Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Adventures in Reading

Readers may be interested in the following books which have been added to stock at Galway City Library:

The English Years, by Norbert Gstrein; Hirschfelder is an Austrian writer, a Jew, who was forced to emigrate to Britain in 1938. The narrator of the story is an Austrian doctor whose estranged husband, Max, is an enthusiastic admirer of Hirschfelder. Whilst on an extended holiday in England she meets Hirschfelder's widow, Margaret, his third wife, and, in addition his two previous wives, and Clara, now senile, his lover. The pictures the three wives give of him do not correspond, either with each other's or with the myth believed in by Max. An elegant tale of exile and betrayal.

Vita, by Melania G. Mazzucco;
Ellis Island, 1903, where 12-year-old Diamante Mazzucco and his cousin Vita, age nine, evolve into star-crossed lovers striving to fulfill their destinies. Working in squalid boarding-houses the two (along with other relatives) are more or less confined to Prince Street in Manhattan, where they are subject to a horrifying array of abuses and privations. Deeply in love with Vita by the time he is 16, Diamante signs on with a railroad building crew and unwittingly begins four years of involuntary servitude under conditions that Mazzucco describes in unsparing detail; this underrepresented corner of the East Coast immigrant experience feels as fresh here as it is brutal.

Sepharad, by Antonio Munoz Molina
Molina's beautiful novel begins with a poetic meditation on the bittersweet nostalgia that seizes those who live in exile. It becomes clear that the past the narrator and the author are truly grappling with encompasses the entire Sephardic diaspora and the unfathomable horror and mass insanity of Hitler's and Stalin's regimes. How, Munoz Molina seems to ask, can a writer possibly convey such apocalyptic shock, terror, and grief? Calling on such inspiring figures as Franz Kafka and Primo Levi for guidance, Munoz Molina creates astute, deeply felt, and exquisitely expressive testimony to love, suffering, and the astonishing fecundity of human consciousness.

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