By Meg Vandermerwe Oneworld, £10.99
By Jemma Wayne Legend Press, £7.99
Haunting and multi-layered, Zebra Crossing and After Before are both novels that will linger long in the memory after reading. Fitting perhaps, then, that their protagonists are stalked by shadows of unhappy pasts and uncertain futures.
Reading Claire Hajaj's novel took me back to when, last year, I spent Shavuot in Jerusalem, walking to the Old City at dawn against the cry of the Muslim call to prayer. This is the kind of book that Ishmael's Oranges is, one that conjures up the sights, smells and sounds of the Middle East as you turn the pages.
Human beings love stories. But when stories are written down and become important to the community that produced them they start to be scrutinised and questioned, and then a curious thing happens: they lose their magic and become simply the carriers of moral, ethical and metaphysical messages.
As the Second World War ended and the various welfare organisations took stock of the tragedy that had overtaken Nazi-occupied France, they estimated there were some 5,000-6,000 Jewish children who were now orphans, whether hidden in non-Jewish homes around France or over the border in Spain or Switzerland.
This collection of short stories will shake your expectations of the little-gem fictional form. The American Innovations of Rivka Galchen, Oklahoma-raised daughter of Israeli immigrants, are as original, particular and digressive as her provenance. They deliver a delicious blend of desolation and deadpan, laugh-aloud drollery.
Gabriel Josipovici's qualities of thought and craft put him near the top among writers of his generation. His range and productivity in novel and essay are vast, and he is fortunate to have a publisher who understands the importance of the slight and the experimental within a finished oeuvre.