Fernanda Melchor – Hurricane Season

In 1950 Octavio Paz wrote about “a magical word” with “innumerable meanings” in Mexican culture. This was chingar, for which the English verb “to fuck” provides a dull shadow of a translation. “Who is the Chingada [the fucked one]?” Paz asked rhetorically. “Above all, she is the Mother.” Carlos Fuentes’s The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962) contains a long […]

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Tony Horwitz – Spying on The South

In the early 1850s, as America slid towards civil war, a young reporter for what was then the New-York Daily Times journeyed through the slave states. He hoped to gain a “reliable understanding of the sentiments and hopes & fears” among their people, and “promote the mutual acquaintance of the North and South”. What he saw of […]

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Sergio de la Pava – Lost Empress

American mass-incarceration is the most overt object of the ‘protest’ of this novel’s subtitle. The author, Sergio De La Pava, works as a public defender in New York City, and calls on an intimate secondhand knowledge of the many different sorrows to be found in the ripples of a single criminal case. But Lost Empress is also […]

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Cynthia Ozick – Letters of Intent

Ozick was born in 1928, when the milk in her native Bronx was still delivered by horse and cart. Her father owned a drugstore, which “seemed one of the world’s permanent institutions. Who could have imagined that it would one day vanish into an aisle in the supermarket. . .?” The twenty-first century is largely absent […]

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Juan Villoro – The Reef

Juan Villoro’s first work of fiction to be translated into English, The Guilty (2015), features seven short stories narrated by seven middle-aged men. The men are all very tired: jaded, often reduced by past or dormant addictions, or physically injured in ways both mundane and dramatic (a past-it journeyman footballer’s “body isn’t normal, it’s a kicked-in lump”, […]

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2 Books by César Aira

The Proof, written in 1989, opens with a nerdy 16-year-old girl walking at dusk down a city street thronged with other teenagers. Marcia feels herself slowing down ‘through the soft resistance of the light and darkness, silence and the glances exchanged between face and face’. Suddenly, she is crudely accosted by two lesbian ‘punks’. The […]

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Howard Jacobson – Pussy

Is Donald Trump immune to satire? He must be one of the most widely and fiercely lampooned people of all time; indeed, his entire life can be seen as a one-man war of attrition against the forces of irony. His fortunes are not damaged by it. In fact it’s a war he keeps winning. After […]

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