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BOOK REVIEW: Wonderful World by Javier Calvo


“There’re always kneecaps that are screaming out, begging for us to shoot them, of course.” – Wonderful World

Thirty years ago, Lorenzo Girault was imprisoned for questionable activities in his antiques business. An undiagnosed pathology, referred to by his family as his “window problem,” led Lorenzo to live in rooms without windows and to membership in the “Down with the Sun Society.” After Lorenzo’s death, his son Lucas struggles to become the man he is sure his father wished him to be. Compelled by a need to understand the legacy left by his father, and determine exactly who was responsible for his father’s downfall, Lucas searches for clues in his Lorenzo’s secret apartment.

Lucas’s quest places him at odds with his mother and in the midst of two gangs in Barcelona’s seedy underworld. His best friend is Valentina, a 12-year-old girl who has fashioned herself as Europe’s top expert on Stephen King and who indulges in violent fantasies of retribution against her school chums. As Lucas sorts through the detritus of his father’s life, Valentina struggles with growing up, while all around them swirls a surreal cast: a giant, comic book obsessed gang enforcer; a strip club owner with a fondness for women’s coats; a dreadlock-sporting Russian underling with Rastafarian leanings; and an uptight art dealer for whom thoroughness is next to godliness.

Wonderful World, Javier Calvo’s first novel translated into English, if a film would be David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino’s love child; Lynch for the indescribable plot and Tarantino for the surreal, shocking violence. A feverish verbal joyride, Wonderful World pulls no punches. The quote at the beginning of this review is a typical line of dialogue; rapid-fire and edgy.

At times family drama, mob story, mystery and Hero’s journey, Wonderful World is a dizzying, multilayered construction that even includes excerpts from a fictitious Stephen King novel. Calvo’s cast is massive and the numerous plot lines almost requires story mapping to keep straight. Yet the quirky characters and chaotic plots are adeptly controlled by this talented author. Not for everyone, Calvo’s “open conception of narration” owes much to the Free Cinema movement, developed in the late 1950s and characterized by a deliberate lack of box office appeal.

ISBN10: 0061557684
ISBN13: 9780061557682

480 pages
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: March 17, 2009


BOOK REVIEW: Feline Plague by Maja Novak


“You were blind and deaf in that cage made up of your problems, the bars of your distress blocked your eyes, and you didn’t see me at all.”

Communism has just fallen and Slovenia begun the exploration of Western lifestyles. Ira, a strange young woman who barely speaks, has been hired by the Lady to help manage The Ark, the flagship store of Empire, a chain of high-end pet stores. A strange cast of characters soon enter this strange fairytale world: Erzulie, the blind window dresser; Felipe, Ira’s best friend from childhood; and Greta and Marga, twins so identical they are perceived as one. This Ark; however, instead of saving the world ultimately delivers the plague that decimates Slovenia.

The Feline Plague, Maya Novak’s first novel to be translated into English, introduces this gifted writer to the world. A modernist writer who plays deftly with the traditions of magical realism, provides commentary on political situations within her rapidly altering homeland. As Robert Buckeye explains in his introduction, Novak argues that her country’s “quick embrace of cowboy capitalism initially threatened to destroy Slovenia” and this message, savagely presented in The Feline Plague is one her countrymen didn’t wish to hear during capitalism’s early heydays.

Presenting an unpopular message is never easy, and to do so when your country has just taken its first steps out of Communism’s shadow is tantamount to playing Chicken Little. Novak, determined that her message is one which Slovenia needs to hear, wraps it in mythology (Ira is the goddess of anger and Erzulie the voodoo goddess of love and beauty) and common symbolism (Noah’s Ark). She presents her fable to the world as entertainment, trusting her message will seep into reader’s subconscious and help slam the brakes on an out-of-control system.

Ira brings about her country’s downfall by importing unvaccinated cats, turning the Ark from the world’s saviour into its harbinger of doom. The Lady, instead of making pets the new “must-have” accessory and building up earthly treasures for herself, introduces a snake into the Garden of Eden. The Feline Plague is such a powerful message because it resonates in the heart of readers far beyond the borders of Slovenia.

ISBN: 1556437641
ISBN13: 9781556437649

Trade Paperback
248 Pages
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
Publication Date: March 10, 2009


BOOK REVIEW: Chicago by Alaa Al Aswany


In post-9/11 Chicago, several Egyptian exchange students study histology at the University of Illinois Medical School. Nagi, who would much rather be a poet, is involved with a Jewish-American girl. Shymaa, a veiled PhD candidate from rural Egypt, has just arrived and finds her traditional upbringing challenged by American society. Tariq, the son of a general, finds himself inexplicably drawn to Shymaa, who he believes socially beneath him. Watching and reporting on their movements is Danana, head of the Egyptian Students’ Union but also a spy for his government’s secret police. As the students prepare for a visit by the Egyptian President, little do they realize how their lives, and those of their professors, will be affected.

Like the famous Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz, Alaa Al Aswany writes social realism and believes “the role of literature is its human message.” He writes about subjects taboo in Arabic literature – homosexuality, female sexuality, and abortion. His book Chicago is fiction, although it draws upon the two years Al Aswany spent there while earning his dentistry degree from the University of Illinois. Al Aswany’s impressions of American life are presented to readers through the eyes of Arabic students. Rather than using a mirror to show America and Egypt their ills, Al Aswany allows his story to unfold slowly, presenting his social commentary through the actions and behaviour of his characters rather than by pontificating.

Chicago is undoubtedly a political novel, tackling issues of dictatorship, Islamic extremism, human dignity, and corruption and no where is that more evident than in the officious president of the Egyptian Student Union in America. Danana is a loud, obnoxious bully and, in a book crammed full of characters, has a presence that stands out from the rest. Whether it is his mercurial nature or his delight in exposing students’ secrets, Danana fascinates and repels. Chicago is a fascinating novel that falls flat only in Al Aswany’s Americans, which are stereotypical and one-dimensional caricatures.

Whether newly arrived like Shymaa or deeply emeshed in America like Dr. Ra’fat Thabit, everyone maintains a conflicted relationship with their homeland making Chicago, in the end, a novel about identity.

ISBN10: 0061452564
ISBN13: 9780061452567

352 Pages
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: October 7, 2008
Translated from Arabic by Farouk Abdel Wahab


BOOK REVIEW: Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o


The second Ruler of the Free Republic of Aburiria suffers from a mysterious illness, the source of which has caused much speculation among citizens. Whatever the cause, The Ruler gets fatter and smells horribly of decay. In celebration of his birthday, The Ruler has decided that his citizens will build him a modern-day Tower of Babel called the ‘Marching to Heaven’ or ‘Heavenscrape’ project that he plans to have funded by the Global Bank. Rising to challenge The Ruler are two heroes; Kamiti, an educated Aburirian man, and Nyawiri, a feminist activist. Together they become the witch doctor, the Wizard of the Crow, believed to be causing The Ruler’s illness and destabilizing his rule.

Wizard of the Crow (Murogi wa Kagogo)
the newest novel from Ng?g? wa Thiong’o is a massive work. Ng?g?’s Wizard of the Crow reads like an extended performance piece, epic in both its political themes and length (768 pages). As John Updike states in his review in The New Yorker: “When the Wizard, with his moral scruples and self-doubts, is not onstage, the novel becomes puppetry, a Punch-and-Judy show whose grotesque politicos keep whacking one another.”

Wizard of the Crow at its core is an African novel, written in a language of oral traditions, evident in both its construction and linguistic style. While it may feel foreign to Western readers, greater understanding of the text can be gained by reading the text out loud. Readers should remember that the narrative traditions from which Ng?g? draws are heavy on performance. The hyperbole and satire of his caricature leads to a fantastic and didactic tale highlighting the plight of Africa. While understanding of the novel may be aided through study of African history, it is not essential.

Ng?g? focuses a great deal on power and draws many parallels between women’s plight in traditional culture and the political situation in his homeland. By writing in his native G?k?y?, Ng?g? can spread his message to a larger audience. As he states in the novel: “Awareness of being wronged is the first step in political self-education.”

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1400033845
ISBN13: 9781400033843

Trade Paperback
768 Pages
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publication Date: August 2007


BOOK REVIEW: The Attack by Yasmina Khadra


Dr. Amin Jaafari is the poster-boy for integration at a Tel Aviv hospital. An Arab-Israeli citizen from a Bedouin family, he is apolitical by the standards of the area and focusing on saving lives rather than destroying them. After a devastating bombing injures many in a local restaurant, Amin tirelessly attends to the injured brought to the emergency room at his hospital. He has barely fallen asleep when he is called back to the hospital where he learns the shocking truth; his wife’s body has been found in the wreckage and she bears all the injuries associated with suicide bombers. Unable to accept the mounting evidence against the modern and intelligent woman he married, Amin leaves Tel Aviv to find answers. But in a world where fundamentalists find answers through bombing, will Amin be able to understand, let alone accept, his wife’s actions?

Yasmina Khadra new novel The Attack, presents a stunning portrait of a man struggling to understand a life-shattering event. For most of the western world, terrorism is a word that invokes images of collapsing towers. For residents of the Middle East, terrorism is a much more immediate reality. Suicide bombers are part of daily life for residents in this region and The Attack provides a window into the belief system which can lead to such violent action.

Khadra, the female pseudonym of former soldier Mohammed Moulessehoul, is most effective when penning Amin. The compelling passages where Amin wrestles with his memories and beliefs about his wife are filled with poignancy. Sihem has not only blown up a restaurant, she has shattered Amin’s illusion of their life together. By stripping away his belief in their perfect existence, he is a shadow of his former self, wrestling with personal demons and the overwhelming need to understand how he failed his wife so completely. The motivation which drives Amin into exploring a world so foreign makes sense in this context.

Unfortunately, the same verisimilitude is not present in the dialogue of the religious zealots. Khadra tries to present a balanced portrait of all sides in this conflict; however, the result is “canned” characters who speak with stilted, pontificating voices. The main downfall of The Attack is in the failure to create a compelling reason why Sihem would become a suicide bomber. Female bombers are a rare occurrence and a strong motivation for Sihem is vital to making her role convincing. Khadra doesn’t provide her with a clear voice and readers are left with the impression of a lost soul, swayed by strong personalities, rather than a committed fanatic prepared to martyr herself.

The Attack is a violent novel: bombings; violent attacks on Amin; and diatribes of hatred. Within the context of the political climate, the majority of the violence “fits”; however, it is the quantity and scope of violence against Amin that brings the word “excessive” to reader’s minds. The violence perpetuated against Amin is extreme and comes from all sides of the political spectrum. Like a poisonous snake, it is impossible to turn away from and sensitive readers may find it necessary to read this novel in small doses.

The Attack is disturbing but has much to teach readers who can see past the bloodshed. If Khadra had restrained his tendency toward violent excess, this novel would have reached a broader audience.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0307275701
ISBN13: 9780307275707

Translated from the French by John Cullen
Trade Paperback
272 Pages
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publication Date: April 25, 2007
Author Website: (in French)


BOOK REVIEW: The Cruel Stars of the Night by Kjell Eriksson


Laura Hindersten’s father has gone missing and, while he may have just took off without telling her (though tyrannical, he is exceptionally eccentric), she is convinced something horrible has happened to him. The members of the Uppsala Violent Crime Division are certain the professor – an expert on the Renaissance poet Petrarch – will turn up, much more concerned with the murders of several elderly men in the region and how that may affect the upcoming visit by Queen Silvia, scheduled to arrive in a few days to open the new Academic Hospital.

Police Inspector Ann Lindell suspects there may be links the murders and the missing Professor, a hunch born out by evidence presented by a colleague of the Professor. As the body count and public anxiety increases, the pressure on Lindell and the rest of the team to determine if the deaths are the work of a serial killer.

The Cruel Stars of the Night, sequel to Kjell Eriksson’s critically acclaimed debut The Princess of Burundi, once again features the Uppsala Violent Crime Division and Police Inspector Ann Lindell. Police procedurals are standard mystery fare, yet Eriksson takes this well-worn formula and crafts something extraordinary. His character-drive mysteries feature an ensemble “cast” and the personality and motivation of each member of the Uppsala Violent Crime Division is fleshed out in tandem with the details of the case. Eriksson’s police men and women are very human, each with their own way of balancing work and home. Lindell, a single parent raising a young son, wonders if she is a “good” parent while coping with loss and loneliness.

This is not an action-filled thriller. Eriksson lets the tension build slowly, playing out the psychological clues like an expert angler – ensuring his audience is hooked before ratcheting up the tension. Readers may be able to takes breaks from Eriksson’s work in the early chapters; however, once the pieces begin to fall together, The Cruel Stars of the Night becomes impossible to put down.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0312366671
ISBN13: 9780312366674

320 Pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: May 1, 2007


BOOK REVIEW: My Name is Bosnia by Madeleine Gagnon


“Who would have imagined that in wartime you could want so much to love?”

Sabaheta, despite her young age, has experienced great loss and violence. Her brother is taken by thugs, causing her mother to retreat into madness. Sabaheta turns herself into a boy to join her father and the guerillas fighting in the forests until the day her father is killed. After burying him in a makeshift grave, Sabaheta changes her name to Bosnia and returns to her life in Sarajevo as a female in hopes of finding friends and a way to escape.

Back in Sarajevo, Bosnia finds her friend Adila still resides in their student apartment with her partner Marina. The reunion with friends provides Bosnia with comfort and a brief respite, although the daily search for food and water is still fraught with peril. The girls benefit from supplies their friend Adem gets through his position with the Bosnian resistance army. After several months with supplies and fuel running low, the girls dream of finding a way to leave their birthplace and find a country where they can live in peace; however, the price for that peace may be more than they are willing to pay.

My Name is Bosnia developed from Madeleine Gagnon’s research for her non-fiction work Women in a World at War: Seven Dispatches from the Front. Her research took her to the former Yugoslav republics of Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina; Israel and Palestine; Lebanon; Pakistan; and Sri Lanka where she collected stories from women whose lives have been torn apart by war. As Rachel Hanel states in her review of Women in a World at War: “They’ve endured horrors most of us raised in the Western world could only dream of – living in a rape “camp,” having a baby girl killed because she is not a boy, or seeing most male family members – fathers, brothers, sons — brutally killed in war.”

The greatest gift humankind has is hope. Despite war and conflict, people still fall in love, have children and dream of a new life. My Name is Bosnia is Gagnon’s meditation on maintaining hope during the worst examples of human violence. Having lost everything except Adem, Bosnia pushes forward into the future. “But she did not want to dwell on memories; she had submitted herself to the duty of forgetting in order to survive. So she appealed to the future and threw herself into endless scenarios of which she was the heroine – when you’ve come out of hell, it is hard to imagine a happy fate other than your own.”

Keeping hope alive not only provides a future for survivors, it is also their responsibility. It some cases, they are the sole remnants of their culture, language or religion. Their survival ensures that the world will never be able to forget. Even though Bosnia does not always see a destination when she looks into the future, she continues forward. This is the message that Gagnon wishes to share with readers, no matter what how large or small the conflict face, people must move take the first step forward. Hope must be maintained.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0889225427
ISBN13: 9780889225428

Trade Paperback
256 Pages
Publisher: Talonbooks Ltd.
Publication Date: August 25, 2006

Talonbooks Ltd. – Publishing from the Margins

About Talonbooks Ltd.:
Talonbooks Ltd., founded in Vancouver in 1967, publishes authors of international stature, writing in the literary genres of poetry, fiction and drama, as well as non-fiction books in the fields of ethnography and environmental and social issues. Its authors’ books continue to make a difference to the world we live in. They have contributed to the establishment of protected wilderness areas and the redress of social injustices; they have given a public voice to First Nations peoples; and they have been recipients of many prestigious national and international awards for arts and letters. (Information courtesy of Literary Press Group of Canada)


BOOK REVIEW: Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante


On Delia’s birthday her mother died, drowned wearing an expensive new bra, her engagement ring and the earrings given to her by her estranged husband almost fifty years earlier. Desperate to make sense out of the confusion surrounding her mother’s death, Delia embarks on a journey through her native Naples, seeking the truth about her mother, her family and herself.

Troubling Love (L’amore molesto), Elena Ferrante’s second novel to be translated into English, is a meditation on the inherent struggle between mothers and daughters. The struggle between the generations of women within a family is territory oft explored by writers. Ferrante brings freshness to the worn narrative by adding complexity, examining the nature and validity of memory. How valid is anger toward one’s mother if the memory of events isn’t correct?

Ferrante explores the consequences of abuse within the family and attitudes toward domestic violence. Amalia’s brother Filippo believes she had no reason to leave her husband, even though he beat her in front of strangers and her children. Amalia’s husband inflicts harsh punishment on her body for the crime of drawing attention to herself, “protecting her” from other men’s eyes. The abuse was so pervasive that the children felt they must protect her from touch as well, placing their bodies between their mother and strangers, to prevent the violence from erupting at home.

The dichotomy presented, is that despite the beatings Amalia’s husband gave her for men touching her, he painted her repeatedly as a half-naked gypsy, paintings which peddlers sold to anyone with enough money. This inconsistency calls into question his reasons for the abuse. Logically Ferrante must wish reader’s to view the violence as an issue of control, for just days before her death, Amalia’s husband visits her apartment to once more beat her.

Female children grow up wishing to become their mothers, having their mother’s body. In Troubling Love, Ferrante has created children drawn into complicity with their father’s abuse, guarding Amali from his violence while at the same time believing it was justified.

Ferrante asks, in this situation, can a girl grow up without destroying her mother? In the evolution to become a woman, must a girl, who feels she’s betrayed her mother, excise the mother from her life in order to live with herself?

For such a slender volume, Troubling Love is not an easy or quick read. Significant issues are raised which require contemplation and repeated readings. Ferrante’s writing is raw and earthy, describing bodily functions with a level of detail to which North American readers are unfamiliar. Her blunt use of language communicates the urgency and disorder experienced by Delia, drawing readers with her on the journey of discovery.

Elena Ferrante was born in Naples, Italy. Though one of Italy’s most important and acclaimed contemporary authors, she has chosen to keep her identity and wereabouts a mystery. Theories and speculation as to who Elena Ferrante really is continue to circulate but she has not yet been unmasked. The Days of Abandonment (I giorni dell’abbandono) was a national bestseller in Italy for almost a year.

Ann Goldstein is an editor at The New Yorker magazine. Her many translations from Italian include works by Alessandro Baricco, Roberto Calasso, Pope John Paul II, Pierpaolo Pasolini, and Giuseppe Genna. Troubling Love is the second work by Ferrante, which Goldstein translated for Europa Editions, the first being the critically acclaimed The Days of Abandonment.

Read the review at ReadySteadyBook.

ISBN10: 1933372168
Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

Trade Paperback
Pages: 139
Publisher: Europa Editions
Publication Date: September 20, 2006


BOOK REVIEW: The House of Paper by Carlos María Domínguez


Bluma Lennon, a Cambridge academic, is struck and killed while crossing the road in Soho. Her death, occurring while reading a poem by Emily Dickinson, is taken by her colleagues to show the dangers inherent in books and reading.

Following her death, a colleague discovers, among her possessions, a mysterious copy of Joseph Conrad’s The Shadow Line, strangely inscribed and covered in what appears to be cement. His investigations lead him to Buenos Aires and the Uruguayan coast, in search of Carlos Bauer, an obsessive and dedicated bibliophile whose mania for books has led to his mysterious disappearance. And so begins the unusual and haunting tale that is The House of Paper.

Carlos María Domínguez’s The House of Paper is an obvious homage to the magical realism of Jorge Luis Borges. Domínguez has learned well at the knee of the master, integrating Borges’ playfulness with language, creation of miniature worlds and views of literature as recreation into this slender volume.

Readers should not be fooled by the miniature nature of this work for, like much of Borges’ canon, many large themes are touched upon: the nature of time, infinity, labyrinths, reality, and identity. Books create labyrinths of rooms, libraries and collections define identity, and reality is subsumed when Bauer loses the index to his massive and valuable collection of books. In describing this loss, one of Bauer’s friends resorts to the analogy of losing the ability to access one’s memories:

“Then one day, unexpectedly, you lose the sequence of these memories. They’re still there, but you can’t find them…Your personal history is lost…The worst thing about it is that the facts are there, just waiting for someone to stumble on them. But you don’t have the key. It’s not forgetfulness drawing its kind veil over things we cannot tolerate. It’s a sealed memory, an obsessive call to which there is no answer.”

Readers must decide if it is this loss of identity, and the key to his library, in the fire which leads Bauer to the madness that is his undoing? Perhaps the madness already existed and the loss of the key brought freedom for him from slavery to his books? Whether these questions are ultimately answered is left for readers to decide.

The House of Paper draws readers in and will cause many to reevaluate their relationship to their books. If cataloguing methods are stages within the disease, then most readers are far from the illness inflicted on Bauer. In his library, Shakespeare cannot be placed next to Marlowe, because of accusations of plagiarism between the two, and Martin Amis cannot sit alongside Julian Barnes because of a falling out.

Conrad’s The Shadow Line is referred to throughout the narrative and, like Conrad’s novella, The House of Paper is an ironic commentary on the nature of experience and wisdom reflected through the story of one man’s struggle with his books. Like Conrad’s protagonist, our narrator is never named; however, he is not the true protagonist in this tale, rather it is The Shadow Line itself.

“And again he pleaded for the promise that I would not leave him behind. I had the firmness of mind not to give it to him. Afterward this sternness seemed criminal; for my mind was made up,” the captain said of the delirious sailor on his sickbed, victim of a “downright panic.” In those words it seemed to me I heard the tacit appeal the book had been making to me from the very start.

Peter Sís’ whimsical illustrations add much to the sense of being outside of any recognizable time while reading this compelling novella.

See the review posted at ReadySteadyBook.

ISBN10: 0151011478

Translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor
Illustrated by Peter Sís

Publisher: Harcourt Books (US), Harvill Secker (UK, Published as The Paper House)
Publication Date: October 6, 2005
Binding: Hardcover

Related Books:
* Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
* Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
* The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges


BOOK REVIEW: The Ministry of Pain by Dubravka Ugreši?


“…stimulating the memory was as much a manipulation of the past as banning it.”

The Ministry of Pain (Ministarstvo boli) explores what it means to be a refuge, to live in exile from your country. Told through the eyes of Tanja Lucic, a temporary teacher in the Department of Slavonic Languages at the University of Amsterdam, Dubravka Ugreši?’s novel follows Tanja’s journey as she and her students explore their memories of a lost country, language and the meaning of language.

Throughout The Ministry of Pain, Ugreši? invokes the idea that the life of an exile is like living in a fairy tale or a parallel world. Early in the novel Tanja states:

“I had the feeling I might well – if like Alice I should lose my footing and fall into a hole – end up in a third or fourth parallel world, because Amsterdam itself was my own parallel world. I experienced it as a dream, which meant it resonated with my reality. I tried to puzzle it out just as I tried to interpret my dreams.”

Fairy tales provide resolution, heros winning and justice prevailing. In a world of chaos, Ugreši? expresses that the simple plots and “literary heroes who are brave when ordinary people are cowardly, strong when ordinary people are weak, noble and good when people are mean and ignominious,” are what appeal in a country where “languages were used to curse, humiliate, kill, rape, and expel.”

For émigrés, exile means defeat and dysfunction. On her return from a trip to Zagreb, Tanja meets another émigré who councils her to forget anything as a way to create a new life for herself. Through his voice, Ugreši? suggests that for émigrés time moves slower than reality. Those left behind have moved on and adapted to the new reality while émigrés are still stuck in their own time. The return home means a return of the memories, and a search for a fairy tale land that no longer exists. To achieve peace and a release from the past, émigrés must forget using the “miraculous little erasers we all have in our brains.”

Ugreši?’s fundamental questions appear to be these: For those lost in time and place, does forced remembrance equal torture? Can pain lead to reconciliation, a penance that allows émigrés to live outside their former country without guilt? Ugreši? has created a novel that leaves the questions without answer, compelling each reader to search inside for an answer.

In The Ministry of Pain, there is much discussion among Tanja’s students on the value of Yugonostalgia: the yearning for a country and culture that have vanished into the maw of history. Ugreši?’s gift is in creating a novel that functions both as Yugonostalgia and a paean to the resilience of the human spirit.

Dubravka Ugreši? was born in the former Yugoslavia (Croatia), left her homeland in the 1993 and currently resides in The Netherlands. A novelist, essayist, and literary scholar, The Ministry of Pain is her seventh work to be published. Her books have been translated into over twenty languages. Ugreši? has received several international awards, including the Italian Premio Feronia 2004 (previously awarded to José Saramago, J.M. Coetzee, Günter Grass, Ismail Kadare, and Nadine Gordimer).

Michael Henry Heim, a professor of Slavic languages and literature at UCLA, translates works written in Russian, Czech, German, Serbo-Croatian. The Ministry of Pain is the fourth work by Ugreši? in whose translation he has been involved.

See the review posted at Curled Up with a Good Book – The Ministry of Pain.

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