpiece THE BOOK OF DISQUIET, freshly translated by Richard Zenith from newly discovered materials. Fernando Pessoa was one of the greatest exponents of modernism - both in his astonishingly lively body of work, and in living a life that was at least as unusual. THE SELECTED PROSE OF FERNANDO PESSOA is an important contribution to literature that brings back to life a forgotten but crucial part of the canon.

 

 

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(01/23/2009) Time & Materials: Poems 1997-2005 by Robert Hass. New York. 2007. Ecco Press. keywords: Poetry America Literature. 88 pages. Jacket images: Top row, left to right: flower by Rozet / Jupiterimages; bird The Granger Collection, New York; leaf by Krebs / Jupiterimages. Middle row, left to right: bird from The Granger Collection, New York; flower by Rozet / Jupiterimages. Bottom row, left to right: flowers The Granger Collection, New York; Calme de Soir; Cote d'Azur by Ivan Fedorovich Choultse. Jacket design by Laura Klynstra. 9780061349607.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The poems in Robert Hass's new collection - his first to appear in a decade - are grounded in the beauty and energy of the physical world, and in the bafflement of the present moment in American culture. This work is breathtakingly immediate, stylistically varied, redemptive, and wise. His familiar landscapes are here - San Francisco, the Northern California coast, the Sierra high country - in addition to some of his oft-explored themes: art; the natural world; the nature of desire; the violence of history; the power and limits of language; and, as in his other books, domestic life and the conversation between men and women. New themes emerge as well, perhaps: the essence of memory and of time. The works here look at paintings, at Gerhard Richter as well as Vermeer, and pay tribute to his particular literary masters, friend Czeslaw Milosz, the great Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer, Horace, Whitman, Stevens, Nietzsche, and Lucretius. We are offered glimpses of a surprisingly green and vibrant twenty-first-century Berlin; of the demilitarized zone between the Koreas; of a Bangkok night, a Mexican desert, and an early summer morning in Paris, all brought into a vivid present and with a passionate meditation on what it is and has been to be alive. 'It has always been Mr. Hass's aim,' the New York Times Book Review wrote, 'to get the whole man, head and heart and hands and everything else, into his poetry. ' Every new volume by Robert Hass is a major event in poetry, and this beautiful collection is no exception.

ROBERT HASS was born in San Francisco and lives in Berkeley, California, where he teaches at the University of California. He served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997. A MacArthur Fellow and a two-time winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, he has published poems, literary essays, and translations. He is married to the poet Brenda Hillman.

 

 

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(01/22/2009) The Misplaced Machine & Other Stories by Jose J. Veiga. New York. 1970. Knopf. Translated From The Portuguese By Pamela G. Bird. keywords: Literature Translated Brazil Latin America. 143 pages. Jacket design by Guy Fleming. August 1970.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   To celebrate the first appearance in English of the work of one of Brazil's leading writers of fiction, this collection of short stories is published simultaneously with Jose J. Veiga's novel THE THREE TRIALS OF MANIRERMA. The narratives that make up THE MISPLACED MACHINE AND OTHER STORIES combine the element of terror with refining touches of tenderness, lightness, and lyricism. Some are poignant, some macabre, some ironically funny, but all imaginatively interweave mystery and fantasy with reality. A peddler enters a town where a wolf is being tortured, is inexplicably coerced to stay the night, and dies in the squalid stable of his captor. An Indian boy, taken to live with a white family, is abused and made the village slave; he is jailed for a trivial incident, forgotten, and then shot one holiday as he walks out of the open jail door. A widowed father parts with his son. A rich schoolboy's affair with a soldier's mistress is comically thwarted. Two children speculate on their appearance in the eyes of a huge creature. A small boy's fantasy about the beasts of the forest is contrasted with harsh reality. A painstakingly built highway is abandoned because of an unkillable rooster who leads to their death all who travel it. An old dog is jealous of a puppy - he eats it - but is haunted forever after. A strange machine is delivered by mistake to the center of a small town; no one knows what it is or how it works, but its very mystery makes it an object of worship. A small boy ponders the meaning of death as it occurs on the farm. Everywhere in these sensitive tales an ingenious storyteller comments on some of the enduring agonies of the human condition: jealousy, fear, death, brutality, and the haunted mind.

JOSE J. VEIGA was born in Corumba, Goias, Brazil, in 1915, and took his degree in law from the Universidade do Brasil in 1944. From 1940 to early 1945 he was assistant editor, then editor, of Revista do Serviao Piiblico, published by the Brazilian Civil Service Commission. Following World War II he worked in London in foreign-language broadcasting. Upon his return to Rio in 1950 he became first an editor for O Globo and later for Tribuna da Imprensa, both afternoon newspapers. Since 1952 he has been with the Brazilian Reader's Digest, where he is currently Editor for Condensed Books. In 1958 Veiga's Os Cavalinhos de Platiplanto shared the Monteiro Lobato Short Story Prize with two other candidates, and in 1960 the same collection won the Fabio Prado Prize. He is also the author of THE THREE TRIALS OF MANIREMA.

 

 

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(01/21/2009) The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul by Patrick French. New York. 2008. Knopf. keywords: Biography Literature England Caribbean Trinidad India. 557 pages. Front-of-jacket photograph by Lord Snowden. jacket design by Carol Devine Carson. 9781400044054. November 2008.

Amazing that this is an 'authorized' biography. Patrick French apparently had uncommon access to V. S. Naipaul and as a result produced a fascinating portrait of a brilliant writer but seriously flawed human being.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Since V. S. Naipaul left his Caribbean birthplace at the age of seventeen, his improbable life has followed the global movement of peoples, whose preeminent literary chronicler he has become. In THE WORLD IS WHAT IT IS, Patrick French offers the first authoritative biography of the controversial Nobel laureate, whose only stated ambition was greatness as a writer, in pursuit of which goal nothing else was sacred. Beginning with a richly detailed portrait of Naipaul's childhood in colonial Trinidad, French gives us the boy born to an Indian family, the displaced soul in a displaced community, who by dint of talent and ambition finds the only imaginable way out: a scholarship to Oxford. London in the 1950s offers hope and his first literary success, but homesickness and depression almost defeat Vidia, his narrow escape aided by Patricia Hale, an Englishwoman who will devote herself to his work and well-being. She will stand by him, sometimes tenuously, for more than four decades, even as Naipaul embarks on a twenty-four-year affair, which will awaken half-dead passions and feed perhaps his greatest wave of dizzying creativity. Amid this harrowing emotional life, French traces the course of the fierce visionary impulse underlying Naipaul's singular power, a gift to produce masterpieces of fiction and nonfiction. Informed by exclusive access to V. S. Naipaul's private papers and personal recollections, and by great feeling for his formidable body of work, French's revelatory biography does full justice to an enigmatic genius.

 

 

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(01/20/2009) The Mimic Men by V. S. Naipaul. New York. 1967. Macmillan. keywords: Literature Caribbean Trinidad England India. 302 pages. Jacket design by Rudolph de Harak.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   'We pretend to be real, to be learning, to be preparing ourselves for life, we mimic men of the New World. with all its reminders of the corruption that came so quickly to the new. ' Brilliant, witty, and tragic, this novel by one of our most distinguished young novelists is his most profound and ambitious to date. His earlier works of fiction, including the famous A HOUSE FOR MR. BISWAS, grew out of his Trinidad Brahmin background; his most recent novel before this one, MR. STONE AND THE KNIGHTS COMPANION, was a remarkably pure example of the English novel, with no reference to the author's unique social and geographical antecedents. Now, in THE MIMIC MEN, Mr. Naipaul for the first time draws on all of his rich and varied backgrounds as a man and as an artist, melds them into a unity that offers full scope for the wit and the tragic sense that are his special stylistic creation, and so offers the reader a vivid, deeply disturbing comment on today's society. Simon Gray in The New Statesman calls this novel 'a complex and masterful achievement. ' Ralph Singh, the central figure who is at once protagonist and narrator, is himself one of the 'mimic men,' with a multiplicity of roles: man of affairs, householder, student, millionaire, politician, refugee immigrant, London dandy, maneuverer and organizer, recluse. The story moves back and forth between the lush colonial island of Isabella and the urbanities and loneliness of London. Singh is both an activist and an observer, a chained and desperate spirit living between twin threats. The form of the novel is as complex as its meaning, but Naipaul handles space and time as surely as he handles his characters' actions and feelings. The result is a troubling, fascinating, exotic story, told in dazzling prose. The book can be enjoyed purely as storytelling for its taut narration and the interaction of its variety of sharply etched characters. However, most readers will find beneath the surface a probing view of the enigma of modern man, 'the double dream within the dream.'

 

 

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(01/18/2009) Marvelous Journey: A Survey Of Four Centuries Of Brazilian Literature by Samuel Putnam. New York. 1948. Knopf. keywords: Literature Brazil South America Latin America Literary Criticism. 282 pages.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The history of Brazilian literature is here told by a man who has the specialized learning, the enthusiasm, and the firsthand familiarity that alone remove any subject from the dryasdust-academic. This is a lively book: it is colorful and it is richly informative. Divided into four major sections - Backgrounds, Toward Autonomy, The Romantic Liberation, and The Modern Spirit -- this book surveys the vital and human literature of the only important modern tropical culture. Readers acquainted with the works -- or even the mere names -- of such important Brazilian writers as Euclides da Cunha, Jorge Amado, Jose Lins do Rego, Gilberto Freyre, Erico Verissimo, and Graciliano Ramos will find those men brilliantly placed and criticized here. More, they will be informed of countless other writers and of their contributions to a body of books that has been growing for more than four centuries. Translator of great writers from Rabelais to Freyre, author of PARIS WAS OUR MISTRESS, and a corresponding member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, Samuel Putnam was perfectly equipped by background, training, and propensity to write this definitive book. He speaks with authority when he ends his history on the following words: 'Brazil is the Land of the Future in more ways than one, and her writers are now ready to speak in the full, deep-throated accents of maturity. ' Of Marvelous Journey Carleton Sprague Smith said: 'It is by all odds the best study in English that has yet been made of writing in Brazil. '.

Samuel Putnam was born in Rossville, Illinois in 1892. Educated at the University of Chicago and the Sorbonne, he spent the 1920's in Paris, where he edited and contributed to various magazines. Among the fruits of this period of expatriation were biographies of Rabelais and Marguerite of Navarre, his EUROPEAN CARAVAN, and -- published in 1947 -- PARIS WAS OUR MISTRESS. Returning to the United States, Mr. Putnam began his extraordinary career as a translator: in the last two decades he has published nearly thirty book and play translations from the French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Among the European writers he has rendered into English are Aretino, Rabelais, Pirandello, Cocteau, Mauriac, Duhamel, Delteil, and Silone. It was in Europe that he first became particularly interested in the Portuguese language and culture. Since the early 1930's he has made a specialty of Brazilian literature. Since 1935 he has been editor of the Brazilian Literature section of the HANDBOOK OF LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES, a position that requires him to read each year everything of literary importance published in Brazil. He has translated 'the two most difficult books in the Portuguese language': Euclides da Cunha's OS SERTOES and Gilberto Freyre's CASA-GRANDE & SENZALA, as well as Jorge Amado's remarkable novel, TERRAS DO SEM FIM In 1946 the Cultural Relations Division of the a State Department sent Mr. Putnam to Brazil as an exchange professor. His journey was something of a triumphal tour, and as a result of it he was made a corresponding member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Shortly after his return to the United States he was awarded the Pandia Calogeras Prize for Literature. In 1947, too, the Brazilian government made him an officer of the Order of the Southern Cross.

 

 

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(01/17/2009) Viga-Glum's Saga translated by Lee M. Hollander. New York. 1972. Twayne/American-Scandinavian Foundation. Translated from the Old Icelandic with Introductions by Lee M. Hollander. keywords: Literature Iceland Sagas Translated. Volume 14. 143 pages.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Icelandic saga literature includes not only such justly famous tales as NJAL'S SAGA and EGIL'S SAGA but also shorter narratives of which the two making up this volume are splendid representatives. Not written down until the first half of the fourteenth century, VIGA-GLUM'S SAGA is much older, having been a part of the Icelandic oral tradition for generations before that. Mainly, the saga is the biography of the hero whose name it bears. One of the chieftains of the Eyjafjord District, Viga-Glum is a domineering, vengeful, and cunning man, but he is also resolute and resourceful as well as loyal to his friends. The various episodes into which this saga is divided, take place in Iceland and in Norway during the tenth century and are retold with great vividness and indicate the saga-teller's ability to enter into the feelings of his characters and to create dramatic situations. That Viga-Glum was also a skald, a poet, besides being a fighting man, is demonstrated by the many verses which have survived in this saga. THE STORY OF OGMUND DYTT revolves around some of the main characters in VIGA-GLUM'S SAGA. Two separate stories are interwoven, one dealing with Ogmund's delayed revenge, the other being a tale of mistaken identity and the impersonation of a heathen deity. The two translations in this volume are worthy companion pieces to the great Family Sagas and bring to life an exciting period in the history of the North. Most of all: they make very good reading.

 

 

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(01/15/2009) Discourses & Selected Writings by Epictetus. New York. 2008. Penguin Books. Translated From The Greek & Edited and With An Introduction by Robert Dobbin. keywords: Classical Studies Ancient Greece Philosophy Translated. 276 pages. Cover - detail from Ancient roman mosaic, from the Museu Nazionale Romano, Rome. 9780140449464.

Ancient Greek philosophy that is personal, practical, and readable.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Epictetus, a Greek Stoic and freed slave, ran a thriving philosophy school in Nicopolis in the early second century AD. His animated discussions were celebrated for their rhetorical wizardry and were written down by Arrian, his most famous pupil. Together with the Enchiridion, a manual of his main ideas, and the fragments collected here, The Discourses argue that happiness lies in learning to perceive exactly what is in our power to change and what is not, and in embracing our fate to live in harmony with god and nature. In this personal, practical guide to the ethics of Stoicism and moral self-improvement, Epictetus tackles questions of freedom and imprisonment, illness and fear, family, friendship and love, and leaves an intriguing document of daily life in the classical world. In the introduction that accompanies his lively new translation, Robert Dobbin discusses Epictetus' life, his place in the Stoic tradition, his influence on world philosophies and his relevance in the modern day. This edition also includes a bibliography, notes and a glossary of names.

 

 

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(01/13/2009) Sea Of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. New York. 2008. Farrar Straus Giroux. keywords: Literature India America. 515 pages. Jacket design by Susan Mitchell. 9780374174224.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   At the heart of this vibrant saga is a vast ship, the Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean; its purpose, to fight China's vicious nineteenth-century Opium Wars. As for the crew, they are a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts. In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, from a bankrupt raja to a widowed tribeswoman, from a mulatto American freedman to a freespirited French orphan. As their old family ties are washed away, they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais, or ship-brothers. An unlikely dynasty is born, which will span continents, races, and generations. The vast sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, the exotic backstreets of Canton. But it is the panorama of characters, whose diaspora encapsulates the vexed colonial history of the East itself, that makes SEA OF POPPIES so breathtakingly alive - a masterpiece from one of the world's finest novelists.

 

 

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(01/11/2009) Collected Poems 1956-1998 by Zbigniew Herbert. New York. 2007. Ecco Press. Translated From The Polish & Edited By Alissa Valles. With Additional Translations By Czeslaw Milosz & Peter Dale Scott. Introduction By Adam Zagajewski. keywords: Poetry Poland Translated Literature. 600 pages. Jacket photograph by Anna Beata Bohdziewicz. Jacket design by High Design, NYC. 9780060783907. February 2007.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This outstanding new translation brings a uniformity of voice to Zbigniew Herbert's entire poetic output, from his first book of poems, String of Light, in 1956, to his final volume, previously unpublished in English, EPILOGUE OF THE STORM. COLLECTED POEMS: 1956-1998, as Joseph Brodsky said of Herbert's SELECTED POEMS, is 'bound for a much longer haul than any of us can anticipate. ' He continues, 'For Zbigniew Herbert's poetry adds to the biography of civilization the sensibility of a man not defeated by the century that has been most thorough, most effective in dehumanization of the species. Herbert's irony, his austere reserve and his compassion, the lucidity of his lyricism, the intensity of his sentiment toward classical antiquity, are not just trappings of a modern poet, but the necessary armor--in his case well-tempered and shining indeed--for man not to be crushed by the onslaught of reality by offering to his readers neither aesthetic nor ethical discount, this poet, in fact, saves them from that poverty which every form of human evil finds so congenial. As long as the species exists, this book will be timely.'

Zbigniew Herbert was a spiritual leader of the anticommunist movement in Poland. His work has been translated into almost every European language, and he won numerous prizes, including the Jerusalem Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize. His books include SELECTED POEMS, REPORT FROM THE BESIEGED CITY AND OTHER POEMS, MR COGITO, STILL LIFE WITH A BRIDLE, and KING OF THE ANTS.

 

 

 

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(01/09/2009) A House For Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul. New York. 1961. McGraw Hill. keywords: Literature Caribbean Trinidad India England. 531 pages. Jacket design by Stephen Russ.

A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS is my favorite V. S. Naipaul novel.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The rambling odyssey of Mr Biswas in his quest for happiness and freedom, and of course for a house, is a delight to read. Probably Naipaul's most human book, it is a bit as if Charles Dickens was an East Indian early 20th century Trinidadian, but better. Mr Biswas is a gentle man, thoughtful and fastidious, with a taste for privacy - a pleasant thing if one happens to have money, which he does not. He is a Hindu of high caste but very low fortune, living in the West Indies, and A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS is the story of his longing for independence and a house of his own, which becomes for him a symbol of everything that life has denied him. V. S. Naipaul tells how, in the end, Mr Biswas gets his house. Mr Biswas has been brought up on the haphazard charity of relatives. He is lucky to have his talent for sign writing, as the shopkeepers in Trinidad like to make a show and Mr Biswas earns a kind of living. Literally forced by reason of his high caste to marry into the Tulsi family, he becomes almost part of their furniture in a teeming establishment ruled by old Mrs Tulsi. Mr Biswas might as well have been embraced by an octopus, for to be private, thoughtful, or fastidious is to be a traitor among Tulsis. Following him from birth to death, the author writes with the delicate, dry humour that has attracted great critical acclaim wherever his books have appeared. He gives not only a wonderfully detailed and colourful picture of Hindu life in the West Indies, but also a picture of humanity anywhere as it contends with hardship and loneliness, pushing out its frail but stub- born shoots of hope and dignity. It was clear from his earlier novels that V. S. Naipaul was one of the most distinguished writers to emerge from the West Indies. Now with A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS, he has written unquestionably the best regional novel about them that has yet appeared - a book which triumphantly transcends geographical considerations, and a tale so true, so exact, and so deeply compassionate, that it put him among the most highly regarded authors in the world on the day it was published.

 

 

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(01/08/2009) In My Father's House: Africa In The Philosophy Of Culture by Kwame Anthony Appiah. New York. 1992. Oxford University Press. keywords: Africa Diaspora Philosophy History. 225 pages. Jacket illustration - 'Man With Bicycle', Yoruba, Nigeria. 0195068513.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Africa’s intellectuals have long been engaged in a conversation among themselves and with Europeans and Americans about what it means to be African. At the heart of these debates on African identity are the seminal works of politicians, creative writers, and philosophers from Africa and its diaspora. In this book, Appiah asks how we should think about the cultural situation of these intellectuals, reading their works in the context both of European and American ideas and of Africa’s own indigenous traditions. Appiah draws on his experiences as a Ghanaian in the New World to explore the writings of African and African-American thinkers. In the process, he contributes his own vision of the possibilities and pitfalls of an African identity in the late twentieth century. Setting out to dismantle the specious oppositions between ‘us’ and ‘them’, the West and the Rest, that have governed so much of the cultural debate about Africa in the modern world, Appiah maintains that all of us, wherever we live on the planet, must explore together the relations between our local cultures and an increasingly global civilization. Appiah combines philosophical analysis with more personal reflections, addressing the major issues in the philosophy of culture through an exploration of the contemporary African predicament.

Kwame Anthony Akroma-Ampim Kusi Appiah was born in London (where his Ghanaian father was a law student) but moved as an infant to Ghana, where he grew up. His father, Joseph Emmanuel Appiah, a lawyer and politician, was also, at various times, a Member of Parliament, an Ambassador and a President of the Ghana Bar Association; his mother, the novelist and children’s writer, Peggy Appiah, whose family was English, was active in the social, philanthropic and cultural life of Kumasi, where they lived. His three younger sisters Isobel, Adwoa and Abena, were born in Ghana. As a child, he spent a good deal of time in England, staying with his grandmother, Dame Isobel Cripps, widow of the English statesman Sir Stafford Cripps. Kwame Appiah was educated at the University Primary School at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi; at Ullenwood Manor, in Gloucestershire, and Port Regis and Bryanston Schools, in Dorset; and, finally, at Clare College, Cambridge University, in England, where he took both B.A. and Ph.D. degrees in the philosophy department. His Cambridge dissertation explored the foundations of probabilistic semantics; once revised, these arguments were published by Cambridge University Press as Assertion and Conditionals. Out of that first monograph grew a second book, For Truth in Semantics, which dealt with Michael Dummett’s defenses of semantic anti-realism. Since Cambridge, he has taught at Yale, Cornell, Duke, and Harvard universities and lectured at many other institutions in the United States, Germany, Ghana and South Africa, as well as at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris; and he is now a member of the Princeton University faculty, where he is a member of the Philosophy Department and the University Center for Human Values. Professor Appiah has also published widely in African and African-American literary and cultural studies. In 1992, Oxford University Press published In My Father’s House, which deals, in part, with the role of African and African-American intellectuals in shaping contemporary African cultural life. His current interests range over African and African-American intellectual history and literary studies, ethics and philosophy of mind and language; and he has also taught regularly about African traditional religions; but his major current work has to do (a) with the philosophical foundations of liberalism and (b) with questions of method in arriving at knowledge about values. Professor Appiah joined the Princeton faculty in 2002 as Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values. In 1996, he published Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race with Amy Gutmann; in 1997 the Dictionary of Global Culture, co-edited with Henry Louis Gates Jr. Along with Professor Gates he has also edited the Encarta Africana CD-ROM encyclopedia, published by Microsoft, which became the Perseus Africana encyclopedia in book form. This is now available in a revised multi-volume edition from Oxford University Press. In 2003, he coauthored Bu Me Bé: Proverbs of the Akan (of which his mother, the writer Peggy Appiah, was the major author), an annotated edition of 7,500 proverbs in Twi, the language of Asante. He is also the author of three novels, of which the first, Avenging Angel, was largely set at Clare College, Cambridge, and he reviews regularly for the New York Review of Books. In 2004, Oxford University Press published his introduction to contemporary philosophy entitled Thinking It Through. In January 2005, Princeton University Press published The Ethics of Identity and in February 2006 Norton published Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, which won the 2007 Arthur Ross Award of the Council on Foreign Relations. In January 2008, Harvard University Press will publish his Experiments in Ethics, based on his 2005 Flexner lectures at Bryn Mawr. Professor Appiah has homes in New York city and near Pennington, in New Jersey, which he shares with his partner, Henry Finder, Editorial Director of the New Yorker magazine. In 2007, he is the President of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association and he will take on the task of Chairing the Executive Board of the American Philosophical Association in 2008. He is also currently Chair of the Board of the American Council of Learned Societies.

 

 

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(01/07/2009) Enlightenment by Maureen Freely. Woodstock/New York. 2008. Overlook Press. keywords: Literature America Turkey. 398 pages. Cover photo by Zeynep Kanra. Cover design by Plainclothes Ltd. 9781590200742.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   In October 2005, only a few months after her Turkish husband is detained and her five-year-old son distributed to a foster family by US border patrol, Jeannie Wakefield disappears. She leaves behind in Istanbul a 57-page letter to M, an anonymous investigative journalist who Jeannie begs to write about her plight. The letter tells the story of Jeannie's first arrival in Turkey 34 years earlier, when she was a bright-eyed 16-year-old innocent shimmering with open-hearted idealism. The letter reveals a convoluted tale of complex political intrigue, of retired intelligence operatives and Turkish teenage radicals willing to die for their right to speak out against the humanitarian outrages of their government, of a grisly murder and a dismembered body in a trunk. It is a grim and heartbreaking history of first loves shattered and best friends betrayed, and M finds herself, against her will, tangled in Jeannie's narrative. But in the 'deep state' of post-911 Turkey, nobody is who they say they are, and everyone is a suspect - exactly how much will M inadvertently sacrifice to save the woman who stole her only true love? 'A dark Conradian drama set in a beautifully illuminated Istanbul, where the past is always with us' - Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Prizewinning author of Snow. 'Byzantine in structure, mischievous in intent, it is as concerned with the garbled and provisional nature of truth as with the minutiae of repression' - Times Literary Supplement. 'A gripping novel' - The Independent. 'Playing out against a meticulously realized backdrop of Turkey in the years following the Cold War that feels thoroughly authentic, this sinister, complex political thriller snakes to a remarkably subtle conclusion.' - Independent on Sunday.

 

 

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(01/06/2009) Naked In Garden Hills by Harry Crews. New York. 1969. Morrow. keywords: Literature America. 215 pages. Jacket design by Paul Bacon Studio.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   When Harry Crews' first novel, THE GOSPEL SINGER, was published early in 1968, it received high praise from such novelists as Richard E. Kim and Andrew Lytle. In the Richmond News Leader, Robert P. Hilldrup called the book 'altogether the best piece of fiction this reviewer has seen come out of the South since Jesse Hill Ford's THE LIBERATION OF LORD BYRON JONES. ' But no amount of praise could have prepared any reader for so brilliant an encore as NAKED IN GARDEN HILLS. This new novel tells the story of a corrupted paradise, the Florida-peninsula town of Garden Hills, which once flourished as the site of the world's largest phosphate mine and now is nearly abandoned, decrepit. Fat Man, the town's impotent king, a Metrecal addict and frightened conservative, engages in a bizarre struggle for control of the town's destiny with Dolly, its queen, its seductive virgin, who wants Garden Hills to join the modern world. One of them triumphs, and in so doing brings degradation upon the other in a shattering final scene. The Hunting Publishing Company, in reviewing THE GOSPEL SINGER, said, 'The climactic scene. is one of literature's memorable moments. ' But the climax of NAKED IN GARDEN HILLS eclipses even that. A parable of great insight, a story that moves swiftly with high suspense, this book should surely establish Harry Crews as one of America's most brilliant and original novelists. 'Macabre and slapstick, howlingly funny and as sad as a zoo, ribald, admonitory, wry and deeply fond, NAKED IN GARDEN HILLS lives up to and beyond the shining promise of Mr. Crews' first novel, THE GOSPEL SINGER. It is southern Gothic at its best, a Hieronymous Bosch landscape in Dixie inhabited by monstrous, darling pets.'-- JEAN STAFFORD, N. Y. Times Book Review.

 

 

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(01/04/2009) The Scramble For Africa: The White Man's Conquest OfThe Dark Continent From 1876 To 1912 by Thomas Pakenham. New York. 1991. Random House. keywords: History Africa Colonialism. 738 pages. Jacket photograph: from IN DARKEST AFRICA by H. M. Stanley, 1891. Courtesy of the author. Jacket design: Gun Larson. 0394515765. December 1991.

A big history of the European 'scramble' for Africa.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The Scramble for Africa is one of the most extraordinary phenomena in history. In 1880 most of the continent was still ruled by its inhabitants and was barely explored. Yet by 1902, five European powers - Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, and Italy - had grabbed almost all of its ten million square miles, awarding themselves thirty new colonies and protectorates, and 110 million bewildered new subjects. The sudden race for African territory swept the political masters of Europe off their feet. The British colonial secretary protested this 'absurd scramble. ' The German chancellor Prince Bismarck, complained that he was being led into a 'colonial whirl. ' The French prime minister called it a 'steeple chase into the unknown. ' Ironically, the provocation for this massive display of greed on the part of the European powers came from the heroic death in 1873 of the missionary-explorer David Livingstone, who had exposed the horrors of the African slave trade then in progress. His call for Africa to be redeemed by the 'three C's' - Commerce, Christianity and Civilization - was aimed at the conscience of the civilized world. However, the initial response came from rival colonial enthusiasts in Europe. There were journalists like Henry Stanley, mariners like Pierre de Brazza, soldiers like Edward Lugard, pedagogues like Karl Peters, and gold-and-diamond tycoons like Cecil Rhodes. At first the governments of Europe attempted to remain aloof from this race, for there seemed little to gain from the expense of building new empires in the desert or in malarial bush and swamp. But Europe was experiencing a period of economic stagnation, and Black Africa might be--as parts of South Africa had already proven-an El Dorado, a huge new market and tropical treasure house. Soon colonial fever swept the Continent, and the acquisition of overseas empire became identified with national prestige. As the Scramble gathered momentum, a fourth 'C' - Conquest - became dominant. The Maxim machine -gun, rather than trade or the Cross, became the symbol of the age. In many colonies atrocities were commonplace and Africans were treated no better than animals. At the center of it all, cunningly exploiting the rivalries around him, stood one enigmatic individual controlling the heart of the Dark Continent: Leopold II, king of the Belgians and personal owner of the Congo State. Ten years in the writing, and involving trips to twenty-two African countries as well as extensive research in Britain, France, Belgium and Germany, Thomas Pakenham's tour de force of historical narrative is the first full-scale history of this extraordinary period. Veering between Europe at the height of its power and Africa in its political infancy, covering a vast terrain and including an enormous cast of characters, The Scramble for Africa is as vivid and as fast moving as any novel.

THOMAS PAKENHAM is the author of THE MOUNTAINS OF RASSELAS, THE YEAR OF LIBERTY and THE BOER WAR. With his wife, the writer Valerie Pakenham, and his four children, he divides his time between a terraced house in North Kensington, London, and a crumbling castle in Ireland.

 

 

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(01/03/2009) Catching Fire by Wyatt Wyatt. New York. 1977. Random House. keywords: Literature America. 273 pages. Jacket design by Jack Ribik. 0394407644. April 1977.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The deaf girl sat by the pool, her raven-black hair flashing in the sun, her long legs glistening with sweat. As Norman fled, she half whispered after him, perhaps thinking it a shout, 'I can bring you back to life, pigman!' Fifteen months, seven days and almost five hours had passed since he had made love to anybody. And now it has started. Norman Foreman is about to Catch Fire. CATCHING FIRE: a delightful and altogether uncommon novel - a comedy, a love story, a fable, even, by the end, a bit of a suspense story, by one of the most impressive new talents in contemporary fiction. CATCHING FIRE is the story of an erstwhile professor of speech and now professional writer of canned sermons: Norman Foreman, who has had the misfortune to have been burned, literally and figuratively, by love, causing him to lose his wife, his home, his job and his navel. Norman has taken a vow: never again, he swears, the beast of desire, never again the triumph of animal lust. Ah, until that day fifteen months, seven days and almost five hours later. when that first faint spark is struck, and it begins: the slow, hilarious, aching, astonishing and finally rattling roller-coaster ride of sexual and emotional reawakening, a plunge down a path loaded with pitfalls and lined by extraordinary characters - a concatenation of con men, rogues, fools, and a devastating female embodiment of the life force noted Spider Webb, all of whom reside most un-Edenic hotel known as the Paradise. It is there they teach Norman the primal lesson: in order to be human, we must first discover the beast in all of us. This is a novel full of surprises and delights, with a prose that jumps off every page and a particular quality of bittersweet joy - a simultaneous celebration of life and close attention to human frailties - that will not soon. be forgotten. Above all, as Harry Crews attests on the front cover, Wyatt Wyatt is a storyteller, and as CATCHING FIRE 'spins itself out in page after page of language solid and gamy as flesh' it will have you laughing, frightened, moved, and thoroughly in its power. It is a stunning debut by a writer who in the years to come will be heard from again and again.

 

 

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(01/01/2009) The Gypsy's Curse by Harry Crews. New York. 1974. Knopf. keywords: Literature America. 208 pages. Jacket design by Paul Bacon. 0394491963. April 1974.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Marvin Molar was born with teensy tadpole legs - three inches around. His elephant arms make up for it. They're twenty-two inches in diameter and so thong he can balance on the end of one finger. He's deaf, too; and dumb. But worst of all, he is cursed with the Gypsy's Curse: Que encuentres un cono a tu medida! The cono he finds belongs to Hester, who is normal. Hester insists on moving into Al Molarski's Fireman's Gym, where Marvin has lived since he was abandoned as a baby Marvin resists. Al Molarski resists. The two punch-drunk fighters who live and work out there are stupefied and excited by the idea. But what Hester wants, Hester gets - and the stage is set for catastrophe. What renders THE GYPSY'S CURSE unique and memorable is the startling tension between the frenzy and seaminess of Marvin's experience and the elegance of his mind - his strange, haunting understanding of human panic and pain, the bizarre integrity of his professional life as the best and most grotesque hand-balancer around, the thin line he lives on - poised between utter helplessness and an almost savage control. His life appalls, but his quality appeals. The novels of Harry Crews have consistently been praised for their mysterious and convincing grasp of the recognizably human feelings that lodge amidst the demonic and the strange, in what The New York Times Book Review has called a 'Hieronymus Bosch landscape.' Here, his remarkable talents bring us even further into the realm of unexpected emotional possibilities - leaving us moved, even almost charmed rather than horrified, by the dreadful and implacable fulfillment of THE GYPSY'S CURSE.

 

 

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(12/31/2008) Vico & Herder by Isaiah Berlin. New York. 1976. Viking Press. keywords: Philosophy History Vico Herder. 228 pages. Jacket design by Abner Graboff. 0670745855. May 1976.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   This long-awaited book by one of the foremost philosopher-historians of the English-speaking world is concerned with two men of the Enlightenment whose work marks a watershed between old-fashioned chronological history and the perspectives of the modern discipline, and who thus 'opened doors to a great enlargement of the human spirit. ' The first study is of Giovanni Battista Vico, the Neapolitan philosopher who was overshadowed by Montesquieu in his own time but who has been rediscovered at intervals ever since Surely one of the profound and original thinkers of all time, he is shown to have even more to say to our age than to his own. Johann Gottfried Herder is sometimes called the father of European nationalism, but, as this study points out, he can be equally credited with the origination of populism, with the idea of the arts as the voice of their time and social milieu, and with the concept of the validity and autonomy of disparate cultures - all ideas at least as relevant today as they were in eighteenth-century Konigsberg. The two essays attempt, from different points of view, to assess the validity of applying the methods of the natural sciences to the study of human culture, and the treatment of this topic by two boldly original critics of the Enlightenment.

Sir Isaiah Berlin, OM, CBE, FBA, was a Fellow of All Souls, Oxford, from 1932 to 1938 and from 1950 to 1966, and was a Fellow of New College from 1938 to 1950. He was Professor of Social and Political Theory in Oxford from 1957 to 1967, Founder and President of Wolfson College, Oxford, from 1966 to 1975, and Schweitzer Professor at CUNY from 1966 to 1971; and he has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Bryn Mawr, Chicago, and Princeton. He is the author of many works, including THE HEDGEHOG AND THE FOX, POUR ESSAYS ON LIBERTY, KARL MARX: HIS LIFE AND ENVIRONMENT, and THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT. In late winter 1976 Sir Isaiah traveled to New York to participate in a conference celebrating the 250th anniversary of Vico's LA SCIENZA NUOVA.

 

 

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(12/29/2008) Desire & Delusion: Three Novellas. Chicago. 2003. Ivan R. Dee. Translated from the German by Margaret Schaefer. keywords: Literature Austria Vienna Translated. 264 pages. Jacket Illustration: Edvard Munch,'Train Smoke'.Jacket design by Jorge Colombo. 156663542x.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   'These three dark novellas show Schnitzler's master as a guide to the neurotic, death-obsessed world of fin-de-siecle Vienna. American readers should especially appreciate his brilliant 'Fraulein Else' in Margret Schaefer's vibrant new translation.'-ROBERT ALTER. 'Flight into Darkness,' 'Dying,' and 'Fraulein Else,' three of Arthur Schnitzler's greatest novellas, are acknowledged masterpieces of psychological realism. In Margret Schaefer's superb translations, they reveal the depths of Schnitzler's understanding of life as well as the masterful storytelling techniques that immerse the reader in the very center of his characters' thoughts and emotions. Each of the novellas creates a world of experience that becomes our own. In 'Flight into Darkness' we free-fall along with the main character, Robert, into an abyss of paranoid madness. As Ms. Schaefer describes Schnitzler's adept use of interior monologue: 'We feel what it's like to become obsessed by an idea, to rationalize a 'crazy' thought so that it seems incontrovertibly true.' We watch with Robert, through his eyes and thoughts, as he misconstrues every encounter, dissects every nuance for hidden meaning, attempts to decipher the nightmare of his past. Schnitzler's lofty aim in 'Dying,' a searing portrait of a young man who believes he is wasting away, and of his lover's devotion, is to tell the truth about the reality of dying. Focusing on just these two characters, Schnitzler creates a psychological drama filled with both an aching tenderness and a cruel animosity. By narrowing his focus, he explores the details of the ever-changing, momentary, unspoken, and often unacceptable thoughts and feelings that underlie the couple's daily routine. 'Fraulein Else,' one of Schnjtzler's most celebrated works, uses stream of consciousness brilliantly to explore the interior life of a young woman placed in a humiliating position by her family. Schnitzler's Else joins the Molly of Ulysses and the Mrs. Dalloway of Virginia Woolf's novel as one of the most compelling literary portraits of a woman from the inside. Following on her widely acclaimed translation of Schnitzler's stories and novellas in Night Games, Margret Schaefer gives us a remarkable rendering of these masterly novellas.

Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931), Austrian physician, dramatist, and novelist, was among the most sophisticated writers of his time.

Margret Schaefer, who has taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois, Chicago, has written on Wilde, von Kleist, and Kafka as well as on the history of psychoanalysis and psychology. She lives in Berkeley, California. 

 

 

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(12/28/2008) American Holocaust: Columbus & The Conquest Of The New World by David E. Stannard. New York. 1992. Oxford University Press. keywords: History America Genocide. 358 pages. Jacket design by Marek Antoniak. 0195075811.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   For four hundred years--from the first Spanish assaults against the Arawak people of Hispaniola in the 1490s to the US. Army's massacre of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee in the 1890s - the indigenous inhabitants of North and South America endured an unending firestorm of violence. During that time the native population of the Western Hemisphere declined by as many as one hundred million people. Indeed, as historian David E. Stannard argues in this stunning new book, the European and white American destruction of the native peoples of the Americas was the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world. Stannard begins with a portrait of the enormous richness and diversity of life in the Americas prior to Columbus's fateful voyage in 1492. He then follows the path of genocide from the Indies to Mexico and Central and South America, then north to Florida, Virginia, and New England, and finally out across the Great Plains and Southwest to California and the North Pacific. Stannard reveals that wherever Europeans or white Americans went, the native people were caught between imported plagues and barbarous atrocities, typically resulting in the annihilation of 95 percent of their populations. What kind of people, he asks, do such horrendous things to others? His highly provocative answer: Christians. Digging deeply into ancient European and Christian attitudes toward sex, race, and war, he finds the cultural ground well prepared by the end of the Middle Ages for the centuries-long genocide campaign that Europeans and their descendants launched - and in places continue to wage - against the New World's original inhabitants. Advancing a thesis that is sure to create much controversy, Stannard contends that the perpetrators of the AMERICAN HOLOCAUST drew on the same ideological wellspring as did the later architects of the Nazi Holocaust. It is an ideology that remains dangerously alive today, he adds, and one that in recent years has surfaced in American justifications for large-scale military intervention in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. At once sweeping in scope and meticulously detailed, American Holocaust is a work of impassioned scholarship that is certain to ignite intense historical and moral debate.

David E. Stannard is Professor of American Studies at the University of Hawaii. His previous books include DEATH IN AMERICA, SHRINKING HISTORY: ON FREUD AND THE FAILURE OF PSYCHOHISTORY, THE PURITAN WAY OF DEATH: A STUDY IN RELIGION, CULTURE, AND SOCIAL CHANGE, and BEFORE THE HORROR: THE POPULATION OF HAWAII ON THE EVE OF WESTERN CONTACT.

 

 

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(12/27/2008) Facing West: The Metaphysics Of Indian-Hating & Empire-Building by Richard Drinnon. Minneapolis. 1980. University Of Minnesota Press. keywords: American Indian History Racism. 571 pages. 0816609780.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   'Thus we spent the day burning and spoiling the country,' wrote Puritan John Underhill, an eyewitness to Captain John Endicott's 1636 expedition of vengeance against the Pequot Indians of Connecticut. The destruction of the Pequots is emblematic, to Richard Drinnon, of the fate of other victims of the Anglo-American westward movement. From New England to Indochina, the author follows the white invaders and finds striking continuities in both actions and attitudes. Facing West draws upon the words and lives of selected individuals - 'the living substance of history' - to trace the course of American racism and imperialism. In the early republic, Drinnon finds Jefferson and Monroe the first advocates of Indian removal to territory west of the Mississippi. He also uncovers the fascinating and often tortuous views of less well known figures - novelists James Kirke Paulding and William G. Simms and an early head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Thomas L. McKenney, who helped set up mission schools in order to break the family and tribal ties of young Indians by the late nineteenth century American aims ranged beyond the west coast. A popular lecturer during the Centennial years was John Fiske, an advocate of social Darwinism and global empire who stirred audiences with his call for the Manifest Destiny of the 'English race. ' For Drinnon the same patterns of thought underlie the letters that Henry Adams wrote during an excursion to Samoa and the imperial acquisitions of his friend John Hay, secretary of state under McKinley and Roosevelt. The bloody 'pacification' of the Philippines at the turn of the century and the American war in Vietnam - amplified in the career of CIA counterinsurgent Edward Geary Lansdale bring Drinnon's book to a close. In the lives of Thomas Morton of Merrymount, novelist Mary Austin, George Catlin, Melville, and Thoreau, Drinnon finds a deeper understanding of the American Indian. Yet he maintains that the dominant mode in American thought and action, from the Connecticut River to Tippecanoe to My Lai, was the creed described by Melville as the 'metaphysics of Indian-hating. ' Frederick ackson Turner's frontier - 'the meeting point between savagery and civilization - Drinnon sees as a collision point between nature, on the one hand, and fraud, cant, and conquest on the other. 'No one seriously concerned with American history,' says Henry Nash Smith, 'will be able to avoid coming to terms with this book.'

 

 

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(12/26/2008) King Leopold's Ghost: A Story Of Greed, Terror, & Heroism In Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild. Boston. 1998. Houghton Mifflin. keywords: Africa History Colonial Congo Colonialism. 367 pages. Front jacket photograph - Leopold II, King of Belgium. Jacket design by Michaela Sullivan. 0395759242.

Shocking and unforgettable, and one of my favorite books of the year.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million -- all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated. KING LEOPOLD'S GHOST is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust. Adam Hochschild brings this largely untold story alive with the wit and skill of a Barbara Tuchman. Like her, he knows that history often provides a far richer cast of characters than any novelist could invent. Chief among them is Edmund Morel, a young British shipping agent who went on to lead the international crusade against Leopold. Another hero of this tale, the Irish patriot Roger Casement, ended his life on a London gallows. Two courageous black Americans, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard, risked much to bring evidence of the Congo atrocities to the outside world. Sailing into the middle of the story was a young Congo River steamboat officer named Joseph Conrad. And looming above them all, the duplicitous billionaire King Leopold II. With great power and compassion, KING LEOPOLD'S GHOST will brand the tragedy of the Congo too long forgotten -- onto the conscience of the West.

ADAM HOCHSCHILD is the author of HALF THE WAY HOME: A MEMOIR OF FATHER AND SON and THE UNQUIET GHOST RUSSIANS REMEMBER STALIN, both of which were named Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review and Library Journal. FINDING THE TRAPDOOR: ESSAYS, PORTRAITS, TRAVELS, won the 1998 PEN/Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award for the Art of the Essay. He teaches writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and in 1997-98 was a Fulbright Lecturer in India. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Arlie, the sociologist and author. They have two sons.

 

 

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(12/25/2008) The Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux. Boston. 2007. Houghton Mifflin. keywords: Literature America. 274 pages. Jacket photograph by Steve McCurry. 0618943323.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   A master of the travel narrative weaves three intertwined novellas of Westerners transformed by their sojourns in India. This startling, far-reaching book captures the tumult, ambition, hardship, and serenity that mark today's India. Theroux's Westerners risk venturing far beyond the subcontinent's well-worn paths to discover woe or truth or peace. A middle-aged couple on vacation veers heedlessly from idyll to chaos. A buttoned-up Boston lawyer finds succor in Mumbai's reeking slums. And a young woman befriends an elephant in Bangalore. We also meet Indian characters as singular as they are reflective of the country's subtle ironies: an executive who yearns to become a holy beggar, an earnest young striver whose personality is rewired by acquiring an American accent, a miracle-working guru, and others. As ever, Theroux's portraits of people and places explode stereotypes to exhilarating effect. The Elephanta Suite urges us toward a fresh, compelling, and often inspiring notion of what India is, and what it can do to those who try to lose--or find--themselves there.

 

 

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(12/24/2008) Selected Poems by Derek Walcott. New York. 1964. Farrar Straus & Company. keywords: Poetry Caribbean Black St. Lucia. 85 pages.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Two years ago, with the publication in England of his first book, IN A GREEN NIGHT, Derek Walcott was recognized at once as a new poet of imaginative energy and power. As Robert Graves wrote, 'Derek Walcott handles English with a closer understanding of its inner magic than most of his English-born contemporaries. ' A critic in The Listener described the poems as 'full of summery melancholy, fresh and, stinging colors, luscious melody, and intense awareness of place'--the place being the West Indian world in which Derek Walcott was brought up. SELECTED POEMS brings together the best poems from the earlier volume, and new poems written since 1960. This rich collection introduces an important new poetic talent to American readers. 'He writes extraordinarily good poetry,' wrote The Sphere, 'balanced and compassionate in spite of angry tension of race, stringing his words together in a rich but measured pattern with the wry sadness of a Caribbean Eliot.'

 

 

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(12/23/2008) The Assassin's Song by M. G. Vassanji. New York. 2007. Knopf. keywords: Literature India Canada. 325 pages. Front-of-jacket photograph by John Clark. Jacket design by Peter Mendelsund. 9781400042173. August 2007.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The magnificent new novel from the award-winning author of THE IN-BETWEEN WORLD OF VIKRAM LALL. In the aftermath of the brutal violence that gripped western India in 2002, Karsan Dargawalla, heir to Pirbaag - the shrine of a mysterious, medieval sufi - begins to tell the story of his family and the shrine now destroyed. His tale opens in the 1960s: young Karsan is next in line after his father to assume lordship of the Shrine of the Wanderer, and take his place as a representative of God to the multitudes who come there. But he longs to be 'just ordinary' - to play cricket and be part of the exciting world he reads about in the stacks of newspapers a truck driver brings him from all across India. And when, to his utter amazement, he is accepted at Harvard, he can't resist the opportunity to go finally 'into the beating heart of the world. ' Despite his father's epistolary attempts to keep Karsan close to traditional ways, the excitements and discoveries of his new existence in America soon prove more compelling, and after a bitter quarrel he abdicates his successorship to the ancient throne. Yet even as he succeeds in his 'ordinary' life - marrying and having a son, becoming a professor in suburban British Columbia - his heritage haunts him in unexpected ways. After tragedy strikes, both in Canada and in Pirbaag, he is drawn back across thirty years of separation and silence to discover what, if anything, is left for him in India. A story of grand historical sweep and intricate personal drama, a stunning evocation of the physical and emotional landscape of a man caught between the ancient and the modern, between legacy and discovery, between the most daunting filial obligation and the most undeniable personal yearning - THE ASSASSIN'S SONG is a heartbreaking ballad of a life irrevocably changed.

M. G. Vassanji is the author of five acclaimed novels: THE GUNNY SACK, which won a regional Commonwealth Writers' Prize; NO NEW LAND; THE BOOK OF SECRETS, which Won the very first Giller Prize; AMRIIKA; and THE IN- BETWEEN WORLD OF VIKRAM LALL, which also received the Giller Prize. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons.

 

 

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(12/22/2008) Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love by Kara Walker. Minneapolis. 2007. Walker Art Center. keywords: Art Black America Women. 432 pages. 9780935640861. March 2007.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Kara Walker is among the most complex and prolific American artists of her generation. Over the past decade, she has gained international recognition for her room-size tableaux, which depict historical narratives haunted by sexuality, violence and subjugation and are made using the paradoxically genteel eighteenth-century art of cut-paper silhouettes. Set in the antebellum American South, Walker's compositions play off of stereotypes to portray, often grotesquely, life on the plantation, where masters, mistresses and slave men, women and children enact a subverted version of the past in an attempt to reconfigure their status and representation. Over the years, the artist has used drawing, painting, colored-light projections, writing, shadow puppetry, and, most recently, film animation to narrate her tales of romance, sadism, oppression and liberation. Her scenarios thwart conventional readings of a cohesive national history and expose the collective, and ongoing, psychological injury caused by the tragic legacy of slavery. Deploying an acidic sense of humor, Walker examines the dialectics of pleasure and danger, guilt and fulfillment, desire and fear, race and class. This landmark publication, which is sure to win international design awards, accompanies Walker's first major American museum survey. It features critical essays by Philippe Vergne, Sander L. Gilman, Thomas McEvilley, Robert Storr, Michele Wallace and Kevin Young, as well as an illustrated lexicon of recurring themes and motifs in the artist's most influential installations by Yasmil Raymond; more than 200 full-color images; an extensive exhibition history and bibliography; and a 16-page insert by the artist.

 

 

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(12/21/2008) Tomorrow by Graham Swift. New York. 2007. Knopf. keywords: Literature England. 259 pages. Jacket photograph by Stewart Cohen. Jacket design by Carol Devine Carson. 9780307266903. September 2007.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   In his first novel since The Light of Day, the Booker Prize-winning author gives us a luminous tale about the closest of human bonds. On a midsummer's night Paula Hook lies awake; Mike, her husband of twenty-five years, asleep beside her; her teenage twins, Nick and Kate, sleeping in nearby rooms. The next day, she knows, will redefine all of their lives. A revelation lies in store. Her children's future lies before them. The house holds the family's history and fate. Recalling the years before and after her children were born, Paula begins a story that is both a glowing celebration of love possessed and a moving acknowledgment of the fear of loss, of the fragilities, illusions, and secrets on which even our most intimate sense of who we are can rest. As day draws nearer, Paula's intensely personal thoughts touch on all our tomorrows. Brilliantly distilling half a century into one suspenseful night, as tender in its tone as it is deep in its soundings, Tomorrow is an eloquent exploration of couples, parenthood, and selfhood, and a unique meditation on the mystery of happiness.

Graham Swift lives in London and is the author of seven previous novels: The Sweet-Shop Owner; Shuttlecock, which received the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize; Waterland, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize and won the Guardian Fiction Award, the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, and the Italian Premio Grinzane Cavour; Out of This World; Ever After, which won the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger; Last Orders, which was awarded the Booker Prize; and, most recently, The Light of Day. He is also the author of Learning to Swim, a collection of short stories. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages.

 

 

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(12/20/2008) The Temptation Of The Impossible: Victor Hugo & Les Miserables by Mario Vargas Llosa. Princeton. 2007. Princeton University Press. Translated From The Spanish By John King. keywords: Literary Criticism France Victor Hugo Les Miserables Translated. 196 pages. 9780691131115.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   It was one of the most popular novels of the nineteenth century and Tolstoy called it 'the greatest of all novels. ' Yet today Victor Hugo's Les Miserables is neglected by readers and undervalued by critics. In The Temptation of the Impossible, one of the world's great novelists, Mario Vargas Llosa, helps us to appreciate the incredible ambition, power, and beauty of Hugo's masterpiece and, in the process, presents a humane vision of fiction as an alternative reality that can help us imagine a different and better world. Hugo, Vargas Llosa says, had at least two goals in Les Miserables--to create a complete fictional world and, through it, to change the real world. Despite the impossibility of these aims, Hugo makes them infectious, sweeping up the reader with his energy and linguistic and narrative skill. Les Miserables, Vargas Llosa argues, embodies a utopian vision of literature--the idea that literature can not only give us a supreme experience of beauty, but also make us more virtuous citizens, and even grant us a glimpse of the 'afterlife, the immortal soul, God. ' If Hugo's aspiration to transform individual and social life through literature now seems innocent, Vargas Llosa says, it is still a powerful ideal that great novels like Les Miserables can persuade us is true.

Mario Vargas Llosa is a Peruvian writer who is one of Latin America's leading novelists and essayists.

  

 

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(12/19/2008) The Assistant by Robert Walser. New York. 2007. New Directions. Translated From The German and with an afterword by Susan Bernofsky. keywords: Literature Switzerland Translated. NDP1071. 301 pages. Cover - Engraving. Diffusionsbatterie, c. 1900, courtesy of Robert Parker. Design by Erik Rieselbach. 0811215903.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

‘THE ASSISTANT is Walser’s most ambitious novel, and his bravest. Its ambition lies not in the scale of its action, which is as modest as ever, but in its effort to reach beyond the diminished, the minor, toward a fuller human life. An unforgettable, heart-rending book.’ - J. M. Coetzee. . . ‘For my money, Walser’s best book.’ - Michael Hofmann, London Review of Books. Robert Walser (1878-1956) - admired by Kafka, Musil, Walter Benjamin, and W. G. Sebald - is a radiantly original author. Walser has been acclaimed ‘a truly wonderful, heart-breaking writer’ (Susan Sontag), ‘a bewitched genius’ (Newsweek), and ‘one of the most remarkable and fully realized stylists in modern literature’ (The Nation). ‘If he had a hundred thousand readers,’ Hermann Hesse stated, ‘the world would be a better place.’ THE ASSISTANT, Walser’s amazing 1908 novel, in English for the first time, won a 2007 PEN Translation Fund Award for Susan Bernofsky. Joseph, hired as an inventor’s new assistant, arrives one rainy Monday morning at Technical Engineer Carl Tobler’s splendid hilltop villa: he is at once pleased and terribly worried, a state soon followed by even stickier psychological complexities. He enjoys the company of the proud wife, Frau Tobler, and the beautiful view over Lake Zurich, and the delicious savory meals. But does he deserve any of these pleasures? As he attempts to help the Tobler household (sliding toward financial ruin), The Assistant pours forth Joseph’s inner life of cascading emotions -of exuberance, of despair, of all the raptures and panics of someone ‘drowning in obedience.’.

Robert Walser (April 15, 1878 near Biel/Bienne, Switzerland - December 25, 1956 near Herisau, Switzerland), was a German-speaking Swiss writer. Walser was born in a family with many children. His brother Karl Walser was a well-known stage designer and painter. Walser grew up in Biel, which lies on the language border between German and French. He grew up speaking both languages. He attended primary school and progymnasium which he had to leave before the final exam when his family could no longer afford it. From his early years on, he was an enthusiastic theatre-goer; his favorite play was The Robbers by Friedrich Schiller. There is a Watercolor painting that shows Walser as Karl Moor, the protagonist of that play. From 1892 to 1895, Walser served an apprenticeship at the Bernische Kantonalbank in Biel. Afterwards he worked for a short time in Basel. Walser’s mother, who was ‘emotionally disturbed’, died in 1894 after being under medical care for a long period. In 1895, Walser went to Stuttgart where his brother Karl lived. He was an office worker at the Deutsche Verlagsanstalt and at the Cotta’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung; he also tried, without success, to become an actor. On foot, he returned to Switzerland where he registered 1896 in Zürich. In the following years, he often worked as a ‘Kommis’, that is, as an office clerk, but irregularly and in many different places. As a result, he was one of the first German writers to introduce into literature a description of the life of a salaried employee. In 1898, the influential critic Joseph Victor Widmann published a series of poems by Walser in the Bernese newspaper Der Bund. This came to the attention of Franz Blei, and he introduced Walser to the Art Nouveau people around the magazine Die Insel, including Frank Wedekind, Max Dauthendey and Otto Julius Bierbaum. Numerous short stories and poems by Walser appeared in Die Insel. Until 1905, Walser lived mainly in Zürich, though he often changed lodgings and also lived for a time in Thun, Solothurn, Winterthur and Munich. In 1903, he fulfilled his military service obligation and, beginning that summer, was the ‘aide’ of an engineer and inventor in Wädenswil near Zürich. This episode became the basis of his 1908 novel Der Gehülfe (‘the aide’). In 1904, his first Book, Fritz Kochers Aufsätze, appeared in the Insel Verlag. At the end of 1905 he attended a course in order to become a servant at the castle of Dambrau in Upper Silesia. The theme of serving would characterize his work in the following years, especially in the novel Jakob von Gunten (1909). In 1905, he went to live in Berlin, where his brother Karl Walser, who was working as a theater painter, introduced him to other figures in literature, publishing, and the theater. Occasionally, Walser worked as secretary for the artists’ corporation Berliner Secession. In Berlin, Walser wrote the novels Geschwister Tanner, Der Gehülfe and Jakob von Gunten. They were issued by the publishing house of Bruno Cassirer, where Christian Morgenstern worked as editor. Apart from the novels, he wrote many short stories, sketching popular bars from the point of view of a poor ‘flaneur’ in a very playful and subjective language. There was a very positive echo to his writings. Robert Musil and Kurt Tucholsky, among others, stated their admiration for Walser’s prose, and authors like Hermann Hesse and Franz Kafka counted him among their favorite writers. Walser published numerous short stories in newspapers and magazines, many for instance in the Schaubühne. They became his trademark. The larger part of his work is composed of short stories-literary sketches that elude a ready categorization. Selections of these short stories were published in the volumes Aufsätze (1913) and Geschichten (1914). In 1913, Walser returned to Switzerland. He lived for a short time with his sister Lisa in the mental home in Bellelay, where she worked as a teacher. There, he got to know Lisa Mermet, a washer-woman with whom he developed a close friendship. After a short stay with his father in Biel, he went to live in a mansard in the Biel hotel Blaues Kreuz. In 1914, his father died. In Biel, Walser wrote a number of shorter stories that appeared in newspapers and magazines in Germany and Switzerland and selections of which were published in Der Spaziergang (1917), Prosastücke (1917), Poetenleben (1918), Seeland (1919) and Die Rose (1925). Walser, who had always been an enthusiastic wanderer, began to take extended walks, often by night. In his stories from that period, texts written from the point of view of a wanderer walking through unfamiliar neighborhoods alternate with playful essays on writers and artists. During World War I, Walser repeatedly had to go into military service. At the end of 1916, his brother Ernst died after a time of mental illness in the Waldau mental home. In 1919, Walser’s brother Hermann, geography professor in Bern, committed suicide. Walser himself became isolated in that time, when there was almost no communication with Germany because of the war. Even though he worked hard, he could barely afford to support himself as a freelance writer. At the beginning of 1921, he moved to Bern in order to work at the public record office. He often changed lodgings and lived a very solitary life. During his time in Bern, Walser’s style became more radical. In a more and more condensed form, he wrote ‘micrograms’ (‘Mikrogramme’), called thus because of his minuscule pencil hand that is very difficult to decipher: poems, prose, dramolets and novels-The Robber (Der Räuber). In these texts, his playful, subjective style moved toward a higher abstraction. Many texts of that time work on multiple levels-they can be read as naive-playful feuilltons or as highly complex montages full of allusions. Walser absorbed influences from serious literature as well as from formula fiction and retold for example the plot of a pulp novel in a way that the original (the title of which he never revealed) was unrecognizable. Much of his work was written during these very productive years in Bern. In the beginning of 1929, Walser, who had suffered from anxieties and hallucinations for quite a time, went to the Bernese mental home Waldau, after a mental breakdown, at his sister Fani’s urging. In his medical records it says: ‘The patient confessed hearing voices.’ Therefore, this can hardly be called a voluntary commitment. While in the mental home, his state of mind quickly returned to normal, and he went on writing and publishing. More and more, he used the way of writing he called the ‘pencil method’: He wrote poems and prose in a diminutive Sütterlin hand, the letters of which measured about a millimeter of height by the end of that very productive phase. Werner Morlang and Bernhard Echte were the first ones who attempted to decipher these writings. In the 1990s, they published a six-volume edition, Aus dem Bleistiftgebiet (‘From the pencil area’). Only when Walser was, against his will, moved to the sanatorium of Herisau in his home canton Appenzell Ausserrhoden, did he quit writing. Another reason might have been that with the rise of the Nazis in Germany, his works could no longer be published in any case. In 1936, his admirer Carl Seelig began to visit him. He later wrote a book, Wanderungen mit Robert Walser about their talks. Seelig tried to revive interest in Walser’s work by re-issuing some of his writings. After the death of Walser’s brother Karl in 1943 and of his sister Lisa in 1944, Seelig became Walser’s legal guardian. Though free of outward signs of mental illness for a long time, Walser was crotchety and repeatedly refused to leave the sanatorium. Robert Walser loved long, lonely walks. On the 25th of December of 1956 he was found, dead of a heart attack, in a field of snow near the asylum. The photographs of the dead walker in the snow are almost eerily reminiscent of a similar image of a dead man in the snow in Walser’s first novel, Geschwister Tanner. A characteristic of Walser’s texts is a playful serenity behind which hide existential fears. Today, Walser’s texts, completely re-edited since the 1970s, are regarded as among the most important writings of literary modernism. In his writing, he made use of elements of Swiss German in a charming and original manner, while very personal observations are intervowen with texts about texts, that is, with contemplations and variations of other literary works, at which Walser often mixes pulp fiction with high literature. Walser, who never belonged to a literary school or group, perhaps with the exception of the circle around the magazine Die Insel in his youth, was a notable and often published writer before World War I and into the 1920s. After the second half of the latter decade, he was rapidly forgotten, in spite of Carl Seelig’s editions, which appeared almost exclusively in Switzerland but received little attention. Walser was only rediscovered in the 1970s, even though very famous German writers such as Christian Morgenstern, Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, and Hermann Hesse were among his great admirers. Since then, almost all his writings have become accessible through an extensive republication of his entire body of work. He has exerted a considerable influence on various contemporary German writers, including Ror Wolf, Peter Handke, W. G. Sebald, and Max Goldt.

 

 

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