books - ivor's fav foreign reads

The Trial

A new translation based on the restored text from the Schocken Kafka Library!

“Written in 1914, The Trial is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century: the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. Whether read as an existential tale, a parable, or a prophecy of the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the madness of totalitarianism, Kafka's nightmare has resonated with chilling truth for generations of readers. This new edition is based upon the work of an international team of experts who have restored the text, the sequence of chapters, and their division to create a version that is as close as possible to the way the author left it.

In his brilliant translation, Breon Mitchell masterfully reproduces the distinctive poetics of Kafka's prose, revealing a novel that is as full of energy and power as it was when it was first written.”

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Difficult Loves

“The quirkiness and grace of the writing, the originality of the imagination at work, the occasional incandescence of vision, and a certain lovable nuttiness make this collection well worth reading.” -Margaret Atwood

“Intricate interior lives are brilliantly explored in these short stories, now presented in one definitive collection as Calvino intended them.

In Difficult Loves, Italy’s master storyteller weaves tales in which cherished deceptions and illusions of love—including self-love—are swept away in magical instants of recognition. A soldier is reduced to quivering fear by the presence of a full-figured woman in his train compartment; a young clerk leaves a lady’s bed at dawn; a young woman is isolated from bathers on a beach by the loss of her bikini bottom. Each of them discovers hidden truths beneath the surface of everyday life. 

This is the first edition in English to present the collection as Calvino originally envisioned it, and includes two stories newly translated by Ann Goldstein.”

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

"Kundera has raised the novel of ideas to a new level of dreamlike lyricism and emotional intensity." -Newsweek

“A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover—these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel. In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence, we feel ‘the unbearable lightness of being’ not only as the consequence of our pristine actions but also in the public sphere, and the two inevitably intertwine.”

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Disgrace

“Set in post-apartheid South Africa, this searing novel tells the story of David Lurie, a twice-divorced professor. Lurie believes he has created a comfortable, if somewhat passionless, life for himself. Though his position at the university has been reduced, he teaches his classes dutifully; and while age has diminished his attractiveness, weekly visits to a prostitute satisfy him. He considers himself happy. But when Lurie seduces one of his students, he sets in motion events that will shatter his complacency and leave him utterly disgraced.

Lurie is forced to resign and flees to his daughter Lucy’s smallholding in the country. There he struggles to rekindle his relationship with Lucy and to understand the changing relations of blacks and whites in the new South Africa. But when three black strangers appear at their house, a harrowing afternoon of violence follows which leaves both of them badly shaken and further estranged from one another. After a brief return to Cape Town, where Lurie discovers his home has also been vandalized, he decides to stay on with his daughter, who is pregnant with the child of one of her attackers. Now thoroughly humiliated, Lurie devotes himself to volunteering at the animal clinic, where he helps put down diseased and unwanted dogs. It is here that Lurie gains a redeeming sense of compassion absent from his life up to this point.

Written with the austere clarity that has made J. M. Coetzee the winner of two Booker Prizes, Disgrace explores the downfall of one man and dramatizes, with unforgettable, vividness the plight of a country caught in the chaotic aftermath of racial oppression.”

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Nefertiti in the Flak Tower

“Clive James’ power as a poet has increased year by year, and there has been no stronger evidence for this than Nefertiti in the Flak Tower. Here, his polymathic learning and technical virtuosity are worn more lightly than ever; the effect is merely to produce a deep sense of trust into which the reader gratefully sinks, knowing they are in the presence of a master. The most obvious token of that mastery is the book’s breathtaking range of theme: there are moving elegies, a meditation on the later Yeats, a Hollywood Iliad, odes to rare orchids, wartime typewriters and sharks—as well as a poem on the fate of Queen Nefertiti in Nazi Germany. But despite the dizzying variety, James’ poetic intention becomes increasingly clear: what marks this collection out is his intensified concentration on the individual poem as self-contained universe. Poetry is a practice he compares (in ‘Numismatics’) to striking new coin; and Nefertiti in the Flak Tower is a treasure-chest of one-off marvels, with each poem a twin-sided, perfect human balance of the unashamedly joyous and the deadly serious, ‘whose play of light pays tribute to the dark’.”

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Quicksand

“A stunning and poignant autobiographical look at the myriad experiences that shape a meaningful life, by the bestselling author of the Kurt Wallander mysteries.  
 
In January 2014, Henning Mankell received a diagnosis of lung cancer. Quicksand is a response to this shattering news—but it is not a memoir of destruction. Instead, it is a testament to a life fully lived, a tribute to the extraordinary but fleeting human journey that delivers both boundless opportunity and crucial responsibility. In a series of intimate vignettes, Mankell ranges over rich and varied reflections: of growing up in a small Swedish town, where he experiences a startling revelation on a winter morning as a young boy; of living hand-to-mouth during a summer in Paris as an ambitious young writer; of his work at a theater in Mozambique, where Lysistrata is staged in the midst of civil war; of chance encounters with men and women who changed his understanding of the world. Along the way, Mankell ponders the meaning of a good life, and the critically important ways we can shape the future of humanity if we are fortunate enough to have the choice. Vivid, clear-eyed, and breathtakingly beautiful, Quicksand is an invaluable parting gift from a great man.”

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Jar City

“‘A powerful, psychologically acute procedural drama.’ - American Library Association

From Gold Dagger Award-winning author Arnaldur Indridason comes a Reykjavík thriller introducing Inspector Erlendur

When a lonely old man is found dead in his Reykjavík flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl's grave. Inspector Erlendur discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, but not convicted, of an unsolved crime, a rape. Did the old man's past come back to haunt him? As Erlendur reopens this very cold case, he follows a trail of unusual forensic evidence, uncovering secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man.

An international sensation, the Inspector Erlendur series has sold more than two million copies worldwide.”

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Persepolis

“A New York Times Notable Book
Time Magazine Best Comix of the Year
San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times Bestseller

Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. 

In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.”

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Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In Takes Top Honors at Tribeca Film Festival and is now an Award-winning movie in both the U.S. and Sweden!

It is autumn 1981 when inconceivable horror comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenager is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day. But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik's Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night.

Sweeping top honors at film festivals all over the globe, director Tomas Alfredsson's film of Let the Right One In has received the same kind of spectacular raves that have been lavished on the book. American and Swedish readers of vampire fiction will be thrilled! Following the success in Sweden, this movie was remade starring Kodi Smit Mcpheem, Chloe Grace Moretz and Richard Jenkins under the new title Let Me In. The story has continued to reach new viewers in a London Musical and the book remains a vampire favorite among its readers.”

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The Reader

“Hailed for its coiled eroticism and the moral claims it makes upon the reader, this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets, horror and compassion, unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar Germany.

When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder.”

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Hag-Seed

“William Shakespeare's The Tempest retold as Hag-Seed
 
Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he's staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds.
 
Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge.
 
After twelve years, revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It's magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?
 
Margaret Atwood’s novel take on Shakespeare’s play of enchantment, retribution, and second chances leads us on an interactive, illusion-ridden journey filled with new surprises and wonders of its own.”

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One Hundred Years of Solitude

"One of the world's most famous novels, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, blends the natural with the supernatural in on one of the most magical reading experiences on earth.

It tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women—brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul—this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction."

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