Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘T. M. De Vos’

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Best European Fiction 2010 (Aleksandar Hemon, ed.)

What is it about the European cultures, tucked like bats into their tiny cubbies, that seems so much more specific than our own? How do Belgium or Luxembourg achieve “culture” in little more space we might use to construct a Wal-Mart megastore? What is it about confinement that breeds a more tribal than national identity? What are we doing when we sit down to read a collection of fiction culled from a continent?

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The Museum of Innocence, by Orhan Pamuk

Like most of us, Orhan Pamuk’s narrator Kemal rushes through his happiest moments in a preoccupied haze, only appreciating them in hindsight. A true materialist, he seeks to recreate them through his collections of mementos large and small, iconic and insignificant. His “museum” in The Museum of Innocence (Knopf, 2009) is a diorama not only of Kemal’s own nostalgia, but of Turkey itself in the late 1970s.

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Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia, edited by Mikhail Iossel and Jeff Parker

Life in Russia, said author Aleksander Snegirev, at Housing Works’ September 21 Rasskazy event, is uncomfortable, but always interesting. So, too, are the stories in this plump new anthology from Tin House: Arkady Babchenko’s beleaguered soldier returns to Chechnya a page away from German Sadulaev’s lyrical descriptions of Chechnya’s devastated countryside. The binding is a veritable trench across which both narrators peek at each other warily.

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Love and Obstacles, by Aleksandar Hemon

Perhaps, in keeping with the stricter labeling laws, Aleksandar Hemon‘s new collection of stories should list its primary ingredient first. Impediments, more than love, are the foundation of Love and Obstacles: Stories (Riverhead, May 2009). Foreignness, prepubescence, awkward bookishness… Even sex itself is a liability: the characters look ridiculous pursuing it, worse doing it, and we think less of them afterward. Men offer up their partners for it, threaten each other’s mothers and sisters with it, reminisce about it, and thwart each other’s pursuits of it. Aleksandar Hemon’s vivid prose serves as the overlit bar mirror, showing us every wax bead in his characters’ pores.