As he arrives with his family at the villa in the hills above Nice, Joe sees a body in the swimming pool. But the girl is very much alive. She is Kitty Finch: a self-proclaimed botanist with green-painted fingernails, walking naked out of the water and into the heart of their holiday. Why is she there? What does she want from them all? And why does Joe's wife allow her to remain? Swimming Home is a subversive page-turner, a merciless gaze at the insidious harm that depression can have on apparently stable, well-turned-out people. Set in a summer villa, the story is tautly structured, taking place over a single week in which a group of beautiful, flawed tourists in the French Riviera come loose at the seams. Deborah Levy's writing combines linguistic virtuosity, technical brilliance and a strong sense of what it means to be alive. Swimming Home represents a new direction for a major writer. In this book, the wildness and the danger are all the more powerful for resting just beneath the surface. With its biting humour and immediate appeal, it wears its darkness lightly. Swimming Home was also shortlisted for the New York Times Notable Book of 2012 and the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize 2013. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012 and National Book Awards Author of the Year 2012
The first days of summer: Jim Praley is home from college, ready to unlock Tulsa's secrets. He drives the highways in his parents' car. Finally he makes himself stop and walk into a bar. He's invited to a party. And there he meets Adrienne Booker, a girl who rules Tulsa, in her way. A high-school dropout and promising artist with a penthouse apartment, she takes a special interest in Jim. Through her eyes, he will rediscover his hometown: its wasted sprawl, the beauty of its late nights and, at the city's centre, the unsleeping light of its skyscrapers. Five years later, Jim comes home again, to face the truth about that summer. A novel in two parts, A Map of Tulsa is love story and elegy, a meditation on mobility and its consequences, a book about the distances inside America.
The Matiushin Case is one of the darkest and most powerful works of fiction to appear in Russian in the last twenty years. Deriving, like Captain of the Steppe (2013, And Other Stories), from Oleg Pavlov's own traumatic experience as a conscript in the last years of the Soviet Union, it follows the ordeals of Matiushin, a sensitive, disoriented young man, damaged by brutality first within his family and then in the army. Indebted to the 'labour camp writing' traditions pioneered by Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov, the novel is much more than an exposé of society's ills. Its greatest achievement lies in the tension between the horrific realities of conscript life and the uniquely dreamlike, timeless style through which Pavlov portrays them. Matiushin's 'crime and punishment' emerge from this tension with compelling inevitability; the victim turns killer. The hell that Pavlov describes is real and societal, but above all psychological, and, as such, no less universal than that described by Dante or Dostoevsky.
'Paradises are trees that abound in Buenos Aires, the fruits of which are known as poison beads. This is what the novel is about: the many kinds of paradise and the poisons that inhabit them.' Iosi Havilio Paradises might be a reimagining of Camus' Outsider - but in female form and living in 21st-century Buenos Aires. Our narrator allows the hazards of death and chance encounters to lead her through the city, where she sleepwalks into a job in the zoo's reptile house, and another administering morphine to one of the oddball residents of the squat that she and her young son move into. Is this life in the shadows, an underworld of cut-price Christmases, drugs and dealers, or is this simply life? And why do snakes seem to be invading every aspect of it? Paradises returns to the enigmatic female characters of Havilio's first novel, Open Door - and has already been highly praised by Beatriz Sarlo, perhaps the most influential critic in his native Argentina. Thoughtful, yet unafraid of squalor or the perils of insecurity, this is a voice for right now, obliquely critical, grimly comic.
While his father preaches Hellenic virtues and practises the art of the insult, Orestes' mother prepares hundreds of quesadillas for Orestes and the rest of their brood: Aristotle, Archilochus, Callimachus, Electra, Castor and Pollux. She insists they are middle class, but Orestes is not convinced. And after another fraudulent election and the disappearance of his younger brothers, he heads off on an adventure. Orestes meets a procession of pilgrims, a stoner uncle called Pink Floyd and a beguiling politician who teaches him how to lie, and he learns some valuable lessons about families, truth and bovine artificial insemination. With Quesadillas, Juan Pablo Villalobos serves up a wild banquet. Anything goes in this madcap Mexican satire of politics, big families and what it means to be middle-class.
By Night the Mountain Burns recounts the narrator's childhood on a remote island off the West African coast, living with his mysterious grandfather, several mothers and no fathers. We learn of a dark chapter in the island's history: a bush fire destroys the crops, then hundreds perish in a cholera outbreak. Superstition dominates, and the islanders must sacrifice their possessions to the enraged ocean god. What of their lives will they manage to save? Whitmanesque in its lyrical evocation of the island, Ávila Laurel's writing builds quietly, through the oral rhythms of traditional storytelling, into gripping drama worthy of an Achebe or a García Márquez.
Dropout Neville Lister accompanies acclaimed photographer Saul Auerbach for a day, to learn a lesson for life. They play a game: from a hill above Johannesburg they pick three houses and decide to knock on their doors in search of a story. Auerbach's images of the first two will become classic portraits, but soon the light fades. Lister only reaches the third house decades later, returning to post-apartheid South Africa and a Johannesburg altered almost beyond recognition. How to live when estranged from your birthplace? What do you lose when you are no longer lost? Double Negative is a subtle triptych that captures the ordinary life of Neville Lister during South Africa's extraordinary revolution. Ivan Vladislavic lays moments side by side like photographs on a table. He lucidly portrays a city and its many lives through reflections on memory, art and what we should really be looking for.
All Dogs are Blue is a fiery and scurrilously funny tale of life in a Rio de Janeiro insane asylum. Our narrator is upset by his ever-widening girth and kept awake by the Rio funk blaring from a nearby favela - fair enough, but what about the undercover agents infiltrating the asylum? He misses the toy dog of his childhood, keeps high literary company with Rimbaud (a mischief-maker) and Baudelaire (a bit too serious for him), and finds himself the leader of a popular cult. All Dogs are Blue burst onto the Brazilian literary scene in 2008. Its raw style and comic inventiveness took readers by storm. But it was to be Rodrigo de Souza Leão's last masterpiece. He died that year, aged 43, in a psychiatric clinic. His work is currently being filmed and Juan Pablo Villalobos (author of Down the Rabbit Hole) is translating it into Spanish. 'We're the minority,' says our narrator, 'but at least I say what I want.' All Dogs are Blue is an extraordinary autobiographical fiction that speaks of mental illness and its controversial treatment, revealing the illumination of the ill in a troubled society.
It was easy to fall into Karabas, as easy as falling down a hole, but it was hard, to put it bluntly, to get out again. Never mind the zeks, even the soldiers were exiled ...' Deep in the desolate steppe, Captain Khabarov waits out his service at a camp where the news arrives in bundles of last year's papers and rations turn up rotting in their trucks. The captain hopes for nothing more from life than a meagre pension and a state-owned flat. Until, one Spring, he decides to plant a field of potatoes to feed his half-starved men ...This blackly comic novel shows the unsettling consequences of thinking for yourself under the Soviet system. Oleg Pavlov's first novel, published when he was only 24, Captain of the Steppe was immediately praised for its chilling but humane and hilarious depiction of the Soviet Empire's last years. The first in a trilogy, this novel already confirms Pavlov as a worthy successor to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Kissing you is like new paint and old pain. It is like coffee and car alarms and a dim stairway and a stain and it's like smoke.' ('Placing a Call') How does love change us? And how do we change ourselves for love - or for lack of it? Ten stories by acclaimed author Deborah Levy explore these delicate, impossible questions. In Vienna, an icy woman seduces a broken man; in London gardens, birds sing in computer start-up sounds; in ad-land, a sleek copywriter becomes a kind of shaman. These are twenty-first century lives dissected with razor-sharp humour and curiosity, stories about what it means to live and love, together and alone.
Lukas Zbinden leans on the arm of Kâzim, as they walk slowly down the stairway towards the door of his old people's home. Step by step, the irrepressible Lukas recounts the life he shared with his wife Emilie and his son. She loved to walk in the countryside; he loved towns and meeting strangers. Different in so many ways, what was the secret of their life-long love? And why is it now so hard for him to talk to his son?Gradually we get to know a man with a twinkle in his eye and learn the captivating story of this man, his late wife, their son and the many people he has met along the way. Zbinden's Progress is heart-rending, heart-warming and hilarious. --- Winner of the Bern Literature Prize 2010
Buenos Aires, 1992. Hacker Felipe Félix is summoned to the vertiginous twin towers of magnate Fausto Tamerlán and charged with finding the witnesses to a very public crime. Rejecting the mission is not an option. After a decade spent immersed in drugs and virtual realities, trying to forget the freezing trench in which he passed the Falklands War, Félix is forced to confront the city around him - and realises to his shock that the war never really ended. A detective novel, a cyber-thriller, an inner-city road trip and a war memoir, The Islands is a hilarious, devastating and dizzyingly surreal account of a history that remains all too raw.
Happiness is Possible tells the story of a writer late delivering his novel, unable to write anything uplifting since his wife walked out. All he can produce is notes about the happiness of others. But something draws him into the Moscow lives around him, bringing together lonely neighbours, restoring lost love, and helping out with building renovations. And happiness seems determined to catch up with him as well...
'All I want is to be a success. That's all I ask.' Failing salesman Joe has a dream - or rather an outrageous fantasy. Because holed up in his trailer Joe comes up with a jaw-dropping plan that will stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace and make his fortune. Win-win? As he turns his life around, Lightning Rods takes us to the very top of corporate America.
When her partner disappears, a young woman drifts towards Open Door, a small town in the Argentinean Pampas named after its psychiatric hospital. She finds herself living with an ageing ranch-hand, although a local girl also proves irresistible. This evocative book makes a quiet case for the possibility of finding contentment in unexpected places.
A man bets all he has on a horserace to pay for an expensive operation for his dog. A young refugee wants to box her way straight off the boat to the top of the sport. Old friends talk all night after meeting up by chance. She imagines their future together... Stories about people who have lost out in life and in love, and about their hopes for one really big win, the chance to make something of their lives. In silent apartments, desolate warehouses, prisons and down by the river, Meyer strikes the tone of our harsh times, and finds the grace notes, the bright lights shining in the dark.
Tochtli lives in a palace. He loves hats, samurai, guillotines and dictionaries, and what he wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. But Tochtli is a child whose father is a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and Tochtli is growing up in a luxury hideout that he shares with hit men, prostitutes, dealers, servants and the odd corrupt politician or two. Down the Rabbit Hole, a masterful and darkly comic first novel, is the chronicle of a delirious journey to grant a child's wish.
Signs Preceding the End of the World is one of the most arresting novels to be published in Spanish in the last ten years. Yuri Herrera does not simply write about the border between Mexico and the United States and those who cross it. He explores the crossings and translations people make in their minds and language as they move from one country to another, especially when there's no going back. Traversing this lonely territory is Makina, a young woman who knows only too well how to survive in a violent, macho world. Leaving behind her life in Mexico to search for her brother, she is smuggled into the USA carrying a pair of secret messages - one from her mother and one from the Mexican underworld.
"I was eight when my father brought me to one of the big houses at the top of Esperanza Street and left me with Mary Morelos. 'I haven't the time to fix broken wings,' she said. 'Does he have any trouble with discipline?' My father glanced at me before answering." So begins the story of Joseph, houseboy to the once-wealthy Mary Morelos, who lives in the three-storey Spanish colonial house at the top of Esperanza Street. Through Joseph's eyes we witness the destruction of the community to which they are both, in their own way, bound. Set in a port town in the Philippines, Niyati Keni's evocative and richly populated debut novel is about criminality under the guise of progress, freedom or the illusion of it, and about how the choices we make are ultimately the real measure of who we are.
If death comes to a loved one, can we grieve alone? When all around is in ruins, can we confine our lives to one beautiful room constructed out of art, or love, or family ties? And when the words we know prove inadequate, can we turn to the language of birds? In an arty mansion in Milan's industrial zone, two men are shown one of the last remaining Futurist noise machines - an Intonarumore - and a painful old truth surfaces. A musician travels to three continents to see her siblings before returning to Johannesburg; her home is plundered every night around her as she composes a requiem. A man follows his male lover from London to Berlin's clubbing scene and on to a ruined castle in which the lover's family lives. He is looking for an antidote. The protagonists in SJ Naudé's South African Literary Award-winning short story collection are listening out for answers that cannot be expressed. Offering fresh perspectives on gay, expat and artistic subcultures and tackling the pain of loss head on, Naudé's stories go fearlessly and tenderly to the heart of our experiences of desire, love and death.