Critical Essays Archive
In Kevin Scott Magruder’s debut novel, humanity faces a temptation as old as Greek mythology: the gift of immortality. A new experimental drug, Amaran, has been released that halts the aging process and cell deterioration. This gift, however, comes with some strings.
We in the English-speaking world are used to the idea that we apprehend Genji only dimly through translation, as if through a scrim, watching shadows. So why then have two Japanese sisters, both well-known poets, spent years retranslating an Edwardian English translation of the novel back into Japanese?
In Yuri Herrera’s 2009 novel, borders can be impenetrable surfaces, and language can open doors that can’t so easily be locked back.
Dezső Kosztolányi’s 1924 novel makes a point of subverting expectations; in it, actions as outwardly mundane as packing, eating, and walking become fertile ground to investigate the discrepancy between how things look and what they are.
New novels by Maria Kuznetsova and Elizabeth Strout, written in the form of chapter-length stories, give us the opportunity to see a great span of a life and to focus in on the moments that matter.
In her exploration of the Chernobyl disaster, Svetlana Alexievich dramatizes history—as she insists, we can only understand events of this magnitude by recasting them on a human scale.
In Paul Yoon’s new novel, we become witnesses to the many disappearances that punctuate war-torn lives: of neighbors, memories, motorcycles, colonizers, baskets, friends, body parts, names. Some of these disappearances, however, like new continents emerging from volcanic eruptions, lay the ground for Yoon’s characters’ destinies.
The first book in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy does not balk at the sheer futility of humanity in the face of natural forces, but it doesn’t wholly destroy all who enter it, either. Instead, it returns readers to the sublime aspect of nature—the understanding that it can be
Magda Szabó’s 1970 novel is an unusual coming-of-age story—the willful heroine finds her place in society not by learning to comply with its demands, but by learning the art of dissent.
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s 1982 book confounds expectations at every turn. Specifically, there’s something monumental about the text’s extreme lack of metaphor, its striving toward objective observation, that feels to me—in this moment—absolutely poetic.