Will Self's modernist mental surgery

By Josh Glancy, August 23, 2012

If it’s true that all literature is about death, then Will Self’s new Man Booker-longlisted homage to the modernist novel is exemplary. It is all about Death, specifically Audrey Death, a victim of encephalitis lethargia, or “sleeping sickness”.


Valeri Petrov: The bard of Bulgaria

By Oggy Boytchev, August 17, 2012

He writes in a language spoken by a mere seven million people. But he is revered as the master of modern Bulgarian poetry. And he is the only person in the world to have translated the complete works of Shakespeare in verse. He was 92 earlier this year and his name is Valeri Nissim Mevorah, better known by his pen-name, Valeri Petrov.


Richard Ford's North America exposure

By David Herman, August 17, 2012

Richard Ford is one of America’s leading writers, best known for The Sportswriter (1986). Born in Mississippi, he has a dark sense of life in modern America, but none of his previous novels are as dark as Canada, which, the first sentence tells us, is a story of robbery and murders.


War in the woods

By Angela Kiverstein, August 10, 2012

Nobody Felix cares about is safe from the Nazis. They’ve killed his parents and his best friend — and now they’re after Richmal Crompton. Well, they’re targeting England anyway, and that’s the homeland of the Just William author, whom Felix reveres as God (it’s complicated).


Rock'n'roll served up without acetic acid

By Paul Lester, August 10, 2012

‘If you are after sensational celebrity stories from my 52 years in the music business, stop reading now; this book is not for you,” writes Elkie Brooks in the foreword to her new memoir. This is either very brave or very stupid, given that “sensational celebrity stories” are precisely what so many people seek in entertainment industry insider biographies.


Plot with high resolution

By Hannah Rosefield, August 10, 2012

In the early 1950s, Latvian-born Jewish photographer Philippe Halsman devised an unusual method for encouraging his subjects to reveal their personalities: he asked them to jump, and pressed the shutter while they were mid-air.


A lover's loyalty

By Andrew Rosemarine, August 3, 2012

A life-enhancing history of the triumph of hope over persecution, Just Send Me Word, by Orlando Figes (Allen Lane, £20) is a must for all romantics and indeed students of Stalin. It carries the sub-title, A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag, which captures a grim reality, but its spirit glows gloriously.


Knight work: from penniless to patrician

By Ruth Rothenberg, August 3, 2012

Sir Sigmund Sternberg is a case study in contradiction. A strongly identifying Jew and Zionist, brought up in a prosperous Orthodox business family in Hungary, he has never fitted into the Anglo-Jewish establishment.


America's top banana

By Josh Glancy, August 3, 2012

"Maybe it was the pent-up energy of dozens of thwarted Jewish gener-ations confined to the ghettos of Europe… or maybe it was with him in the cradle, the intangible thing that made him go”. Either way, for Rich Cohen, the extraordinary story of the “banana king” Samuel Zemurray is “a parable of the American dream”.


Smart prose cannot conceal grim content

By David Herman, July 27, 2012

Hans Fallada was a member of that extraordinary generation of central European writers who have been rediscovered in recent years. Born in 1893, a contemporary of Walter Benjamin, Joseph Roth and Bertolt Brecht, he published more than 20 novels, mainly in the 1930s and ’40s, before dying in 1947 in his mid-50s.