Reviews by John Klassen
David Holdsworth is a retired public service officer who worked abroad and held a number of positions including in the Privy Council Office. He has now turned his skills to writing with a sharp eye for the foibles of government and public service. His first novel: The Ambassador’s Camel: Undiplomatic Tales of Embassy Lifedescribed the antics of diplomatic life in a fictitious country. His new book turns inward with a funny, satirical focus on the “tough on crime” agenda of the current government.
Mairtin O Cadhain
O Cadhain (1905-1970), whose name could most closely be rendered in English as Marteen O’Kine, was an Irish novelist, short story writer, journalist and school teacher. O Cadhain is considered Gaelic Ireland’s most important writer and a pioneer in Irish-language modernism. He wrote principally in Irish and also translated some works from English. The Dirty Dust is considered one of the greatest achievements of the Irish novel.
Juan Gabriel Vasquez
Vasquez (1973-) was described by The Guardian as, “among the most inventive and erudite or Colombia’s emerging generation of novelists”. He lived in Paris (1996-1999) and received a doctorate in Latin American Literature from the Sorbonne, followed by Barcelona for about 10 years, until 2012; he now lives in Bogota. Vasquez has written three principal novels: The Informers, The Secret History of Costaguana,and The Sound of Things Falling; the last won the International Dublin Literary Award in 2014; the first South American writer to do so. There were two earlier novels, but Vasquez prefers to ignore them.
Macdonald is an English writer, naturalist, and an affiliated research scholar at the University of Cambridge Department of History and Political Science. Her book H is for Hawk (2014) won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and the Costa Book of the Year Award. Earlier books include Shaler’s Fish (2001) and Falcon (2006).
Shteyngart was born in Leningrad (1972) and moved to the USA at the age of seven. His novels, which have received various awards, include The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (2002), Absurdistan(2006), and Super Sad True Love Story (2010); he published a memoir, Little Failure (2014).
Ferrante is an interesting person and a terrific writer. She is the author of seven novels over 20 years. She is very popular in Europe and increasingly so in North America, but she maintains a strict anonymity. She has given interviews only in writing, and has provided a bare minimum of personal information: she is from Naples, she is a mother.
Report by Primo Levi and Leonardo de Benedetti.
This report was commissioned by Soviet authorities as a description of life in the camp, and it is the first thing that Levi wrote about his experience in Auschwitz. The Report describes the transport by train for four days from Italy, general life in the camp, and perhaps because Benedetti was a medical doctor, much of the short piece focuses on medical conditions and illnesses. One can clearly see information and incidents that Levi expanded upon in his later books about the camp and life afterwards. Levi and Benedetti survived the camp together, made their way back to Italy through a long and tortuous route, and remained life-long friends.
Leo Perutz (1882-1957) was a Jewish Czech -Austrian writer. More Austrian than Czech; he moved from Prague at 7; lived in Vienna until the ? Anschluss when he moved to Palestine; returned to Austria occasionally in the 1950s; died visiting friends in Austria in 1957. Perutz is said to have been admired as a writer by Borges, Calvino, Ian Fleming, and Graham Greene.
I like book lists whether compiled as the “Top 100 of the Year”, or the “Top 100 Novels of All Time” or, more modestly, lists of favourites from authors, and the lists of the many individual annual literary prizes. The lists are fun and may lead one to dis bycover new books; they certainly illustrate the breadth and depth of reading that can be done; and sometimes they are frustrating because they reinforce the knowledge that no matter how long you live, you will never read all of the books that you would like to.