Reviewed by Hilah Kohen
Yes, this is the work of a practicing doctor with his tongue in his cheek and his home in the Russian countryside. No, as reviewers of this book have been quick to point out, this is not Chekhov. There may be a love triangle and a duel involved, but here, death is anticlimactic: the loser’s remains are accidentally destroyed in a precision missile test. Other stories forgo romance plots gone wrong for premises that seem to come straight from today’s news reels—only to turn those narratives inside-out as well. For example, a young woman kills her would-be rapist in an act of self-defense and lands in jail—where she manages to convince a regional legislator that what the country really needs is an Islamic rebirth. . .
Review by Matt Turner
Most American readers of Chinese poetry come to it through classic translations by Ezra Pound, Gary Snyder, Burton Watson, and a few others. With some notable exceptions, those translations have tended to focus on the poetic triumvirate of the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE): Li Bai (Li Po), Du Fu (Tu Fu), and Wang Wei. The literary context in which those three Tang poets are placed—in China as well as the US—is part of a long, ascendant tradition in Chinese letters, beginning to certain degree with the early anthology that Confucius legendarily put together: The Shijing, better known in English as the Book of Odes or the Book of Songs (Pound translated it as Shih-Ching: The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius). The poems of the Shijing, which often seem little more than folk ditties, span seven centuries during the fabled Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BCE)—the time, according to Confucius in his Analects, when politics and society were ordered as they should be. In China, the Zhou and Tang periods are acknowledged as two golden ages, exemplars of what is best in the Chinese tradition. A trajectory of one to the other is easily assumed.
Review by Sian Norris
Ladivine begins with the story of Clarisse Rivière, a mother happy with her structured life. Having started out as a waitress in a pizzeria, she has worked her way up to become its manager. She’s proud of her house, in love with her husband Richard, and an indulgent mother to her daughter. But Clarisse has a secret: she’s not Clarisse at all. She’s Malinka, and once a month she travels to Bordeaux to visit her mother, one of two Ladivines of the novel’s title. And here we discover the crisis that defines Clarisse’s life and which runs throughout NDiaye’s work: identity . . .
Review by Jon Bartlett
For the reader willing to take Antoine Volodine on his own terms, to follow the desires of his characters, whether real or dreamt, whether in life or in death, to their fatalistic ends, the pleasures are great and the humor is plenty. The sense of crossed wires, of failures to communicate, permeate Bardo or Not Bardo. The majority of its stories describe farcical situations where those in the Bardo, in this spiritual state between death and rebirth, either misunderstand their condition, strive to subvert its laws, or are misguided by the inept or malicious officiants charged with reading to them passages from the Bardo Thödol in order to guide the deceased away from the cycle of rebirth and toward enlightenment, or the Clear Light . . .