Aleksandar Hemon's The Lazarus Project is the story of a novelist who discovers parallels between himself – the accidental refugee of a Bosnian war – and the victim of a hate crime committed in 1908. Like the fiction of WG Sebald, the novel twists and meanders across Europe's landscape as its hero tries to imagine how this man escaped Europe's worst pogroms only to be murdered in Chicago.What's most interesting to me about the Guardian post is this, "Outside of these National Book award finalists, the hottest writer of the moment isn't an American at all, but a dead Chilean, Roberto Bolano, whose 1,000-page masterpiece, 2666, is the fall's most anticipated literary title." I've read a couple of his books (The Last Evening on Earth and The Savage Detectives) in the past year and really enjoyed them. Little did I know we were still awaiting the translation of his "masterpiece."
Rachel Kushner's debut novel, Telex from Cuba, conjures a cast of gilded Americans living in pre-Castro Cuba, chronicling their affairs and political revelations as the country tips into full revolution. Peter Matthiessen's mammoth Shadow Country brings to life the mixture of African slaves, Indian hunters, European speculators and poor American farmers who violently exploited and "tamed" the Florida Everglades.
All of the finalists are in dialogue with world literature. Salvatore Scibona, who built a sad, beautiful story around one day in Ohio in 1953, is influenced by Halldor Laxness. Marilynne Robinson, who continues the story of Gilead in Home, has written extensively about the influence of John Calvin on her thinking and work. Hemon has said he works in dialogue with Bruno Schulz, Danilo Kis, Isaac Babel and William Shakespeare, among others.
Wednesday, October 22
Still talking about the Swede
The 2008 National Book Award shortlists were announced last week. A blogger from the Guardian takes the opportunity to point out that this year's finalists are anything but insular, as Horace Engdahl, secretary of the Swedish Academy suggested a few weeks back.